Rosamond de Clifford

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Rosamond de Clifford

Also Known As: "Rosamund Clifford", ""The Fair Rosamund"", ""Rose of the World""
Birthplace: Clifford Castle, Clifford, Herefordshire, England
Death: 1176 (39-40)
Woodstock Castle, Oxfordshire, England
Place of Burial: Godstow Nunnery, Wolvercote, Oxfordshire, England
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Walter FitzRichard de Clifford, 1st Baron Clifford and Margaret de Toëny
Partner of Henry II "Curtmantle", king of England
Mother of Rosamond FitzHenry
Sister of Henry Clifford; Amicia De Clifford; Lucia de Say (de Clifford); Richard de Clifford, Sr., Lord Frampton Severn; Roger de Clifford and 5 others

Occupation: Third Concubine, Mistress of King Henry II
Managed by: Francis Gene Dellinger
Last Updated:

About Rosamond de Clifford

Rosamund Clifford

Note: her place in the birth order is highly uncertain but was probably not as early as the 1130s. She must have been a pretty young thing to catch Henry II's roving eye.

From Wikipedia

Rosamund Clifford (before 1150 – c. 1176), often called "The Fair Rosamund" or the "Rose of the World", was famed for her beauty and was a mistress of King Henry II of England, famous in English folklore.

Rosamund was the daughter of the marcher lord Walter de Clifford and his wife Margaret Isobel de Tosny (referred to as "de Toeni" on the Page of her husband, Walter de Clifford). Walter was originally known as Walter Fitz Richard, but his name was gradually changed to that of his major holding, first as steward, then as lord. This was Clifford Castle on the River Wye. Rosamund had two sisters, Amice and Lucy. Amice married Osbern fitz Hugh of Richard's Castle and Lucy Hugh de Say of Stokesay. She also had three brothers, Walter II de Clifford, Richard and Gilbert.

Rosamund probably first met the King when he passed by Clifford Castle in 1163 during one of his campaigns in Wales against Rhys ap Gruffydd.

Her name, Rosamund, may have been influenced by the Latin phrase rosa mundi, which means "rose of the world."

Possible children

Historians are divided over whether or not Rosamund's relationship with the King produced children. The question is complicated by the difficulty of separating the facts of Rosamund's life from the profusion of legends surrounding it. Many historians have concluded that Rosamund most likely bore Henry a single child but cannot identify it or even provide a specific date of birth. Some modern writers, including Alison Weir, are of the opinion that Rosamund had no children; but whether this means she never gave birth or merely that none of her children survived remains unclear.

Legend has attributed to Rosamund two of King Henry's favourite illegitimate sons: Geoffrey Plantagenet (1151–1212), Archbishop of York, and William Longespee (17 August before 1180–1226), Earl of Salisbury. Her maternity in these two cases was only claimed centuries later. Neither was Rosamund's son. Henry and Rosamund met about 1163, and their relationship lasted until 1176. Geoffrey and Rosamund would therefore have been about the same age. Further, Geoffrey is directly attested as son of an otherwise unknown Ykenai, presumably another mistress of Henry. William Longespée's maternity was a mystery for many years but the truth was discovered when charters issued by him were found to contain references to "Comitissa Ida, mater mea" (my mother, Countess Ida) (Bradenstoke Cartulary, 1979). She was Ida de Toeny, Countess of Norfolk.

Other stories

Little is known about Rosamund, but she is discussed in books about Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry's queen. The legends concerning her life are many, but few hard facts are available. The story that she was poisoned by a jealous Eleanor is certainly untrue, and so is the tale that Henry constructed the hunting lodge at Woodstock for her and surrounded it with a garden that was a labyrinth ("Rosamund's Bower," which was pulled down when Blenheim Palace was built nearby). In the 'French Chronicle of London', she is, oddly enough, described as having been roasted by the wife of Henry III, Eleanor of Provence. During the Elizabethan era, stories claiming that she had been murdered by Eleanor of Aquitaine gained popularity; but the Ballad of Fair Rosamund by Thomas Deloney and the Complaint of Rosamund by Samuel Daniel (1592) are both purely fictional.

She is thought to have entered Henry's life around the time that Eleanor was pregnant with her final child, John who was born on 25 December 1166 at Oxford. Indeed, Eleanor is known to have given birth to John at Beaumont Palace rather than at Woodstock: because, it is speculated, having planned to give birth at Woodstock, she refused to do so upon finding Rosamund there.

Authorities differ over whether Rosamund stayed quietly in seclusion at Woodstock while Henry went back and forth between England and his continental possessions, or whether she traveled with him as a member of his household. If the former, the two of them could not have spent more than about a quarter of the time between 1166 and 1176 together (as historian Marion Meade puts it: "For all her subsequent fame, Rosamund must be one of the most neglected concubines in history"). Historians do seem to agree, however, that Rosamund was Eleanor's opposite in personality and that Henry and Rosamund appear to have shared a deep love.

Rosamund was also associated with the village of Frampton on Severn in Gloucestershire, another of her father Walter's holdings. Walter granted the mill at Frampton to Godstow Abbey for the good of the souls of Rosamund and his wife Margaret. The village green at Frampton became known as Rosamund's Green by the 17th century.

Death and thereafter

Henry's liaison with Rosamund became public knowledge in 1174; it ended when she retired to the nunnery at Godstow near Oxford in 1176, shortly before her death. Her death was remembered at Hereford Cathedral on 6 July, the same day as that of the king.

Henry and the Clifford family paid for her tomb at Godstow in the choir of the convent's church and for an endowment that would ensure care of the tomb by the nuns. It became a popular local shrine until 1191, two years after Henry's death. Hugh of Lincoln, Bishop of Lincoln, while visiting Godstow, noticed Rosamund's tomb right in front of the high altar. The tomb was laden with flowers and candles, demonstrating that the local people were still praying there. Unsurprisingly calling Rosamund a harlot, the bishop ordered her remains removed from the church: instead, she was to be buried outside the church 'with the rest, that the Christian religion may not grow into contempt, and that other women, warned by her example, may abstain from illicit and adulterous intercourse'. Her tomb was moved to the cemetery by the nuns' chapter house, where it could be visited until it was destroyed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII of England. The remains of Godstow Priory still stand and are open to the public.

Apollinaire was to use Rosamond as the central character in his poem Rosemonde, taken from the 1913 collection 'Alcools' (citation taken from Garnet Rees 1975 edition of Guillaume Apollinaire's Alcools; The Athlone Press; London)

From Medlands

Mistress (3): ([1173/76]) ROSAMOND Clifford, daughter of WALTER de Clifford & his wife Margaret --- (-[1175/76], bur Godstow nunnery). “Walterus de Clifford” donated property to Dore abbey, Herefordshire, with the consent of "Margaretæ uxoris meæ", for the souls of "…filiorum et filiarum nostrarum et Osberti filii Hugonis", by undated charter, witnessed by "…Waltero de Clifford juvene et Rosamunda sorore sua…"[313]. The Chronicon Johannis Bromton abbatis Jornalensis (as cited by Eyton) records that Rosamond Clifford became "openly and avowedly the paramour of the king" after he imprisoned Queen Eleanor following the rebellion of his sons in 1173[314]. Eyton adds that "for an indefinite time previously she had been secretly domiciled at Woodstock" but he does not cite the primary source on which he bases this supposition[315]. It is not known whether he draws the conclusion from the Chronicon Johannis Bromton as the original of this document has not been available in the compilation of the present document. Eyton also suggests that the start of the king´s relationship with Rosamond can be dated to [1154] and that the king´s known illegitimate children Geoffrey Archbishop of York and William Longespee, later Earl of Salisbury, were Rosamond´s sons[316]. However, as can be seen below, Geoffrey´s birth is estimated to [1151] and William´s to [1176], which is inconsistent with their being full brothers. In any case, as noted above, the name of Geoffrey´s mother is reported as Ikenai. The uncertain chronology of the family of Walter [I] de Clifford appears to be the key to resolving the question of when Rosamond´s relationship with the king started. As discussed in the document UNTITLED ENGLISH NOBILITY in relation to the possible parentage of Walter [I]´s wife Margaret, it appears likely that their children were born after [1140] and, in the case of their son Walter [II], probably considerably later than this date. Rosamond´s appearance, with her brother Walter, as witness to the undated Dore abbey charter quoted above suggests that she was the only remaining unmarried daughter with her parents at the time, which in turn suggests that she was younger than her sisters. If this is correct, her birth could be as late as [1150/60], which would render Eyton´s hypothesis untenable. Further discussion of this problem will have to wait until more indications about the family chronology come to light. The Chronicon Johannis Bromton abbatis Jornalensis states that Rosamond died ("sed illa cito obiit")[317], his wording implying that her death occurred soon after the king´s relationship with her started, suggesting the period [1174/76]. “Walterus de Clifford” donated property to Godstow nunnery in Oxfordshire, for the souls of "uxoris meæ Margaretæ de Clifford et filiæ nostræ Rosamundæ", by undated charter[318]. “Osbertus filius Hugonis” donated property to Godstow nunnery in Oxfordshire, at the request of “domini Walteri de Clifford” for the souls of "uxoris suæ Margaretæ et…Rosamundæ filiæ suæ", specifying that they were buried at Godstow, with the consent of "Hugonis fratris mei", by undated charter witnessed by "Waltero de Clifford, Ricardo filio suo et Lucia filia sua…"[319]. Rosamond´s corpse was removed from its burial place on the orders of Hugh Bishop of Lincoln[320]. She was known as "Fair Rosamond", although the primary source on which this is based has not yet been identified.

Rosamunde has been called the Faire Rosamunde. She was Henry's mistress and "true love." [Pullen010502.FTW]

See The House of Clifford for more details of Rosamund's liason with Henry.

Weir attributes the mother of these children to "Ikenai", which is also discussed by Clifford.


Her story as lover of King Henry II is told by Thomas B. Costain in "The Conquering Family" (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1949). Her unmarked grave in the ruins of Godstow Abbey was visited by AEM in 1987. [See Amy Kelly's "Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings."]

References: [APC],[Weis1]

Paul Hentzner, a German traveler who visited England c.1599 records [3] that her faded tombstone inscription read in part:

... Adorent, Utque tibi detur requies Rosamunda precamur.

"Let them adore ... and we pray that rest be given to you, Rosamund."

Followed by a rhyming epitaph:

Hic jacet in tumba Rosamundi non Rosamunda, Non redolet sed olet, quae redolere solet.

"Here in the tomb lies the rose of the world, not a pure rose; she who used to smell sweet, still smells--but not sweet."

Apollinaire was to use Rosamond as the central character in his poem Rosemonde, taken from the 1913 collection 'Alcools' (citation taken from Garnet Rees 1975 edition of Guillaume Apollinaire's Alcools; The Athlone Press; London)


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Rosamond de Clifford's Timeline

Clifford Castle, Clifford, Herefordshire, England
Age 34
Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England
Age 40
Woodstock Castle, Oxfordshire, England
Age 40
Godstow Nunnery, Wolvercote, Oxfordshire, England