Sir John Bolle and his Spanish Lady
Haugh church, Lincolnshire
On the chancel wall in the tiny Norman church of Haugh in the Lincolnshire Wolds, is an alabaster monument. The monument is not that unusual, it has the typical Elizabethan and Jacobean arrangement of kneeling figures within an architectural surround. The man in armour is kneeling in front of his sons and is facing his wife, who kneels in front of her daughters. The monument commemorates Sir John Bolle, who lived in the manor house at Haugh and at Thorpe Hall in Louth. Sir John died in 1606 aged 44.
Sir John Bolle's monument
Sir John had a rather interesting life, which is worth saying more about. Sir John was from minor gentry family, but he spent most of his career, not on his estates, but as an army officer. He was an army commander in Ireland under the Earl of Essex and was for a time governor of Kinsale. In 1596 he went with Essex to raid the town of Cadiz in Spain. Tradition asserts that amongst the prisoners taken at Cadiz, was a lady of extraordinary beauty from a wealthy and well-connected family, identified often as Donna Leonora Oviedo. Sir John was given charge of her and he apparently treated her with such care that she fell in love with him. Apparently she was so passionate for him that she threw herself at his feet asking him to marry her. However Sir John was already married and refused, returning home to England. Apparently when he returned home the inconsolable lady retired to a nunnery, to spend the remainder of her days in sorrow and seclusion. On Sir John Bolle's departure from Cadiz, the Spanish Lady gave to him a number of presents, including a profusion of jewels and other valuables. Among them was her portrait wearing a green dress. The picture, which is long lost, was hung by Bolle in Thorpe Hall and led to her being called The Green Lady in the Bolle family. Tradition says that Thorpe Hall in Louth, is haunted by her, and that she used to be seen most nights sitting in a particular tree near the house.
Sir John Bolle on his monument in Haugh church.