The Great Fire of London. The devastating conflagration that consumed so much of medieval London including St James Garlickhythe. Artist Lieve Verschuier
This post will of necessity prove to be short there being a dearth of information on both Katherine and the pre-Fire St James Garlickhythe Church where she was buried. The church was located on Garlick Hill, or Hithe, delightfully so named because of the garlic sold nearby. Thanks to John Stow we know that the Countess of Huntington the Lady Harbert was buried in that church or as it was then known, St James Garlick Hithe or Garlick Hive (1). A church was first mentioned on the site in 1170, although it had probably stood on the site for some considerable time before this. It was rebuilt in around 1326 by Richard Rothing, Sheriff, who was buried there and also left money for the maintenance of the fabric ( 2). Christian Steer has confirmed that this Countess of Huntington was indeed Katherine Plantagenet illegitimate daughter of Richard III (3). Sadly little is known about Katherine who remains just a footnote in history so it’s comforting to know that her burial place was known and recorded by Stow as well as in the early 16th century by the herald Thomas Benolt who noted ‘the countesse of huntyndon ladie Herbert wtout a stone’ (really William!). We do not know who her mother was, although there has been speculation, her date of birth or if she was a sibling to Richard’s illegitimate son John of Pontefract.
We do know she was married to William Herbert 2nd Earl of Pembroke about 1484 and presumed dead by 1487 when her husband was recorded as a widower at the coronation of Elizabeth of York. William who died 16th July 1491 aged 35 (although there is a possibility it could have been earlier in 1490) was buried at Tintern Abbey next to his first wife Mary Wydeville as he requested in his will ‘in or neare as may be the same where my dear and best loved wife resteth buried’. Mary, who died around 1483, was sister to Elizabeth Wydeville and thus aunt to Elizabeth of York.
Tintern Abbey, burial place of William Herbert and his first wife Mary Wydville close to the high altar to the north of his parents tomb.
Henry Tudor had grown up in the Herbert household at Raglan Castle and perhaps he and William could have formed a friendship as young boys before, possibly, William was sent elsewhere to continue his education in another noble household as was the custom of the time. Indeed it was at one time mooted that Henry should marry one of William’s sisters. William’s thoughts when Tudor invaded England can only be speculated upon as his actions, or non actions to be precise, and whereabouts are shrouded in mystery. It has been suggested he ‘said nuthing and lay low‘ (4). He certainly did not fight at Bosworth despite the fact that Richard III named Herbert to two commissions of array in 1484 (5). Later he was to receive a pardon from Tudor.
Raglan Castle home to the Herberts. Katherine may have spent some of her short married life here. Photo Jeffrey L. Thomas
Perhaps William, who had been treated generously by his father-in-law, hoped Richard would crush Tudor entirely and life go back to normal or may he still have held a residue of loyalty towards Tudor remaining from the times Tudor spent with his family? Did he just think the best thing was to sit it out and see how it all panned out? These and other reasons for his failure to act have been suggested including plain military inability. It’s difficult to see how his position, son in law to the king, would have been enhanced if Tudor proved triumph, which he did, but no action did he appear to take in playing his part in ensuring a victorious outcome for Richard. Its baffling.
How Katherine felt about how things transpired, the death of her father and her husband’s, albeit miniscule, position in the new Tudor regime can only be guessed at. Were they both pragmatic and decided it was inevitable and the only way to survive was to accept the situation? Perhaps Katherine had no say in the matter? Was William pleased at the chain of events and how would this have left Katherine feeling? How would Katherine have felt if her husband had deliberately held the support that her father had needed at Bosworth? Could it even be that Katherine had now become something of an embarrassment for him? For Katherine it hardly mattered for long as she was possibly dead by 1485 perhaps a victim of the sweating sickness that engulfed London after Bosworth (6). Intriguingly W E Hampton made the observation that ‘Her fate, curiously ignored remains a mystery and is perhaps not unconnected with the summoning of Anne Devereux (Katherine’s mother-in-law) to Henry VII after Bosworth’ (7) Were they perhaps ordered to live apart – Tudor may not have relished the idea of a child with Plantagenet blood coursing through its veins coming into the world?
It does feel as if Katherine was a sad soul who died young and without making any kind of impact. There is much speculation here of course and hopefully William, who may have suffered from ill health, was kind and reassuring to his young wife.
For Helen Maurer’s interesting article on William click here
and for Laurence T Greensmiths comments click here
and for an article on the wives of William Stanley Click here
Back to St James Garlickhythe – Sharing Katherine’s place of burial were other notables from that era including Lady Stanley, Lord Thomas Stanley’s first wife Eleanor Neville, sister to Richard Neville known as the Kingmaker also ‘wtout a stone’. Also laid to rest there was Eleanor and Stanley’s son, George Lord Strange after his death allegedly from poisoning. Upon George’s mother’s death in 1472 his father had married Margaret Beaufort that same year and thus George became Henry Tudor’s step brother. William Stanley’s widow, Elizabeth Tiptoft Countess of Worcester d.1498 is also buried there along with an unknown Stanley child – yes dear reader the very Elizabeth who prior to being the widow of William Stanley was widow to John Tiptoft aka The Butcher of England. This lady was either very brave or very unlucky to have a predilection for choosing husbands that were to end their lives on the chopping block – maybe a combination of both – but I digress. However it is ironic that Katherine should share her burial place with members of the very family that betrayed her father with such tragic outcome at Bosworth.
A total of 84 churches, (plus 3 that were damaged but saved) were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, St James being one of them (8). Some of them were rebuilt including St James. Sadly it would seem the church where Katherine lay buried was utterly destroyed and no remnants were included in the rebuild (9). Whether any of the remains of the illustrious dead buried there, perhaps in underground vaults, survived the fire and what became of them (and I dread to think) I have been unable to ascertain as history frustratingly never records such interesting minutiae.
The closest to an image of the medieval St James I have been able to trace. St James in the middle with the grander St Martins Vintry to the east. From the Wyngarde panorama. See the Agas map below for comparison.
St James as in the Agas map. St Martins Vintry is highlighted for comparison.
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(1) A Survey of London Written in the year 1598 John Stow p.221
( 2) A London Inheritance. On line article dated 16 November 2014
(3) The Plantagenet in the Parish Christian Steer. The Ricardian Vol XXIV 2014 pp.63-73
(4 ) L T Greensmith Ricardian Vol 4 no.54 1976 p29
(5) Further Notes on William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon Helen Maurer Ricardian June 1977 pp.9.11
( 6) The Children of Richard III Peter Hammond p51
(7) Memorials of the Wars of the Roses W E Hampton p123
( 8) The registers dating back to 1535 were saved. The Great Fire of London Walter Bell p40
(9) The Great Fire of London Walter George Bell p227
4 thoughts on “Katherine Plantagenet, her burial in St James Garlickhithe.”
Does it mean that the remains of Katherine were burned with the Great Fire in 1666, or that her bones were thrown away or became a segment in some Chapel of Bones (as it was e.g. common for some people in the Czech Republic, then Kingdom of Bohemia)..? I am allegedly related to Richard III. on both sides, so I am naturally interested about what happened to my long dead relatives.
It depends. If Katherine’s remains were in a vault then I suppose its possible they survived the fire and are still there. Another likelihood is that, sadly. they were found and just simply tossed away. This is what happened to Anne Mowbray’s mother’s remains as well as Perkin Warbecks and numerous others. John of Gaunt and his wife are other examples. Its absolutely tragic.