John Esteney
Died: 24 May, 1498
Field: Abbot
Location in the Abbey: North ambulatory
Type of memorial: Tomb
Type of material: Marble; brass

The tomb of John Esteney (or Estney), Abbot of Westminster, is now in the north ambulatory of Westminster Abbey, just in front of General Wolfe's memorial. On a low Purbeck marble base is a brass of the abbot in mass vestments under a triple canopy. He wears a mitre and holds a crozier and from his mouth a strip of brass has the inscription "Exultabo in Deo Jhesus Meo" (I shall exalt in God, my Jesus). There are indents of two shields. The original inscription has been destroyed but the Latin was recorded and can be translated:

"Here lies Lord John Esteney, one-time Abbot of this place, who died 24 day of May, year of Our Lord 1498. On whose soul may God look favourably.Amen"

The tomb was moved in 1706 from the chapel of St John the Evangelist, the railings, screen and canopy were destroyed. It can be seen in its original form in the mortuary roll of Abbot Islip (1532). The body was found entire 'lying in a chest quilted with yellow satin, he had on a gown of crimson silk girded to him with a black girdle, on his legs were white silk stockings and on his face, which was black, a clean napkin'. The tomb was moved again and an inscription on the plinth says:

"Underneath this tomb, removed in 1722 and restored in 1866, is interred John Estney, Abbot of Westminster 1474-1498"

He entered the monastery in 1442 and held many posts before being elected Abbot. The obligation for each new Abbot to go to Rome to be confirmed by the Pope was remitted in his time and he had the guardianship of Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters when they took sanctuary at Westminster for the second time (1483). He was a patron of William Caxton, England's first printer, and he enabled Caxton to set up his press in the precincts. Work was continued on the building of the nave and the great west window was set up. During the last months of his life he was engaged in the effort to have the body of Henry VI translated from Windsor to Westminster, but this never happened.

A photo of the tomb chest and engraving of the brass can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Brother John Felix wrote a life of the abbot which is in the British Museum Cotton mss.

 

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