Richard donated funds for the west window of the nave. It was largely destroyed but some fragments are now in other windows scattered around the priory church most notably the arms of Richard. The boar supporters are noticeable. The same window also depicts Edward IV’s arms as Earl of March. Anne Neville’s arms are in the first window of the north quire; the so-called Museum Window. The coat of arms is a modern reproduction but the heads of the bear supporters of Warwick are original.
Clearly the leading families of the day vied with one another to contribute to the alterations in Great Malvern Priory. One of the reasons that the Duke of Gloucester and his wife would have made a donation was that Richard at that time was the Lord of Malvern Chase.
The reason for this goes back to the Scottish Wars of Independence. One Gilbert de Clare died without children. This made his sisters Eleanor and Margaret heiresses. Their mother, as a matter of interest, was Joan of Acre one of Edward I’s daughters. Eleanor was married to Hugh Despenser the Younger when she was about thirteen. Eleanor’s grandfather (Edward I) died the following year and her uncle became king (Edward II). This was not necessarily good news for a marriage made by politics rather than in Heaven as Hugh was Edward II’s favourite. He’s the one that Edward II’s wife, Isabella, the so-called she-wolf had hanged, drawn and quartered when the opportunity arose after having him tattooed with all sorts of Biblical verses beforehand. Warner’s book mentions that Eleanor’s relationship with uncle Edward was close. So close, in fact, that contemporary chroniclers drew some decidedly dodgy conclusions about the king and his niece, as though there wasn’t already enough scandal surrounding Edward II.
The younger sister, Margaret, was married to Piers Gaveston – Edward II’s other favourite. Sometimes, you just couldn’t make it up.
Malvern Chase fell into the hands of the Despensers via Eleanor. The chase left the family when Isabel Despenser, three generations on, married Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. Richard managed to get himself killed in foreign parts during the Hundred Years War and his son died without issue meaning that the whole lot passed to Richard’s daughter Ann who was married to Richard Neville a.k.a. The Kingmaker.
Bear with me, we’re nearly there. Ann Beauchamp had right and title to the land after the death of her king making husband at the Battle of Barnet in 1471. However, in order that the lands, titles and money should end up in the paws of his brothers, Edward IV had Anne declared legally dead.
So that was how Richard, Duke of Gloucester came to be lord of Malvern Chase. He was married to Anne Neville and, of course, that’s not without a tale of its own. Richard’s brother George, Duke of Clarence was married to Isabel Neville, Anne’s older sister. He wanted to keep Warwick’s wealth for himself so tried to prevent the marriage between Anne and Richard from happening. Legend has Anne being disguised as a kitchen maid having been briefly married to Henry VI’s son Prince Edward but widowed at Tewkesbury and then placed in the custody of her sister and brother-in-law. Who needs Game of Thrones when there’s this amount of intrigue happening?
What the west window, to get back to the priory, does demonstrate is that Malvern was part of Anne’s portion rather than Isabel’s and that it was commissioned and created prior to 1483.
The original window depicted the Day of Judgement. This has been largely lost. In one account it is put down to a storm. Wells suggests that the window also experienced vandalism. The glass in the current west window remains fifteenth century but it has been relocated from other sites within the priory.
An interesting feature of the window is that the lower panels are filled with stone, apart from two small windows or ‘squints’ designed to allow monks who were unable to attend services – through poor health or great age for example- to watch.
Warner, Kathryn. (2016) Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen Stroud:Amberley Publishing
Wells, Katherine. (2013) A Tour of the Stained Glass of Great Malvern Priory. The Friends of Great Malvern Priory