Cumnor Place

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4 Responses

  1. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Cumnor Place
    In the 18th Century William Mickle wrote the following poem – Cumnor Hall

    The dews of summer nighte did falle,
    The moone (sweete regente of the skye)
    Silver’d the walles of Cumnor Halle,
    And manye an oake that grewe therebye.

    Nowe noughte was hearde beneath the skies,
    (The soundes of busye lyfe were stille,)
    Save an unhappie ladie’s sighes,
    That issued from that lonelye pile.

    "Leicester," shee cried, "is thys thy love
    That thou so oft has sworne to mee
    To leave mee in thys lonelye grove,
    Immurr’d in shameful privitie?

    "No more thou com’st with lover’s speede,
    Thy once-beloved bryde to see;
    But bee shee alive, or bee shee deade,
    I feare (sterne earle’s) the same to thee.

    "Not so the usage I receiv’d,
    When happye in my father’s halle;
    No faithlesse husbande then me griev’d,
    No chilling feares did mee appall.

    "I rose up with the chearful morne,
    No lark more blith, no flow’r more gaye;
    And, like the birde that hauntes the thorne,
    So merrylie sung the live-long daye.

    "If that my beautye is but smalle,
    Among court ladies all despis’d;
    Why didst thou rend it from that halle,
    Where (scorneful earle) it well was priz’de?

    "And when you first to mee made suite,
    How fayre I was you oft would saye!
    And, proude of conquest–pluck’d the fruite,
    Then lefte the blossom to decaye.

    "Yes, nowe neglected and despis’d,
    The rose is pale–the lilly’s deade–
    But hee that once their charmes so priz’d,
    Is sure the cause those charms are fledde.

    "For knowe, when sick’ning griefe doth preye
    And tender love’s repay’d with scorne,
    The sweetest beautye will decaye–
    What flow’ret can endure the storme?

    "At court I’m tolde is beauty’s throne,
    Where everye lady’s passing rare;
    That eastern flow’rs, that shame the sun,
    Are not so glowing, not soe fayre.

    "Then, earle, why didst thou leave the bedds
    Where roses and where lillys vie,
    To seek a primrose, whose pale shades
    Must sicken–when those gaudes are bye?

    "’Mong rural beauties I was one,
    Among the fields wild flow’rs are faire;
    Some countrye swayne might mee have won,
    And thoughte my beautie passing rare.

    "But, Leicester, (or I much am wronge)
    Or tis not beautye lures thy vowes;
    Rather ambition’s gilded crowne
    Makes thee forget thy humble spouse.

    "Then, Leicester, why, again I pleade,
    (The injur’d surelye may repyne,)
    Why didst thou wed a countrye mayde,
    When some fayre princesse might be thyne?

    "Why didst thou praise my humble charmes,
    And, oh! then leave them to decaye?
    Why didst thou win me to thy armes,
    Then leave me to mourne the live-long daye?

    "The village maidens of the plaine
    Salute me lowly as they goe;
    Envious they marke my silken trayne,
    Nor thinke a countesse can have woe.

    "The simple nymphs! they little knowe,
    How farre more happy’s their estate–
    To smile for joye–than sigh for woe–
    To be contente–than to be greate.

    "Howe farre lesse bleste am I than them?
    Dailye to pyne and waste with care!
    Like the poore plante, that from its stem
    Divided–feeles the chilling ayre.

    "Nor (cruel earl!) can I enjoye
    The humble charmes of solitude;
    Your minions proude my peace destroye,
    By sullen frownes or pratings rude.

    "Laste nyghte, as sad I chanc’d to straye,
    The village deathe-bell smote my eare;
    They wink’d asyde, and seem’d to saye,
    Countesse, prepare–thy end is neare.

    "And nowe, while happye peasantes sleepe,
    Here I set lonelye and forlorne;
    No one to soothe mee as I weepe,
    Save phylomel on yonder thorne.

    My spirits flag–my hopes decaye–
    Still that dreade deathe-bell smites my eare;
    And many a boding seems to saye,
    Countess, prepare–thy end is neare."

    Thus sore and sad that ladie griev’d,
    In Cumnor Halle so lone and dreare;
    And manye a heartefelte sighe shee heav’d
    And let falle manye a bitter teare.

    And ere the dawne of daye appear’d,
    In Cumnor Hall so lone and dreare,
    Full manye a piercing screame was hearde,
    And manye a crye of mortal feare.

    The death-belle thrice was hearde to ring,
    An aërial voyce was hearde to call,
    And thrice the raven flapp’d its wyng
    Arounde the tow’rs of Cumnor Hall.

    The mastiffe howl’d at village doore,
    The oaks were shatter’d on the greene;
    Woe was the houre–for never more
    That haplesse countesse e’er was seene.

    And in that manor now no more
    Is chearful feaste and sprightly balle;
    For ever since that drearye houre
    Have spirits haunted Cumnor Hall.

    The village maides, with fearful glance,
    Avoid the antient mossgrowne walle;
    Nor ever leade the merrye dance,
    Among the groves of Cumnor Halle.

    Full manye a travellor oft hath sigh’d,
    And pensive wepte the countess’ falle,
    As wand’ring onwards they’ve espied
    The haunted tow’rs of Cumnor Halle.

  2. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Cumnor Place
    Amy was not totally alone in the houshold on th eday of her death.  There was at least Mrs. Odingsells and Mrs. Owen present, though it is thought all of Lady Dudley’s servants were at the fair.

  3. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Cumnor Place
    According to a Daily Mail (21 February 2010) article entitled Did Elizabeth I’s ‘lover’ have wife killed so he could wed the Virgin Queen?

    It has been the subject of fierce debate for more than 400 years.

    Now new evidence has emerged that supports the theory that Amy, the wife of Elizabeth I’s close friend and suspected lover Robert Dudley, was murdered so her husband could marry the Queen.

    Amy died aged 28 in 1560 after breaking her neck while falling down the stairs at Cumnor Place in Berkshire.

    New evidence: Was Amy, the wife of Elizabeth I’s suspected lover Robert Dudley, murdered so her husband could marry the Queen.

    At the time, it was rumoured that Dudley had his wife killed to clear the way for him to wed Elizabeth.

    On hearing the gossip, Dudley wrote letters to friends in which he claimed to be ‘much perplexed’.

    Any chance of marrying the monarch were dashed by ‘the malicious talk that I know the wicked world will use’.

    But now the original coroner’s report on Amy’s death has been discovered in the National Archives by historian Steven Gunn, a lecturer at Oxford University who was searching through 16th century court reports of accidents.

    In the report, the coroner records two impacts that caused two deep wounds to Amy’s head. There were no other injuries, as would normally be expected in a fall down a stone staircase.

    The coroner concluded that Amy’s death was the result of ‘misfortune’.

    ‘At the very least it casts doubt on the accident theory,’ Chris Skidmore, who reveals the documents in his new book Death And The Virgin, told The Sunday Times.

    Mr Skidmore has discovered that within five weeks of Amy’s death Dudley gave £310 – the equivalent of £65,000 in today’s money – to Anthony Forster, who had been renting Cunnor Place at the time of her death.

    Dudley, who did not attend his wife’s funeral, also wrote to ask that the coroner’s jury be ‘discreet’ men, while one member of jury was a John Stevenson, a man he employed.

    The foreman of the inquest jury was Robert Smith, a man who Dudley always maintained he never had any contact with.

    But Mr Skidmore found that Dudley’s household accounts for May 1566 who he gave ‘Mr Smith, the Queen’s man’ several yards of black taffeta and velvet to make clothes.

    Mr Skidmore is one of many historians who believes that Dudley was the only man Elizabeth ever desired to marry.

    ‘You could say that Amy’s death was what really made her the Virgin Queen,’ he said.

    In the years following Amy’s death Dudley did not remarry for the monarch’s sake. When he finally did wed, his new wife Lettice Knollys was permanently banished from court.

    His only legitimate son died in 1584.

    Dudley was made the 1st Earl of Leicestershire in 1564. He died aged 56 in 1588.

  4. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Cumnor Place
    The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain by John Ingram (1897)

    Cumnor Hall was a large, quadrangular building, ecclesiastical in style, having formerly belonged to the dissolved Monastery of Abingdon, near which Berkshire town it was situated. It has acquired a romantic interest from the poetic glamour flung over it by Mickle, in his ballad of Cumnor Hall, and by Sir Walter Scott, in his novel of Kenilworth. Both authors allude to it as the scene of Lady Amy Robsart’s murder, and, although the contemporary coroner’s jury pronounced the lady’s death to have been accidental, and modern antiquarians* endeavour to exonerate Lord Robert Dudley (afterwards Earl of Leicester) from having had any hand in bis wife’s tragic end, the matter is still enveloped in mystery.

    According to the evidence given before the Coroner, Lady Dudley, on Sunday, the 8th of September, 1560, had ordered all her household to go to a fair then being held at Abingdon. Mrs. Odingsell, her companion, had remonstrated with her for this order, observing that the day was not a proper one for decent folks to go to a fair; whereupon her Ladyship grew very angry, and said, "All her people should go." And they went, leaving only Lady Dudley and two other women in the house. Upon their return the unfortunate lady was found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs, but whether fallen by accident, or through suicide, or flung there by assassins, is, seemingly, an unfathomable mystery.

    Sir Walter Scott, taking Mickle’s ballad for his authority, assumed that a foul murder had been committed, and, in his romance of Kenilworth, gives the following dramatic but purely imaginative account of the affair. Lady Dudley, miscalled the Countess of Leicester,! is described as imprisoned in an isolated tower, approached only by a narrow drawbridge. Halfway across this drawbridge is a trap-door, so arranged that any person stepping upon it would be precipitated below into a darksome abyss. Varney, the chief villain of the novel, rides into the courtyard and gives a peculiar kind of whistle, which Amy recognises, and, deeming her husband is coming, rushes out, steps on the trap-door, and falls headlong down. " Look down into the vault," says Varney to Foster ; " what seest thou ?" "I see only a heap of white clothes, like a snow-drift," said Foster. " Oh, God ! she moves her arm!’ "Hurl something down upon her: thy goldchest, Tony, it is a heavy one."

    The imputation of this terrible crime, derived by Scott from Mickle, was obtained, by the latter, from Ash- mole’s Ajitiqaities of Berkshire, the compiler of which work is said to have found the accusation against Lord Dudley in a book styled Leicester’s Commonwealth, a publication published in 1584, four years before Dudley’s death, and publicly condemned by the Privy Council as an infamous and scandalous libel. It is interesting to know that Amy Eobsart, who is believed to have been born at Stansfield Hall, Norfolk, a house which obtained a fearful notoriety some years ago as the scene of the murder of the Jermyns by Rush, was married publicly at Sheen, in Surrey, on 4th June 1550, instead of clandestinely, as generally stated. King Edward the Sixth, then only eleven years old, kept a little diary (preserved in the British Museum), and, says Canon Jackson, to whom we are indebted for much of the information given here, therein alludes to the marriage in these terms :

    "1550, June 4. Sir Robert Dudeley, third sonne to th’ Erie of Warwick, married S. Jon. Kobsartes daughter, after wich mariage, ther were certain gentle- men that did strive who shuld first take away a goose’s head which was hanged alive on two cross posts."

    Although the jury and Lady Dudley’s relatives agreed to accept the poor woman’s death as accidental, the country folk about Cumnor would not forego their idea that foul play had been resorted to. Ever since the fatal event, the villagers have asserted that " Madam Dudley’s ghost did use to walk in Cumnor Park, and that it walked so obstinately that it took no less than nine parsons from Oxford ‘to lay her/ That they at last laid her in a pond, called ‘Madam Dudley’s Pond’; and, moreover, wonderful to relate, the water in that pond was never known to freeze afterwards."

    Notwithstanding the " laying of Madam Dudley," however, her apparition still contrives at intervals to reappear, and he is a brave, or a foolhardy man, who dares to visit, at nightfall, the haunts of her past life. Mickle’s ballad is still applicable :

    " And in that Manor now no more

    Is cheerful feast and sprightly ball ;
    For ever, since that dreary hour,
    Have spirits haunted Cumnor Hall.

    " The village maids, with fearful glance,
    Avoid the ancient mossgrown wall ;
    Nor ever lead the merry dance,

    Among the groves of Oumnor Hall.

    *’ Full many a traveller oft hath sighed
    And pensive wept the countess’s fall,
    As, wandering onward, they espied

    The haunted towers of Cumnor Hall."

    Lord Dudley was not created Earl of Leicester until 29th September 1563, three years after his wife’s death.