Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Question from Nikki - Mary I's heart and burial

I just finished reading "Bloody Mary," by Carolly Erickson. Not a bad book, actually. I was suprised that the book didn't focus much on the Protestant burnings since that's what she's most remembered for. (But then again, English history isn't kind to Catholicism!)

My question is this. The end of the book states that Mary's body was buried in the Henry VII chapel in Westminster Abbey, in a grave on the north side. "Her heart, 'being severally enclosed in a coffin covered with velvet bound with silver,' was separately interred."

I had no idea that this was where her body was originally buried. When was it moved to the current spot, with Elizabeth? Also, where is her heart?


PhD Historian said...

The removal of the heart post-mortem was apparently fairly common practice in the pre-modern period, though I have never been able to discover the rationale for doing it. Maybe Foose or Gareth or KB knows?

In any event, Mary apparently anticipated the removal of her heart, if we are to believe that she actually once said that when it was removed they would find "Calais" written upon it.

I assume that Mary's body and heart were transferred to Elizabeth's tomb when that monument was completed during the reign of James VI & I?

Diane said...

My sources say that Mary lay in state in the Chapel Royal at St. James and that her heart is buried there. Mary's "body was placed in a narrow vault in the north aisle of Henry VII's Chapel at Westminster. The location was marked by stones taken from the Catholic altars in the chapel that were dismantled soon after her death." (From "The Royal Tombs of Great Britain" by Aidan Dodson).

In 1670, William Taswell examined the contents of two urns that had been discoverd in Westminster Abbey while preparing for the burial of General Monk. William wrote: "About the beginning of the year 1670 the funeral obsequies of General Monk were celebrated. Previous to which a Royal vault was opened in which were two urns; one appropriated to Queen Mary, the other to Queen Elizabeth. I dipped my hand into each. I took out of each a kind of glutinous red substance somewhat resembling mortar. That of Mary contained less moisture."

(From History Today, December 1977, Volume 27, issue 12, pages 812-816. Article entitled "The Plague and the Fire" by William Taswell.

Nikki said...

After I posted this question, I went, "Nikki, Mary IS in the Lady Chapel!!!" haha I don't think of that small side chapel as part of the larger chapel, so that's why it struck me as off guard. But I would still imagine her body was transferred there later, with Elizabeth. So that still poses the question as to where she was originally buried?

PHD, you're right. The book did mention that Mary said Calais would be found upon her heart, and I had read that many times before. I just wonder if it was transferred along with her body.


Nikki said...

My book also states the same, Diane.

"The corpse of the late queen lay in state at St. James' for more than three weeks while the mourning clothes and funeral arrangements were prepared. On December 12, when all was ready, her funeral cortege formed in the courtyard of the palace for the solemn procession to Westminster...The procession halted at the great door of Westminster Abbey, and the queen's coffin was carried inside. A hundred poor men in black gowns kept watch over her body all that night, holding long torches in their hands, and around them the soldiers of the royal guard stood with their staff torches. The next day the requiem mass was sung...When the eulogy was over the coffin was carried to Henry VII's chapel in the abbey, and placed in a grave on the north side. Her heart, "being severally inclosed in a coffin covered with velvet bound with silver," was separately interred. The household officers broke their staves and threw them into the grave, as they did so the trumpets sounded to signal the beginning of the funeral banquet.

The chief mourners went to dinner, leaving the funeral trappings unguarded. In a few minutes the servants and hired mourners and the Londoners who had come to see the queen laid in her grave had torn down the banners and standards, the arms displayed around the altar and the hangings fastened to the walls. They scrambled and fought one another for scraps of cloth...until the embroidered cloths were in shreds and the queen's effigy pulled into a hundred pieces."