Living Lore: The Noble Impe ~ Gary Stocker

In the Beauchamp Chapel in the Collegiate Church of St Mary in Warwick, is the tomb of Robert Dudley, Lord Denbigh, son of Robert and Lettice Dudley, Earl and Countess of Leicester (nicknamed the “Noble Impe”). He sadly died in infancy in 1584.

On his tomb he is depicted wearing a sexless gown. This is said to be to deter fairies from abducting him! It was thought then that fairies would sometimes take human babies/infants and leave one of their own, a changeling, in its place. The changeling would quite often be sickly. Boys were said to be more in demand than girls, so by dressing boys and girls in a similar fashion, you had less chance of being taken if you were a boy. Then when they got a bit older and out of the danger zone, girls and boys would then be dressed differently.

A rational explanation for this is that the mortality rate was higher for boys rather than girls. So if a baby boy suddenly got sickly, that was an explanation that they had.

About the author

Gary Stocker graduated from Coventry Polytechnic in 1991 with a degree in combined engineering. He worked in civil engineering for nearly twenty years. For the last six years he has worked in materials science and currently works as a test engineer. His hobbies and interests include voluntary work, conservation work and blacksmithing. He is also interested in history, mythology and folklore and he says, “most things”.

How did your granny predict the weather? What did your great uncle Albert tell you about the little green men he saw in the woods that night? What strange creature stalks the woods in your area?

So many of these old stories are slipping away for want of being recorded. legendary creatures, odd bits of folklore, folk remedies and charms, and all the old stories that brought our landscape to life…

Tell me a story, share memories of the old ways that are being forgotten, share the folklore of your home. I am not looking for fiction with this feature, but for genuine bits of folklore, old wives tales, folk magic and local legends. Why not share what you know and preserve it for the future?

Email me at and put ‘Living Lore’ in the subject line. All I need is your article, bio and links, along with any of your own images you would like me to include and I’ll do the rest.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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6 Responses to Living Lore: The Noble Impe ~ Gary Stocker

  1. I did not know this particular piece of folklore, Sue. It is really interesting.


  2. Mary Smith says:

    Ah, that answers a question I had recently about why baby boys and girls always used to be dressed the same.


  3. Lyn Horner says:

    I have read about changelings before but did not know boys were believed to be more in demand due to more baby boys being sickly than baby girls. Very interesting.


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