Brass of Joan, Lady Cromwell, Holy Trinity, Tattershall, taken 5 years ago
Joan was the younger daughter of Sir Richard Stanhope of Rampton. By 1455/6 Joan had married Sir Humphrey Bourchier, the third son of Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex. Humphrey, cousin to Edward IV, was created Lord Bourchier de Cromwell in 1461 and died fighting on the Yorkist side at Barnet in 1471. They had a son, Robert. Joan subsequently married Sir Robert Radclyffe, of Hunstanton, Norfolk, who outlived her, dying by May 1498, when his will was proved.
Like her aunt, Lady Cromwell is depicted in the ceremonial robes of a peeress, though she has her hair loose, with a jewelled circlet, and wears an elaborate necklace. The foot inscription reads: Orate p(ro) a(n)i(m)a Johanne d(omi)ne Cromwell qua obit decimo die MaYCii Anno d(omi)ni Mill(esi)mo CCCC Lxxxx cui(us) a(n)i(m)e p(ro)piciet(ur) deus amen. (Pray for the soul of Joan, Lady Cromwell, who died the tenth March, AD 1490, on whose soul may God have mercy Amen). The date of death has often mistakenly been read as 1479, but close examination shows it to be 1490.
The shields survive only as indents, but their charges are recorded in antiquarian sources. That at the upper left bore quarterly: 1. France and England differenced with a bordure and label, 2. Bourchier, 3. Louvain, 4. Cromwell impaling Tattershall, representing Joanís 1st marriage alliance. The upper right shield bore Ratcliffe impaling Cromwell quartering Tattershall, for Joanís 2nd marriage. The lower left bore Stanhope impaling Cromwell quartering Tattershall and the lower Right bore quarterly 1&4 Stanhope, 2&3 Cromwell quartering Tattershall, for her parentís alliance.
Although the canopy is mutilated at the top, it retains its full complement of saints. On the left are the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ss. Christopher and Dorothy and on the right Ss. Anne, George, and also Edmund. The uppermost four are general favourites, which also featured on Ralph and Maudís brasses, but St Edmund points to a link with East Anglia, and St Dorothy whose cult was more established in Germany and the Netherlands, had begun to appear on East Anglian roodscreens by the late fifteenth century.
When commissioning Joanís brass, her executors turned to the Norwich 3 workshop, run by the glazier William Heyward. Though Joanís brass is on a much larger scale than most Norwich brasses, it has stylistic similarities to brasses at Narborough (1496), Alysham (1499), and Wes Lynn (1503), suggesting it was made in the later 1490s. The treatment of the hands, face and inscription lettering are all distinctive. Two factors may have prompted Joanís executors to abandon the familyís patronage of the London D workshop, by the 1490s based at the London Blackfriars and run by John and Henry Lorymer. The workshop was in a period of decline, eventually coming to an end around Johnís death in 1499, and by then their products were of an inferior quality. Joanís 2nd husband, Sir Robert Radclyffe, a native of Norfolk, may have suggested using instead the more competent Norwich 3 workshop. His will dated 1496 requested that he be commemorated by a brass at Hunstanton, now lost; this may also have been a Norwich product. But the fact that the inscription on Joanís brass calls her Lady Cromwell, a title she derived from her first husbandís peerage, makes no reference to her second, less prestigious marriage, may suggest that it was her sister Maud, not her widower, who ordered the brass.