11 May 2016

An account of the funeral of King Henry VII, 11th May 1509


I am busy researching the final book in my Tudor trilogy, HENRY, about the life of Henry Tudor, who died at Richmond Palace on the 21 April 1509, after a long illness. As well as suspected tuberculosis, Henry suffered from gout and asthma. He was buried at Westminster Abbey on the 11th of May, and here is an early account I discovered:

The body of the King was brought from Richmond and met at St. George's Bar, Southwark, by the Mayor and Aldermen, accompanied by a body of commoners on horseback, appropriately dressed in black. The streets were lined by members of the various "companies" carrying torches, the lower crafts occupying the first place. After the Freemen of the City came the "Strangers," Easterlings, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Venetians, Genoese, Florentines and Lukeneres on horseback and on foot, also carrying torches. In Cornhill the lower crafts were so marshalled that the "most worshipful crafts stood next to St. Paul's.

On the day following the shrouded but uncoffined body of the King was taken from St. Paul's to Westminster. "The lowest craft" was placed nearest to the Cathedral and the "Most Worshipful next to Temple Bar, where the civic escort terminated. The Mayor and Aldermen proceeded to Westminster by water to attend "Masse and offering." The Mayor with his mace in his hand made his offering next after the Lord Chamberlain, those Aldermen who had passed the chain offered next after Knights of the Garter.


Henry rests in a vault beneath his magnificent tomb in the Lady Chapel which was designed in the Renaissance style by Italian sculptor Pietro Torrigiano (famous for having broken Michelangelo's nose during a fight while they trained together as youths.) The black marble tomb base is shared with Henry's wife, Elizabeth of York, and decorated with six copper gilt medallions representing the Virgin Mary and Henry's patron saints. At either end of the tomb are coats of arms supported by cherubs. Seated angels balance on the carved frieze at each corner of the tomb, supporting coats of arms They once held pennants in their hands. 
The grille surrounding the tomb is by Thomas Ducheman. Only six of the thirty two statues in the niches of the grille now remain (Saints George, Edward the Confessor, Bartholomew, James the Great, John the Evangelist and another). The badges of the Welsh dragon and the greyhound of Richmond are also part of its decoration.
The heads of the effigies carried at their respective funerals still survive in the Abbey collection, that of the king being particularly lifelike and probably from a death mask (the bodies of the funeral effigies were damaged by water during the Second World War).
The inscriptions on the tomb have been translated as:
Here lies Henry the Seventh of that name, formerly King of England, son of Edmund, Earl of Richmond. He was created King on August 22 and immediately afterwards, on October 30, he was crowned at Westminster in the year of Our Lord 1485. He died subsequently on April 21 in the 53rd year of his age. He reigned 23 years eight months, less one day.
Around the edge of the tomb is written:
Here is situated Henry VII, the glory of all the kings who lived in his time by reason of his intellect, his riches, and the fame of his exploits, to which were added the gifts of bountiful nature, a distinguished brow, an august face, an heroic stature. Joined to him his sweet wife was very pretty, chaste and fruitful. They were parents happy in their offspring, to whom, land of England, you owe Henry VIII.



HENRY - Book Three of The Tudor Trilogy  will be published on Amazon in 2017.
Tony Riches

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