Saturday, May 02, 2009

Question from Nina - Elizabeth and Mary's burial

Was Elizabeth I buried on top of her sister? Why was this done?

10 comments:

PhD Historian said...

I did some looking around in sources from the period as well as in scholarly books on the subject, but I find no reference to the specific placement of the bodies of Mary and Elizabeth in the vault beneath the tomb structure. One reference says that Elizabeth was "laid to rest next to" Mary, but offers no source for that statement.

It's just a guess on my part, but having visited the Abbey several times and seen the tomb, I'm betting the vault beneath the tomb structure is probably large enough to accommodate the coffins or sarcophagi side-by-side without a need for stacking.

Does anyone have more precise information than my guessing?

Lara said...

My copy of the Official Guide (1997 edition) says this:

"Beneath the coffin of Elizabeth rests that of her half-sister Queen Mary. The stones from the broken altars were piled upon Mary's grave during the whole of her sister's reign."

However, I don't know how much of this information is from direct inspection.

For what it's worth!

Diane said...

Elizabeth's coffin was placed on top of Mary's according to the "Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey" by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley. He was Dean of Westminster during the reign of Queen Victoria and he was involved in the search for the body of James I. During the search, the tomb of Mary and Elizabeth was opened and the coffins were observed.

From volume 1 of Dean Stanley's book: "In that contracted sepulchre, admitting of none other but those two, the stately coffin of Elizabeth rests on the coffin of Mary."

And from the appendix entitled "The Royal Vaults" in volume 3: "It was instantly evident that it enclosed two coffins, and two only, and it could not be doubted that these contained Elizabeth and her sister Mary. The upper one, larger and more distinctly shaped in the form of the body, like that of Mary Queen of Scots, rested on the other."

"There was no disorder or decay, except that the centering wood had fallen over the head of Elizabeth's coffin, and that the wood case had crumbled away at the sides, and had drawn away part of the decaying lid. No coffin-plate could be discovered, but fortunately the dim light fell on a fragment of the lid slightly carved. This led to a further search, and the original inscription was discovered. There was the Tudor badge, a full double rose deeply, but simply incised in outline on the middle of the cover, -- on each side the august initials E.R., and below, the memorable date 1603."

This appendix also contains accounts of the tombs of Mary Queen of Scots: Edward VI; Henry VII and Elizabeth of York (this is where James was found); some later Stuarts; and many others.

I've forgotten how to cite properly, but my Volume one was part of the fifth edition and it was printed in New York by Anson D.F.Randolph in 1882. R The reference was from page 211. Volume 3 is from the sixth edition and it was also printed in New York by Randolph in 1887. The reference is on pages 264 and 265.

PhD Historian said...

Diane, that is fascinating! Ya gotta love those 19th century antiquarians for their morbid interest in opening old tombs ... and for giving us the answers! Thanks for expanding my knowledge!

Amy said...

did they look at the coffins only, or ever observe the bodies?

Anonymous said...

The question I still have is why did she choose to be buried with her sister? I mean were they that close despite Anne Boleyn ruining Mary's life?

Anonymous said...

Henry was going to have a new wife, period. It didn't have to be Anne but somebody was going to replace Mary's mother. He wanted and believed he needed sons. At least he didn't kill his daughters. By the time Mary got to the throne she was mentally and emotionally twisted. After all the people she murdered in her brief reign, I sort of like the idea of Elizabeth's coffin pressing down on hers through the centuries. I wonder if Elizabeth chose where she would be buried and why.

edhat1 said...

Elizabeth's 1sts body was originally laid in the tomb next to Henry V11. James 1sts Mother, mary Queen of Scots was buried in a more humble position, and removed Elizabeth from that tomb, and laid on top of Mary 1st. James 1st replaced his Mother Mary Queen of Scots with the fines stones from Elizabeths tomb, probably to make a statement that he was now monarch, and in recompense for what Elizabeth did to her. James did a lot of 'shuffling around' with tombs in the Abbey, trying to make The Stuarts more prominant.

Der Geezer von Tampadorf said...

If you will check with Westminster Abbey's website, you will see that neither 'chose' where or how they were to be buried. From that website:

"She was first buried in the vault of her grandfather, King Henry VII, in the Abbey. Her successor, King James I, erected the large white marble monument to her memory in the north aisle of the Lady Chapel at a cost of £1485. This was made by sculptor Maximilian Colt and painted by Jan de Critz and her body was moved to it in 1606. Elizabeth I was the last monarch buried in the Abbey to have a monument erected above her.

The recumbent effigy resembles portraits of the Queen in old age. The crown and collar which she wears are modern replacements, as are the orb and sceptre she carries, the originals having been stolen centuries ago. The original wax effigy carried on her funeral hearse was remade in 1760 and it can be seen in the Abbey Museum. Also displayed there is the so-called "Essex Ring" that the Queen is said to have given to one of her favourites, the Earl of Essex. Her half-sister, Queen Mary Tudor, (1516-1558), daughter of Henry VIII by Catherine of Aragon, is also buried beneath this monument.

The inscriptions are in Latin and can be translated:

"Sacred to memory: Religion to its primitive purity restored, peace settled, money restored to its just value, domestic rebellion quelled, France relieved when involved with intestine divisions; the Netherlands supported; the Spanish Armada vanquished; Ireland almost lost by rebels, eased by routing the Spaniard; the revenues of both universities much enlarged by a Law of Provisions; and lastly, all England enriched. Elizabeth, a most prudent governor 45 years, a victorious and triumphant Queen, most strictly religious, most happy, by a calm and resigned death at her 70th year left her mortal remains, till by Christ's Word they shall rise to immortality, to be deposited in the Church [the Abbey], by her established and lastly founded. She died the 24th of March, Anno 1602 [this is Old Style dating, now called 1603], of her reign the 45th year, of her age the 70th.

To the eternal memory of Elizabeth queen of England, France and Ireland, daughter of King Henry VIII, grand-daughter of King Henry VII, great-grand-daughter to King Edward IV. 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. James, king of Great Britain, France and Ireland, hath devoutly and justly erected this monument to her whose virtues and kingdoms he inherits"

On the base of the monument:

Partners in throne and grave, here we sleep, Elizabeth and Mary, sisters, in hope of the Resurrection."

~Mike in Tampa

YMMundrabilla said...

This is my first post, although I have been a 'lurker'at the site for some time and found it most interesting.

It is some years since I have been to Westminster but one question lingers in my mind.

If we take the tomb of Elizabeth I (for example) one sees the railing protected effigy on a box type of structure all more or less above floor level.

My question is where are the actual remains located? Are they in the box structure above the floor or are they in a coffin completely separate in a crypt below floor level somewhere meaning that the structure that one sees is really only a memorial of sorts.

Any information will be greatly appreciated, please.