The effigies of Joan Neville and her husband William Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel.
On a recent visit to the Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel, I stood transfixed at Joan Neville’s beautiful monument. Carved from Caen stone. Joan’s effigy lies next to that of her husband, William Fitzalan Earl of Arundel (1417-1489). Her head turned toward him, she gazes serenely at him, but whether that is artistic licence by the artist who carved her monument, hennins and coronets such as Joan’s being difficult to represent in stone, or because it was requested by her husband we shall never know.
Joan’s headdress, Yorkist necklace and the cushion still retain much of the original colouring as well as embossed wax..
The fact that the effigies were out of sight of man for many years – until 1981 when they were moved and restored – helped preserve them to a great extent, Joan’s still having retained traces of original colouring – red, gold gilding and embossed wax on her headdress, surcote and robes. We can only guess that when they first made they must have ‘stunned viewers with their magnificence'(1)
Note the wonderful detail of Joan’s cuff, her girdle, necklace and surcoat.
Joan and William’s effigies now in their glass case….Joans feet resting on a griffin.
Joan Neville, future countess of Arundel, born before 2 November 1424 and dying about the 9th September 1462 was the eldest of six sisters to Richard Neville who became known as Warwick the Kingmaker and one of 12 siblings. Her parents Richard Earl of Salisbury and Alice Montacute, as was the custom of the day arranged marriages for all of their daughters while they were still children and Joan was duly married to William Fitzalan about 1438 when she was 14. However her first son was not born until 1450 with a further 5 children to follow. Their marriage was to endure 24 years and William never remarried after her death. Whether her death affected him or his own health was in decline or perhaps for some other reason that eludes us, Willam certainly ceased to show any interest in anything political after her death.
The Fitzalan Chapel. Joan and William’s tomb is to the right hand side.
The Chapel suffered greatly during the English Civil war and it is more than fortunate that the Fitzalan tombs and monuments have survived in such good condition.
Painting by Thomas Cane of the chapel c1886.
Of the aristocratic families who lived during those turbulent times few if any escaped terrible and tragic loss. The Nevilles were no different and although Joan did not live long enough to see her brothers, Richard and John die at Barnet, she had suffered the loss of a brother, Thomas, and her father, Salisbury, during and after the aftermath of Wakefield. To find out more on Joan, her five sisters and their husbands, David Baldwin’s The Kingmaker’s Sisters can be recommended.
- Sally Bedham Medieval Church and Churchyard Monuments p34.
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