Object of the Month: Tomb of Lady Mary Hervey

Published on 01 October 2022

An alabaster tomb for Lady Mary Hervey, governess to Henry IV's infants.

Lady Mary Hervey’s early life is obscure. We know she served as lady-in-waiting to Queen Phillipa, consort of King Edward III, where she met her husband William Hervey and the Queen arranged their marriage in the 1360s.

Mary’s husband was not from a noble family. However, he served as a yeoman to Edward III until the King died in 1377. The King granted William Southrop Manor on the border of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.

The Herveys entered the service of Edward’s son John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster. Mary served the Duke’s daughter-in-law, Mary Countess of Derby. Following William’s death in 1400, Mary inherited Southrop manor and other property.

Tomb of Lady Mary Hervey in Trinity Houses chapel area.

Mary served John of Gaunt for many years as governess to his children and grandchildren, the future kings of England. For this, Mary received a pension of £40 a year from the King because of her ‘good services to the king (Henry IV), his son the prince (Henry V) and other infants’.

Mary was a generous patron of this hospital, and her name remains on the benefactors’ board in the chapel. In 1405, she donated two parts of Southrop manor, Grey’s Court and Philibert’s Court, to Trinity Hospital. Mary died in 1406 and buried in the Church of the Annunciation in a tomb topped with an alabaster effigy.

Engraving details, The history and antiquities of the county of Leicester : Vol. 1, Part 2., John Nichols, 1815.

During the Reformation, Edward VI dissolved the Chantries like the monasteries before them in 1548. Mary’s tomb is the only one to have survived the destruction of the Church of the Annunciation and they interred her tomb in Trinity Chapel. We can only speculate as to why this tomb survived this period of change in England. It is possible that the local population decided to spare Hervey's tomb due to her status or because alabaster, a soft stone soluble in water, did not offer much in the way of spoliation - the process of taking the remains of old buildings to build new structures.

Tomb of Lady Mary Hervey, Select views in Leicestershire, 1772, from original drawings.

You can see Lady Mary Hervey’s alabaster tomb on Heritage Sundays, the last Sunday of the month in May-October 2023.

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