356 THE SUSSEX COAST
Anthony Browne, who had been proxy for Henry VIII. at his marriage with Anne of Cleves. He has a fine monument of marble in Battle Church, where his effigy and that of Alice his wife lie on an altar tomb with classic details, shells filling up the round arches of its arcading. (His son became Viscount Montague.) As he was entertaining his friends in the hall of the secularised abbey, a monk suddenly appeared and pronounced the famous curse that by fire and water his line should come to an end and perish out of the land, a prophecy that was said to have been fearfully fulfilled when another seat of the family at Cow-dray was burnt, and the eighth Viscount Montague was drowned at the Falls of Schaffhausen on the Rhine in 1793.* Battle Abbey was sold to the Webster family in 1719.
The modern visitor will probably be more amused than instructed by the information furnished by the guides : the reason for the suppression of the abbey was the huge expense of the king's eight wives. The best authorities in England are of opinion that an arch in the refectory had when perfect a span of a hundred and ten feet. Professor Freeman himself told a guide that a boss in the vaulting of the gateway represents William the Conqueror, who civilised England ! Bitingly sarcastic indeed he must have
* This of course may be so or it may not, but Sussex gives no support to the theory as to the dying oat of families that owned monastic land. Most of our old families that never owned an acre of such have passed away, while our chief land-owner possesses many a field that once had monkish owners and the sites of some half-dozen religious houses, while his family has endured for centuries, and shows every sign of lasting for many more.