Knights of Tewkesbury 1
The north west window in the chancel contains images of four knights who were important descendants of the Abbey's founder Robert Fitzhamon, along with Robert himself.
From left to right the first figure is that of Robert Fitzroy (d1147), the first earl of Gloucester who was the eldest, but illegitimate, son of King Henry I. He married Robert Fitzhamon's daughter Mabel at Lisieux in France. A half-brother of the Empress Matilda, and he fought on her side during the war with King Stephen. In 1141 both Robert and Stephen were captured in separate battles, Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln, and Robert some months later when his army was defeated at the Battle of Winchester. Both men were exchanged for each other.1
The second figure from the left is that of either Gilbert de Clare, 5th Earl of Gloucester (d1230), or Gilbert de Clare, 8th Earl of Gloucester (d1314). The earlier Glibert de Clare was one of the barons who pledged surety to the enforcement of the Magna Carta, and in 1225 was present when Henry III, having reach the age of majority, was called upon to confirm the Charter. He was also the first of the de Clare family to by buried in the chancel. The later Gilbert de Clare was one of the Lords ordainers that in 1311 ordered the expulsion of his brother-in-law Piers Gaveston who was the favourite of Edward II.23 A strong supporter of Edward II he fought with him at the Battle of Bannockburn on the 24th of June 1314 where he was killed, aged 23, when he lead the attack against the Scottish infantry and was cut off.4. He was also He is the last of the de Clare family to be buried at Tewkesbury, and following his death the de Clare estate was split between his three sisters.5
The third figure is Hugh Despenser the Younger who was married to Eleanor the sister of Gilbert de Clare. Hugh Despenser became the favourite of Edward II but was especially disliked by Queen Isabella. Some believed that this hostility was because he was having a sexual relationship with Edward, though there is no evidence that Edward II was homosexual. When Isabella along with Roger Mortimer raised an army in France, siezed power and deposed Edward, Hugh was arrested and tried and sentenced for treason, theft and for having procured discord between the King and Queen. He was was hanged, drawn, quartered, castrated, and beheaded in Hereford market place on the 24th November 1326.6
The final figure in this window is Robert Fitzhamon (d1107) who was the founder of Tewkesbury Abbey in 1102. Robert was given the manor of Tewkesbury as a reward for him supporting William II as king of England during the Rebellion of 1088.7 He also fought alongside Henry I against Henry's brother Robert Curthose.8 Robert Fitzhamon great granddaughter Isabel of Gloucester became the first wife of John of England.
- 1. . Stephen and Matilda: The Civil War of 1139-53. Stroud: The History Press; 2005.
- 2. . Edward II. Yale University Press; 2011.
- 3. ibid p175-176
- 4. ibid p232
- 5. ibid pp269-270
- 6. ibid pp516-518
- 7. . William Rufus. Yale University Press; 1983.
- 8. . Henry I. New Haven, London: Yale University Press; 2001.