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Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Friday, 27 August 2010 13:46 UK
Richard Plantagenet: Illegitimate heir's tomb in Kent?
The remains of St Mary's Church in Eastwell
The remains of St Mary's Church in Eastwell

This is a story of an illegitimate heir to the Plantagenet throne thought to be buried at a Kent church.

There is a tomb stone for a Richard Plantagenet in the remains of St Mary's Church, Eastwell near Ashford.

According to legend, he was the illegitimate son of Richard III and he lived out his days at Eastwell Manor.

He was avoiding the bloodlust of the Tudors who defeated his father at the Battle of Bosworth. His body has yet to be found.

The story goes that as a young boy, Richard Plantagenet was brought to the tent of his father King Richard III the night before the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, who pledged that he would look after him what ever happens.

Richard, his father, was killed the next day, in the decisive battle of the War of the Roses, and the Tudors took over the English throne.

Somehow, the young Richard ended up at Eastwell, working for Sir Thomas Moyle, the lord of the manor. Unusually for the time, employed as a mere gardener and bricklayer, Richard was given his own house in the grounds.

The legend says he was aspotted reading Latin, the sign of someone who had been educated according to his status.

He died in 1550 at the great age of 81, according to Eastwell parish records, which would have made it quite possible that he was Richard III's son.

The site of the gravestone, next to remains of the church
The site of the gravestone, next to remains of the church

St Mary's church roof collapsed in 1951 after systematic neglect, and apart from the 15th century tower and the 18th century chapel, the rest of the church was demolished. The Friends of Friendless Churches took over the remains of the building.

Matthew Saunders, director of the Friends said: "We maintain and repair it at some expense. There isn't much left which is roofed, and we are about to carry out work to the mortuary chapel."

The legend of Richard Plantagenet became popular in the 19th century, and when a new gravestone was added to the site. There is no evidence that Richard's body is even in the place of the grave.

"I think there might have been some guesswork as to where he was. I suspect that we'll never find anything conclusive. The parish records are quite clear that there was a Richard Plantagenet buried at the church, and the conjecture flows from there." said Matthew.

"Nothing has ever confirmed the legend, but the legend will carry on. There was a Richard Plantagenet buried there, and it's possible to construct a story based on that truth, but a lot of the story may be a bit flimsy."

The Friends of Friendless Churches own 43 places of worship, mostly Church of England buildings, and take them into care to stop them falling down.

The 19th century gravestone for Richard Plantagenet
The 19th century gravestone for Richard Plantagenet


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