by Anne O'BrienThe Welsh Marches where I live is Mortimer country. This little post is in honour of Blanche Mortimer.
Blanche Mortimer was a daughter of the powerful Roger Mortimer, First Earl of March, and Joan de Geneville. They produced a large family and it is believed that Blanche might have been the youngest, born somewhere between 1314 and 1322, probably at Wigmore Castle. Blanche married Sir Piers de Grandison, one of the Herefordshire aristocracy, and some records show her to have had seven children, the youngest, Mabel, born in 1341.
But is not for her life that I have made this post. It is for her remarkable tomb in the church of St Bartholomew in the village of Much Markle, Herefordshire. There are eighteen tombs in the county belonging solely to medieval women of importance, but only two of them can be identified. This is one of them.
So relatively little known of her life. So lovely a monument.
A canopied tomb, it is considered to be one of the finest carvings for this period, of highest quality and attention to detail. The face of Blanche with its transparent veiling and pearly stone is quite lovely.
As is the exquisite demarcation of the folds of her dress, with the overhang of the material of her gown over the tomb chest. In one hand she holds a delicate rosary. The decorated cords that fasten her cloak are beautifully carved. For those who study historical costume, this is a superb example, showing the close fitting gown with a trailing hem and long tight-buttoned sleeves which women wore in 1347 when Blanche died.
Sadly the little dog at her feet has lost its head.
Interestingly Sir Piers is not buried next to his wife, but in the chancel in Hereford Cathedral.
It is not a visit to be missed (although the first time I arrived to see Blanche, she had been removed for restoration and the tomb was covered with scaffolding and tarpaulins. The official in charge was not prepared to allow me even to peek underneath!)
As a post script, for anyone interested and well-heeled, Wigmore Castle is still for sale for a cool half million pounds. For this the buyer would become the proud owner of the ruined castle, woodland, a jousting-field, a stream-side orchard and pasture that could be turned into a castle lawn, all set in 32 magnificent acres. It is out of my league. Sigh ...
The only item it does not have is a house to live in ...
This is the view over towards Ludlow. Perhaps it would even be worth living in a tent to wake up to this.
Anne O'Brien is the author of several best-selling historical novels, which includes her most recently published work, The Forbidden Queen. She lives in Wales. http://www.anneobrienbooks.com/