Category Archives: 16th century

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

Rediscovering Rycote

On the 1st June 1807 an extraordinary auction began at Rycote Park, near Thame in Oxfordshire. Over the course of the next three days, Rycote’s grand Tudor mansion was sold off brick by brick and demolished to help pay family debts. All that survives today is a fragment of the south-west tower. It was an inglorious end for a house which had once been the dominant force in Oxfordshire politics and entertained kings and queens. Henry VIII visited with his new bride Katherine Howard in 1540. The young Elizabeth I was entertained at Rycote en route to her incarceration at Woodstock in 1554, and she returned on four occasions during her reign. Charles I and his court were accommodated in 1625 when the first parliament of his reign was reconvened in Oxford due to an outbreak of the plague in London. Rycote’s regional and national importance, however, has long been neglected. Not only was the mansion demolished in 1807, but perhaps more importantly, the main bulk of its archive was thrown on to a bonfire.


A Bodleian Libraries project has helped to reveal and shed new light on Rycote’s past. The Rediscovering Rycote website brings the voices and stories of Rycote back to life through manuscripts, letters, maps, accounts and drawings brought together in digital form from more than fifty different Bodleian collections. The website also explores the lives of Rycote’s owning families, generations of whom played active roles in political, military and cultural circles. A range of digitised resources explore their involvement in areas such as Henry VIII’s suppression of the monasteries; Elizabethan warfare; the politics of the Restored Stuart monarchy; and the London music scene in the eighteenth century.

Visit the Rediscovering Rycote website to find out more.