‘O bright example for the future age’: a funeral monument to Sir William Gee 1611

This elaborate funeral monument commemorates Sir William Gee, Secretary to James I and Privy Councillor, who died in 1611. It was erected at the behest of his widow Mary, daughter of Thomas Crompton, sometime before her own death in 1649. Figures of Mary and William’s first wife, Thomasine, daughter of Matthew Hutton, archbishop of York, appear in niches on either side of his own effigy, with their children below. All are kneeling in prayer. By contrast with pre-Reformation memorials, which invited spectators to pray for the souls of deceased persons to speed their path through purgatory, the purpose of this Protestant monument is to incite bystanders to emulate the exemplary virtues of a godly Yorkshire gentleman. The verses in Latin and English record his wife’s grief, insisting that ‘from my sorrowing heart his dear remembrance never shall depart’, and underline Sir William’s piety, zeal, learning, wisdom, integrity, benevolence and charity. Beginning ‘STAY GENTLE PASSENGER & READE/ A SENTENCE SENT THEE FROM YE DEAD’ and concluding with the sobering exhortation ‘IN IT BEHOLD THY DOOME’, the monument functions as a memento mori. It also stands ‘In eternal remembrance of the fall of our first parents’, Adam and Eve. AW

Funeral monument to Sir William Gee, 1611, south choir aisle.

Image by kind permission of York Minster

Further Reading

Ian R. Pattison and Hugh Murray, Monuments in York Minster: An Illustrated Inventory (York, 2001), pp. 37-8.

Peter Marshall, Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England (Oxford, 2002), ch. 7.

Peter Sherlock, Monuments and Memory in Early Modern England (Farnham, 2008).

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