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Margaret Radcliffe or Ratcliffe

Margaret Radcliffe or Ratcliffe was a favourite maid of honour to Elizabeth I. She died at Richmond Palace and was buried in St Margaret's church Westminster on 23rd November 1599 according to the register. Unfortunately the monument erected to her in the south aisle has disappeared but the inscription on it was recorded:

In memory of the right vertuous and beautifull gentlewoman Mistress Margaret Radcliffe, daughter to Sir John Radcliffe, Knight, one of the maids of honour to Queen Elizabeth, who died at Richmond the 10th of November and was buried with solemnity the 22nd of the same month, Anno Dom. 1599 anno .reg. Eliz. 41 [41st year of Elizabeth's reign].
Tell thou my wailing verse and mourning show, What beauteous frame lies here interred below, Here underneath entombed a dazie [daisy] lies, The pride of Nature with perfection filled, O woe whom zephyres blasts can ne'er make rise , Being by Death's black storms untimely kill'd, Ratcliffe's the name the glory of the Court, Vertue and beauty strove t'adorn thee most, Though here enclosed, yet fame shall still report, Thy vertue's praise, thy grace's time shall boast, Thou dyd'st a virgin pure and spotless liver, Grief caused thy death, death make thee live for ever, Many ask, who sighed this sad complaint? Say one that lived, that loved, that joyed, now faint

Ben Jonson, the poet, also composed an epigram for her.

She was a daughter of Sir John (c.1536-1590), Member of Parliament, of Ordsall Hall in Lancashire and his wife Anne (daughter of Thomas Ashawe). She came to Court with her twin brother Alexander, who was later killed in Ireland. Her other brothers were William, John (who succeeded his father), Thomas and Edmund (who both died of fever in Flanders). Her sisters were Jane and Anne. She is said to have died of grief at the loss of her brothers.

Also in St Margaret's are memorials to other maids of honour Lady Dorothy Stafford, and Blanche Parry.

Further reading for Sir John

History of Parliament Online

Margaret Radcliffe or Ratcliffe
St Margaret's church interior

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

At different times of the day, or in different seasons, the light falling in the Abbey will light up something that you have walked past a million times and never seen before.

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Vanessa, Head of Conservation

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