Lady Mount Edgcumbe’s Ring

Mount Edgecoombe House, Cornwall

The wedding was to take place the very next day between young Lord Edgcumbe and his beautiful bride. Nearby Maker Church has been decorated for the occasion, and the young betrothed had been to see it. When walking through the woods on the path towards the hermit’s cell of Saint Julian’s well young Lord Edgcumbe’s fiancé slipped and fell. She swooned into a trancelike sleep, a strange reaction to slipping on a path. Much fanning and coaxing failed to revive her. The young Lord looked anxiously to about him. The party were stopped by St Julian’s well and instinctively he dipped his flask into the water. He sprinkled well water over his betrothed lips and she was instantly revived. Much relieved the party continued home excited for the coming day. The marriage ceremony passed with out incident and the new Lord and Lady of the Manor returned to Mount Edgcumbe House full of dreams. But on that night, as they returned to her chamber, Lady Mount Edgcumbe again fell into a deep trance like sleep, one from which she could not be woken. The groom tried every thing he could think of to revive her, then feeling a trifle inadequate in his new role, he sent her lady’s maid to St Julian’s well. As the well’s water touched her lips, the lady was again revived. Their honeymoon was a time most could only dream of. Autumn time, the couple discovered they were expecting a baby. All went well then one day Lady Mount Edgcumbe was found in her chambers swooned in a death like trance. With few staff available that day, Lord Edgcumbe’s manservant Tanner was sent for. Tanner was lazy and slovenly and still had a moral whiff of his less than savoury previous profession. Agreeing easily to the Lord’s command Tanner set off to the kitchens where he collected a pitcher and crossed the yard. The wood was a fair walk and St Julian’s well a fair way further. Spying the water trough used for the pigs, Tanner filled the pitcher and returned at a leisurely pace to the Lady Mount Edgcumbe’s chamber. As could be expected, on touching the lady’s lips the trough water failed to revive her. She lay cold and lifeless. Her breath was without trace. That night Lady Mount Edgcumbe was buried in the family vault with all her finery and wedding jewels. Tasked with closing the doors as the others left weeping, Tanner remembered the huge diamond ring on the lady’s finger. ‘No one else will be looking back in on her’, he thought cannily,’ and I would have very much more use for the ring than the lady has now.’ He crept back into the vault. The lady’s diamond ring flashed magnificently beneath his candle and taking a small saw he kept in his leather belt he took her white hand and begun to saw. With a horrific scream Lady Mount Edgcumbe leapt from her trance and was welcomed back to the household. Her baby was born safe and well but Lord Mount Edgcumbe never did find his manservant Tanner to thank him. Adapted from Robert Keys, Memory, Place and Identity

retold by Anna Chorlton

from the family stories of Robert Keys

  • Rame Peninsula