Burial tomb of Princess Diana’s ancestor uncovered

A graveyard restoration project in Cork has uncovered the ancient burial tomb of a direct ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales.

 A group of local participants get to work  at an Historic Graves project site as part of the scheme which  is overseeing the restoration and documentation of headstones in graveyards nationwide. Picture: Diane Cusack

The unmarked mausoleum in Corkbeg graveyard in Whitegate in East Cork was found to contain the remains of Princess Diana’s maternal great-great-grandfather, Baron Edmond Roche.

During the restoration process, volunteers discovered plaques documenting a list of the dead contained within the mausoleum.

Previously, an old folks tale had linked the tomb to the Roche family, of nearby Trabolgan, but there was no concrete proof whom the tomb might contain.

The discovery was made by volunteers, Eddie Tucker, Jimmy O’Leary and Michael Kenefick, who found the tombstone plaques buried under the roots of a tree growing out of the mausoleum.

“The volunteers found the plaques by accident while they were cleaning around the mausoleum and the tree,” heritage worker Grace Fox said.

The volunteers’ work forms part of the Historic Graves project, which is overseeing the restoration and documentation of headstones in graveyards nationwide.

Some 20,000 historic gravestones have been recorded and documented in Cork in the past two years.

The discovery revealed a series of plaques, documenting a number of Roche family members buried within the mausoleum, most notably Edmond Roche, the 1st Baron of Fermoy.

He served in the House of Commons for County Cork from 1837 until 1855. He served as Lord Lieutenant of County Cork from 1856 to 1874.

He died in 1874 aged 59 and local legend held that he was buried in the family plot at Corkbeg, though no proof of this survived through the 20th century as the mausoleum fell into disrepair.

Lord Fermoy had married Elizabeth Caroline Boothbym and their grandson Edmund Roche, the 4th Baron Fermoy, was the maternal grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales.

“This is why it’s so important for local people to be involved in the restoration projects, because they know the local legends, they know what information to follow up,” Ms Fox said.

Restoration work elsewhere revealed the grave of Daniel O’Connell’s mother in Kilshannig in North Cork. O’Connell championed the movement for Catholic Emancipation in the 1800s.

The 20,000 memorial records from 127 historic graveyards were submitted to Cork County Library by the Historic Graves project as an genealogical database for researchers this week.

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