Rosamund’s Bower – a hedge maze at Woodstock

Henry II supposedly built a hedge maze at Woodstock, with a hedged arbour at the centre, designed for trysts with his mistress Rosamund Clifford. As it happens, this is probably an apocryphal story, an “urban myth” that was passed on because it was an amusing and salacious story. Either way it helped to popularise hedge mazes in subsequent centuries, possibly because it gave them a faint promise of sensuality.

This is an sixteenth-century poem about “Rosamond’s Bower”, which comes from “A Mournfull Dittie on the death of Rosamond, King Henry the Seconds Concubine” by Thomas Deloney. (Here the hedge has been hyped up into “stone and timber”.)

Yea, Rosamond, Fair Rosamond,
Her name was called so,
To whom dame Elinor our Queene
Was known a deadly foe,
The King therefore for her defense
Against the furious Queene
At Woodstock builded such a Bower
The like was never seen.
Most curiously that Bower was built
Of stone and timber strong,
An hundred and fifty dores
Did to this Bower belong,
And they so cunningly contriv’d
With turnings round about
That none but with a clew of thread
Could enter in or out.

(It’s worth noting that the “clew of thread” detail almost certainly derives from older labrynth legends such as the Minotaur. Possibly a rumour about the king’s trysts became mixed up with older stories to create the story of “Rosamund’s Bower”.)


1 Comment

Filed under Hedge Mazes, Hedge Mythology, Historical Hedges

One response to “Rosamund’s Bower – a hedge maze at Woodstock

  1. Someone more knowledgeable than me has just told me a bit more about this – apparent Rosamund may not even have existed in the first place, let alone the maze. And there is also a story somewhere about the queen (Eleanor) going into the maze, with a ball of yarn to find her way out, and giving Rosamund a poisoned apple, though the someone can’t remember if that came out of a history book or a “historical” novel. All sounds a bit Snow White…

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