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Sarah, Duchess of Somerset

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 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

Died

25th October 1692

Occupation

Philanthropist

Location

St Michael's Chapel

Memorial Type

Statue

Material Type

Marble

Sarah, Duchess of Somerset
Sarah, Duchess of Somerset

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sarah, Duchess of Somerset
Sarah, Duchess of Somerset original condition

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Sarah, Duchess of Somerset
Sarah, Duchess of Somerset monument

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Related commemorations

You are surrounded by history at the Abbey, not like a museum where it’s just displayed, but here you are standing where history has happened.

Gerlinde - Abbey Marshal

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