Friend William Neville, buried together
Wigmore Castle, Castle St, Wigmore HR6 9UB, Regno Unito
Sir John Clanvowe (c.1341–1391) was an English diplomat, soldier and poet. He was born to a Marcher family originally of Welsh extraction. He himself was probably of mixed Anglo-Welsh origin. He held lands that lay in the present-day Radnorshire district of Powys and in Herefordshire. In the Arap mosque of Istanbul two knights, Sir William Neville and Sir John Clanvowe, are buried side by side in a joint tomb. On their headstone are inscribed two helmets placed in such a position that they seem to be kissing, while their shields overlap. Both men were well acquainted with Chaucer and were no doubt part of the circle of ‘Lollard knights’ at the court of Richard II in London. They had travelled far to engage in a campaign by the Duke of Bourbon against Tunis. They would have been well rewarded, but for the fact that Clanvowe died during the campaign; the event, according to a monkish chronicle, provoked such ‘inconsolable sorrow’ in Neville ‘that he never took food again and two days afterwards breathed his last, greatly mourned in the same village’. In a treatise on arms the herald gave the two knights the same arrangement of arms as a married couple, which confirms the natural supposition that they were in fact themselves married in some fashion.
He was a personal friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. In 1386 they were both deponents in the Scrope v. Grosvenor case in the Court of Chivalry, in which Lord Scrope of Bolton and Sir Robert Grosvenor fought over the right to bear a particular coat of arms. Chaucer and Clanvowe testified in favour of Scrope.
He was one of the "Lollard knights" (with supposedly heretical views) at the court of King Richard II.
In 1390 he was campaigning with Louis II, Duke of Bourbon against Tunis. He was buried with Sir William Neville (died October 10, 1391) in a joint tomb discovered in 1913 in Istanbul's Arap Mosque in a way (helmets facing each other as if kissing, shields overlapping, impaled coats of arms) which would suggest a close relationship between the two men.
Clanvowe's best-known work was The Book of Cupid, God of Love or The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, a 14th-century debate poem influenced by Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls. In the poem, the nightingale praises love but the cuckoo mocks it for causing more trouble than joy. The poem is written as a literary dream vision and is an example of medieval debate poetry. A concerto inspired by the poem was composed by Handel. It apparently also influenced works by both John Milton and William Wordsworth.
Clanvowe also wrote The Two Ways, a penitential treatise.
He is first mentioned in the History of English Literature by F. S. Ellis in 1896. The Cuckoo and the Nightingale had previously been attributed to Chaucer, but the Encyclopedia of Medieval Literature notes the absence of direct evidence linking Clanvowe with the work.
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