Clifford, Rosamond (DNB00)
|←Clifford, Roger de (1333-1389)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 11
|Clifford, Thomas de (d.1391?)→|
CLIFFORD, ROSAMOND (Fair Rosamond) (d. 1176?), mistress of Henry II, was the daughter of Walter de Clifford [q. v.], and granddaughter of Richard FitzPonce, the ancestor of the Clifford family. There are reasons for believing that Walter was already married by 1138. Hence his daughter Rosamond may possibly have been born, as is often asserted, before 1140.
The surname Clifford does not seem to have been ascribed to Fair Rosamond till the publication of the first edition of Stow's 'Chronicle of England' (1580), where she is called 'Rosamond, the faire daughter of Walter, lord Clifford.' But there can be little or no doubt of Rosamond's parentage. In the 'Hundred Rolls of Ed. I' (ii. 93, 94) we find the verdict of the jurors of Corfham running as follows: 'Dicunt quod [Corf ham erat in] antique dominico Regum, set Henricus Rex pater Johannis Regis dedit [Waltero] de Clyfford pro amore Rosamundse filise suæ.' Hence, at least as early as 2 Ed. I (1274), it was already the popular story on a Clifford manor that Rosamond Clifford had been the mistress of Henry II.
No contemporary writer mentions the legends commonly associated with the name of Rosamond, most of which prove to be popular myths. Giraldus Cambrensis, writing at the close of the twelfth century, in his treatise 'De Principis Institutione,' tells us that Henry II, after having imprisoned his wife Eleanor, began to live in open adultery with some one who can hardly have been any one else than Rosamond: '[Rex] qui adulter antea fuerat occultus effectus postea manifestus non mundi quidem rosa juxta falsam et frivolatissimam compositionem sed inmundi verius rosa vocata palam et impudenter abutendo' (pp. 21, 22). The date of this open connection with Rosamond is fixed ('biennali vero clade sedata') after the suppression of the great rebellion which lasted from March 1173 to September 1174 (Itin. of Hen. II, pp. 172, 184). Hence it must have been about 1174 or 1175 that Henry proclaimed his adultery with Rosamond. Three later writers, John Brompton (of uncertain date), Knyghton (c. 1400), and Higden (c. 1350), give a similar account with additional details of their own. Verbal coincidences show that they all had access, directly or indirectly, to Giraldus Cambrensis. They all also probably had access to some other common source of information, as they all speak of Rosamond's having been hidden away from the queen's jealousy at Woodstock in a secret chamber of 'Dædalian workmanship,' the 'maze' of popular ballads and legend (Brompton, p. 1151; Knyghton, p. 2395; Higden, viii. 52). They likewise declare Rosamond to have died soon after her open acknowledgment by the king (' sed ilia cito obiit '), and to have been buried in the chapterhouse at Godstow nunnery. Giraldus Cambrensis knows nothing of the Woodstock residence or of the Godstow burial; but the latter fact is corroborated by Robert of Gloucester (c. 1800), and is established by a charter printed in the 'Monasticon,' where Osbert FitzHugh (apparently Rosamond's brother-in-law) bestows his salt pit at Wick on the Godstow nunnery at the petition of Walter de Clifford (Rosamond's father) for the salvation of the souls of his (i.e. Walter's) wife and his daughter Rosamond, 'quarum corpora ibidem requiescant' (Monast. iv. 366, No. 13). Walter de Clifford, the father, is proved by other charters to have endowed the nunnery of Godstow 'pro animabus uxoris meæ Margaretæ Clifford et nostræ filiæ Rosamundæ.' Benedict of Peterborough and Hoveden tell us that Henry II had bestowed many gifts on Godstow, 'which had previously been but a small nunnery,' for the sake of Rosamond, 'quæ quondam extiterat arnica Henrici regis.' The same chroniclers say that in 1191 St. Hugh, the bishop of Lincoln, on a visitation of Godstow, found Rosamond's tomb set in the middle of the church choir before the altar, and adorned with silken hangings, lamps, and waxen candles. Disgusted at such profanation he gave orders for her body to be taken up and buried outside the church. It would seem that she was reinterred in the chapterhouse (Brompton, Higden, Knyghton in loc. cit.'), where her tomb had the famous inscription:
Hic jacet in tumulo Rosa mundi non Rosa munda:
Here her bones may have remained till the time of the Reformation, about which date we learn from Leland (ap. Monasticon, iv. 365) that 'Rosamunde's tumbe at Godstowe nunnery was taken up a-late. It is a stone with this inscription, Tumba Rosamunda.' According to the account of Allen, president of Gloucester Hall, now Worcester College, who died in 1632 in the ninetieth year of his age, this stone was broken into pieces; but tradition still pointed out 'her stone coffin' in Hearne's time (c. 1711), though that writer regarded it as 'no more than the fiction of the vulgar' (Leland, Itin., ed. Hearne, ii. 77 ; Hearne. Will. of Newburgh, iii. 739).
Rosamond is commonly reported to have had two sons by Henry II, viz. Geoffrey, archbishop of York, and William Longsword, earl of Salisbury. This statement does not seem to reach further back than the end of the sixteenth or beginning of the seventeenth century. Apparently it is unknown to any English chronicler or historian before the publication of Speed's 'History of Great Britain' in 1611. It has since been accepted by both Carte and Eyton. That Geoffrey and William cannot both have been sons of Fair Rosamond is plain from the fact that the former was born in 1151-2 (Gir. Cambr. iv. 384), whereas Rosamond is spoken of as a 'girl' (puellam) more than twenty years later (Gir. Cambr. De Instit. Princ. p. 91). We also know from Walter Map that Geoffrey's mother was called Ykenai or Hikenai (De Nug. Curial. pp. 228, 235) ; and it is worth notice that, according to Dr. Stubbs, William Longsword laid claim to the inheritance of a Sir Roger de Akeny, a name which bears a close resemblance to Walter Map's Ykenai (Gir. Cambr., ed. Dimock, vii. p. xxxvii). There is moreover no positive evidence in favour of William Longsword's being the son of Rosamond. Before his death in 1188 Henry II granted William Longsword the manor of Appleby, Lincolnshire, whence it is seen to be improbable that he was the son of Rosamond and born, as the old legends have it, about 1175. In 1607, when Margaret, wife of George Clifford, third earl of Cumberland [q. v.], claimed the Clifford estates for her daughter Anne, and instituted proceedings against her brother-in-law Francis, another claimant, the Clifford genealogy was investigated, and the theory that William Longsword was the son of Rosamond Clifford was emphatically stated. But the main argument in favour of this kinship used on this occasion is vitiated by a fatal confusion between the manor of Appleby (in Lincolnshire) owned by Longsword and his descendants and the manor of the same name in Cumberland in the hands of the Cliffords.
The story of Queen Eleanor's vengeance on Rosamond makes its first appearance in the 'French Chronicle of London,' a fourteenth-century document which concludes with 1343 (17 Ed. III). It is entered under 1263 (47 Hen. III), and is transferred from Eleanor, the wife of Henry II, to Eleanor, the wife of Henry III. In this, the earliest version of the legend, the queen is made to bleed Rosamond to death in a hot bath at Woodstock, and King Henry has the dead body buried at Godstow. There is no allusion here to the familiar dagger and the poison-cup or to the maze, of which the latter alone was known to Higden, Knyghton, and Brompton. Another of the Rosamond legends, that of the silken clue, occurs first in Fabyan's 'Chronicle' (ed. Ellis, pp. 276-7). After describing the 'howse of wonder workyng or Dædalus' werke which is to mean, after moost exposytours, an howse wrought lyke unto a knot in a garden called a maze,' he adds, 'the comon fame tellyth that lastly the quene wane to her [i.e. Rosamond] by a clewe of threde or sylke and delte with her in such maner that she lyved not long after. Of the maner of her deth spekyth not myne auctour.' From Fabyan this tradition was handed on to Grafton and Holinshed, but still without the additions of the dagger and the bowl, which apparently make their first appearance together in the Percy ballad bearing the date 1611 (but for the poisoned draught, cf. Daniel, Complaint of Rosamond, 1596). This part of the story also may possibly be of considerably earlier date, if we can trust the evidence of Thomas Allen (d. 1632). He has recorded that on Rosamond's tomb, before its destruction at the Reformation, were 'enterchangeable weavings drawn out and decked with roses red and green, and the picture of the cup out of which she drank the poyson, given her by the queen, carved in stone' (Hearne, Will. of Newburgh, iii. 739). Hearne has left us an account of a picture, according to his informant painted about the reign of Henry VII, which represents Rosamond gazing at the 'fatal bowl.' Altogether the evidence would seem to show that the stories of the poisoned draught and the silken clue are the latest accretions to the Rosamond legend. The student of folklore will doubtless recognise in the latter incident a variant of an old-world myth in a somewhat altered setting ; while he may suspect, when he notices how very late is the introduction of the poisoned bowl, that he has here a distorted version of the actual fate of a yet more renowned Rosamond than the mistress of Henry II (cf. Paulus Diaconus, ii. c. 29).[Dugdale's Monasticon (ed. 1817-46), vol. iv. ; Dugdale's Baronage, vol. i. ; Eyton's History of Shropshire, vol. v., and Itinerary of Henry II ; Sir H. Ellis's Introduction to Domesday ; Carte's History of England, vol. i. ; Giraldus Cambrensis, ed. Dimock (Rolls Series), vol. iv. ; Benedict of Peterborough, Roger Hoveden, and Walter of Coventry, ed. Stubbs (Rolls Series) ; Higden's Chronicle, ed. Luard (Rolls Series) ; Walter Map, De Nugis Curialium, ed. Wright (Camden Society); French Chronicle of London, ed. Aungier (Camden Society); Chronicles of Fabyan, Grafton, and Holinshed,ed. Ellis; Giraldus Cambrensis, De Instructione Principis, ed. Brewer, for Anglia Sacra Society; Chronicles of Brompton and Knyghton ap. Twysden's Decem Scriptores; Hearne's William of Newburgh, vol. iii., and his edition of Leland's Itinerary, vol. ii., contain two very discursive essays on the Rosamond legend; Hundred Rolls, vol. ii.; Stow's Chronicle of England (ed. 1580), p. 212; Speed's Hist, of Great Britain (ed. 1611), p. 471; Percy Ballads (ed. 1847), iii. 151, &c.]