Bottesford: St Mary





William Albini or Robert de Roos

Diminutive knight heart effigy

Purbeck Marble

1236 or 1285

This effigy of a knight in armour, now in the chancel north wall, was brought from Croxton Abbey at the time of the Dissolution. It is about twenty-two inches high and, as the head is resting on a cushion, probably the effigy was originally placed in a recumbent position.

Tradition attributes it to Robert de Tounei, standard bearer to William the Conqueror and founder of Belvoir Priory. However, as the style of armour is 13th rather than 11th century, and effigies of this type are unknown before the 13th century, I believe we can discount our Battle of Hastings veteran, that is unless the monument was made some two hundred years after his death. It is more likely that this effigy depicts either Robert de Roos (died 1285) or William Albini (died 1236).

The style of armour is similar to that on the brass of John d'Aubernoun (died 1277) at Stoke d'Abernon, Surrey, and consists of a hooded mail hauberk, over which there is a loose, sleeveless surcoat. The mail gauntlets, which are drawn back and hang loosely from the wrists, have openings in the palms, thereby enabling the bare hands to have a better grip on the sword or lance. He is equipped with a sword belt, sword and shield. The lower legs are missing.

In the early medieval period it was not uncommon for a diminutive effigy to be placed in the church where the heart was buried when the body was interred elsewhere. Indeed, near this effigy is a slab recording the burial, at Croxton Abbey, of the heart of Robert de Roos (his body was buried at Kirkham, Yorkshire). Bearing the arms Argent, two chevrons azure (Albini) dimidiated with Gules, three water-bourgets argent (Roos) the abbreviated Latin inscription, which gives the date according to the Roman calendar, reads:

Hic iacet cor dni Robti de Ros cui corp sepelit ipud Kyrkham qi obiitt XVI Kl junii Ao domini MCC lxxxv. Isabella dna de Roos ux isti Robti de Roos iacit apud novu locu iuxta Stamford obiit q Anno dni MCCCI.

The expanded Latin reads:

Hic iacet cor domini Roberti de Roos cuius corpus sepelitut ipud Kyrkham qui obiitt XVI Kallendas junii Anno domini MCClxxxv. Isabella domina de Roos uxor stius Roberti de Roos iacit apud novum locum iuxta stamfordam obiit que Anno domini MCCCI.

Which translated into English gives:

Here lies the heart of Lord Robert de Roos, whose body is buried at Kirkham, who died on the 16th Kalendar of June (17 May) AD1285. Isabella, Lady de Roos, wife of the said Robert, who died in AD 1301, lies at Newstead near Stamford.

If the illustration on John d'Aubernoun's brass and the effigy in question were faithful representations of the armour of the period then it is probable that the effigy and inscription slab are connected. This, however, begs the question how did the two relate when they were originally erected?

Greenhill (The Incised Slabs of Leicestershire and Rutland) contends, by the evidence of the arms and the lettering, that this slab was produced sometime between 1353 and 1358, possibly to replace an earlier one set up in 1285.

The second possibility is that it represents William Albini. Although Albini died much earlier than de Roos, it is known for effigies to be erected many years after the death of the subject. If this were the case, it is possible that the artist made the effigy in the dress of his time rather than contemporary with that of the deceased.

There are two factors that support the Albini attribution.

1: The demand for Purbeck Marble effigies began to fall off in the middle of the 13th century, giving way to cheaper, more easily worked freestone.

2: There mention in one of the Harleian manuscripts, cited by Nichols relating to Bottesford: "An oulde monument in a mantle and male removed from . . . and here buried with this new writing: Hic jacet cor dni Willielmi Albiniaci, cujus corpus sepelitur apud Novium Locum juxta Stanfordiam"

(Here lies the heart of Lord William Albini whose body is buried at Newstead near Stanford).

In the reign of Henry III William Albini III founded a Priory of Austin canons near Stanford, where the second, third and fourth of the Albinis were buried. When William died in 1236 his body was buried at Newstead and his heart opposite the high altar at Belvoir Priory.

Sepulchral Effigies of Leicestershire and Rutland
Text copyright 2002 Max Matthews.
Images copyright Bob Trubshaw or Max Matthews 2002.
No copying or reproduction without prior written permission.
Published by Heart of Albion Press