How to bury a king

I was interested to read in the news recently about the research being undertaken in preparation for the reburial of Richard III and the discovery of a medieval description of how the service should be conducted. It reminded me of a Bodleian manuscript of ordinances concerning the ceremonial to be observed in the household of the earls of Northumberland. Dating from the early sixteenth century, it describes the procedures to be followed should a king happen to die in your house:

The ordour of A Beriall of A king or kinges

Or Princes Ande great estates Ande of what wise it shalbe ordourid

their buriall And how ande in what manar And ordour it is to be

Doon Hereaftir followith in this booke in Articles moir plainly doith

Appeir by the same in this booke following every mannes astate in what

wise his buriall shalbe

The beriall of kingis

First after the Departament of A king oute of this present liffe

too the mercy of god his corse to be balmed and sencid and Serid

And cloocid in A thyn webb of lead And than to be laide in A chiste of

Timber And than conveyd into the chapell in the hous where he departid

and their laid under a herce And the said corse to be coverid with A

herse cloith of blacke cloith of gold or blak velvet And a crosse of white

uppon the said herse cloith And to stand uppon the said herse iiii Candel

stickes of Siluer and gilte with Tapers in theme with a crosse of

Siluer and gilte to stand uppon the Middest of the said herse And there

the chappell to sing Dirige at night And messe of requiem on the

morrow And so to be usid Daily Aslong as the said corse Remaneth in

the said chapell to the tyme be the said corse shalbe remevid from thens

And in the mean tyme all outhir thinges to be preparrid and made

redy whiche shalbe long for conveyaunce of the said corse to the cathedral

Chirche Abbay or chappell wheir the said corse shalbe buried

Providid alway that the said corse be watchid nightly as longe

as it Remaneth in the said chappell or plaice wherr it commeth to it be

buried by suche parsonnes as the gentillmen ushars shall appointe to

charge with it from tyme to tyme to watche it

(MS. Eng. misc. b. 208, fol. 80).


 -Matthew Neely

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.