Richard, Earl of Cornwall (later King of Germany)

Richard, Earl of Cornwall is not buried in Westminster Abbey but his carved shield is displayed in the nave of the Abbey and his arms appear in a glass panel in St Edmund's chapel. The arms are "argent, a lion gules crowned or, within a border sable bezanty". The much repaired stained glass shield was probably originally set within grisaille glass in the church and was moved to the apse window by Sir Christopher Wren but returned to the chapel in 1938. The carved shields in the eastern bays of the nave and in the choir aisles are traditionally those of individuals or families who were benefactors to the building of the new Gothic Abbey by Henry III, commenced in 1245.

Richard was the second son of King John and Isabella and was born at Winchester Castle on 5th January 1209. His brother was Henry III.  He held many offices including constable of Wallingford Castle and was granted the county of Cornwall. In 1253-1254 he was joint guardian of England. In 1257 at Aachen he was crowned King of the Romans and was ambassador to the Pope. At the battle of Lewes he was taken prisoner.

With Henry III and others he was present at the transfer of the body of St Edward the Confessor to his new Shrine in the Abbey in 1269. He married three times. His first wife was Isabel, widow of Gilbert de Clare. He married on 22nd or 23rd November 1243 his second wife Sanchia Berengar in the Abbey. His third wife was Beatrice. Richard died at Berkhamsted on 2nd April 1272 and was buried at Hailes Abbey in Gloucestershire which he had founded.

The heart of his son Henry of Almayne was brought to the Abbey and preserved in golden heart shrine near the tomb of St Edward the Confessor. He had been murdered by his cousin Guy de Montfort (son of Simon) in the church of San Silvestro in Viterbo in 1271. Dante mentions the preservation of his heart in his Inferno. The heart shrine disappeared at the dissolution of the monastery. 

Further reading

The ruins of Hailes Abbey near Cheltenham can be visited


5th January 1209


2nd April 1272


22nd or 23rd November 1243




Nave; St Edward’s Chapel; Chapel of St Edmund

Shield of Richard of Cornwall with a red lion
Richard, Earl of Cornwall carved shield

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster