Katherine also wanted prayers from the poor, because the prayers of the poor, thought to be closer to God, were considered more powerful. Alms deeds were an important part of funeral arrangements for the wealthy. Katherine prescribed five marks to be given to poor people at her burying and at monthly anniversaries of her death. Today, a list of benefactors, under the organ loft, lists Lewkenor and Katherine who 'gave certain almshouses adjoining East Grinstead common for the use of poor persons', in 1505. In her will, she asked her executors to attend to the almshouse specified in her husband's will, to find the land for it and 3 poor men.We do not know whether this almshouse was ever established, but Katherine and her husband hoped for the prayers of poor men.
Katherine bequeathed gifts to her ladies, in return for their prayers. They were to receive their wages, further sums, and such horses and harness as she had, and 20s. upon marriage. She wanted prayers from her household. There is no mention of any children of Katherine with either husband.
Dame Katherine Grey is an enigma, whose origins and early life seem to be lost in the mists of time. She wanted prayers from those close to her and to be shown in her shroud, to help the poor and enhance the church, yet she wanted her high status and court service to be displayed.
Next time you are in St Swithun’s church, have a look at what is left of Dame Katherine’s monument and perhaps pause to consider the story of its rescue, and Katherine, herself.
There will be free tours of St Swithun’s church during the May Fair, on Monday, May 4th, at 11am, 1 and 3pm.