Hanging in our kitchen is a large picture of a lady from the Middle Ages (le Moyen Âge). She dominates the room and most visitors comment upon her. The image was created in gold crayon on black paper. It is a brass rubbing (un décalque) which measures 250 cm x 82cm. It was made by Jane’s brother, Nick, when he was a teenager (un adolescent).
Lady Eleanor de Bohun
The lady whose image watches us eat our meals, was Lady Eleanor de Bohun, the daughter of the Earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton and his wife, Joan, the daughter of the Earl of Arundel. In 1385 Eleanor married the Duke of Gloucester, the youngest son of Edward III. They had one son, Humphrey, who died in battle in 1399, and four daughters. It is said that after the death of her son, Eleanor spent the rest of her life in a nunnery (un couvent), which explains the simple clothes depicted in this image of her.
A monument in Westminster Abbey, London
Eleanor was buried in the chapel of St Edmund in Westminster Abbey, London. [The Abbey is the traditional place of coronation (couronnement) and burial (enterrement) for English and, later, British monarchs (monarques).] A brass plate (une plaque en laiton) was laid on top of her tomb and her image was engraved into the surface of this plate.
700 years later, Nick placed a piece of black paper on this brass plate and traced Eleanor’s image with gold crayon. He was perhaps the last person to be permitted to do this.
Above her head is the Bohun emblem of a swan. An inscription around the rim (not part of this rubbing) is in French and can be translated as “Here lies Eleanor de Bohun, daughter and co-heir of the honourable knight Sir Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton, and Constable of England, wife of the mighty and noble prince Thomas of Woodstock, son of the excellent and mighty prince Edward, King of England, the Third since the Conquest, Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Essex and Buckingham, and Constable of England, who died 3 October in the year of grace 1399”. [Yes, note that the English aristocracy in those days were indeed related to members of the French aristocracy and would have spoken French and - perhaps - English.]
The brass itself is considered by many to be the finest in the Abbey.
You can read more about this brass rubbing at http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/people/eleanor-de-bohun.
You can read more about the anglo-norman Bohon family at http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famille_de_Bohun (in French).