Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Question from Elizabeth M - Royal burial practices

I am curious about royal burials. Why was Charles I buried in the same vault with Henry VIII and Jane Seymour? This seems to have been a fairly common practice? The tomb of Mary, Queen of Scots was found to have not only her, but her granddaughter, Elizabeth of Bohemia, her niece, Arbella Stuart, her great-grandson, and several infant children of James II and Queen Anne. Likewise, there is also another of Queen Anne's infants buried along with Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, and Charles I. Why would specific graves be re-opened to admit more bodies? Was it to conserve space? And why did it seem to have no reason? Why an infant child of Queen Anne in with Henry VIII, and others scattered in the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots? Why no separate grave for Charles I? I realize he was executed, but why was he not re-buried in his own tomb after the restoration of the monarchy?

3 comments:

Diane said...

According to Antonia Fraser, Charles I's body lay at Whitehall and St. James's Palace before burial. Permission was refused to bury him in Westminster Abbey so his servants and friends buried him at Windsor.

I would think that the choosing of Henry VIII's tomb was because it would be easy to open given its location and also because Henry was distantly related to Charles through his sister, Margaret. And since Queen Anne's baby was a descendant of Charles I, his tomb would have been an appropriate place to bury it (just as the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots in Westminster Abbey was for her other descendants).

Charles II would no doubt have raised a monument to his father if he had the money to do so.

Marilyn R said...

I wonder if James I was buried with Henry VII as a gesture to underline his right to the Throne as a direct descendant of Henry Tudor? To some extent the building of the fine tomb for MQS must have been controversial at the time, which might explain why James was not buried with her. His wife is buried in the St Erasmus Chapel nearby. Would Charles I have done the same if things had not turned out for him as they did?

Presumably, the Stuart family vault extends under the tomb of MQS and that of her mother-in-law the Countess of Richmond and Lennox, which together take up most of the South Aisle of the Henry VII Chapel, the remainder of the space housing the much older tomb of Lady Margaret Beaufort. The thing that surprised me most was the sad little line of small plain plaques for Charles II, the joint monarchs William III & Mary II and Mary’s sister Queen Anne & her consort Prince George of Denmark, all of whom are in the vault with MQS, Arbella and the rest. Some of Queen Anne’s 18children died at Windsor, but why they would be interred with Henry VIII I cannot think.

As far as Charles I is concerned, it was probably better to let him rest in peace, in much the same way as Elizabeth I chose not to open old wounds by having her mother reburied. He was basically a good man who apparently was a good husband and father – but he wasn’t much of a ruler, and his son would have been well aware of that.

I have read through the Abbey official guidebook today, which details the burials & memorials, but can find no explanation as to why some monarchs have only the most basic of monuments.

(No mention of Mary Grey with Frances Brandon - earlier question from John.)

Rebecca said...

The official guide at Windsor (St. George's Chapel) states that Charles I was buried there because it was hoped a more remote location would keep London crowds away from his tomb and prevent a problem with the "martyrdom" complex.

As to why the baby was buried there, I am not certain, unless Queen Anne (she was a princess at the time) was in residence at Windsor when the child was born and died.