The Monument to Dame Katherine Grey

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East Grinstead Online St Swithun’s Church

The Monument to Dame Katherine Grey

This monument, to Dame Katherine Grey, who died in 1505, is the only surviving medieval monumental brass in St Swithun’s church. At first glance, it is disappointing, but it has a story.

People often ask if this lady has anything to do with Lady Jane Grey, or if Dame Katherine served Queen Elizabeth I. The answer is No, to both. This is not Katherine, younger sister of Lady Jane Grey, born in 1540. The Katherine Grey connected with St Swithun’s church served the grandmother and great grandmother of Queen Elizabeth I.

The monument contains fragments of what was a large, impressive tomb with 3 coats of arms, originally in prime position up by the altar. The church tower fell in 1785, causing great destruction. Mr Thomas Wakeham rescued the inscription for Dame Katherine Grey, the figures of her 2 husbands, and the wrong central figure. He had them mounted on a platform and added his own marble monument, complete with Latin inscription. We can discount the central figure, which is of an unknown male civilian, and has been dated 1520. (A lady would usually be shown with an elaborate headdress).

The figures of the 2 knights are not of the highest quality – one has no fingernails, but they represent Katherine’s 2 husbands, Sir Thomas Grey, knight and banneret, and Richard Lewkenor, esquire. Grey, on the left as you view the monument, has spurs, Lewkenor, on the right, has none.

The inscription is written in quirky English. It is significant that it was written in English, not Latin, in 1505, well before the Reformation.

'Here under this marbille stone lieth Dame Katherine Grey, daughter of Thomas sometyme lord Scales [the word penetrated by screw holes] wyff to Sir Thomas Grey Knight and banneret and after wyff unto the honourable Richard Lewkenor thelde at Brambletey and one of the ladies to queen Elizabeth wyff of blessed memory Edward the iiii and afterward to quene Elizabeth wyff unto our soffereyne lord Henry the viith the wheche passed owte of this transitory worlde the 18th day of June the year of owre lorde god MCCCCCV and the same Dame Katherine and Richard her husband yane founded indoed and inorned the present church of Estgrenestede to the laude and honour of god in diverse [blank space] and ornamentes and alms howse of 3 poor men, 4 whose sowles jhu for thy utter passion yeve upon them they merciful compassyon Amen.'

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