Edmund, Earl of Lancaster and Aveline de Forz
Born: 16 Jan, 1245
Died: 05 Jun, 1296
Field: Soldier
Location in the Abbey: Sacrarium
Type of memorial: Tomb

Prince Edmund "Crouchback", Earl of Lancaster and his wife Aveline de Forz were the first royal couple to be married in the newly built Westminster Abbey in April 1269. His father Henry III had begun to rebuild the old Abbey of St Edward the Confessor in 1245 in the newest architectural style and the eastern section had been completed and richly decorated by the time of the marriage. Both are buried on the northern side of the High Altar, although the altar screen was not in existence at the period of their burials.

Edmund 'Crouchback'

Edmund has a large monument with his effigy in mail armour with crossed legs. His long surcoat has traces of the arms of the earldom, the head is supported by two angels and his feet rest on a lion. On the edge of the slab on which the effigy lies is the remains of an inscription which can be translated "Here lies Edmund...". The monument has been attributed to Alexander of Abingdon or Michael of Canterbury and was probably constructed between 1296 and 1301. A series of male and female weepers (or statuettes) with shields of arms are shown around the base and on the northern base are the remains of paintings of knights (unfortunately damaged in the 1960s by an oil bomb thrown by a student).

The tomb originally had a tester above the elaborate canopy (visible in the 1532 Islip roll drawing) but this probably disappeared in the 18th century. All three presbytery tombs had been obscured by wainscotting and tapestries until 1775. In the canopy gables on both sides Edmund is depicted as a praying knight on horseback. There are considerable remains of original colour and decoration, possibly by Master Walter of Durham, the King's painter, to show that it was once a magnificent structure. The top pinnacles had sustained damage by 1820 but were restored by 1835.

Edmund was born in London on 16 January 1245, second son of Henry III and his queen Eleanor of Provence. His brother became Edward I. He was created Earl of Leicester and in 1267 Earl of Lancaster. Pope Innocent IV in 1252 nominated him as King of Sicily but he never took possession of that kingdom. He left on crusade to the Holy Land in 1271 and his nickname of Crouchback (or cross back) probably originated from the surcoat with a cross on the back worn by Crusaders. After Aveline's death he married Blanche, widow of Henry, King of Navarre and daughter of Robert, Count of Artois. Their sons were Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, Henry 3rd Earl of Lancaster and John, Lord of Beaufort. Their daughter Mary died young. Crouchback was employed actively in England, Wales and France by his brother Edward.

He died at Bayonne on 5 June 1296 during the siege of Bordeaux. His body was embalmed and kept at the church of the Friars Minor there for six months before being returned to England. On 24 March 1301 it was taken from the convent of the Minoresses in London, where it had lain since coming to England, to St Paul's cathedral and then to the Abbey for burial, in the presence of the king and nobles. Edward I was buried just to the east of Edmund, in the chapel of St Edward the Confessor, but in a totally plain tomb chest. Their father had been buried to the north side of the Shrine of St Edward.

Dimensions: 22 feet 10 inches high, 13 feet 6 inches wide.

Aveline de Forz

Aveline was the daughter and heiress of William de Forz, Count of Aumale in Normandy, Lord of Holderness in Yorkshire and of much land elsewhere in the north of England. On her mother's side she was heiress presumptive to the Earldom of Devon and Lordship of the Isle of Wight. She died childless in 1274. Her tomb is separated from Edmund's by that of Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, and was probably not erected until the 1290s. Her recumbent effigy is dressed in a long mantle and she wears a close coif and wimple. Her head is supported by two angels and two small dogs (denoting loyalty) lie at her feet. The tomb is possibly by one of the same sculptors who made Edmund's tomb. Her tomb was once richly coloured but is not as tall and has been more injured and is closed at the back by masonry. Some designs still remain on the small pillars. There are vine leaves and shields as decoration and weepers (probably representing her male ancestors) on the south side. The shields of arms above the weepers are now erased. No inscription remains on the tomb.

Photos of the tombs can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

A carved shield for Forz still remains in the nave of the Abbey. This series of shields represents families or individuals who were benefactors to the building of Henry III's new Abbey from 1245.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

"Alexander of Abingdon" by M.J.H.Liversidge in Abingdon Essays, Studies in Local History, 1989.

"A study of the materials and techniques of...the tomb of Aveline, Countess of Lancaster..." by Sarah Houlbrooke, Courtauld Institute of Art 2004. Publication with same title in The Conservator vol.29 2005-6.

"Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets...1200-1400" by Paul Binski, 1995

"The polychromy at Westminster Abbey" by Marie Louise Sauerberg in Westminster...the Art... of the Royal Abbey" BAA Conference transactions, 2015.

"Gothic tombs of kinship..." by A.Morganstern, 2000

"Edmund Crouchback: technique of the tomb..." in Westminster Retable by P.Binski and A.Massing, 2009 (chapter 7.2)

Click on the images to enlarge

Crouchback effigy

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