Also known as 'the Fair Rosamund' or 'the Rose of the World'
Born ?1137/1150 died c 1176
No two sources appear to give the same year of birth for the fair Rosamund; the various estimates of which range from the year 1137 to 1150, but it is known that she was born at Clifford Castle in the upper reaches of the Wye Valley within the Welsh Marches. Her father was 'Walter Fitz Richard Fitz Pons' otherwise known as Walter de Clifford who had married a Margaret de Toeni in 1138, and brought with her the dowry of Clifford Castle, and thus Walter and his descendants adopted the de Clifford name.
Walter was the son of Richard Fitz Pons, sometimes known as 'Richard Fitz Pons of Cantref Bychan', who had penetrated the eastern half of Cantref Bychan in Wales during the years 1110 to 1116 and established the Marcher Lordship of Llandovery. However Llandovery castle had fallen to Rhys ap Gruffudd in 1158 and Walter was therefore anxious to retrieve his losses and was thus closely involved in the preparations for Henry's great military expedition to Wales in 1165, and it was likely as a result of these that Henry paid a visit to Clifford Castle and there met Walter's daughter. Rosamund who by all accounts was a strikingly attractive young woman naturally impressed king Henry who promptly installed her as his mistress at his residence of Woodstock Palace in Oxfordshire.
Unfortunately no one knows much about the life that Rosamund led with Henry and in particular whether Rosamund accompanied Henry on his travels around his various domains in Britain and France, or whether she simply spent her time at Woodstock. All that is known is that having first taken up with Henry around the year 1166, sometime during the years 1174-1176 Rosamund retired to nearby Godstow Abbey in Oxfordshire, which is where she died in the year 1176 of unspecified natural causes.
After her death she was buried in the choir of the abbey church at Godstow and her grave became something of a local shrine. That was until Hugh of Avalon, Bishop of Lincoln, came to inspect Godstow and rather took exception to the prominence given to Rosamund's tomb. (Hugh objected to the veneration of a woman whom he regarded as little better than a prostitute.) He ordered the removal of her remains to the convent's cemetery where her tomb remained until the Abbey buildings were pulled down during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the sixteenth century.
Rosamund and Henry's children
Rosamund Clifford is traditionally regarded as having been the mother of two of Henry II's sons, namely Geoffrey Plantagenet, Archbishop of York, and William de Longespee, 1st Earl of Salisbury. It is known that they were Henry's children because he later recognised them as his sons, but as Henry had a number of mistresses it is often a matter of conjecture as to which mistress was the mother of which child.
The evidence is that Geoffrey was born around the year 1151 and therefore is almost certainly too old to be Rosamund's son, whilst estimates of the year of birth of William de Longespee range between the years 1156 and 1176, so that it is possible that his mother was indeed the fair Rosamund. It has however also been argued that Rosamund bore no surviving children whatsoever and that the true mother of both Geoffrey and William was a woman identified only as 'Ikenai'.
The relationship between Henry and Rosamund gave rise to body of legendary material largely based around the idea that Rosamund had not died a natural death, but had rather been poisoned or stabbed by Henry's jealous wife Eleanor of Aquitaine as recorded in the so-called Queen Eleanor's Confession;
Oh the next sin that I did commit, tell it I will to thee
I poisoned a lady of noble blood for the sake of King Henrie
as well as the Ballad of Fair Rosamund by Thomas Delaney and the Complaint of Rosamund by Samuel Daniel.
Rosamund's bower, the alleged scene of the crime, still remains within the grounds of Blenheim Palace, which was built on the site of Woodstock Palace in the early eighteenth century. And Rosamund's ghost is said to still haunt a nearby public house The Trout Inn where she is known as The White Lady when she puts in an appearance.
- The Child Ballads: 156. Queen Eleanor's Confession
- The Trout Inn History http://members.lycos.co.uk/troutinn/history.htm
- A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com
- Stirnet Genealogy at
- Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)