Monday, June 22, 2009

Question from Antonia - Henry's burial with Jane, etc.

Hello all,

The recent question regarding the burial of Henry VIII has got me thinking...

Is there any particular reason Henry was buried with Jane Seymour? I remember being told this as a child, and believing it because he "loved her most" as it were. Having since learnt more, I can't believe that was necessarily true, though she was perhaps the one he was most satisfied with at the time of her death.

Did Henry stipulate he wanted to be buried with Jane, and if so, is there evidence of this? On the flip side, if he did not say so and the decision was therefore made for him, does anyone know on what basis this might have been on?

Also, why was Katherine Parr not interred with Henry upon her death? (Perhaps the marriage to Seymour?) She was his last wife and (by Henry's standards) it was a fairly good union, so I've always wondered how she felt about him being buried with Jane.

And finally (yes, I am coming to an end...), PhD Historian mentioned in the same thread I mentioned above that the bones of (I believe) Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and Katherine Howard were discovered at St. Peter's in the 19th century. These were then put together in one container and reburied. I've heard this before but it's always seemed odd to me - why mix them together? Why not separate them and bury them accordingly? While they were all technically executed criminals, it nevertheless seems extremely disrespectful.

I have perhaps focused on these burial quibbles too much over recent days, to the extent where I am becoming macabre, so any final thoughts would be useful!

{PS from Lara - you're welcome re: the RSS feed!)


Joan said...

I don't believe Henry loved Jane "the most." My opinion is that he actually had quite a few years in a happy union with Catherine of Aragon. ( His "Sir Loyal Heart" years). He certainly had a grand, intense passion for Anne which lasted fairly long. He also seemed smitten with Katherine Howard-short lived as it was.

I believe he requested to be buried with Jane very simply because she was the mother of his son who was destined to become the next Tudor king. Being buried next to Jane reinforced the legitimacy of his marriage to her and it was through her that his line would continue.

It reminds me of the family portrait of Henry V111 painted when Jane was long dead, but features her, Henry and Edward at the center with Mary and Elizabeth positioned at the appropriate less important distance.

Gareth Russell said...

You are right in stating that sentiment had a fairly irrelevant influence on who Henry VIII would chose to be buried alongside. Henry II and Eleanor of the Aquitaine had been buried alongside one another, despite the fact that the shattering of their marriage had been played out on the fields of a civil war and Isabella of France had been buried next to Edward II, the husband she had certainly helped to depose and imprison and, very probably, helped murder as well. In the case of his burial next to Jane Seymour, the reasoning behind it is much the same as his decision to have Jane painted alongside him as his consort in the dynastic mural rather than Katharine Parr, who he was then married to. It all comes down to dynastic consideration - Jane was the mother of the heir to the throne. She was the matriarch of what was imagined to be the continuing Tudor dynasty that would carry on with Edward VI and his expected children. Of course, it would have been impossible for him to be buried alongside either Katherine of Aragon or Anna of Cleves (firstly because Anna outlived Henry by over a decade but also because both marriages had been declared null under English law) or Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both of whom had been executed as convicted traitors.

On the subject of why Katharine Parr was not buried alongside Henry at the time of her death - that is less easy to explain. Various multi-married monarchs were buried next to one or more of their spouses. Charles IV, I believe, is buried with all four of his consorts in Prague. Moreover, it is not entirely clear that Katharine's subsequent remarriage to Thomas Seymour was the reason why she was not interred next to Henry VIII when she died in 1548. Despite her own remarriage to the earl of Pembroke, Adeliza of Louvain, second wife of King Henry I and an ancestress of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard incidentally, chose to be buried alongside her first, royal husband at Reading. Catherine de Valois, Henry VI's mother, was buried in Westminster Abbey with her first husband, Henry V, despite her scandalous later elopement with Owen Tudor. Queen Adeliza's decision is also indicative that love had nothing to do with the issue of burial for many members of the ruling classes - there is little doubt that she loved her second husband far more so than she did her first. Yet family pride dictated that she should select King Henry's grave for her own.

In explaining why Katharine lies at Sudeley, it may have something to do with the unease her marriage to Thomas Seymour had caused - on a personal and moral level to some, like her stepdaughter the Lady Mary, and on a political level to men like Seymour's brother, the duke of Somerset - may have had something to do with the decision to leave her body at Sudeley rather than bring it to Windsor to lie next to King Henry.

However, I expect a pragmatic reason is perhaps more likely (although the two need not be mutually exclusive.) As anyone who has visited Windsor will know, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour's tomb was never properly completed. Plans were periodically discussed during the time of Edward VI, but neither of Henry's daughters showed much (if any) interest in building their father a magnificent monument as he had desired. In 1548, when Katharine Parr died, the plans for the mausoleum were still in development and the cost was anticipated to be astronomical. It may have made a good deal more practical and economic sense to allow Thomas Seymour to inter his wife on his own estates, rather than to bring her body to an unready tomb, the projected expensive of which was already beginning to raise eyebrows.

Stephen Jakobi said...

If one consults the records of the 1876 excavations the only bones of women identified with reasonable certainty were the old Countess of Salisbury and Anne Boleyn.Jane Grey and Catherine Howard were not exhumed or reburied

Kristian said...

Well, I am going to be a dissenting opinion on this... and the more emotional voice.
I believe that Henry *believed* he loved Jane Seymour the most.
In examining Henry's marriages over the years, one thing can be said about this man: when he thought he loved a woman, he loved very passionately. Until the woman disappointed him. The easiest way to disappoint Henry is to deny him the ONE thing he needed, wanted and made women promise to give him: a male heir.
I have no doubt that Henry always believed Jane to be his "true wife" and great love because she did what she promised (and what a 16th century woman was on earth to do)
#1. She delivered him a son
#2. She obeyed him

Take into account the close relation in Henry's mind between G-d's blessings on him and his marriage choices. Henry always believed that G-d was holding back his heir until he married the "right" woman. He would only be blessed with a son if the marriage was legal and right in G-d's eyes. Thus, only Jane would have fulfilled this place in G-d's favor and thus, Henry's seeing as he is G-d's anointed king.

I believe that Henry had to be motivated (at least partially) by love to continue to honor Jane with portraits and his burial long after her death.

Antonia said...

Gareth and Joan - thank you, that makes absolute sense. It just reaffirmed the dynasty. It seems so simple now!

And Stephen - it's interesting to read that, as I'd always very much had the impression Lady Jane Grey's bones were involved somewhere. It was, however, merely an "impression", not something I'd read as fact. It'd be interesting to know why they decided some of the bones with the Countess of Salisbury's - perhaps age? - do you know where the report may be? I'd very much like to read it.

And Kristian - I feel the same. To me, he loved the idea of Jane in retrospect rather than the woman she was during her lifetime. In terms of passion and real love, I still believe Anne Boleyn and Katherine of Aragon respectively to be the real captors of his love. (Katherine Howard seemed to be more of an obsession).

Thanks to all for replying.

PhD Historian said...

This is long, and I am being required to split it into two parts:

I agree with Joan and Gareth in regard to Henry's dynastic rationale for being buried alongside Jane Seymour. Dynastic ambition was everything to Henry, and he literally moved heaven and earth to achieve it.

As for Katherine Parr, I must respectfully contradict Gareth and say that the explanation seems almost obvious. She gave an oral will immediately prior to her death (see Susan James's biography of Parr), and since disposition of remains was usually part of a will, it seems logical that she herself expressed a desire to be buried at Sudeley. Too, Seymour was Parr's great love, not Henry VIII, so it seems equally logical that she would prefer burial at Seymour's estate.
James describes Seymour as being in "shock" at his wife's death and sensing the failure of all his ambitions and plans, which probably left him with little emotional energy to contravene his wife's instructions. And since he was not then in the highest of favor (so much so that he would soon thereafter be executed), it seems unlikely that he would have been able in any event to petition for Katherine to be buried at St. George's. In addition to Katherine's wishes, the political circumstances were also against it.

The issue of the bones in the Chapel is a complex one. It is true that Jane Grey's and Katherine Howard's bones were not identified in the excavations of 1876 and thus are not definitively known to have been exhumed and re-buried. The belief at the time (probably correct) is that their relative physical youth combined with the use of lime in burials probably resulted in complete disintegration of their bones.

As for the remains of Anne Boleyn, the description of them given by Frederic Mouat, MD, Professor of Medicine and Medical Jurisprudence, writing in 1876 is revealing. The skeleton he describes was fragmented, in places "very much eroded," and with significant portions missing or broken into small pieces. I find it interesting that no mention is made of any marks on the neck vertebrae that might correspond to an executioner's sword.

(See D.C. Bell, Notices of Historian Persons Buried in the Chapel of St Peter-ad-Vincula [London: John Murray, 1877], pp. 26-28.)

PhD Historian said...

Part Two:

From Bell's description, I find nothing that would meet modern scientific standards for identifying the bones as those of Anne Boleyn. The only evidence available is circumstantial: the bones were found near the spot where Anne was reportedly buried. But at the same time, D.C. Bell noted that the Chapel came to be regarded as a mere parish church and that "interment not only of those who lived in the Tower, but even of residents in the neighborhood, was freely permitted." Further, the remains of persons executed in the Tower "were buried (no doubt intentionally) 'in great obscurity', and even if some memorial stone had recorded their burial place, it is doubtful whether that would have protedcted their remains ... [several peoples'] bones had been much disturbed, so much so as to be beyond all possible means of identification. It is even feared that in some instances coffins had been designedly broken up and their contents scattered in order to make room for some fresh occupant of the ground." Even the bones suspected as being those of Anne Boleyn were found "not lying in their original order, but ... heaped together in a smaller space." Bell's evidence contradicts itself.

Bell goes on to relate that the bones of many people were exhumed and placed in boxes for later re-interment. Then on Friday, April 13, 1877, seven cases of bones were reburied "in the respective positions in the chancel in which the remains had been found," with concrete immediately spread over them. This directly contradicts the modern curator's assertion that the bones were in one container placed beneath the wall monument to the left of the altar. Page 52 of Bell's book contains a map of the locations, at the time the floor was re-laid in 1877, of what were assumed to be the remains of or the burial places of Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn, Katherine Howard, Lady Grey, Guildford Dudley, John Dudley, and Margaret of Salisbury, among others. The location of Henry Grey's grave is marked (as Duke of Suffolk), but there is also strong evidence that he was buried outside the Tower. I am suspicious that Jane Grey may also have been buried outside the Tower.

This discussion thread is a perfect example of why I love this website so much. Respondents have pointed me toward research materials that I had not previously given much thought to, and I have learned a lot. Thank you Antonia, Joan, Gareth, Stephen, and Kristian. I look forward to more lively discussions!

Antonia said...

PhD Historian quote: I am suspicious that Jane Grey may also have been buried outside the Tower.

Is that so? Fascinating. I have checked Some Grey Matter on this but can't seem to find anything regarding it - and it's the first I've heard of it. I'd be extremely interested to know why such an authority on Jane Grey has that opinion, as her resting place seems to constantly be stated as St. Peter's.

Were you also aware that there is some talk of Newton Linford erecting a plaque claiming it as the place of Jane Grey's birth? I live in Leicestershire (only a couple of miles from Bradgate Park) and there was a tiny piece about it in the local paper, though seemingly not important enough to make the website. An odd decision, given there is nothing certain. There seems to be so many questions still over her birth and death in particular.

Regarding the burial issue, I thought there was some report that the bones identified as Anne Boleyn's were found with fragments of elm - and she was known to have been buried in an elm chest? This and the neck bones lead to the identification of the bones as Anne Boleyn. Again, having not seen the original report (and spent many fruitless hours Googling for it), this is merely something I have picked up along the way and do not state as fact!

Regarding the issue of no damage to the bones on the neck being mentioned, I actually spoke to a friend who is an oesteopath, and teaches at my local university. She firmly believes that it would have been possible for beheadings by sword to show no actual damage to neck bones themselves, as the blow - being narrow - could conceivably have been taken by tissue, sinew etcetera. She says it's unlikely, but it is possible, for bones of those executed by sword (not axe) to show no signs of distress. She did, however, say it would be possible to find minimal stress fractures with X-ray techniques from the force of the blow - but this would not have been possible upon the discovery of the bones originally, obviously.

PhD Historian said...

Antonia, since I am trying to get a book about Jane Grey published, I am not putting a lot of material on my website yet. I want to save it for the book, then put it on the website later.

What I will say for now about Jane's burial is that there are so many rumors and stories, both then and now, that it does raise questions. And there are actually very logical reasons for her not to have been buried in the Chapel. But I'm afraid you will have to wait for the book in order to get the full discussion.

No, I was not aware that Newton Linford had erected a plaque claiming to be the birthplace of LJG. But Newton Linford is adjacent to the gates of Bradgate Park, the place traditionally given as LJG's birthplace, so it makes sense. But you are absolutely correct that no record exists to demonstrate that she was actually born there. Some historians have suggested that she was born elsewhere, and their argument is persuasive. But I am inclined to believe that the Bradgate claim is accurate ... sorry, you will again have to wait for the book to see why.

As for the elm chest story, the description offered by D.C. Bell and his colleagues, all of whom were present at the exhumation, makes absolutely no mention whatsoever of the bones identified as Anne Boleyn's having been found in any kind of container or coffin. Indeed, he very specifically notes that they "were found not lying in their original order, but ... had for some reason or other been heaped into a smaller space." And we must remember that if the solid bones of Katherine Howard were able to disintegrate totally, certainly wood of any kind would do the same. In my opinion, the elm-chest story is nothing more than another of the many romantic Victorian-era inventions so commonly found in connection to Tudor history.

The opinion of your osteopath has merit, certainly. Unfortunately, xrays were unknown in 1876, so we do not have that evidence.

The URL for the original report is :

Anonymous said...

Did you know that Henry was actually intended to be buried in a proper tomb, on his own? This was something I learnt from a David Starkey programme on TV, so its liable to be pretty accurate. But when he died, the tomb wasn't finished. What happened in the end was that Henry ended up under a floor slab with Jane Seymour and Admiral Lord Nelson had Henry's tomb!!!! I know it doesn't make sense, but it is true. No-one knows how the burial places got so mixed up; they just did. Does anyone else know anything about this or have any suggestions as to why it happened?

Marilyn R said...

Nelson, who died at Trafalgar in 1805, was buried in the "new" St Paul's Cathedral, built after the Great Fire of 1666.

Marilyn R said...

A colleague who knows about these things suggested a look at the following site and the entry from Clare (Archivist and Chapter Librarian). Sure enough, it says the black sarcophagus was used for Nelson. Also has a diagram of how the whole structure was intended to look.

"Henry VIII had grandiose plans for his tomb at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, outlined in detail in his will. No expense was to be spared in crafting the vast edifice, ornamented with ‘fine Oriental stones’ and resplendent with white marble pillars, gilded bronze angels, four life-size images of the King and Queen Jane, and a statue of the King on horseback under a triumphal arch, ‘of the whole stature of a goodly man and a large horse’. In all, there were to be one hundred and thirty four figures, including St George, St John the Baptist, the Prophets, the Apostles and the Evangelists, ‘all of brass gilt as in the pattern appeareth’. Henry VIII’s original ‘pattern’ no longer survives but these nineteenth century conjectural drawings by Alfred Higgins FSA, which are held in the Chapel Archives, provide an indication of the likely magnificence of his intended tomb, although they omit the King on horseback and show only a small proportion of the intended figures.

However, the original tomb was not his but Cardinal Wolsey’s. Some time in the 1520s Thomas Wolsey, a Canon at St George’s from 1511 to 1514, had been granted the small Chapel, now the Albert Memorial Chapel, for his future burial. In 1524 he commissioned the great Italian Renaissance sculptor, Benedetto da Rovenzanno, to construct a magnificent tomb. Work was well underway by the time of Wolsey’s fall in 1529, and the marble base, pillars and statues were immediately appropriated by the King. Henry VIII lost no time in having it redesigned but it remained unfinished at his death in 1547. Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth considered completing it, but it was still in pieces in 1648 when the metalwork was sold by the Commonwealth to pay for garrisoning Windsor Castle. Two nine-foot high bronze candlesticks ended up in St Bavon’s Cathedral in Ghent, replicas of which now stand by the High Altar in St George’s. The black touchstone sarcophagus, which remained at Windsor, was transferred in about 1808 to the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, to form part of Admiral Nelson’s funerary monument.

Henry VIII has no tomb in St George’s Chapel, merely a marble slab to mark his burial place in the Quire. There can be little doubt as to his reaction were he to return to Windsor in this celebratory year."

Anonymous said...

I think Henry VIII,was quartered and placed in four different areas in England. Some were upset with him,and decided that would be a good punishment.