Monday, July 15, 2019

Memorial to a Wife in the Cloister at Canterbury Cathedral

Continuing our march around the aisle of the Great Cloister of Canterbury Cathedral, I came across this armorial gem:

Here lyes the Body of
Widow of Dr. Edward Tenison
late Bishop of Ossory
in Ireland,
formerly a Prebendary
of this Church.
She died the 8 Day of April
In the 75th Year of her Age.

Looking at his entry on Wikipedia (, where you can also find a portrait of him by John Vanderbank), we find that he died in 1735 and is buried in St. Mary's Church in Dublin, Ireland.

But of course it was the heraldry which caught my attention:

Though carved as leopard's faces erased crowned on this memorial slab, the arms of Tenison are Gules a bend engrailed argent between three leopard's faces jessant-de-lys or. (On the other hand, Burke's General Armory gives the arms of Tennison, Archbishop of Canterbury 1695-1715, as Gules three leopard's faces or jessant-de-lys azure a bend engrailed argent. The bend overall seems less likely to me, but what do I know? And the arms here clearly have the bend between the three leopard's faces, and not overall.)

Her family arms are not given in An Alphabetical Catalogue of Coats of Arms in Canterbury Cathedral. Wikipedia says that Dr. Tenison's wife was "Ann Searle or Sayer", but neither Burke's General Armory nor the Dictionary of British Arms show the arms carved here for any Searle or Sayer under these or any variant spellings I could find.

Papworth's Ordinary of British Armorials only cites one coat of arms in this pattern: Callecote: Argent a fess embattled counter-embattled gules between three Cornish choughs sable beaked and legged azure.

So Mrs. Tenison's arms are a mystery; I have no idea exactly what they are or where they came from.

Still, it's a nice memorial to her (and her husband's) memory, and a carefully, if not entirely accurately, carved marital coat of arms.

1 comment:

  1. See an armorial The three birds on the Sayer side have some similarities. Nicholas Sayer married Anne Tenison, sister of Thomas Tenison, Archbishop of Canterbury. They had children and it is possible that Anne Tenison buried in the cathedral is their daughter who married her cousin Edward Tenison - this relationship is suggested in some records. This is still work in progress and conjecture.