Once again I was searching about in Robert Chamber’s Book of the Days from 1869 when I came across this story. It has nothing to do with Wales at all but I liked the story and felt I wanted to bring it to wider attention. Perhaps it is a well-known story, but I have never come across it before.
Sir Robert de Shurland, Lord of Shurland, in the Isle of Sheppy, Kent, was attached to a lady who unhappily died unanointed and unaneled, and consequently the priest refused to bury her.
Sir Robert, roused to madness by the indignity, ordered his vassals to bury the priest alive. Perhaps he did not expect to be obeyed. But his obsequious vassals instantly executed his command to the letter.
Hereupon the impetuous knight, having somewhat cooled, became alarmed: and fearing the consequences of his sacrilegious murder, mounted his favourite charger, swam across the arm of the sea which separated Sheppy from the main land, galloped to court, and obtained the king’s pardon for a crime which he had, he said, unwittingly committed in a fit of grief and indignation. ‘
He made the church a gift’ to atone for his crime; but the Prior of a neighbouring convent predicted that the gallant steed which had now saved his life would hereafter be the cause of his death.
Like a prudent man, he ordered the poor horse to be stabbed, and thrown into the sea with a stone tied round his neck: and, in self-gratulation, assumed the motto, ‘Fato prudentia major’ (Prudence is superior to fate).
Twenty years afterwards the aged knight was hobbling on the sands, in all the ‘dignity of gout,’ when he saw a horse’s skeleton with a stone fastened round the neck. Giving it a kick, ‘Ah!’ he exclaimed, ‘this must be my poor old horse.’
The sharp points of the vertebrae pierced through his velvet shoe, and inflicted a wound in his toe which ended in mortification and death: thus fulfilling the prediction.
The tomb of Sir Robert Shurland is still to be seen in Minster Church, under a Gothic arch in the south wall. The effigy is cross-legged, and on the right side is sculptured a horse’s head emerging from the waves of the sea, as if in the act of swimming. The vane of the tower of the church represented in a horse’s head, and the church was called `The Horse Church.’
I wonder if it is still called “The Horse Church.” But perhaps there are more important issues to concern us here – such as always making sure you are wearing heavy duty boots whenever you decide to take a kick at a horse skeleton