The Tallest Knight – Kate Shrewsday
Kate Shrewsday

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.