The Tallest Knight


My dear, he was everywhere.

You couldn’t miss him in those heady Tudor days when kings changed with the winds of fate and haunting stories were being minted with bewildering speed. The days Shakespeare later plundered were lived out  by this man who towered above the crowd: quite literally.

For Lord John Cheney was two metres tall.

Cheney began a staunch supporter of the House of York. When Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville were crowned , he was there in the pews. In fact, Edward made him a Knight of the Bath that very day.

That was in 1461. By 1483, Richard III  had exuded his personal charm so thoroughly that Cheney had opted to leave the Yorkist ranks for Lancaster and the Duke of Buckingham, leading Salisbury in an uprising later honoured by that chain you see round his effigy’s alabaster  neck as it lies in Salisbury Cathedral.

The rebellion failed; and he sailed out to Brittany, to join Henry Tudor in his preparations for invasion.

Two metres tall? Who better for Henry to choose as his bodyguard. And the knight was a strong and valiant fighter, recovering the standard at Bosworth after its bearer fell, wounded by Richard III himself before the king fell to be buried ignominiously beneath a municipal car park.

You’d keep him close, wouldn’t you, at a strapping two metres; and not risk challenge, even if you were shrewd King Henry. And Cheney became a Lord , and then a Master of the House, and a Knight of the Garter and Privy Councillor.

Even minor giants can find their stature to their advantage. He lived in a world of lilliputian munchkins.But death comes to us all, and I note tourists per the centuries have dared to carve their name on his vast marble bulk, impressive and exquisitely dressed and carved as it is.

A great leveller, death. Though such splendid immortality, lying resplendent in Salisbury Cathedral, with tourists gawping and voracious bloggers googling right there at his side: it does seem enviable.

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29 thoughts on “The Tallest Knight

    1. Most knights rested their feet on something. It was often a lion. I’ve seen a bishop resting them on a dragon.Yes, it is a long time to bear a heavy and possibly smell burden, it’s true…

  1. I know the average height was less back in that time than it is now; as a matter of fact when my 1.73-meter height is made to seem below average by my contemporaries I will often reply to the effect that I’m rather quite tall for the 18th century. But for a man to stand a full two meters in the 15th must have been an impressive advantage indeed. I wonder if he had some sort of giant DNA!

    1. Preliminary research suggests the average height at that time was 1.73 metres, Rob 9 ). Though all the doors from that time which exist in buildings here seem mighty low for that to be the case. Maybe they just liked stooping….still, that would give Lord Cheney 27cm on everyone else….

  2. My father was almost as tall, and my brother even taller. I grew up around tall people, for everyone in my family was tall. Perhaps that is why I love tall stories, which are much different than tall tales. Thank you for sharing your tall story!

  3. Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville married in secret, so I doubt this fellow was not in the pews. Perhaps you mean he attended Elizabeth’s coronation? If not, what source is there that Cheney was present at E4’s and EW’s wedding?

  4. I’m sure he was quite a standout in his day. 🙂 As a side note, I love these old effigies. While they don’t give an exact likeness, particularly the early ones like Eleanor of Aquitaine’s, they do give a sense of height and heft (at least, if the sculptor was honest and avoided flattery.)

  5. Another fascinating footnote from history, thanks! Just noted that, what with the Puritan penchant for bashing out noses, his profile now gives him an almost Native American look. Brave indeed!

  6. Treason never prospers..
    What’s the reason?
    If it prospers
    It’s no longer treason.

    I’m sure that that’s not an accurate quote…but it seems appropriate to this gentleman!…

  7. He was Amazing tall knight .I’ve always loved the history of royalty even before i found out i was related to royalty and Sir John Cheney and his descendeds.

  8. Sir John is the biological brother to my ancestorial grandfather.. How wonderful a man.ox

  9. I see half the world is claiming to be descendants of medieval nobles again, but they never seem to have genealogical proof, funny that, but rather boring!!!

    It appears 7 million have an indirect blood line to the true “Warrior King” who knocked Cheyney off his horse.

    Americans are all descendants of English nobles so I understand.

  10. The Cheney family over the generations had name changes for eg De Chesney was the name in France. They originated from Quesnay in France. The name means a grove of Oaks. I have researched the family as my mother is a Cheney with these direct lines. The size of this man, tho never been mentioned anywhere ,is probably his dna pool descended from the Vikings. My mothers dna pool is also from the Orkney Islands where the Vikings used as a base for their invasions. I think he was descended from a well known Viking but this is only my opinion from many hours of research.

  11. I have noted Deborah Cheney Perkins comments, she is my close cousin with high dna centimorgans , we are from this direct blood line.I have also researched that the Cheney line is from French blood lines and more specifically from Viking ancestry. My dna and research follow this path. I think we would find that this Sir John Cheney is a throw back to his genetic Viking path , i find it unusual that researchers have not picked up this point.

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