Effigy of a Knight found at Lesnes Abbey and now on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Richard de Luci was descended from the Norman knights who successfully conquered England in 1066. He was a powerful man who virtually ran the country on behalf of Henry II. His descendants were entombed in the abbey he founded just over 100 years later in 1178.

The Knight’s effigy found during the excavations of Alfred Clapham at the start of the twentieth century was certainly a descendant of Richard de Luci as the shield displays three pike (or Luce) on a starred background, the coat of arms of the de Luci family. The figure was found jumbled amongst the rubble in ruins of the Lady Chapel which had been systematically destroyed, far more so than the rest of the abbey. With no additional clues as to his identity, it is not possible to know who he was, or even where his body originally lay within the abbey.

Apart from missing its head, the figure is exceptionally well preserved. Note the lion at his feet and remains of blue and red pigment on his coat. Although we tend to view churches in this country now as quite austere, that is very much a Victorian legacy, and originally statues such as this would not have been left as native stone, but been brightly painted.

So if you are up in Knightsbridge, take a trip to the V&A to see Lesnes Abbey’s very own Knight.

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