When is Richard Duke of York actually Ralph Neville 1st Earl of Westmorland?

St Andrew’s Church Penrith

The so-called Neville Window can be found on the south side of the nave. And it’s fairly clear who folk have thought the medieval glass depicted, at least since the church’s rebuild during the eighteenth century. In 1716 the vicar and parishioners petitioned for a new church on the grounds they were concerned the old one was on the verge of falling down. The total cost for a new building in the style of Christopher Wren was just over £2,253. Pevenser identified the resulting church as the finest of its kind in Cumbria.

So back to the Neville window. It’s created from fragments of glass belonging to the old window. Obviously the faces were thought to be Richard Duke of York and his wife Cecily Neville but have since been identified as Cecily’s parents – Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland who was responsible for the a re building of the church in 1397 and Joan Beaufort the daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford – the decorative surround of white roses, crowns and the bear and ragged staff are not medieval.

Dugdale’s Visitation of Cumberland made in 1665 (MS.C.39) contains drawings of the medieval church and they include depictions of the glass which was originally in the north window of the chancel. Dugdale reveals that the woman was originally kneeling and her kirtle depicted the royal arms whilst her mantle depicted the Neville arms – so a member of the royal family who married into the Neville family – and hey presto Joan Beaufort – making the man kneeing next to her Ralph Neville – not least because Dugdale depicts him with the Neville arms. Since the church was rebuilt by them it does seem a logical conclusion. A full discussion of the images and a reproduction of the Dugdale images can be found in Ashdown-Hill.

If nothing else it demonstrates that history is constantly under revision!

Is the image of the monarch King Richard II?

Ralph was also responsible for the red sandstone castle having been granted Penrith’s lordship by Richard II in 1396. It’s been suggested that one of the fragments of medieval glass in St Andrews depicts Richard II.

And obviously I couldn’t resist adding the photographs of the Scandinavian hogback tombstone…just because.

Ashdown-Hill, Cecily Neville: Mother of Richard III, (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2018)