Delve Deeper - Arundel Tomb

The Arundel Tomb in the north aisle of Chichester Cathedral was brought from Lewes Priory sometime after its dissolution in 1537.

It is a tomb chest on top of which lays the recumbent figures of Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, and his second wife, Eleanor of Lancaster. On the side of the tomb are shields. Originally the whole tomb was probably painted, with the figures resplendent and the shields showing the coats of arms of the couple. Richard Fitzalan is dressed as a knight of the period and Eleanor wears the dress of a noblewoman with veil and wimple. 

Restoration

At the beginning of the 19th century the tomb was in great need of restoration: the two figures were separated and the arms of Richard and Eleanor’s right hand were missing. A restoration was thus undertaken by Edward Richardson, a well-known sculptor who had already restored tombs in London’s Temple Church in 1842. 

After much reflection, Richardson restored the arms to show husband and wife with their right hands joined.

The tomb is best known today through Philip Larkin’s 1955 poem “An Arundel Tomb”, which ruminates on the transitory nature of objects, people and material things, ending with the much-quoted final line: “What will survive of us is love.”

The Fitzalans

Richard “Copped Hat” (the reason for the nickname is unknown) Fitzalan ​​​​​was descended from the Counts of Dol and Dinan in Brittany. An ancestor accompanied William of Normandy to England and was given lands in Shropshire. 

Richard Fitzalan (albeit a surname he did not use, preferring to be called “Arundel”) was one of the richest men in England, inheriting both the earldom of Arundel and that of Surrey from an uncle. The date of his birth is variously given as 1303 or 1313: documentary evidence maintains his marriage aged 7 in 1321 to Isabel Dispenser, aged 8, a grand-daughter of a favourite of Edward II who attended the wedding. 

Richard had a son, Edmund, born in 1327, but had his first marriage annulled and his son disinherited. He married his second wife, Eleanor in 1345 and had children, one of whom, Richard, inherited the title, whereas Edmund and his family were not mentioned in the will.

Eleanor died in 1372, followed by Richard in 1376, after making his will at the end of 1375. He had wanted to be buried “without pomp” in the Chapter House of Lewes Priory.