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Where is King Henry VIII Buried and Why Doesn’t He Have a Tomb?
St. George’s Chapel with the vault where Henry VIII and Jane Seymour are buried in the floor. Image from http://www.wingfield.org/Churches/ENGLAND/St%20George’%20s%20Chapel/St%20George’s%20A.jpg
King Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547. It was the end of an era. His will commanded he be buried with his beloved wife Jane Seymour, the only wife to give birth to a surviving legitimate male heir. Henry had given her a magnificent funeral after which she was buried in a vault under the quire of St. George’s Chapel in Windsor. This vault was meant to be their temporary resting place.
Henry’s body was bathed, embalmed with spices and encased in lead. It laid in state in the presence chamber of Whitehall surrounded by burning tapers for a few days and was then moved to the chapel. On February 14, the body began its journey from London to Windsor. The procession was four miles long. An elaborate, tall hearse bore the coffin as it rumbled along the road. On top of the hearse was a lifelike wax effigy dressed in crimson velvet with miniver lining and velvet shoes. There was a black satin cap set with precious stones which was covered with a crown. The effigy was adorned with jewels and the gloved hands had rings.
The remains spent the night in Syon Abbey and the next day arrived at Windsor. Sixteen members of the Yeoman of the Guard bore the coffin into the black draped chapel. It was lowered into the vault in the quire. Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester spoke the eulogy and celebrated the requiem mass as Katherine Parr, the dowager Queen, observed the ceremony from Katherine of Aragon’s oriel window. After the mass, as the trumpets sounded, the chief officers of the King’s household broke their staves of office and threw them into the vault, signaling the end of their service.
Katherine of Aragon’s oriel window in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor (http://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/worship-and-music/experience-st-georges/st-georges-panorama/quire.html)
The king had left money for daily masses to be said for his soul until the end of the world. But the Protestant rulers of Edward VI’s government stopped the masses after a year. Henry’s will left instructions for a magnificent tomb to be built.
History of the Tomb
As early as 1518, Henry had plans drawn up for a tomb for himself and his first wife Katherine of Aragon. The initial plans were made by the Italian sculptor Pietro Torrigiano, the same man who designed the tomb for Henry’s parents Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. This tomb can be seen in the Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey to this day. Torrigiano planned for Henry VIII’s sarcophagus to be made of the same white marble and black touchstone as his father’s only it was to be twenty-five percent bigger. An argument over compensation for the designing of the plans ensued causing Torrigiano to return to Italy sometime before June 1519. There is evidence Henry considered giving another Italian, Jacopo Sansovino a commission for seventy five thousand ducats to work on a design in 1527.
Effigies of Elizabeth of York and King Henry VII in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey
During the seventeenth century, antiquarian John Speed was doing some historical research and unearthed a now vanished manuscript that gave details of Henry VIII’s tomb. It was based on Sansovino’s design from 1527. The plans called for a vast edifice decorated with fine Oriental stones, white marble pillars, gilded bronze angels and life-size images of Henry and his Queen. It was even going to include a magnificent statue of the King on horseback under a triumphal arch. One hundred and forty-four brass gilt figures were to adorn the tomb, including St. George, St. John the Baptist, the Apostles and the Evangelists.
It just so happens that Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry’s chief minister in the early years of his reign, had plans for a resplendent tomb for himself. Benedetto da Rovezzano, an employee of Wolsey’s from 1524 to 1529, kept a comprehensive inventory of the statues and ornamentation for this tomb. When Wolsey died, Henry adopted some components of Wolsey’s tomb for his own. Rovezzano and his assistant Giovanni de Maiano worked on the tomb for Henry from 1530 to 1536.
After Wolsey died, Henry actually appropriated the sarcophagus from his tomb. He planned to have a gilded life-size figure of himself on top. There was to be a raised podium with bronze friezes embedded in the walls along with ten tall pillars topped with statues of the Apostles surrounding the tomb. Between each of the pillars there would be nine foot tall bronze candlesticks. The design called for an altar at the east end of the tomb, topped with a canopy held aloft by four elaborate pillars. This would also include sixteen effigies of angels at the base holding candlesticks. The tomb and altar were to be enclosed by a black marble and bronze chantry chapel where masses could be said for the King’s soul. Had this design been finalized, it would have been much grander than the tomb of Henry’s parents.
Imagined drawing of Henry VIII’s tomb (Copyright: The Dean and Canons of Windsor) http://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/archives/archive-features/image-of-the-month/title1/henry-viii-tomb.html
The effigy of the king was actually cast and polished while Henry was still alive and other items were manufactured in workshops in Westminster. Work progressed during the last years of Henry’s reign but wars in France and Scotland were draining the royal treasury and work slowed. Rovezzano returned to Italy due to bad health. Some of the work on the monument continued during Edward VI’s reign but his treasury was always short of funds. Edward’s will requested the tomb be finished. Queen Mary I did nothing on the tomb.
Queen Elizabeth I had some interest in the project. Her minister William Cecil commissioned a survey of the work needed to complete the tomb and new plans were prepared in 1565. Whatever completed items there were in Westminster were moved to Windsor but after 1572, work came to a standstill. The components languished at Windsor until 1646 when the Commonwealth needed funds and sold the effigy of Henry to be melted down for money. Four of the bronze candlesticks found their way to the Cathedral of St. Bavo in Ghent, Belgium.
After the execution of King Charles I in 1649 (or 1648 in the old dating scheme), his remains were hastily placed in the same vault in the Chapel. It was deemed appropriate to bury him there because it was quieter and less accessible than somewhere in London in an effort to reduce the number of pilgrims to the grave of the martyred king. During the reign of Queen Anne, one of her many infants died and was buried in the same vault in a tiny coffin. In 1805, the sarcophagus that had been Wolsey’s and Henry’s was taken and used as the base of Lord Nelson’s tomb in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The grave was then forgotten until it was rediscovered when excavation commenced in 1813 for a passage to a new royal vault. The old vault was opened in the presence of the Regent, George Prince of Wales, the future King George IV. Several relics of King Charles I were removed for identification. When they were replaced in 1888, AY Nutt, Surveyor of the Fabric to the College of St. George made a watercolor drawing of the vault and its contents. Henry VIII’s coffin appears badly damaged. Jane Seymour’s was intact.
A Y Nutt’s watercolour of Henry VIII’s vault
Henry’s coffin could have been broken in several ways. The trestle supporting it could have collapsed. It’s possible when they went into the vault to put Charles’ coffin, Henry’s was damaged. It could have collapsed due to pressure from within. Or it’s also possible the coffin fell along the way, causing it to split open.
Marble slab indicting the vault in the quire of St. George’s Chapel where Henry VIII and Jane Seymour are buried
The Prince Regent requested a marble slab be inserted to mark the grave but this didn’t materialize until the reign of King William IV in 1837. The inscription on the slab reads: In a vault beneath this marble slab are deposited the remains of Jane Seymour Queen of King Henry VIII 1537, King Henry VIII 1547, King Charles I 1648 and an infant child of Queen Anne. This memorial was placed here by command of King William IV. 1837.
The Legend of the Licking Dogs
Because of the subject of this post, we have to address the legend of the dogs licking Henry’s blood as his body spent the night at Syon. The story starts with the sermon by a Franciscan friar named William Petow. He preached at the chapel at Greenwich on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1532. It was the time of the king’s “Great Matter”, the name for Henry’s effort to get a divorce or annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn.
Not only did Petow challenge Henry about trying to put aside Katherine of Aragon, he objected to Anne Boleyn’s efforts to promote the New Religion. He made this very clear in the sermon as the king sat before him in the chapel. Instead of pontificating on the resurrection of Christ, he preached on the verse from the Bible, 1 Kings 22 regarding King Ahab. King Ahab dies from wounds he suffered in a battle. The verse reads: “So the King died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared.”
Petow compared Henry to King Ahab and Anne Boleyn to Ahab’s wife Jezebel. Jezebel had replaced the prophets of God with pagans as Petow said Anne was endorsing and encouraging men of the New Religion. Petow said Henry would end up like Ahab with dogs licking his blood. Amazingly, Henry only imprisoned Petow for a short time and he escaped England and ended up on the Continent.
This story was taken up and repeated by Gilbert Burnet (1643-1715). He was an historian and the Bishop of Salisbury and he wrote the “History of the Reformation” in which he stated this actually happened to Henry’s body as it spent the night at Syon Abbey on the way to Windsor. Burnet himself admitted he was in a hurry when he wrote this book and did not research it sufficiently and that the volume was full of mistakes.
This didn’t stop Agnes Strickland from embellishing the story when she wrote her “Lives of the Queens of England” in the mid-19th century. She writes that the lead casing surrounding Henry’s body burst and oozed blood and other liquids. A plumber was called to fix the coffin and he witnessed a dog licking the blood. All of this is a unique exercise in historical fiction so we have to take the story as apocryphal.
Further reading: “Henry VIII: The King and His Court” by Alison Weir, “Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty” by Lacey Baldwin Smith, entry on Gilbert Burnet in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography written by Martin Greig, The Will of King Henry VIII, St. George’s Chapel website
The surprising place where Henry VIII is buried
Henry VIII is one of the most famous kings of England, remembered for marrying six times and for breaking with the papacy in Rome and establishing the Church of England. A king of this magnitude surely enjoyed a regal burial and was laid to rest in a magnificent tomb? Think again, says Philippa Brewell.
This competition is now closed
Published: June 22, 2020 at 1:20 pm
Writing for HistoryExtra, she reveals the surprising place where Henry VIII is buried…
He’s the king who had six wives and tired of them like a child tires of toys, who rid himself (and the world) of anyone who disagreed with him, didn’t like the pope and was fat…. Well, not quite. The truth and the facts are somewhat simplified for the wider audience as one American tourist said to me on thinking she had found the tomb of Henry VIII in Westminster Abbey: “Henry VIII? He’s the one who killed all his wives, right?” She can be forgiven for both thinking of him as the ‘wife-killing king’ and for assuming he would be buried within the splendour of Westminster Abbey. She was wrong on both counts.
The iconic image of Henry VIII, created by talented court painter Hans Holbein (pictured above), is known worldwide. Poised in confrontational stance, he stares out of the painting, challenging us to find fault and leaving us in no doubt that he is in charge. This was a carefully crafted image as was typical of Henry. As his father before him, he consciously, purposely and effectively used ceremony, art and symbolism to send the self-asserting message to his contemporaries: “I am the rightful king of England, appointed and supported by God.” We can only imagine the consternation and anger he would feel to know that the shrine-like tomb he designed for himself was never completed.
Indeed, despite his keen control of self-image in life and instructions for his tomb and image in death, he remains in a ‘temporary’ vault under the Quire in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in the company of his third queen, Jane Seymour, and also the body of Charles I and one of Queen Anne’s tragically short-lived children. The chamber is marked simply by a black marble slab placed there almost 300 years later on the orders of William IV, its functional description the only thing alerting us to his presence beneath:
IN A VAULT
BENEATH THIS MARBLE SLAB
ARE DEPOSITED THE REMAINS
JANE SEYMOUR QUEEN OF KING HENRY VIII 1537
KING HENRY VIII
KING CHARLES I
AN INFANT CHILD OF QUEEN ANNE. THIS MEMORIAL WAS PLACED HERE
BY COMMAND OF
KING WILLIAM IV. 1837.
So how, when it came to what should have been Henry’s most important and enduring symbol, do we find him in a crowded vault marked only by a simple black marble tomb stone? It is a far cry from the ostentatious tomb of his father and mother in Westminster Abbey and far from what Henry imagined, indeed instructed, should be created for himself.
Henry VIII’s death and funeral
Henry VIII died in the early hours of 28 January 1547 at Whitehall Palace aged 55. For a couple of days his death was kept secret from everyone except those closest to the king, to allow for a smooth transition to the council rule which was to follow under his son, Edward VI. Court ritual continued so as not to alert anyone to the king’s death before everything was ready. Meals even continued to be brought to his chambers – announced, as always, by the sound of trumpets.
Edward VI was nine years old at his accession and would be only the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty. He was male and legitimate, but for the fledgling dynasty a child king was almost as dangerous a prospect as a woman on the throne. Everything had to be managed in minute detail, all of which had been planned by Henry himself. Of course this included Henry’s funeral which would, through impressive pageantry and ceremony, assert once again that the Tudors were rightful kings of England under God with the strong implication that Edward should be unchallenged. Always one for self-appreciation, Henry also wanted to show that he had been a true Renaissance king on the European stage.
The funeral procession that escorted Henry’s body to Windsor left London on 14 February with an overnight stop at Syon House. It was four miles long, included more than a thousand men on horseback and hundreds more on foot. The coffin, draped in cloth of gold with an effigy of the king on top, was pulled on a carriage by eight horses. It impressed all who lined the processional route. So far so good! Henry would have approved.
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The ceremony, too, was as Henry wanted. Following a sermon by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, Henry’s coffin was lowered into its temporary place next to his third wife and Edward VI’s mother, Jane Seymour. The white wands of office, which each office holder broke over his head, followed into the grave in customary fashion.
For his tomb, Henry requested “… a convenient altar honourably prepared and apparelled with all manner of things requisite and necessary for daily masses there to be said perpetually while the world shall endure”. Neither the tomb, nor the masses, were completed as Henry had stipulated.
A black marble sarcophagus, confiscated from Cardinal Wolsey by Henry, was already at Windsor. Thanks to John Speed, the 17th-century mapmaker and antiquarian, and his 1627 book The History of Great Britaine, we are able to understand how Henry planned to use it for himself. Fortuitously, for Henry’s original manuscript has since gone missing, Speed transcribes the instructions Henry left for a double tomb, magnificent in size, decoration and iconography.
Described in around 1,400 words, the plans included effigies of the king and queen as if sleeping numerous angels prophets aloft columns scriptures and children with baskets of red and white roses scattering them down over the tomb and the pavement beyond. It would have been fabulous, very ‘Henry-esque’ – if it had been built! However, the sarcophagus remained at Windsor for more than 250 years until the Georgians found a use for it and transported it to the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, where it now holds the coffin of Admiral Horatio Nelson.
So why did Henry not ensure his legacy by having his tomb built in his own time? Lack of money perhaps, although that had never deterred Henry from large expensive projects before. More likely, then, that despite Henry’s concern (you could say preoccupation) with the Tudor succession, he simply did not want to face up to his own mortality. Talk of the death of the king was a treasonable offence. Indeed, it had been a brave Sir Anthony Denny who had finally told Henry on the evening of 27 January 1547 that he was dying and thus allowing him (just) enough time to take the last rites – essential for one of the Catholic faith, as Henry was right to the end of his life.
Henry VIII’s children
Henry may not have liked to think about his own death, but three of his children followed him to the throne. Did none of them wish to honour their father with a fitting monument? The short answer is ‘no’. At any rate, none of them did. But why was this the case?
Edward VI may have been a child of only nine years old when he followed his father to the throne, but he had determination beyond his years and had one clear agenda – to make England Protestant. Edward was ruthless in his reforms, going far beyond anything his father had done. He died only six years later and had dedicated the majority of his reign to religious reform. We can surmise that building his father’s tomb as designed, with all its trappings of the Catholic faith, was neither a priority nor a concern to the boy king. It was far easier to display his father’s memory for his own use in his own image. A portrait of Edward in the National Portrait Gallery, believed to have been painted following his accession, mimics the strong pose of his father in the Whitehall Mural.
Edward was succeeded in turn by his two older half-sisters. First Mary, daughter of Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and then by Elizabeth, daughter of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Unlike Edward, both sisters had been subjected to emotional damage at the hands of their father and both had suffered the devastation of being declared illegitimate, coupled with separation from their mothers.
Of the two, Mary suffered the most. Elizabeth, two years old when her mother was executed, may have been confused to be addressed one day as ‘Princess Elizabeth’ and the following day ‘the lady Elizabeth’, but the toddler probably had no lasting memories of such events. On the other hand, Mary could remember all too vividly the cruel treatment herself and her mother endured at the hands of her father when he failed in his efforts to secure a divorce from Mary’s mother, Catherine of Aragon, in order to marry Anne Boleyn.
Mary had been forbidden to see her mother, forced to agree that her parents’ marriage was illegal and that her mother had never been queen, and to reject the pope and recognise her father as supreme head of the Church in England. It would be difficult to overestimate the impact all these things had on her. Tragically, mother and daughter were kept apart and Mary never saw her mother again.
It would therefore have been surprising for Mary to expend much energy on the glorification of her father’s memory. Besides, she was far too busy trying to undo his and Edward’s religious reforms by re-establishing the Catholic church in England under the pope in Rome.
After Mary came Elizabeth, who is known to have enjoyed reminding people that she was her father’s daughter. Elizabeth often referred to Henry when speaking to her council and made reference to him in a speech to parliament quite late into her reign, in 1593, when she talked of the debt she was in to her father “whom in the duty of a child I must regard, and to whom I must acknowledge myself far shallow”.
Many historians and writers have asserted that Elizabeth’s references come from a deep affection for her late father, which had developed toward the end of his life when she spent a great deal of time at court. Perhaps this is true. However, it is difficult to deny that her references served a purpose. Invoking her father’s memory, aided no doubt by her inheritance of his auburn hair, reminded those around her of her descent and provided Henry’s support for her legitimacy from beyond the grave. Ironically this was something he had failed to do in life when he restored her to the succession but left her illegitimate.
Elizabeth I is not known to have spoken of her mother in public, however a ring she wore, now known as the Chequers Ring, contained a miniature portrait of her mother and one of herself. Although she had only been a little girl of two years old when her mother was beheaded at the Tower of London, Elizabeth felt a connection to her and, privately at least, kept her memory alive. Would she have been willing to create a tomb to her father when she could not have done the same for her mother?
We could surmise from all of this that once Henry’s mortal presence was gone his children were not going to be his biggest supporters. It was easier to invoke his name at points where it was advantageous to them than to muster the effort and money required to erect his permanent shrine. Nowadays, then, thousands of visitors walk over his remains every year without realising they are so close to the infamous Henry VIII.
Philippa Brewell is a historical trip writer and blogs at britishhistorytours.com.
This article was first published by HistoryExtra in 2016
Each stele or stone slab is sized and arranged in such a way that the field of stelae seems to undulate with the sloping land.
Architect Peter Eisenman designed the Berlin Holocaust Memorial without plaques, inscriptions, or religious symbols. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is without names, yet the strength of the design is in its mass of anonymity. The solid rectangular stones have been compared to tombstones and coffins.
This memorial is unlike American memorials such as the Vietnam Veterans Wall in Washington, DC or the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City, which incorporate victims' names within their design.
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Catherine Howard’s short life is one of the great cautionary tales of Henry VIII’s reign there is about it something strangely pathetic and small, but also powerful and moving. Catherine was neither particularly beautiful or intelligent, but she was a charming, flirtatious girl who rose, virtually overnight, from obscurity to become queen of England.
She was the daughter of the 2d duke of Norfolk’s youngest son, Edmund, and his wife, Jocasta (Joyce) Culpeper. She was one of too many children for her impoverished parents and the date of her birth was not recorded most historians believe it was 1521. Edmund was not an auspicious individual and, like most younger sons, spent most of his life in constant need of money. He complained to the king’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell that he wished to be a poor man’s son for at least then he could work without shame. But he was an aristocrat, a member of one of the greatest noble families of England, and he could do little but beg for help from one relation to another. He sent his daughter to live with her grandmother, the dowager duchess of Norfolk, and thus avoided responsibility for Catherine’s upbringing. This should not reflect badly upon him since it was typical of the times and though Catherine’s grandmother complained ceaselessly about the expense of supporting numerous grandchildren, she did provide a comfortable home. She did not, however, provide strict supervision – a fact which would have dire consequences for the entire Norfolk family after Catherine became queen.
Catherine was raised in a type of dormitory at Lambeth Palace, crowded in with other young girls (some were servants to her grandmother) and her education was not intellectual. Rather, her days were spent passing the time in the most pleasant manner possible. The duchess’s household was not wealthy and Catherine understandably chafed at her constricted lifestyle. There was within her a strong love of luxury and inability to control her desires this was a lack of self-control, a realization that certain things should not be done, must not be risked, no matter how much she wanted something. While she was simply one of many daughters of an impoverished lord, this immaturity did not matter. But when she became queen, it remained and past indiscretions also returned to haunt her.
Catherine grew into a merry and vivacious girl, not conventionally beautiful but graceful and charming. She possessed all the vitality of youth, something which proved irresistible to her aged king. The only part of her sporadic education which she seemed to enjoy were her music lessons in particular, she enjoyed the attentions of her music teacher, a man named Henry Mannox. They first met in 1536, when Catherine was just fifteen years old. Hired to teach her the virginal and lute, Mannox soon began a practiced seduction of his young pupil.
Catherine later swore the relationship was not consummated. ‘At the flattering and fair persuasions of Mannox being but a young girl I suffered him at sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body which neither became me with honesty to permit nor him to require,’ she later told interrogators. Mannox admitted the same. Since Catherine later confessed to more serious transgressions, there was no reason for her to lie in this instance. And one can certainly condemn Mannox for taking advantage of his young student.
As a mere music teacher, Mannox was too far below her in social status for a serious relationship to develop. Though he followed the duchess’s household to London in 1538, Catherine’s attentions soon turned elsewhere. She fell in love with a gentleman-pensioner in her grandmother’s household named Francis Dereham. This relationship was far more serious and undoubtedly consummated. There is much evidence on this point, including Catherine’s own confession: ‘Francis Dereham by many persuasions procured me to his vicious purpose and obtained first to lie upon my bed with his doublet and hose and after within the bed and finally he lay with me naked and used me in such sort as a man doth his wife many and sundry times but how often I know not.’
Their affair continued throughout 1538. They addressed one another as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ and when Dereham was sent to Ireland on business, he left 100 pds in Catherine’s keeping.
But Mannox, still with the household, was infuriated his attraction to Catherine continued while she spurned his company for Dereham’s. In revenge, he sent an anonymous note to the dowager duchess. She then discovered Catherine and Dereham together and there was a frightful scene. But a physical relationship between a betrothed couple was not uncommon by sixteenth-century standards and Catherine and Dereham parted with some understanding of marriage when he returned from Ireland.
But, unluckily for Dereham, Catherine’s heart cooled towards him while he was away. And in 1539, having moved closer to court and staying at her uncle’s house, she met Thomas Culpeper. A gentleman of the king’s Privy Chamber and cousin of Catherine’s mother Joyce Culpeper, he was a handsome and charming young man his position in court was considered important since it allowed personal access to the king. Catherine fell in love with him, though Culpeper’s own feelings are not known. Catherine’s family was powerful and she was an attractive girl. It is likely that he was at least interested in her, if not immediately infatuated.
But then the great event occurred which was to change Catherine’s life forever. She arrived at court in late 1539 or early 1540 as a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII fell in love with her.
It is clear from Catherine’s life before meeting the king that she was a flirtatious and emotional girl. It is also clear that she possessed the charm and sexual allure to attract men. These were to be her greatest strengths and weaknesses, for while they attracted the king, they also led her into increasingly reckless behavior. If she had married Dereham or Culpeper, or any other social-climber, she would have remained a gossip and flirt, perhaps she would have succumbed to adultery. But behavior that could be tolerated in a poor niece of a duke was treason in a queen of England.
Catherine’s family was torn between elation and trepidation with regard to Henry’s infatuation. The Norfolk name was one of the oldest in England. They had supported Richard III against the first Tudor king, Henry VII, but managed to win favor with their military prowess and servile devotion to the new dynasty. But Henry VIII never fully trusted Thomas Howard, the 3d duke of Norfolk, though he wed two of Norfolk’s nieces. Their grand name, then, was both blessing and curse. As an old family in a court of upstarts and fond of feudal prerogative, Catherine’s relatives had made wary friends and bitter enemies at court. And the divisive reign of Anne Boleyn, herself no friend of her Norfolk relations (the duke presided over her trial), had taught them all to tread carefully about the king. And Catherine’s personality worried them. Could she sustain the king’s attraction? And, if so, could she become a mature and successful queen?
It is important to remember that Henry’s previous English queens, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, had spent years in royal service before marrying their king. They were veterans of the English court and knew the intricacies and dangers of their position. Catherine was a mere child by contrast, barely literate, and born in a later generation. But for the conservative faction at Henry’s court, those dedicated to the restoration of the Catholic faith as practiced before the Reformation, she was their last, best hope. Unlike Anne Boleyn, Catherine’s personal and political success was not tied to the Protestant faith. She had been raised Catholic by her Norfolk grandmother and, despite her personal lapses, she represented the conservative faith to others.
Catherine’s relatives questioned her maturity, but they were not willing to risk the king’s wrath by pointing it out. Henry VIII was mercurial and dangerous, and his latest marriage was a bitter disappointment. Woe to the courtier who spoke ill of his latest attraction! It was left to the Norfolk clan to coach Catherine as best they could and hope their triumph would last.
The king soon publicly favored young Mistress Howard. On 24 April she was given lands seized from a felon a few weeks later, she received an expensive gift of quilted sarcanet. It is possible their relationship was consummated around this time for there was a sudden urgency to annul the ill-fated marriage to Anne of Cleves. The king’s advisors soon found a valid impediment to the fourth marriage and, on 13 July 1540, it was officially ended by Parliament. Meanwhile, the French ambassador reported rumors that Catherine was pregnant. The king had one son and heir but the vagaries of life in the 16th century made another heir necessary. Henry had just turned forty-nine years old and half his subjects were eighteen or younger. The security of his realm was his greatest concern and it could only be guaranteed by legitimate heirs as a second son himself, he knew the life of young Prince Edward was a slender thread upon which to balance a dynasty.
Henry married Catherine on 28 July 1540 at Oatlands Palace in Surrey. The ceremony was a success, albeit lacking in the usual pomp and display of royal unions. Catherine was never crowned queen of England. Henry VIII simply couldn’t afford the ceremony perhaps, too, he wished to wait until the marriage proved successful in the most important way and Catherine bore him a son. The king consulted his council on creating a new succession should the blessed event occur, pushing his daughters Mary and Elizabeth even further from the throne.
The next year was an Indian summer in the king’s life. Catherine chose as her motto ‘Non autre volonte que la sienne’ (‘No other wish but his’ or ‘No other will than his’) and did her best to amuse and distract him. The waste of lives and exorbitant money fighting France had depressed the English treasury and the king’s spirits. And the Reformation had cost him the love of the common people. Henry also increasingly suffered from the ailments which would kill him a few years later. He had severe headaches and pains throughout his body he found it difficult to sleep and was often impotent.
English politics had become another headache for the king. His great advisor and friend, Thomas Cromwell, had championed the Protestant cause and the union with Anne of Cleves. The king’s disappointment – and the endless conniving of Cromwell’s enemies – led to his arrest and execution on the very day Henry and Catherine married. Within a few months, the king openly lamented the loss of his ‘most faithful servant’.
Chief among Cromwell’s enemies were Catherine’s uncle Norfolk and his close friend, Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester. Norfolk had always chafed at the power Henry granted the ‘commoner’ Cromwell Gardiner was a Catholic who despised Cromwell’s legislative destruction of the papacy in England. They used Catherine and the king’s own impatience and cupidity to destroy Cromwell. But it was only a brief triumph.
Catherine was not pregnant in the summer of 1540, nor did she become so. But the king was so physically affectionate with her in public that none doubted the happy event would occur. Still, warning signs about this hasty marriage had already begun. Catherine’s relationship with Dereham had never been kept secret, though Henry was perhaps unaware of it. His courtiers gossiped and wondered. Joan Bulmer, a young woman who had lived with Catherine at Lambeth, requested that Catherine bring her to court to share in her ‘great destiny’ it was a subtle blackmail. In August 1541, Dereham was made her secretary, perhaps as a bribe to keep quiet about their former relationship. So even as she collected rich gifts of gowns, jewels, fur cloaks, and golden clocks, Catherine knew her indecorous past lurked in the background. Was she worried? As her later behavior showed, she was not.
She was not merely collecting personal finery, but also lands and manors that had once belonged to Jane Seymour and even Thomas Cromwell. And she began to explore the traditional role of the queen as patroness. She also took great care to ensure her aged husband’s happiness. Many biographers have speculated on Catherine’s true feelings for Henry VIII. She probably did not love him in the most romantic sense of the word, but she did love him for the affection and generosity he showed her. And she also approached him with something of an awed reverence, for he was the king and thus a quasi-mystical figure, all-knowing and all-powerful.
But he was not immune to illness and in the spring of 1541, the king fell low with a serious fever and Catherine was sent away for her own safety. It was around this time that she began her affair with Culpeper, the handsome young man who had caught her fancy two years before as evidence, we need only read her only surviving letter, written to Culpeper in April 1541. When the king recovered, he took Catherine on a royal progress through the north of England and again the French ambassador reported rumors of her pregnancy. It was even suggested that, should the condition be confirmed, Catherine would be crowned at York Minster. These rumors prove that Henry still made love to his wife on a somewhat regular basis. And for her part, Catherine was confident she could ‘meddle with a man’ without pregnancy, which made her relationship with Culpeper safe. He and Dereham both traveled in the progress as members of the royal household.
In Catherine’s rather simple view of marriage, as long as she and the king were happy, nothing else mattered. And since the king would be happy as long as he was ignorant, all would be well.
And the king was ignorant for a surprisingly long time. For his part, Culpeper was using Catherine’s infatuation to further his own ambitions. He was not a particularly ‘gentlemanly’ gentleman. In fact, he had brutally raped a park-keeper’s wife, ordering three of his servants to hold her down during the attack he also murdered a villager who tried to save her. He had been pardoned by the king, but it is one of the few facts we know about Culpeper and not a pleasant one. His ambitions regarding Catherine undoubtedly stemmed from Henry VIII’s ill health. If the king died, then the queen dowager would maintain some influence and power at court. Before that inevitable day, she could give him as many expensive gifts as he desired.
Did Catherine love Culpeper? She undoubtedly did, at least as much as her immature view of love allowed. He was handsome, very charming, if only in a superficial manner, and he complemented and cajoled her. She became increasingly open in her affection, enough to worry Culpeper himself. As a gentleman of the privy chamber, he knew the king’s moods better than anyone and had no desire to risk much for Catherine.
But there were others at court who knew of the relationship, and they would not keep quiet. When the northern progress finally ended on 1 November, and the royal couple settled at Hampton Court Palace, Catherine’s past and present indiscretions caught up with her. She had been safe enough during the northern progress, for a traveling court was not nearly as gossip-ridden as a settled one there were, after all, far more practical matters to attend to as the king moved from city to city. But once they were home, other matters could take precedence – matters like the queen’s infidelity.
Catherine’s fall from grace was so rapid that foreign ambassadors were at a loss to explain it. The man behind it was John Lascelles, the brother of Mary Hall, herself a chambermaid to the dowager duchess of Norfolk and thus privy to Catherine’s past. However, the past was not necessarily a danger to the queen most young women could not withstand scrutiny of their early flirtations. They were perhaps not serious enough to warrant her execution. Lascelles, who was a ‘convinced reformer’, was motivated by his religious convictions and not personal animosity towards Catherine. But she represented the conservative Catholic faction and, with her influence, they were growing more powerful and reactionary. Lascelles went to Thomas Cranmer, Henry’s close friend and archbishop of Canterbury. Cranmer recognized the dangers to Catherine, namely the precontract with Dereham that would invalidate her marriage to Henry VIII. The precontract, of course, while ending her marriage, also excused her intimacy with Dereham.
On 2 November, while Henry attended a Mass for All Souls’ Day, Cranmer passed him a letter with the charges. The king was immediately ‘perplexed’ and believed the letter was a forgery. This was his first and thoroughly honest reaction Catherine had deceived him well. He ordered Cranmer to keep the matter private and began an investigation. It took but a few days for Catherine’s house of cards to come tumbling down.
An assortment of female servants were arrested and sent to the Tower, as was Dereham. He was tortured he confessed his earlier relationship and named Culpeper as the queen’s current lover. Culpeper was then arrested, tortured, and confessed.
When confronted with the confessions, Henry’s confusion gave way to great anger and self-pity. He managed to blame everyone but himself for this latest marital catastrophe. He wished for a sword to slay Catherine himself – a not uncommon reaction for a cuckolded husband, particularly one who had been so generous and trusting. He left Hampton Court on 5 November, sailing to Whitehall Palace. Catherine was arrested on 12 November and her tearful pleas to see the king were ignored she was locked in her rooms. Two days later, she was taken to Syon House. She would never see Henry again.
Cranmer was given the distasteful task of interrogating the terrified girl. She was hysterical, convinced she would be executed like her cousin even the archbishop felt pity for her condition. Perhaps he suggested an option to Henry VIII that he had first proposed for Anne Boleyn – let Catherine admit her sins, annul the marriage, and send her away. The Dereham precontract was the perfect excuse. Catherine need only admit its existence and her life would be spared. It was the king’s ‘most gracious mercy’ and her only possible chance for survival.
But Catherine, frightened and lacking any counsel, did not realize that the precontract would save her life. Instead, she was convinced it would be used to condemn her. And so, even as she admitted to ‘carnal copulation’ with Dereham, she stressed his ‘importune forcement’ and ‘violence’. She and Cranmer wanted the same end but talked at odds. And it was possible, too, that Henry VIII had never intended to spare her life.
Indeed, with each day that passed, the king was less inclined to show mercy. The floodgates had opened and ever more scurrilous rumors were heard about his ‘Rose without a thorn’.
Catherine was demoted from her position as Queen on 22 November and formally indicted two days later for leading an ‘abominable, base, carnal, voluptuous and vicious life’. She remained at Syon House for the next two months. On 10 December, Dereham paid a horrific penalty for his ‘crimes’ he was hung, drawn, and quartered (disemboweled and castrated while still conscious) as a traitor. Culpeper was also executed that day, though he suffered a more merciful beheading this was ordered by the king, perhaps because of Culpeper’s higher rank and personal service in his household. Their heads were fixed on spears atop London Bridge and remained there as late as 1546.
Catherine, meanwhile, continued in a state of suspended hysteria. Her various relatives were sent to the Tower, including the elderly dowager duchess. Only the duke survived, having sufficiently humbled himself before Henry.
Perhaps the executions of Dereham and Culpeper had brought a newfound maturity to Catherine. She was content to remain quietly at Syon House, though it was clear the king could not allow it. On 21 January the House of Lords passed an Act of Attainder and it received the king’s approval on 11 February. It was intended to answer the question vexing them all – of what exactly was Catherine Howard guilty? If she had been precontracted to Dereham, then she was never married to the king – and thus not guilty of adultery. But in a speech on 6 February, Henry made it clear that the new Act could punish those who intended to commit treason (or adultery, since adultery in a queen was treason.) It was this intent which sealed Catherine’s fate.
On Friday, 10 February 1542, the duke of Suffolk arrived to take Catherine to the Tower of London. The hysterical frenzy returned she struggled and had to be forced aboard the barge. She was dressed in black velvet and lodged in the Queen’s Apartments, though no longer queen. On Sunday night, she was informed that she would be executed the next day. Her only request was that the block be brought to her for she wished to ‘know how to place herself.’ It was to be her last act on a grand stage she would die with all the dignity and composure possible.
Around seven o’clock on Monday, 13 February, several privy councilors arrived as escort. Her uncle Norfolk was not among them, having wisely withdrawn to his country estates. Catherine was weak and frightened and had to be helped up the steps to the scaffold. But once there, she made a small, quiet speech regarding her ‘worthy and just punishment’ she prayed for the king’s preservation and for God’s forgiveness. The actual execution was over quickly. Catherine’s body was interred at the nearby chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.
Catherine Howard did not have an impact upon English history. She is perhaps the most inconsequential of Henry VIII’s six wives, her reign as queen a very brief eighteen months. She bore no children and made no lasting impression upon those who knew her. But it should be remembered that she was thirty years younger than her husband, a silly young girl who never understood the dangers of royal regard. Her life was over before it had truly begun we can only wonder how it might have ended differently.
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The Treasure's Origins
The Oak Island mystery is 220 years old and no one has cracked the case yet, so plenty of theories have surfaced. Some people, oddly, traced the origin of the treasure back to William Shakespeare. Many of those who doubt the bard was real, believe his literary works were actually written by Francis Bacon. So some treasure hunters hypothesized that Bacon may have built a pit to bury Shakespeare’s manuscripts and his earnings.
Another theory suggests that the hidden treasure of Oak Island belongs to Marie Antoinette, who was speculated to have sent her maid to Nova Scotia to hide her wealth on the island, with the help of the French Navy.
Why and how king Henry VIII exploded in his coffin
Death is one of those things that we try and put off for as long as we can. But once it has occurred, strange things can happen to the corpse. One of these strange things is bloating, which has nothing to do with how fat someone is.
When a person dies the body starts to decompose, or break down into simpler organic material. This decomposition creates gases, which are part of the process. The gases get caught inside the body, most often inside the abdomen, and the body begins to look bloated. The gases will continue to build until they can escape, which happens when the body ruptures, and spills the contents of the deceased. This rarely happens today thanks to embalming. The embalming process delays the decomposition process, and preserves the body. While embalming was in use at the time of Henry VIII’s death, it was not as refined as it is today, and his body may have never undergone the procedure.
The Founding Of Kolb Studio
Ellsworth, Emery, and Blanche Kolb outside the Kolb Studio in 1904.
The adventurous spirit of Ellsworth Kolb saw him out of his Pennsylvania hometown and on a train westward-bound at 20 years old. For five years Kolb would wander the west until 1901 when he stepped off a train near the Grand Canyon — and found his fate.
Ellsworth Kolb first found work as a lumberjack and a porter at The Bright Angel Hotel, one of the few lodges in the area.
A year later, he persuaded his more cautious younger brother Emery to join him at the canyon. Emery arrived in October of 1902 with a guitar and his photography equipment.
At first, Kolb Studio was nothing more than a tent pitched next to the hotel. The brothers took photos of tourists on mule rides, heading down onto the canyon trails. The brothers built a wooden dark room in an abandoned mine shaft nearby, and every day after snapping the tourists' photos, Emery ran down the five-mile gorge where he quickly developed the photos and ran back up the five miles to try and sell the tourists the images as they returned.
The brothers hiked deep into canyon chasms that tourists couldn't reach to snap photos for sale. They also befriended the Havasupai Native Americans that lived inside and around the canyon — photographing them as well.
Cline Library/Northern Arizona University Emery, Blanche, and Edith Kolb with a telescope in the studio, 1911.
Between 1905 and 1906, the Kolb brothers expanded their enterprise. They built a small, wood-framed cabin on the canyon rim — at the head of the Bright Angel Toll Road. That year proved to be a busy one for Emery, who married Blanche Bender and moved her into the cabin he shared with his brother.
Bender immersed herself in the business, bookkeeping and operating their small gift shop. She and Emery Kolb had one daughter, Edith, who at the time was the only Anglo child that lived in or around the canyon. All the other children were Havasupai.
The Funeral of Elizabeth I
On 28 April, a little over one month after her death, Elizabeth’s body was conveyed in a grand procession down King Street (which today is known as Whitehall) to Westminster Abbey for burial. A complete list of all those persons taking part in this most solemn procession is preserved. Clearly, numbers run into hundreds, from poor men and women to trumpeters, members of Elizabeth’s household, to ladies-in-waiting, knights, squires, other gentry and nobility. The ‘Lady Marques of Northampton’, Helena Snakenbourg, acted as Chief Mourner.
‘The City of Westminster was surcharged with a multitude of all sorts of people in their streets, house, leads and gutters that came to see the obsequies… there was such a general sighing, groaning and weeping as the like has not been seen or known in the memory of man.’
Perhaps most fascinating are the drawings of the procession, which show the hearse and likeness of the queen in some detail. John Nicols’ collection of contemporary documents entitled, ‘The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth’ describes the ‘lively’ effigy of the queen’s ‘whole body’, dressed in her parliament robes with her crown on her head and sceptre in her hand. The image rests atop Elizabeth’s coffin which is covered in purple velvet. This, in turn, is pulled by four horses trapped in black. A canopy is borne over the herse, while noblemen carry twelve banners, six on either side of the coffin. ‘The Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey’, states these were ’emblazoned’ with the emblems of the House of York, but excluded those of Lancaster.
Stanley describes how Dean Andrews conducted the funeral service, before Elizabeth’s coffin was carried to the Henry VII’s chapel. Initially, Elizabeth’s body was deposited in the vault occupied by her grandfather and grandmother, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. However, in 1607, her coffin was moved to the same location as her half-sister, Mary a protestant princess to be interred alongside her Catholic half-sister. There is a note in the Westminster accounts sheet for 46 shillings and 4 pence for the ‘removal of the queen’s body’ to her new resting place. A magnificent monument, costing £1485 (about 1.5 times the income for a nobleman for a year) was commissioned by her successor, James I. It was carved in white marble and symbolically was smaller than the later monument that the new king erected for his mother Mary, Queen of Scots, on the south aisle.
Interestingly, although the likeness we see today is plain white, according to the Westminster Abbey website, it was once painted. An image, discovered circa 1618-20, ‘shows the queen wearing an ermine lined crimson robe with a blue orb in her hand, a coloured dress and flesh colouring on her face. The four lions at each corner of the effigy were gilded. No trace of this colour now remains’. But here’s where it gets really exciting…
I came across a book written by Arthur Stanley, published in the 1880s. He had been given permission to survey all the tombs in the abbey by the then queen, Victoria. It makes for fascinating reading since the crypt in which all royal burials are deposited is closed and I have never read anything specific regarding the Tudor tombs that lie beneath the abbey floor. However, Stanley gives us a glimpse inside these hidden vaults.
In trying to find the actual coffin of James I, Stanley explored a narrow aisle located underground between the eastern end of Elizabeth’s monument and those of James’ own infant daughters. He had already looked in this area before it was empty and seemed of little interest. However, upon closer inspection, Stanley found a tiny aperture in one of the walls. Upon peering inside, he saw a narrow vault containing two coffins, one placed upon the other. Because I have never read this account before, I am going to include it in some detail.
Our intrepid adventurer describes the scene: there was ‘no disorder or decay’ except the ‘centring wood’ at the head of the uppermost coffin had fallen in, and some of the sides were crumbling, which had ‘drawn away part of the decaying lid’. Although no coffin plate was present, a dim light illuminated the lid enough for Stanley to see a carved Tudor rose, ‘simply but deeply incised in outline’. On either side of the rose were the carved initials ‘E.R’ and beneath the year ’. Stanley goes on to describe the lid being decorated with ‘narrow, moulded panelling’ made of ‘fine oak an inch think’, while the base was made of ‘inch elm’. The whole thing was covered in red silk velvet, ‘much of which remained attached to the wood’.
This was Elizabeth’s coffin, her final resting place, laid directly upon the mortal remains of her half-sister, Mary. It is an incredible account – and quite probably unique. It is not the end of our adventures, for I hope to take you exploring the vault in which Henry VII, Elizabeth of York and Edward VI all lie in a future blog. But for the time being, I’d like to thank Queen Victoria and Mr Stanley for bringing us these fantastic tales from the hidden vaults of Westminster Abbey!
My sincere thanks go to Christine Reynolds, Assistant Keeper of Muniments at Westminster Abbey Library for pointing me towards Stanley’s research of the abbey vaults.