Rosamund Clifford (c. 1150 – c. 1176) was the mistress of a king whose wife did not like her at all. She was born before the year 1150, possibly in Herefordshire, and was probably the daughter of Walter de Clifford and his wife, Margaret. We don’t know for sure how many siblings Rosamund had. Walter de Clifford was the lord of Clifford Castle, where Rosamund grew up.

Rosamund probably went to Godstow Abbey to be educated by the nuns. She also would have met King Henry II of England around the late 1160s, and she became his mistress. For a while, almost nobody knew of their relationship, but in 1174, Henry’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, joined her sons’ revolt against Henry. Once he’d defeated his own family, Henry had Eleanor imprisoned, after which his affair with Rosamund was made public. Henry had been secretive about his previous affairs, but he made sure Eleanor knew of Rosamund. Rosamund began to be known as “The Fair Rosamund” or the “Rose of the World”. Rosamund lived at Woodstock Palace while she was the King’s mistress.

Henry may have been flaunting his affair with Rosamund so Eleanor would consider an annulment, but she didn’t even think of it. The story goes that Eleanor went to confront her rival and made her choose between a dagger or poison. Rosamund chose the poison. She became gravely ill and retired to Godstow Abbey, where she died in 1176.

Rosamund was buried in Godstow Abbey and her tomb was a popular local shrine for some time. When the Bishop of Lincoln visited Godstow, he saw Rosamund’s tomb covered in candles and flowers, meaning that the locals had been praying there. The bishop ordered her tomb be moved outside, saying that Rosamund was a bad example as she was the King’s mistress. Rosamund’s tomb was destroyed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries following Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church.

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