Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

  • Title: Daughters of Joan, Lady of Cobham
  • Creator:
  • Description: The pressure and anxiety to have heirs was significant, especially for a woman like Joan who had been raised by her grandfather to carry on the Cobham legacy as the only inheritor. Lady Cobham’s daughter and her husband, Sir Thomas Brook, commissioned the monument which was inscribed: “Here lies Joan, Lady of Cobham, formerly wife of Sir Reginald Braybook, knight, who died on the day of St. Hillary, Bishop. A.D. 1433, on whose soul may God have mercy. Amen.” The tomb also attests that Lady Cobham bore children, fulfilling her duty as a wife, and affirms the continuity of the Cobham line within the Brook family through heraldry. The monument suggests Joan had a large family as she is pictured with many children. However, only the one daughter also named Joan, survived to be Lady Cobham’s heir.

    The scholar Nigel Saul has argued recently that Lady Cobham had far fewer sons and daughters than depicted on the tomb. Possibly these are representations of groups of children that came ready made from the brass workshop; or they may be “a concealment of failure” with the end of the Cobham line (Nigel Saul, Death, Art, and Memory in Medieval England).

    Lady Cobham’s married life was tumultuous as she had five husbands, many wedded to the wealthy heiress by the arrangement of the king. One of her more famous husbands, Sir John Oldcastle, was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s character Falstaff. Sir John was hanged in 1417 for plotting against the king, having previously been found guilty of heresy because of his connection with the Lollard movement. Oldcastle’s death is indicative of the fragile political and social environment of the time.

  • Source: Private collection
  • Rights: Permission of the collectors
  • Subject (See Also): Brass Rubbing Children Daughters Mothers Tomb Effigies
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 15
  • Date: 1433
  • Related Work: Brass rubbing of the sons of Lady Cobham in a private collection:
    Brass rubbing of the tomb of Lady Cobham:
  • Current Location: Private collection
  • Original Location: Cobham, Kent, England. Church of St. Mary Magdalene
  • Artistic Type (Category): Brass rubbing
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Heelball; Paper
  • Donor: Joan Cobham and Sir Thomas Brook
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 15.24 cm/27.94 cm/
  • Inscription: Hic iacet Johanna dna de Cobhm quonda ux’ dni Reginaldi Braybrook militis que obijt in die Sancti Hillary Epi Anno dni Millmo CCCCo xxxiijo Cuius aie ppiciet’ deus Amen. Translation: Here lies Joan, Lady of Cobham, formerly wife of Sir Reginald Braybook, knight, who died on the day of St. Hilary, Bishop. A.D. 1433, on whose soul may God have mercy. Amen.
  • Related Resources: Orme, Nicholas. Medieval Children. Yale University Press, 2001;
    Owen-Crocker, Gale, Elizabeth Coatsworth, and Maria Hayward. Encyclopaedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of British Isles, C. 450–1450. Brill, 2012;
    Saul, Nigel. 2001. Death, Art, and Memory in Medieval England: The Cobham Family and Their Monuments, 1300–1500. Oxford University Press, 2001.