Henry Withers & Henry Disney

In the east walk of the cloisters of Westminster Abbey is a wall monument to Lt. General Henry Withers and his great friend Colonel Henry Disney (or Desney). The inscription, which is rather difficult to read, includes lines apparently written by poet Alexander Pope and reads:

Henry Withers Lieutenant General descended from a military stock and bred in arms in Britain, Dunkirk and Tangier; thro' the whole course of the two last wars of England with France. He served in Ireland, in the Low Countries and in Germany, was present at every battle and at every siege and distinguished in all by an activity, a valour and zeal which nature gave and honour improved. A love of glory and his country animated and raised him above that spirit which the trade of war inspires; a desire of acquiring riches and honouse by the miseries of manking. His temper was humane, his benevolence universal, and among all those ancient virtues, which he preserved in practice, and in credit, none was more remarkable than his hospitality. He dyed at the age of LXXVIII years, on the XI of November MDCCXXIX. To whom his monument is erected by his companion in the wars, and his friend thro. life, Henry Desney.
Here WITHERS, rest! thou bravest, gentlest mind, thy country's friend, but more of human kind. Oh born to arms! Oh worth in youth approv'd! Oh soft humanity, in age belov'd! For thee the hardy vet'ran drops a tear, And the gay courtier feels his sigh sincere.
WITHERS adieu! yet not with thee remove, Thy martial spirit, or thy social love. Amidst corruption, luxury, and rage, Still leave some ancient virtues to our age; Nor let us say (those English glories gone) The last true Briton lies beneath this stone

Beneath is an added inscription for Desney:

Near this place lyes the remains of Collonell HENRY DESNEY who surviving his freind and companion Lieutenant Generall WITHERS but 2 years and 10 days is at his desire buryed in the same grave with him. Obit 21 die Novembris 1731

Below is a cartouche including Withers' coat of arms "three lions passant guardant in pale".

Withers became a Lt. General in 1707 and his sister was Elizabeth Luttley. Henry wrote his name Disney and was in an Irish regiment and well known in Society. Both appear to have died unmarried.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Died

11th November 1729

Occupation

Soldier

Location

Cloisters; East Cloister

Memorial Type

Tablet

Henry Withers & Henry Disney
Henry Withers & Henry Disney tablet

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2022 Dean and Chapter of Westminster