Sarah, Duchess of Somerset
Died: 25 Oct, 1692
Field: Philanthropist
Location in the Abbey: St michael
Type of memorial: Statue
Type of material: Marble

In the chapel of St Michael in Westminster Abbey is a monument to Sarah, Duchess of Somerset, philanthropist. This shows a reclining effigy of the Duchess in contemporary dress and robes, between two kneeling Charity schoolboys. The original canopy, pilasters and coat of arms were removed in the 19th century when the monument was reduced in size. The sculptor was possibly Grinling Gibbons. She is actually buried in the adjoining chapel of St Andrew. The Latin inscription can be translated:

"Here lies the late most illustrious Duchess of Somerset, ever celebrated for her charity and beneficence, who erected a grammar school for boys at Tottenham in the county of Middlesex, enlarged the income of the Green Coat Hospital at Westminster, largely endowed Brasenose College in Oxford, and St John's in Cambridge, for the education and nourishing of youth in piety and good literature; she was likewise an encourager of trades and handicrafts, and had a tender regard to old age, by erecting an almshouse at Froxfield in Wiltshire for thirty widows: she was very charitable to the poor of St Margaret's Westminster, where she instituted a lecture, and gave many stately ornaments to the Church. She died the 25th of October 1692".

Her first husband was George, son of Sir Harbottle Grimston, who died in 1655. She had two children who died young. Secondly in 1661 she married John Seymour, 4th Duke of Somerset (died 1675) and lastly Henry, 2nd Lord Coleraine. She was the daughter of Sir Edward Alston, M.D., president of the Royal College of Physicians. She left much of her fortune to charities.  The flagons, chalice, patens and almsdishes that were given to St Margaret's in her name in 1694 still exist.

A photo of the monument in its current and original state can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

A portrait of her hangs in St John's college, Cambridge

Further reading:

A Stuart benefactress, Sarah Duchess of Somerset by Arnold Daly Briscoe, 1973

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

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