The Katherine Swynford Society - Dedicated To Lady Katherine, ne de Rot The Duchess of Lancaster

Walk for Katherine and John 2010

Walk to commemorate the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist 2010

This year we inaugurated a walk to commemorate the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, a date in the Christian Calendar which would have been very important to John of Gaunt.

John the Baptist is believed to have been a cousin of Jesus. His parents were Zecheriah (or Zachary) and Elizabeth. Elizabeth had passed child-bearing age when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and said that Elizabeth would give birth to a son and they should call him John. When the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would bear Jesus, he also said that Mary's cousin Elizabeth was already six month's pregnant. John the Baptist is seen by Christians as a preparation for the coming of Christ.

We started our walk at the West door of Westminster Abbey, and proceeded to King Edward III's Jewel Tower, the Palace of Westminster; the Savoy Palace (site of) and the Chapel of the Savoy; St Clement Danes Church (where Katherine and Sir Hugh were married according to Anya Seton's novel); St Bride's Church (the church of printers); St Paul's Cathedral; the College of Arms; across the Thames to Clink Prison, Westminster Palace (London residence of the Bishop's of Winchester and the venue of the wedding feast when John Beaufort's daughter married the King of Scotland) and what was in John and Katherine's time Southwark Priory, now Southwark Cathedral.

Below you will find pictures from the walk taken by Lauren Elliott, and accompanying notes by Graham Coult.

We will celebrate Katherine's Saint's Day with our inaugural St Katherine's Day symposium on December 4th 2010 (see details on the home page of the Katherine Swynford Society web site).


The Walk - pictures and notes about points of interest en route

Westminster Abbey - King Henry VII Lady Chapel
Photo Lauren Elliott

Work on the King Henry VII Lady Chapel was begun in 1503, and dedicated in 1516. King Henry VII died in 1509 and his tomb is in the Chapel, along with that of his wife, Elizabeth of York. They are buried in a vault beneath the tombs.
Henry VII wanted to have his uncle, King Henry VI, canonised as a saint, and it was intended that Henry VI be buried in the chapel. Henry VI was never canonised because the fee demanded by the Pope was too high.
The King Henry VII Lady Chapel is thought to have been designed by Robert Janyns, and built by Robert and William Vertue - masons who had worked on the nave of Westminster Abbey.
King Henry VII assumed the throne after defeating the previous king, Richard III, and the latter's death in the battle. Richard had assumed the throne while acting as regent for King Edward V. King Henry VII was the son of Lady Margaret Beaufort and Edmond Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond. Edmond Tudor was a son of Owen Tudor and Katherine of Valois, widow of King Henry V.
Lady Margaret Beaufort was the daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset. John was the son of  John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, John and Katherine's eldest child. Margaret was John's only child, and the soul heir to his fortune.
From the above genealogical details, we can see that Henry VII was John and Katherine's great great grandson.

Above: detail from King Henry VII's Lady Chapel
Photo: Lauren Elliott

Detail of the exterior of King Henry VII's Lady Chapel. 

As well as King Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York (parents of King Henry VIII),the following people are buried in the Henry VII Lady Chapel:

  • Charles II
  • Edward V
  • Edward V
  • Elizabeth I
  • George II of Great Britain
  • George Monck, First Duke of Albemarle
  • King Henry VI
  • James I of England
  • Katherine of Valois
  • Margaret Beaufort 
  • Mary I
  • Mary, Queen of Scots
  • Queen Anne 
  • Mary II
  • William II 

The Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, ruler of England during the interregnum, was originally buried here but his body was removed after the restoration of the Monarchy. 


Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster
Photo: Lauren Elliott

King Edward III’s Jewel Tower is to be found in an area known as Old Palace Yard. It is part of the medieval Palace of Westminster.

Some of the walkers by t the Jewel Tower
Photo: Lauren Elliott

Constructed in 1365 as the King’s personal treasure house, it was also known as the King’s Privy Wardrobe.

The building is L-shaped because it was designed to enclose but not encroach upon the King’s private garden. It was actually built on land belonging to the abbot and convent of St Peter’s Westminster.

Jewel Tower from the west
Photo Lauren Elliott

A clock tower was built in New Palace Yard at the same time as the construction of the Jewel Tower, not far from where the present clock tower which houses Big Ben (the bell) currently stands. Both towers were constructed from a stone known as Kentish Rag – most of the palace was apparently constructed of this stone, which is lighter than that used for most of the buildings of the Palace of Westminster which were constructed in the nineteenth century following a very destructive fire.

The dressing on both towers was Reigate stone. Beer stone from Devon, and Caen stone from Normandy were used for the string courses of both towers, and the gargoyles of the Jewel Tower.

The Jewel Tower from the south
Photo: Lauren Elliott

There are three categories of Royal Jewels. Firstly there are those used only at the coronation, the Regalia Proper, which are in the keeping of the abbot and convent of Westminster. There are further Royal Jewels which were worn more frequently, and were kept at the Tower of London. Then there are the monarch’s private jewels gold and silverware. It was to house these that the Jewel Tower was built. It is thought that the motivation was that the Tower of London, where the private valuables had hitherto been stored was now being devoted purely to military supplies and equipment.

Jewel Tower from the southwest
Photo: Lauren Elliott

At the Jewel Tower, all the King’s private jewels were received. They were weighed, their marks listed, they were added to the inventories, and their transfer or disposal was recorded here.

The collection was dispersed in the reign of Henry VIII’s son, King Edward VI (Katherine and John’s great-great-great-great grandson). In 1621, during the reign of King James I of England (who was King James VI of Scotland, and Mary Queen of Scots’ son), the Jewel Tower became a repository for official documents. Later still, it became an office of Weights and Measures. Today, it is a museum which can be visited.

You can find a reconstruction of what the Abbey and Palace complex looked like in medieval times (including the Jewel Tower, which you can see in the centre-right of the picture – note at that time it was beside the Thames, to be found at what we might call a concave right angle of the river bank) here:

There is another image here:

A further impression may be found here:

English Heritage publish a pamphlet: The Jewel Tower by A J Taylor. ISBN 1 85074 643 5

English Heritage have a web site for the Jewel Tower: