Artist: De Morgan, Evelyn
Object Number: P_EDM_0030
Date: Probably 1901 - 1902
Category: Oil on canvas and Paintings
Material: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Canvas: H 756 x W667 mm Framed: H 962 x W 874 x D 86 mm

Rosamund was the mistress of Henry II, who built a house for her at Woodstock in Oxfordshire. Legends say that he tried to keep her safe by installing her in a house called Labyrinthus, which was in effect a maze. But Queen Eleanor found her way through by using a thread and poisoned her. The maze can be seen through the door behind the Queen. The stained glass window above Rosamund shows two lovers in an embrace. The Queen carries a small flask if poison, plus the thread that has led her through the maze. She brings with her shadowy evil forms – dragons, apes, and blood red roses lie at her feet. In contrast, winged cherubs and shadowy doves of peace accompany Rosamund and white roses, symbolising purity and innocence, lie at her feet. Rosamund stares at the flask of poison held by the Queen, recognising her doom.

Note – this legend makes an attractive picture, but is contradicted by historic fact. Henry imprisoned Queen Eleanor from 1174-1189 for supporting the rebellion of two of her sons against their father. Rosamund entered a nunnery in 1174 or 1176 and died there in 1176. At the time of Rosamund’s death, Queen Eleanor was a prisoner in Winchester.