Mastodon The Writing Desk: The Death of Queen Elizabeth Ist, 24 March 1603

24 March 2023

The Death of Queen Elizabeth Ist, 24 March 1603

"To be a king and wear a crown, is a thing more glorious to them that see it, than it is pleasant to them that bear it" Queen Elizabeth Ist

Queen Elizabeth Ist died early in the morning of the 24th of March 1603 at the age of sixty-nine, after a reign of forty-five years. The leading theory is that she died of blood poisoning, but she gave orders not to allow a post-mortem, so we can never be certain. Other proposed causes of death include pneumonia, streptococcus (infected tonsils), and some form of cancer.

Her rumoured last words were: “All my possessions for one moment of time.” Elizabeth’s embalmed body was placed inside a lead coffin and carried at night in a torchlit barge along the River Thames from Richmond Palace to Whitehall, where it lay in state under guard for three weeks before her extravagant  funeral procession on the 28th  of April, 1603.

Thousands of spectators watched the funeral procession make its way through London. Queen Elizabeth's coffin was carried from Whitehall to Westminster Abbey on a hearse drawn by horses draped with black velvet. The coffin was covered in purple cloth, with the effigy of Elizabeth with a sceptre in her hands and a crown on her head. Dressed in royal robes, the effigy was said to be so lifelike it made mourners gasp. 

A canopy supported by six knights was held over the coffin, and behind the hearse was the Queen’s Master of the Horse, leading her palfrey. The chief mourner was the Countess of Northampton who led the party of peers of the realm, all dressed in black.

Elizabeth I was interred in Westminster Abbey, her coffin first being placed in the vault of her grandfather, King Henry VI. In 1606 Elizabeth's coffin was placed beneath a monument to her erected by King James I, in the same vault as her half sister, Mary I. The Latin inscription at the base of the tomb reads, 'Partners in throne and grave, here we sleep Elizabeth and Mary, sisters in hope of the Resurrection.'

Tony Riches

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