Fulke Greville’s mysterious ‘Monument without a Tombe’
Church of St Mary, Warwick. The small chapter house has seats for 8
canons and the Dean of St Mary's, but it is hard to see the canopied
seats properly because the chamber is filled almost to the ceiling
by the monument built by Sir Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke. The
monument is quite plain, with a large black marble sarcophagus and
pillars. It is unusually aligned North/South.
The tombe's inscription reads:
Servant to Queene Elizabeth
Conceller to King James
Frend to Sir Philip Sidney
Extracts from The Master of Shakespeare:
STRATFORDIAN PROFILE 8
one of the strangest references in the First Folio poem, Jonson
referred to his friend as ‘a Monument without a tombe’. As [John]
Michell pointed out; the line, ‘if taken literally, implies that the
author was still alive in 1623’. Literal interpretation of Jonson’s
words dictates the next line of the profile: The man of Stratford
had a monument without a tomb
GREVILLE PROFILE 8
is an extraordinary fact that in 1623, the Recorder of
Stratford-upon-Avon did have a ‘monument without a tomb’. Greville
had built this ‘monument’ (consisting of a huge black marble ‘double
bed’) in St Mary’s Church, Warwick, and it has been called ‘a
document’ and ‘a history’. The only inscription reads: ‘Folk Grevill,
Servant to Queene Elizabeth, Concellor to King James, and Frend to
Sir Philip Sidney. Trophaeum Peccati’. It is generally agreed to
represent ‘a double monument’ to Greville and his beloved friend,
Sir Philip Sidney. Greville had originally planned to ‘immortalize’
the legendry friendship between himself and Sidney in ‘a magnificent
tomb in St Paul’s to house Sidney’s body and his own’. His
‘mysterious monument’ in St Mary’s does not contain a tomb. Greville
is buried in the family vault in the room beneath it. Greville fits
the First Folio profile: Greville had a monument without a tomb.
Note 68, page 253
is possible that the monument in St Mary’s Church, Warwick, contains
the remains and/or memorabilia of Sir Philip Sidney.
Epilogue, page 232
Greville’s monument has long been regarded as ‘very mysterious’ and it
must be wondered what secrets it may hold.
AWL Saunders’ theory on Fulke’s monument
theory that Sir Philip Sidney might have been secretly buried in
Fulke Greville’s monument without a tomb in St Mary’s Church is as
A letter written by Fulke Greville to his friend and assistant
(Sir) John Coke in 1615, shows that Greville was outraged that
his famous friend, the great Sir Philip Sidney, was ‘in pawls
church wher he lyes open.’ Following the first state funeral for
a commoner, held in St Paul’s and attended by the Queen,
Sidney’s body had been buried into a hole in the wall and marked
with a small wooden plaque. Within a short time the plaque fell
off. The letter makes clear that Greville had ‘long promised’
that his ‘brother’ Philip would be reburied in a magnificent
tomb and that Greville would be buried with him. Greville
describes the tomb he would build as a ‘sepulchre’ with himself
lying below with Sidney lying above him, like bunk-beds:
I send you herewith the inscriptions fyer hotte, for philips long
promised tombe ... Touching the form and matter of the sepulchre it
is shortl thus. Two dainty large stones of touch delicately
furbished, borne up, one above another, by 4 pillars of brass 3 foot
and a half high and double gulyt; the upper most worthily his, the
other myne ... my purpose is to encompasse the sepulchre round and
inclose with a high grate of Iron.
Greville never built the tomb for Sidney and himself in St
Paul’s but he did build a magnificent monument with a black
marble sarcophagus in St Mary’s Church, Warwick, which bears the
name ‘Sir Philip Sidney’ and Fulke Greville is buried in the
crypt directly beneath it.
Two questions must be posed:
Would Greville have left Sidney’s body in an unmarked grave in St
Paul’s or would he have kept his promise and made sure that he was
buried in a magnificent tomb?
Would he have spent huge sums of money to build an empty tomb in St
It is one thing to be sure that Greville made a promise to build
a magnificent monument for Philip Sidney, but it is quite
another thing to show that he had the means to keep that
promise. After all, he would have needed several priests as
‘placemen’ to allow him to remove the body from St Paul’s and
then rebury it in St Mary’s. It seems impossible to believe that
Greville could have done such a thing without at least the tacit
consent of powerful churchmen including, obviously, the Dean of
St Paul’s and the Dean of St Mary’s Church, Warwick.
Professor Rebholz’s Life of Fulke Greville, shows that
John Overall, Dean of St Paul’s, was one of Greville’s
Greville’s influence with her [Queen Elizabeth] grew radically between March of 1601 and her death.
He became more powerful at court than he had ever been ... Elizabeth’s delight in his presence ... as Cecil reported,
‘ ... he cannot for his life get down now from the Queen ... she will now not let him go from her’
... The earliest sign of Greville’s new standing with Elizabeth was his securing the Deanship of St Paul’s for John Overall
in May 1601.
In the years 1604-1628, Fulke Greville was the dominant influence in Warwick. Greville spent huge sums of money
at St Mary’s Church, Warwick, and the Dean granted him an entire room in the church so that he could build the monument.
Presumably Greville and his builders and servants had constant access to the chancel while the monument was built.
It seems reasonable to say that Greville would have had the opportunity to put a body into the sarcophagus with or without
the agreement of the Dean of St Mary’s.
carved in marble
Thus is can be stated that:
a) Greville made a solemn promise to build a magnificent tomb for Sidney in hallowed ground.
b) He stated that he and Sidney would be united in death, buried one above the other.
c) He did build a magnificent tomb in hallowed ground and he is buried beneath it.