Dear Ms Anna,
You visited us in the library at Westminster Abbey on 13 June last year to ask about a shield on the east end of the tomb of Elizabeth I displaying three wheels. I said that we would take a photograph of the shield at some point and send it to you. I am sorry for the very long delay in doing this but I am at last able to send you a picture which I hope you will be glad to have.
With all best wishes,
Tony T.Dr Tony T. Head of the Abbey Collection and Librarian The Muniment Room and Library Westminster Abbey London SW1P 3PA
I had almost forgotten, but Tony didn’t! I wrote him a nice email thanking him for his consideration!
I will be honest, I haven’t done any more research regarding the possible link between my father’s family and English Royalty. I don’t pretend to be my father’s family historian, nor do I volunteer for the job. However, I know that some members of my family have expressed disappointment in the fact the Tony linked Sir Roet to the service of Edward III instead of the better known Henry VIII. So I did a quick look-up of Edward III to see if his rein offered anything to be proud of.
According to Wikipedia…
- Edward III — In 1325, Edward II (Edward III’s dad) dubbed him Earl of Aquitaine (a vast section of France the runs from the English Channel to the Mediterranean Sea (on the left side next to Spain)) due to a problem he was facing is France. Edward II was reluctant to leave England (due to the discontent brewing domestically over his relationship with the favorite Hugh Despenser the Younger (the royal chamberlain who through a series of controversies eventually led to his being hanged, drawn and quartered — Ewwww!)). Edward III was sent to France in his place accompanied by his mother Isabella (the sister of King Charles IV of France) and was meant to negotiate a peace treaty with the French. While in France, however, Isabella conspired to have Edward II, her loving husband, deposed. To build up diplomatic and military support for the venture, Isabella had Prince Edward engaged to the twelve-year-old Philippa of Hainault (the young French royal who was escorted to England by the noble knight, Sir Roet). An invasion of England was launched and Edward II’s forces deserted him completely. The king was forced to relinquish the throne to his son, who was crowned as Edward III on 1 February 1327. To make a long story short — Edward III (13 November 1312 – 21 June 1377) was King of England from 1327 until his death; he is noted for his military success and for restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II. Edward III transformed the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe; his reign also saw vital developments in legislation and government—in particular the evolution of the English parliament—as well as the ravages of the Black Death. He is one of only five British monarchs to have ruled England or its successor kingdoms for more than fifty years. As for Philippa. she married Edward III in 1327 and acted as regent on several occasions when her husband was away from his kingdom and she often accompanied him on his expeditions to Scotland, France, and Flanders. Philippa won much popularity with the English people for her kindness and compassion. It was this popularity that helped maintain peace in England throughout Edward’s long reign.
As for why the Roet crest is on the tomb of Elizabeth I, we really don’t know. Tony could not provide any explanation. However, I found some information that suggests that the tomb of Elizabeth I was less about Elizabeth I and more about her successor, James I.
- Elizabeth is buried, along with her Catholic half-sister, Queen Mary I, below the north aisle of the Lady Chapel built by her grandfather, King Henry VII in 1503, at the east end of the Collegiate Church of St. Peter, known as Westminster Abbey. Both Mary and Elizabeth were childless and thus buried together for neither had a anyone else to be buried next to — such was the way of the religious and political environment at the time. When Elizabeth died childless in 1603 she had left her second-cousin, King James VI of Scotland, heir to her throne as James I of England. Elizabeth’s letters to James suggest she expected him to take the throne even though she had not yet named him successor. In 1596 James made clear his acceptance by strategically naming his first daughter Elizabeth. James was the son of the Catholic Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots and widowed queen of France, who’d suffered execution at the order of Elizabeth in 1567. James was faced with the political problem — having to acknowledge his mother to whom he owed his lineage and loyalty, as well as acknowledging she to whom he owed his throne yet who caused his mother’s death. To not build a monument to the beloved Elizabeth makes little political sense, the people of Britain loved Elizabeth! Thus the style of tomb, the placement, and the timing, however, seem to show James I’s conflicting interests.
Could it be that the crests on the tomb were chosen by James I, and thus reflected his political and family affiliations, not Elizabeth’s? And if so, why would Sir Roet’s family be honored in such a fashion by a King of Scottish/French origin? Maybe the answer lies in the crest itself. If you look closely at the crest you see three major elements —
- A Fleur-de-lis — A stylized lily particularly associated with the French monarchy.
- The Lions — Symbols of England monarchy. These lions are gold on a red background, signifying “British Pride”. If they were red on a yellow background, they would signify Scotland.
- The Golden Wheels — These are referred to a the Catherine Wheels in Tony’s books. Such wheels were torture devices (your body would be stretched over the wheel until your limbs were ripped from your body). This device of torture was used on the martyr St Catherine of Alexandria, thus the name. Warriors usually adopted a Saint to protect them on their missions.
Could it be that Sir Roet was in service to the French monarchy (his claim to fame was in the protecting a Royal French Princess betrothed to an English King)? If so, this may explain Sir Roet’s family and/or political connection with the French/Scottish family of James I.