Why Were John And Blanche Buried In St Paul's
An interesting question is why Blanche was buried
in St Paul's Cathedral. Her father was buried at Leicester. Her Great Uncle was buried in St Paul's Cathedral. The
usual place of burial for a member of the Royal Family was Westminster Abbey, or Windsor Castle. In want of hard evidence,
we can only speculate. John specified in his will that he be buried beside Blanche - the primary motivation must have been
to be buried with her - it may be that she had stipulated St Paul's for her burial because her great uncle was buried
there, but he died (was executed) long before Blanche was born. I suggest if the motivation for John's burial in St Paul's
was Thomas of Lancaster, then it was indirect - it was because Blanche had stipulated that she should be buried there for
One of the Katherine Swynford discussion group members,
Yvonne, says “I remember the link below being provided a while back. When I read the section about Blanche, it says
to me that burial at St.Paul's may not have necessarily been the Duke's (or his solely). It also says to me, that
there may have been expectations that the Duke would also be buried there."
The link to which Yvonne refers is:
The above link carries John Strype's Survey of the Cities of London
and Westminster. The following extract is quoted from that work:
of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster, 1399. buried on the North side of the Quire, by Blanch his first Wife; who deceased in the Year
"Hic in Domino obdormivit Johannes Gandavensis, vulgò de Gaunt, à Gandavo Flandriæ
urbe loco natali, ita denominatus, Edwardi 3. Regis Angliæ filius, à patre Comitis Richmondiæ titulo ornatus.
Tres sibi uxores in Matrimonio duxit: Primum, Blancham, filiam & hæredem Henrici, Ducis Lancastriæ, per quem
amplissimam adiit hæreditatem: Nec solum Dux Lancastriæ, sed etiam Leicestriæ, Lincolniæ, & Derbiæ
Comes effectus. E cujus sobole Imperatores, Reges, Principes, & Proceres propagati sunt plurimi. Alteram habuit uxorem
Constantiam (quæ hic contumulatur) filiam & hæredem Petri, Regis Castiliæ & Legionis: cujus jure
optimo titulo Regis Castiliæ & Legionis usus est. Hæc unicam illi peperit filiam Katharinam, ex qua ab Henrico
Reges Hispaniæ sunt propagati. Tertiam vero uxorem duxit Katharinam, ex Equestri Familia, & eximia pulchritudine
fœminam, ex qua numerosam suscepit prolem: Unde genus ex Matre duxit Henricus 7. Rex Angliæ prudentissimus, cujus
fœlicissimo conjugio cum Edwardi 4. filia, è stirpe Eboracensi, Regiæ illæ Lancastriensium &
Eboracensium Familiæ, ad exoptatissimam Angliæ pacem coaluerunt."
"Illustrissimus hic Princeps, cognomento Plantagenet, Rex Castiliæ
& Legionis, Dux Lancastriæ, Comes Richmondia, Leicestriæ, Lincolniæ & Derbiæ, Locumtenens
Aquitaniæ, Magnus Senescallus Angliæ; Obiit Anno 22. Regni Regis Richardi 2. Annoq; Domini 1399.]
Blanch his first
Wife, died 1359 (according to Fabian's Chronicle.) (sic – GRC) . She ordained for the said Duke her Husband, and
for her self, four Chaunters for ever, and an Anniversary yearly; at which, (besides other great Things given to the Dean
and Chapter of the Church) she appointed, that the Maior being present at the Mass, should offer a Penny, and take up 20s.
the Sheriffs either of them a Penny, and to receive either of them a Mark; the Chamberlain of the City 10s. the Sword-bearer
6s. 8d. every Officer of the Maior, there present, 22d. to every Officer, to the number of eight; admitted for the Sheriffs,
to each of them 8d. The which Obit is at this day holden, (that is, in Fabian's time that relates this.) But by Reason
the Land was then decayed, these forenamed Sums were greatly diminished. So that the Maior had but 6s. 8d. and with the Sheriffs,
between them, 6s. 8d. and other after that Rate."
Were John And Blanche Buried Below The Floor Of The Crypt?
Because of the structure of both the old
and new St Paul's Cathedrals (with the floor of the nave and the choir, the main floor, being raise up from ground level
and being more like a first floor), and the references in John's will to burial and interment, I have doubts over whether
John and Blanche would actually have been placed inside the tomb chests of their monument. It would be difficult to make the
tombs air tight (although lead coffins would help), and they would be 'up in the air', the coffins effectively supported
I am therefore researching how the Cathedral was built and trying to establish (if at this late stage
it is possible to do so) whether John and Blanche were buried in the choir or in the crypt. I'm not at this stage in a
position to say where they were buried - I can see arguments for both sides, I have not yet seen any evidence which proves
things one way or the other.
If it turns out that they were buried beneath the floor of the crypt, then there
is the further possibility that if the area where they were buried was not disturbed by the demolition of the old and the
building of the new Cathedrals, then they may still be there (unless as with the cases which Shirley has cited in another
post, there is now nothing left).
The 'new' Cathedral (if one can call it so when construction began more
than 300 years ago!) is on a slightly different alignment and John and Blanche's monument at least is now around the centre
of the main aisle, rather than under an arch supporting the clerestory at the northern edge of the main aisle as it was in
the old Cathedral. The idea that John and Blanche are still buried there is an attractive one, but I am not in a position
to prove this (or at least not yet, and I may find evidence to prove the opposite).
Regarding where people were
buried - it depends on the circumstances in the place where they were buried. In some churches there is a memorial inside
the Church and the grave is outside , or in another location entirely (for example there is an effigy of Joan Countess of
Westmorland on her husband's tomb near Barnard Castle, but Joan is actually buried in Lincoln Cathedral. Some churches
and some cathedrals have crypts which can either have the same area as the main floor of the church, or can be smaller. Mostly
they are below ground with the main floor at ground level - in the case of St Paul's for example, the main floor is raised
up above street level. Lincoln Cathedral doesn't have a crypt. Dr Bennett, Librarian at Lincoln Cathedral, says Joan and
Katherine were buried beneath the floor, the tomb chests being purely decorative. Sometimes people are buried beneath the
slabs on which their names appear, in others those slabs are purely memorials, not gravestones. It depends on the church,
there are no hard and fast rules.
Quote from 'St Paul's Cathedral: Church
of London 604 - 2004.'
most elaborate survival was the tomb created by Henry Yeveley and Thomas Wreke created for John of Gaunt and his first duchess
Blanche, the parents of the future King Henry IV. Placed within the North Choir Arcade, just to the west of the High
Altar, it was a virtuoso creation made of freestone and alabaster from the Lancastrian estates at Tutbury, with an elaborate
canopy similar to the reredos Yevele made for Durham Cathedral at much the same time."
"John of Gaunt
also founded a chantry later known as Lancaster College in the chapel between the buttresses of the fifth bay of the choir
on the north side; it was apparently linked to the crypt below by a staircase with windows. Among its contents was an elaborate
cross which had an enormous round foot in the shape of a castle with 16 large and small turrets around the exterior walls.
The matching cadnlesticks had images of the crucifix, the Virgin Mary, St John, The Four Evangelists and Saints Peter and
Paul, their bases had castles with pinnacles, windows and 'curious towers' (quote from W S Simpson, 'Gleanings
fFrom St Pauls' 1889). The presence nearby of the cult-site of Blanche's great uncle the pseudo-saint Thomas, earl
of Lancaster (d 1322) probably influenced Gaunt's decision to have his chantry in the Cathedral."
Image From George Clinch's 1906 Book On Old St Paul's
I had looked at an image said to be of John and Blanche's
monument looking west. However, it showed their monument on the left, whereas looking west down the main aisle of the choir
(or quire) the monument would have been on the right. It also had no clerestory windows. The old Gothic St Paul's Cathedral
had clerestory windows on either side of the central aisle. The side aisles had lower roofs underneath the flying buttresses
which supported the walls of the central aisle. The only explanation I could think of was that the image had somehow been
reversed, and I tried it out as a mirror image. This put John and Blanche's monument to the right, but still the ceiling
was too low to be the central aisle, and it lacked the all important clerestory windows.
However, Dr Roger Joy, chairman of the Katherine Swynford Society has come up with the
answer, which is quite simple. The view is in the north aisle looking west - this of course fits in with the lower ceiling
and John and Blanche's monument being to the left. Roger's explanation is born out by the out of copyright image sent
to me by 'Cecily Neville' with its caption 'North aisle of the choir in Old St Paul's looking west.'