Outlaw of Edenhall

At St Cuthbert’s Church in the Cumbrian parish of Edenhall is one of those rather fine fifteenth-century brass memorials that children enjoy rubbing, with the aid of crayons and a sheet of paper. They are more common down south, so this I deemed treasure indeed. It shows Sir William and Lady Stapleton, though their respective sizes demonstrate who was the more important.

The brass shows Sir Bill as a rather handsome, calm looking fellow, though his armour and sharp eyes betray his character. After his father’s death, who served as MP for the area, he disputed the will with his stepmother for twelve years. He was a violent man and his stepmother had to seek the protection of certain lords. Stapleton was outlawed for his ruthless violence, and spent some time hiding on the nearby fells from where he could evade capture. Looking back, I wonder if he thought it all worth it. He has now spent 564 years in eternity, many more than he spent on earth enjoying, or wishing to enjoy, his many manors. He may have eluded the local sheriff and his bands of soldiers, but from the moral law of God there is never escape. Whatever the state of his soul when he died, he is now either enjoying a greater estate as co-heir with Christ, or he is a poverty-stricken reprobate awaiting God’s wrath at the judgement.

For what profiteth it to a man, if he win all the world, and do impairing to his soul? Mark 8:36, Wycliffe’s Bible