The elaborate memorial to Lady Anne Lee, estranged wife of the Elizabethan courtier Sir Henry Lee (1533-1611), in St Mary’s Church, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, is said to have been constantly decorated with a fresh red flower since her death late in the sixteenth century.
The date of Lady Anne’s death is unknown; 1584, the date given on the memorial, being considered incorrect. It seems that the tradition was inspired by part of the inscription on the memorial:
Good fre’d sticke not to strew with crims’o flowers This marble stone wherin her cindres rest For svre her ghost lyes with the heave’ly powers And gverdon hathe of virtvovs life possest.
However, the claim that the tradition started over 500 years ago appears to be untrue. In his 1855 History of Aylesbury Robert Gibbs provided a detailed description of the memorial, but made no mention of red flowers decorating it. And a souvenir booklet produced in 1979 to celebrate the re-opening of the church after extensive renovations states:
‘For over a century he request has been honoured and some one has always been found to place a red flower or red berries on the tomb.’
Photographs taken 2 February 2017.