Visiting St. Peter ad Vincula

On Friday, August 22, 2003, it was arranged for this blogger to meet the PR Manager of HM Tower of London (am withholding the name due to privacy) for access to the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula from 9:00 until 9:45.  My excitement grew as, at the Pass Office, the PR Manager welcomed me.  While she gathered the keys to the church she explained that the restricted entry was a policy resulting in the sacredness of the site. Since my visit, the availability to view the church has increased—tourists can now enter during the final hour before closing.

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Exterior of the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London.

Described by John Noorthouck in his book, A New History of London published in 1773, St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower “was founded by Edward III and dedicated to St. Peter in chains. This is a plain Gothic building void of all ornament: 66 feet in length, 54 in breadth, and 24 feet high from the floor to the roof. The walls, which have Gothic windows, are strengthened at the corners…. The tower is plain, and is crowned with a turret” (Noorthhouck 768).  This rather clinical description did not reveal the picturesque chapel this blogger encountered.

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Another view of the chapel.

As we walked through the Tower precincts, the PR Manager made clear that the Chapel is first and foremost a parish church and the residents of the Tower have used it as such for centuries.  As if to underline this fact, the parson’s cat roamed around while we were there. 

By the 19th century with the Tower no longer a residence of the sovereign, the chapel became “regarded too much in the light of a mere ordinary parish church” (Bell 15).  The hominess of the church is evident into the 21st century.  Plain wooden pews top slab flooring.  An exposed stonewall shelters the altar under which are the plaques (laid during the renovation completed in 1877) of those buried in the Chapel. Most of the bodies were placed in the crypt.

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Doyne Courtenay Bell wrote, in 1877, of the Victorian Era restoration of the St. Peter ad Vincula.  Bell had been granted access to the facilities and records by the Resident Governor of the Tower, Colonel Milman.  Bell acknowledged that the records kept by Lord De Ros when he was Deputy Lieutenant of the Tower and his zeal in the restoration made it much easier for him (Bell) to write his book. 

In 1862, entrances were altered so that the “insignificant porch on the south side, by which the building had been entered since the time of Queen Elizabeth, was removed, and the original old doorway at the west end, which had been bricked up and concealed by plaster” was reopened (Bell 10).

From this blogger’s point of view the most noteworthy alteration to the physical building was that the “lath and plaster covering was at the same time removed from the ceiling, and the old chesnut beams of Henry VIII’s roof were disclosed to view” (Bell 10).  The ceiling was architecturally interesting and to know it was from the Tudor Era specifically added to its importance. 
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The ‘chesnut’ beams.

Bell supported the information this blogger received during the time of her 2003 visit that after the initial changes done in 1862 further restoration was needed by 1876 because the flooring had become too uneven and dangerous.  In that year Constable of the Tower of London, Sir Charles Yorke, submitted a plan to have the Chapel “architecturally restored to its original condition, and also suitably arranged as a place of worship for the use of the residents and garrison of the Tower” (Bell 10). 

As the restoration began, Bell reported, the “necessity for relaying the pavement, which had sunk and become uneven in many parts, became very evident; it was at once seen that nothing could be done until a level and safe foundation was prepared, upon which the new pavement could be placed…” (Bell 15).  Once the paving stones had been removed it was found “that the resting places of those who had been buried within the walls of the chapel during the troublous times of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, had been repeatedly and it was feared almost universally desecrated” (Bell 15).  People familiar with the history of St. Peter ad Vincula know that in “this church lie the ashes of many noble and royal personages, executed either in the Tower, or on the hill, and deposited here in obscurity” (Noorthouck 768). 
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A list of some prominent personages buried near the altar.

It is beyond the scope of this blog to discuss all of the notable people inscribed on their memorial tablets in the chancel. There was still questionable evidence as to who was buried in the chancel at the altar and the placement of each person.  At the time of the Duke of Monmouth’s burial, in 1685, a diagram of the suggested burial places of notable persons interred was created based on information compiled from several sources. 

St Peter Vincula graves

John Stowe first reported the use of a contemporary anonymous diary that John Gough Nichols later compiled with other sources in his Chronicle.  Stowe described what happened after the executions of the Duke of Northumberland and two associates, “Theyr corpes, with the hedes, wer buryed in the chapell in the Tower ; the duke at the highe alter, and the other too at the nether ende of the churche” (Nichols 24).   This placement was confirmed by Baker in his work.  He stated that after the execution of the Duke of Northumberland “his body with the head was buried in the Tower, by the body of Edward late Duke of Somerset, (mortal enemies while they lived, but now lying together as good friends) so as there lieth before the high Altar in St. Peters Church, two Dukes between two Queens, namely, the Duke of Somerset, and the Duke of Northumberland, between Queen Anne, and, Queen Katharine, all four beheaded” (Baker 315). 

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The Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour
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Queen Anne Boleyn
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The Duke of Northumberland, John Dudley
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Queen Katherine Howard

Restorations are recorded to have occurred between the winter of 1876 and the spring of 1877 with the renovated chapel opened for service in June of 1877.  At an initial  meeting held to discuss the method of refurbishment attended by many worthies of the Tower administration, including Colonel Milman, it was decided to leave the more notable interments of the two queens and three dukes undisturbed near the altar.  Typical of many a remodel, the agreed upon plan could not be carried out.  The flooring was too unstable and after an examination by the Surveyor of the Office of Works, it was “decided that the pavement must be removed, but that as little disturbance of the ground as possible should take place” (Bell 17). 

Bell gives us a brief run-down on the changes that were made.  He reports that the old plaster and whitewash were removed from the walls and columns; a “piscina and hagioscope on the east wall of the aisle were discovered.” A wooden structure “which served as a vestry, was pulled down” and a new one was built “outside the eastern end of the aisle” (Bell 17).  Sadly, none of my photographs show any of these religious architectural elements.  

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A more encapsulating photo of the Chapel St. Peter ad Vincula.

Despite acknowledging that many of the remains had been disturbed in centuries passed, Bell firmly believed that the female bones discovered during the reconstruction of the floor were of Anne Boleyn.  He wrote, “not much doubt existed in the minds of those present that these were the remains of Anne Boleyn, who is recorded to have been buried in front of the altar by the side of her brother George Rochford, and these being the first burials in the chancel, the graves were in all probability dug to the right or dexter side of the altar, the so-called place of honour” (Bell 21).  A description of Anne’s removal from the site of her execution, written 2 June 1536 by a Londoner, relayed that Anne’s ladies “fearing to let their mistress be touched by unworthy hands, forced themselves to do so. Half dead themselves, they carried the body, wrapped in a white covering, to the place of burial within the Tower. Her brother was buried beside her” (Gardiner 1036). 
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Not the grave marker of George, Viscount of Rochford but his wife, Lady Jane, who is buried near Queen Katherine Howard.  

During the restoration of the winter of 1876-1877, hundreds of bones and partial skeletons were discovered. This ‘mere ordinary parish church’ witnessed many interments be they of notable, historical figures or parishioners.  During my visit the PR Manager described the church as similar to a catacomb.  The side chapel, actually a crypt, held many burial sites including the tomb of Sir Thomas More. With very few written, official documents precise locations of burials is impossible.  It is similar to the locations of where people were kept in the Tower.  Mostly the information comes from personal letters and historians piecing together where people must have stayed based on who they talk about, what they say they saw, or if lucky their mentioning that they were in such and such a tower. There is even some dispute as to where Elizabeth was housed when a prisoner–was she in the Bell Tower or in the royal apartments. 

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Bell Tower, part of the Tower of London

There was no inquiry on my part if there was any evidence that Elizabeth would have visited St. Peter ad Vincula when she was held prisoner I the Tower during her half-sister Mary’s reign. This blogger has already concluded that Elizabeth was too politically savvy and perhaps too anxious not to anger or upset her sister to do such a thing.  Even as Queen she would not have ventured to her mother’s gravesite.  To do so would have re-circulated old scandals and upset those subjects of more conservative leanings.  She spent very little time in the royal apartments in the Tower of London. Upon her entry into London after her accession in 1558, she had to take formal and symbolic possession of the Tower.  She entered on 28 November and stayed at least six days.  Elizabeth returned 12 January 1559 to spend two nights prior to her coronation.  It appears as if having fulfilled the requisite stay in the Tower Elizabeth never felt obliged to return.  She had understood the poignancy of the place when, upon her formal entry that late November day, she remarked “Some have fallen from being Princes in this land to be prisoners in this place; I am raised from being prisoner in this place to be Prince in this land” (Marshall). 

References

Baker, Richard, George Sawbridge, Benjamin Tooke, Thomas Clarges, Edward Phillips, and Edward Phillips. A Chronicle of the Kings of England, from the Time of the Romans Government, Unto the Death of King James the First.: Containing All Passages of State and Church, with All Other Observations Proper for a Chronicle. Faithfully Collected out of Authors Ancient and Modern; and Digested into a Method. By Sir Richard Baker, Knight. Whereunto Is Added, the Reign of King Charles the First, and King Charles the Second. In Which Are Many Material Affairs of State, Never before Published; and Likewise the Most Remarkable Occurrences Relating to King Charles the Second’s Most Wonderful Restauration, by the Prudent Conduct of George Late Duke of Albemarle, Captain General of All His Majesties Armies. As They Were Extracted out of His Excellencies Own Papers, and the Journals and Memorials of Those Imploy’d in the Most Important and Secret Transactions of That Time. London: Printed for Ben. Tooke ; A. and J. Churchill, at the Black-Swan in Pater-Noster Row; and G. Sawbridge, at the Three Flower-de Luces in Little-Britain, 1696. Google Books. Web. 15 Sept. 2013.

Bell, Doyne Courtenay. Notices of the Historic Persons Buried in the Chapel of St. Peter Ad Vincula, in the Tower of London. With an Account of the Discovery of the Supposed Remains of Queen Anne Boleyn. London: J. Murray, 1877. Google Books. Web. 14 Sept. 2013. 

Denny, Joanna.  Anne Boleyn:  An New Life of England’s Tragic Queen. Philadelphia, PA:  Da Capo Press, 2006. Google Books. Web. 1 Sept. 2013

Gardiner, James (editor). “Henry VIII: June 1536, 1-5.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10: January-June 1536 (1887): 424-440. British History Online. Web. 22 September 2013.

Hall, Edward, Henry Ellis, and Richard Grafton. Hall’s Chronicle; Containing the History of England, during the Reign of Henry the Fourth, and the Succeeding Monarchs, to the End of the Reign of Henry the Eighth, in Which Are Particularly Described the Manners and Customs of Those Periods. London: Printed for J. Johnson and J. Rivington; T. Payne; WIlkie and Robinson; Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme; Cadell and Davies; and J. Mawman, 1809. Archive.org. Web. 2 Jan. 2013. 

Hibbert, Christopher.  The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age.  New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1991.  Print.

Hume, Martin A. Sharp. Chronicle of King Henry the Eighth of England: Being a Contemporary Record of Some of the Principal Events of the Reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, Written in Spanish by an Unknown Hand ; Translated, with Notes and Introduction, by Martin A. Sharp Hume. London: George Belland Sons, 1889. Internet Archive. Web. 4 May 2013.

Ives, Eric.  The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Print.

Marshall, Henrietta Elizabeth. “Elizabeth-How the Imprisoned Princess Became a Queen,”  An Island Story:  A History of England for Boys and Girls. New York:  Frederick A. Stokes Company, Publishers, 1920. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.  

Nichols, John Gough. The Chronicle of Queen Jane, Two Years of Queen Mary, and Especially of the Rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyat.  London: J. B Nichols and Son, 1822. Google Books. Web. 17 June 2013.

Noorthouck, John. “Book 5, Ch. 2: The suburbs of the City.” A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark (1773): 747-768. British History Online. Web. 15 September 2013.

“The Queen Elizabeth Virginal.” V&A Images Collection. Victoria and Albert Museum, n.d. Web. 03 July 2013.

Ridgway, Claire.  The Fall of Anne Boleyn:  A Countdown.  UK:  MadeGlobal Publishing, 2012. Print.

Somerset, Anne. Elizabeth I.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991. Print.

Stevenson, Joseph (editor). “Elizabeth: September 1559, 1-5.” Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth, Volume 1: 1558-1559 (1863): 524-542. British History Online. Web. 01 September 2013.

Walker, Greg. “Rethinking The Fall Of Anne Boleyn.” Historical Journal 45.1 (2002): 1. MasterFILE Premier EBSCOhost. Web. 2 Sept. 2013.

Warnicke, Retha.  The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1989.  Print.

Weir, Alison. The Children of Henry VIII.  New York:  Ballantine Books, 1996. Print

Weir, Alison.  Henry VIII:  The King and His Court.  New York:  Ballatine Books, 2001. Google Books. Web. 30 June 2013.

Weir, Alison.  The Lady in the Tower:  The Fall of Anne Boleyn.  London:  Jonathan Cape, 2009.  Print.

Rest in Peace

It is not the purpose here to debate whether or not a person can be completely prepared for death when it comes.  Each person’s preparation must be unique and based on his or her views and life-choices.  This preparation is most often done in private, but what if the person is a public figure—a sovereign? Now the natural process of death becomes a public experience. The deaths of both Henry VII and Elizabeth Regina were witnessed by a multiple people and recorded as part of the historic chronicle.  Their foibles and quirks exposed and also their immense courage.

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Death mask of Henry VII                Replica death mask of Elizabeth I

Henry VII’s health was never robust and after he suffered the deaths of his son Arthur and his Queen, Elizabeth of York, in childbirth along with the baby he became more delicate and more frequently experienced bouts of ill-health.  The Spanish ambassador, Pedro de Ayala, declared in a letter to Ferdinand and Isabella that “the king looks old for his years, but young for the sorrowful life he has led” (Bergenroth 178).

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Pedro de Ayala, Spanish Ambassador

In early March of 1509 Henry became unwell at Hanworth, about six miles from Richmond to where he ordered the Court to move.  By early April he was unable to eat and struggled for breath.  Some historians believe he suffered from quinsy, complications to tonsillitis.  Henry “lay amid mounds of pillows, cushions and bolsters” throughout the month of April (Penn 339).

Henry’s deathbed illness is not well-documented by narrative although we know several men who attended based on the scene depicted by Garter Herald Thomas Wroithesly.  There are 14 figures placed around the bed with three doctors identified by occupation by the flasks in their hands including Giovanni Battista Boerio and two clerics, including Thomas Wosley. The other nine had their coats-of-arms painted above their heads; they were Bishop Richard Fox, Lord George Hastings, Richard Weston, Richard Clement, Sir Matthew Baker, John Sharp, William Tyler, Hugh Denys and William Fitzwilliam.

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Henry VII on his death bed

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Henry’s eyes being closed by Fitzwilliam 

Henry lingered for some days until “having lived two and fifty years, and thereof reigned three and twenty years, and eight months, being in perfect memory, and in a most blessed mind, in a great calm of a consuming sickness passed to a better world, the two and twentieth of April 1509, at his palace of Richmond, which himself had built” (Bacon and Lumby 211).  Most of his Court was residing there and upon his death ministers went to great lengths (those maneuverings could fill another blog entry) to keep his death secret or at least unannounced, as they worked to decide who should control the realm.  Although the transfer of power was not immediate or completely smooth, enough preparations were in place for councilors to solidify their positions and to rally around the 17-year-old Henry VIII, securing the Tudor dynasty. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, assured the kingdom that Henry had handed over the throne to his son by  “wisely consyderynge this noble prynce ordred hymselfe therafter, let call for his sone the kynge that now is our governour. He called unto hym and gave hym faderly and godly exhortacion, commyttynge unto him the laborious governaunce of this realme…” (Fisher 285-86).

Henry’s will was published, luckily, in 1775 by Thomas Astle as the original is severely damaged. Only a small section of it remains.  The will is dated for March 31, 1509, three weeks before the King’s death. Scholars are sure that the will was written in real-time as the place, location and the date were written continuously with the main body of the text indicating that they were not placed in separately (Condon 107).

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Fragment of the Will of Henry VII

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 Published in 1775 by Thomas Astle

The document “captures the king’s authentic voice” and the overall tone is one of contrition and remorse”  (Condon 103).  Henry VII greatly repented during his final days. Some observers wondered if he felt remorse at the stringent economic measures that were instituted during his rule. Henry requested that his Executors listen to complaints “And in caas by suche examinacion it can be founde, that the complaint be made of a grounded cause … we wol then that as the caas shall require, he and thei bee restored and recompensed by our said Executours, of such our redy money and juelx as then shall remayne…” (Henry VII 12).  Here was a man conscious of the financial hardships he imposed on many of his subjects.

Perhaps, as his life drew to a close, he realized money was not the answer to all life’s questions or he was fearful of eternal punishment.  Whichever reason, he wanted to ensure that “also if any psone of what degree foevir he bee, shewe by way of complainte to our Executours, any wrong to have been doon to hym, by us, oure commaundement, occasion or meane, or that we helde any goodes or lands which of right ought to apperteigne unto hym; we wol that every such complainte, be spedely, tenderly and effectually herde, and the matier duely and indifferently examyned…” (Henry VII 11).

Besides the King’s preoccupation with righting possible wrongs, the other main provisions of his will were to complete the Lady Chapel, build the Savoy hospital and complete King’s College, Cambridge.  Added were the stipulation for alms to be given between the time of his death and burial…” (Condon 104).  Contemporaries believed that he was “a great almsgiver in secret; which shewed, that his works in public were dedicated rather to God’s glory than his own” (Bacon and Lumby 212).  Furthermore, he gained praise for granting a general pardon for less Earthly rewards “expecting a second coronation in a better kingdom” (Bacon and Lumby 211).  To ensure he covered all his bases, Henry stipulated for a “continual and continued edifice of prayer” for his soul (Condon 104).

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Illustrated document (and enlargement) of Henry VII requesting prayers and giving alms for the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey

Edward Hall was confident that, because of Henry’s “noble acts and prudent policies”, when he died “he has the sure fruition of the godhead, and the joy that is prepared for such as shall sit on the right hand of our savior, for ever world without end” (Loades 97). Although as previously mentioned, Henry appeared repentant, perhaps he was fearful of final judgment for evidence of his religious devotion in his final days included hearing several Masses a day and taking the sacrament when “he was of that feblenes that he might not receive it again”, saying confession and kissing the crucifix “not the selfe place where the blessed body of our lorde was conteyned, but the lowest parte of the fote of the monstraunt, that all that stode aboute hym scarsly might conteyn them from teres and wepyng” (Fisher 274).

Henry’s concern was reflected in the Reverend John Fisher’s funeral sermon in which he claimed that, while awaiting his death, Henry “was not without drede” in the face of God’s judgment even though he received “sacraments of crystes chyrche whiche with full grete devocyon…” (Fisher 277).

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Bishop of Rochester, John Fisher                      

After his death 22 April, the ex-king’s body was laid in state at Richmond until 9 May when it was taken by barge as far as London Bridge.  From here the casket was processed, in a carriage drawn by horses draped in black velvet, to St. Paul’s Cathedral on 10 May.  Atop the coffin was a life-sized effigy worked from Henry’s death mask and draped in parliamentary robes with the scepter and orb.  Heraldic banners and flags displaying Henry’s titles and dominions decorated the hearse and route.  Inside St. Paul’s, the coffin was laid at the high altar where a Mass for the dead was sung and a vigil kept throughout the night.  The funeral service was held on 11 May with the sermon given by Bishop Fisher.  Margaret Beaufort, Henry’s mother, was so pleased with the sermon she ordered it to be printed and distributed around the country.

From St. Paul’s the body was again taken in procession, this time to Westminster Abbey for burial to join Queen Elizabeth of York who was already laid to rest there.  Several more Masses were sung with the requiem led by Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham.  Once the services were completed, the body was interred at Henry’s stipulation “in the Chapell where our said graunt Dame laye buried, the which Chapell we have begoune to buylde of newe, in the honour of our blessed Lady” (Henry VII 4).  The ex-king’s household officers broke their staves of office and threw them in the tomb before it was sealed.

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William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury

Posthumous reflections stressed the final days of Henry’s life when he showed remorse for some of his administrative policies.  Bishop Fisher revealed that worldly pleasures brought Henry unease that “al his goodly houses so rychely dekte & appareyled, his walles & galaryes of grete pleasure, his gardyns large … were paynfull to hym” (Fisher 278).  Not to be outdone, Bacon let us know that he was “born at Pembroke castle, and lieth buried at Westminster, in one of the stateliest and daintiest monuments of Europe, both for the chapel, and for the sepulcher.  So that he dwelleth more richly dead, in the monument of his tomb, than he did alive in Richmond, or any of his palaces” (Bacon and Lumby 221).

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Richmond Palace 1562

Founding the Lady Chapel had been an ambition of Henry VII for some time.  His last will and testament is the central text for the creation of the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey (what is now referred to as Henry VII Chapel).  For a detailed explanation of the creation and building of the chapel please refer to the text, Westminster Abbey: The Lady Chapel of Henry VII edited by T. W. T. Tatton-Brown and Richard Mortimer.

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Exterior of the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey, known as the Henry VII Chapel

From the onset, there was going to be no doubt who was the benefactor of the building of the Chapel; starting at the gates the King’s arms, badges, emblems would be shown and repeated throughout the chapel (Condon 64). Pietro Torrigiano was commissioned in 1512 to create Henry VII’s tomb. Seven years later the chapel was completed.

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Fan-vaulted ceiling of the Henry VII Chapel

His tomb was in the place of honor as his will decreed “And we wol that our Towmbe bee in the myddes of the same Chapell, before the High Aultier…” (Henry VII 4).  Yet, despite imploring his Executors to “full and entrie perfourmyng and executing of this our present Wille, and every thing conteyned in the same,” the tomb was moved to the side (Henry VII 27).  Henry VIII moved it behind the altar, “reserving the more prominent space for his own tomb…” (Penn 377).

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Tomb of Henry VII & Elizabeth of York, placed behind the altar rather than in the middle to allow space for the monument of Henry VIII

As things in life do happen, Henry VII’s son was not buried at Westminster in the carefully planned testimonial to the Tudor dynasty but his granddaughter, Elizabeth Regina, famously was.

Like her grandfather, Elizabeth grew depressed after the deaths of several people close to her: the Earl of Essex’s execution was a severe blow; the deaths of several of her women, Lady Peyton, Lady Skolt, Lady Heyward and in late February 1603 her cousin Katherine, Countess of Nottingham, granddaughter of her aunt Mary Boleyn and one of her closest attendants.

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Katherine Carey Howard, Countess of Nottingham

Her melancholy increased causing attendants (and later historians) to speculate upon the continual causes.  Was it the political losses in Ireland?  Was it the neglect of Courtiers who were lined up to offer services to James VI of Scotland? Was it the physical ailments which curtailed her activities such as riding and hunting? Was it the deaths of many from her council members? Was it the care and worry of the kingdom?  Was it insomnia?

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Allegorical painting of Elizabeth I done after 1620 during a revival of interest in her reign

Elizabeth had caught cold in early January which had turned to bronchitis.  On January 21 the Court moved to Richmond. The records we have from this time period are pretty extensive from contemporaries’ writings.  William Camden was given the Queen’s Rolls, Memorials and Records by William Cecil to use in compiling an historical account of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  He wanted to do her justice, he wanted to obey Cecil and he wanted to tell the truth as he attested on the third page of ‘The Author to the Reader’ note.  A noble ambition and one that is hard to argue against.  We have from him that in the beginning of Elizabeth’s illness the “Almonds in her Throat swelled, and soon abated again; then her Appetite failed by degrees; and withal she gave herself over wholly to Melancholy, and seemed to be much troubled with a peculiar Grief for some Reason or other” (Camden 659).

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William Camden

Her godson, John Harington, tried to cheer her up with verses and light-hearted talk but, according to a letter he sent his wife, Elizabeth told him, “When thou dost feel creeping Time at thy gate, these fooleries will please thee less; I am past my relish for such matters; thou seest my bodily meet doth not suit me well; I have eaten but one ill-tasted cake since yesternight” (Sitwell 453).

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John Harington  

Her kinsman, Robert Carey, the son of her cousin Lord Hunsdon, also visited her at Richmond and he found her “in one of her withdrawing chambers, sitting low upon her cushions.  After greetings he wished her in health and she said ‘No, Robin, I am not well’; and then discoursed with me of the indisposition; and that her heart had been sad and heavy for ten or twelve days; and in her discourse she fetched not so few as forty or fifty great sighs.  I was grieved at the first to see her in this plight; for in all my lifetime I never knew her to fetch a sigh, but when the Queen of Scots was beheaded” (Carey 116).  Carey continued that “I used the best words I could to persuade her from this melancholy humour but I found by her it was too deep rooted in her heart and hardly to be removed” (Aikin 523).

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Robert Carey, surrounded by his wife and children

Carey reported that in late-March on a Sunday Elizabeth had expressed her wish to go to chapel in her closet but she could not make it.  Cushions were laid for her on the floor near the closet door and she listened to services from there. “From that day forward she grew worse and worse.  She remained upon her cushions four days and nights at the least.  All about her could not persuade her either to take any sustenance or go to bed….” (Carey 119).  Her coronation ring had to be cut off of her finger as it had grown into the flesh—perhaps hard for her to accept as she had always prided herself in her long, tapered fingers.  The removal of the ring “was taken as a sad Omen, as if it portended that her Marriage with the Kingdome, contracted by the Ring, would now be dissolved” (Camden 659).

Some reported that she was losing her mental faculties but John Nichols assured that  “there was no such matter; only she held an obstinate silence for the most part, because she had a persuasion, that if she once lay down she should never rise; could not be got to go to bed in a whole week” (Nichols 604). She did not speak for several days “sitting sometimes with hir eye fixed upon one object many howres together, yet shee always had hir perfect senses and memory” (Manningham 146).

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Final days of Elizabeth 1 by Paul Delaroch, 1828

The Queen would take no medicines, but she would not go to bed to die either.  Maybe we could say it was another example of her trying to see both sides of an issue, trying to compromise, or simply trying to wait-out the events.

The Lord Admiral Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham, was brought in to persuade her to go to bed. He was successful yet all knew “there was no hope of her recovery, because she refused all remedies” (Aikin 524).  Not long after, she had herself pulled to her feet and stood for 15 hours before returning to her cushions.  Elizabeth was fighting death with her usual tenacity.

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Lord Admiral Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham

The Venetian Ambassador, Giovanni Scaramelli said she had rallied a little 21 March.  Most speculate it was after the abscess in her throat burst allowing for her to feel better for a while.  Around this time there occurred the famous incident involving Robert Cecil.  He approached the Queen and said “Madam, to content the people you must go to bed” and the Queen rebuked him with “Little man, little man, the word must is not to be used to princes” (Perry The Word of a Prince 317).

(c) National Trust, Hardwick Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Robert Cecil

Carey provided that “on Wednesday the 23rd of March she grew speechless” (Aikin 524).  John Manningham, a diarist and lawyer, went to Richmond Palace on that date after the rumors of Elizabeth’s health had reached London and even stories that she was already dead.  He was acquainted with Dr. Henry Parry, Bishop of Gloucester and Elizabeth’s favorite chaplain.  Manningham dined in the privy chamber with Dr. Parry and several others learning about the Queen’s illness how “for a fortnight she had been overwhelmed with melancholy, sitting for hours with eyes fixed upon one object, unable to sleep, refusing food and medicine, and …still retained her faculties and memory” (Manningham 14).

henry parry

Henry Parry, Chaplain to Elizabeth Regina

When it appeared as if there would be no recovery, the councilors became anxious to officially secure the succession.  Therefore, when she was asked if James VI of Scotland would be her heir, she made a gesture that was taken as assent.  Many witnesses relayed with drama that she placed her hands above her head in the shape of a crown, others that she merely motioned with her hand agreement.  Regardless of the true action, the movement was taken as her sanction and preparations were made for the ascension of James Stuart. Unlike her grandfather, she left no will.  Her treasury was intact and her possessions available for James to inherit as he would her throne.

During her final days Dr. Parry, her chaplain, administered to her when she “tooke great delight in hearing prayers, would often at the name of Jesus lift up hir hands and eyes to Heaven” (Manningham 146).

The Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, came at about six in the evening of the 23March to pray with her.  He knelt at Elizabeth’s bedside and prayed until he became sore and tired and when he “blessed her, and meant to rise and leave her” she gave indication that she wanted him to continue.  He did so with “earnest cries to God for her soul’s health, which he uttered with that fervency of spirit, as the Queen to all our sight much rejoiced thereat, and gave testimony to us all of her Christian and comfortable end” (Carey 122).  The Archbishop stayed quite late until everyone but a few of her women and, according to some reports, Dr. Parry departed.

WhitgiftJohn2

John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury 

She died between two and three in the morning of Thursday March 24, 1603. Manningham recorded Dr. Parry’s words when he made the death announcement.  “This morning about three at clocke, hir Majestie departed this lyfe, mildly like a lambe, easily like a ripe apple from the tree”(Manningham 146).  He continued that Dr. Parry reported he “sent his prayers before hir soule” … and concluded that he, Manningham, “doubt not but shee is amongst the royall saints in Heaven in enternall joyes” (Manningham 147).

Upon her death, Elizabeth’s body was tended at Richmond Palace by her ladies, specifically Anne Russell, Countess of Warwick, and Helena Snakenborg, Marchioness of Northampton.  Five days later, at night, it was taken along the river in a black-draped barge to Whitehall.  There it lay in State in a withdrawing chamber attended continuously by lords and ladies of the Court.  Many days later, the body was moved to Westminster Hall to await the King’s orders for the funeral.

anne russell      helena snakenborg

       Anne Russell,                                     Helena Snakenborg
Countess of Warwick                        Marchioness of Northampton

The funeral was held 28 April 1603.  Elizabeth’s body was processed to Westminster Abbey.  Four horses, hung in black velvet, pulled a hearse carrying the coffin which was covered in purple velvet upon which lay the life-sized wax effigy—remade in 1760.  Although spectacularly covered in Parliamentary robes, holding the scepter and orb, no hint of Elizabeth’s carefully controlled image of Gloriana remained in the true-to-life likeness from the death mask. When the effigy was seen by the tens of thousands of people along the procession route, it was responded to as emotionally as if it were the Queen in life.  John Stowe who attended the funeral left this description of “all sorts of people in their streets, houses, windows, leads and gutters, that came to see the obsequy, and when they beheld her statue lying upon the coffin, there was such a general sighing, groaning and weeping as the like hath not been seen or known in the memory of man” (“History”).  Even Scaramelli, the Venetian Ambassador thought the effigy was depicted “so faithfully she semmes alive” (Doran 249).

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Funeral procession of Elizabeth Regina, first pictorial record of a funeral of an English monarch

The funeral was organized by Robert Cecil with an estimated cost ranging between £11,305 to £25,000 (in 2010 values that would be £30,800,000 to £68,100,000*) a remarkable sum (Doran 248-249).

The impressive procession of nobles (six earls in no less, in mourning dress, supported the canopy of estate under which was the coffin) with councilors, clerics, courtiers, heralds, gentlemen, servants and 276 poor people filed behind.  Over a thousand people took their place with the peeresses of the realm, who were led by the chief mourner the Marchioness of Northampton.  Archbishop Whitgift officiated at the service which saw the interment of Elizabeth under the main altar of the chapel of her grandfather, Henry VII.  Following tradition her officers broke their staves and threw them atop the coffin before the tomb was sealed.

Three years later, Elizabeth’s body was relocated, along with her sister Mary’s to a chapel James I had created on the north aisle. This blogger had contacted Westminster Abbey to confirm via primary source evidence that Elizabeth was first buried in Henry VII’s tomb.  Miss Christine Reynolds, Assistant Keeper of Muniments, verified that there is a document in the Abbey archives, reference W. A. M. 33659 of 1605-06,  that authorized the removal of the Queen’s body from Henry VII’s vault to the present tomb. The effigy of the newer monument was sculptured by Maximilian Colt and painted by John de Critz according to some reports it too was worked from the death mask at a cost of £1485 (£4,040,000 in 2010 values*).

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Tomb of Elizabeth Regina

The Latin inscription on her tomb would have pleased her.  Below is a portion of it translated:
“Mother of her country, a nursing-mother to religion and all liberal sciences, skilled in many languages, adorned with excellent endowments both of body and mind, and excellent for princely virtues beyond her sex” (“History”).

ElizabethTomb

Monument to Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey

Elizabeth had gained the love and devotion of her people and had ruled with great popularity.  William Camden’s biography was to prove prophetic when he said: “No Oblivion shall ever bury the Glory of her Name: for her happy and renowned Memory still liveth, and shall for ever live in the Minds of men to all Posterity” (Camden 661).

Once the proclamation was made for James I, the crowds were not exuberant as “sorrowe for hir Majesties departure was soe deep in many hearts they could not soe suddenly showe anie great joy” (Manningham 147).

That sorrow manifested itself 10 years later in comments made by Edward Hall.  “Such was the sweetness of her government and such the fear of misery in her loss, that many worthy Christians desired that their eyes be closed before hers” (Aikin 529).

e1 tombd

It was the “new men and new manners brought in by James I served to teach the nation more highly to appreciate all that it had enjoyed under his illustrious predecessor…” and the “despicable weakness of her successor caused her decease to be regretted and deplored” (Aikin 529).

Many people saw the significance of her death date with William Camdon explaining:  “On the 24 of March, being the Eve of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, she (who was born on the Eve of the Nativity of the same Blessed Virgin) was called out of the Prison of her earthly Body to enjoy an everlasting Country in Heaven, peaceably and quietly leaving this Life after that happy manner of Departure… having reigned 44 Years, 4 Months, and in the seventieth Year of her Age; to which no King of England ever attained before” (Camdon 661).

e1 tomb effigy

Stanza 21 and 22 of a poem written by Queen Elizabeth

Regret for my fault
Delivered me from sin,
For it afflicted me so
That this alone was my care—
That I did not have care enough;
Knowing better, that in joy
I had to suffer,
I turned myself to so many tears
That a thousand times my comfort
Renewed my pains.

To increase the grief
Of my follish past,
Contemplating my Creator,
I remember the making
Of me, a sad sinner;
I saw that God redeemed me,
Beign cruel against Him,
And considering well who He was,
I saw how He made Himself me,
So that I would make myself Him.
Queen Elizabeth (Marcus 419)

*Values for pounds were figured using the Measuring Worth website at http://www.measuringworth.com/ppoweruk/

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