John Esteney

The tomb of John Esteney (or Estney), Abbot of Westminster, is now in the north ambulatory of Westminster Abbey, just in front of General Wolfe's memorial. On a low Purbeck marble base is a brass of the abbot in mass vestments under a triple canopy. He wears a mitre and holds a crozier and from his mouth a strip of brass has the inscription "Exultabo in Deo Jhesus Meo" (I shall exalt in God, my Jesus). There are indents of two shields.

The original inscription has been destroyed but the Latin was recorded and can be translated:

Here lies Lord John Esteney, one-time Abbot of this place, who died 24 day of May, year of Our Lord 1498. On whose soul may God look favourably. Amen

The tomb was moved in 1706 from the chapel of St John the Evangelist, when the chapel railings, screen and canopy were destroyed. It can be seen in its original form in the mortuary roll of Abbot Islip of 1532. The body was found entire 'lying in a chest quilted with yellow satin, he had on a gown of crimson silk girded to him with a black girdle, on his legs were white silk stockings and on his face, which was black, a clean napkin'.

The tomb was opened again in 1772 when the foundation for the General Wolfe memorial was dug. An inscription on the plinth says:

Underneath this tomb, removed in 1772 and restored in 1866, is interred John Estney, Abbot of Westminster 1474-1498

His life

His family name was possibly Veysey (a John Veysey of Oxford left books to him in his will) and he was born around 1418 of unmarried parents. He entered the monastery in 1442 and held many posts before being elected Abbot. The obligation for each new Abbot to go to Rome to be confirmed by the Pope was remitted in his time, and he had the guardianship of Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters when they took sanctuary at Westminster for the second time in 1483. He was a patron of William Caxton, England's first printer, and he enabled Caxton to set up his press in the precincts. Work was continued in his time on the building of the nave and the great west window was set up. During the last months of his life he was engaged in the effort to have the body of Henry VI translated from Windsor to Westminster, but this never happened.

Further reading

Brother John Felix wrote a life of the abbot which is in the British Museum


24th May 1498




North Ambulatory

Memorial Type


Material Type

Marble; brass

John Esteney
John Esteney brass rubbing

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

John Esteney
Abbot Esteney tomb

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster