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The Funeral and Burial of Henry VII

Henry VII's funeral service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on 10 May 1509, and he was buried in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey the following day.

Henry VII, who died on 21 April 1509, requested that his funeral be performed without ‘dampnable pompe and oterageous superfluities’ and to closely duplicate that of his wife, Elizabeth, held just six years earlier. The king’s service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on 10 May 1509, during which Bishop Fisher gave an hour-long oration on how the Tudor dynasty’s first king should be mourned. The king was buried beside his wife, Elizabeth of York, in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey on 11 May 1509.

After the body had been embalmed, it was brought out of the privy chamber to the great chamber and rested there three days, on each day three masses and dirges being sung by a mitred prelate; then carried to the hall for three days with like services; then to the chapel for three days. On Wednesday, 9 May, the corpse was brought in a chariot drawn by five great coursers (trappings and attendance briefly described) from Richmond to St. George's in the Field (met there by clergy), London Bridge (met there by the mayor) and St. Paul's, where it was placed in the choir under a goodly hearse, and there was mass and a sermon by the Bishop of Rochester, "during which time the King's household, with the mourners, reposed them in the bishop's palace.

The next day the corpse was removed to Westminster, Sir Edward Howard, on a courser trapped with the arms of the defunct, bearing the King's banner. There it was set under "a curious hearse made of 9 principalles full of lights which were all lighted." Then the following day, after three masses and the offerings, the choir sang Libera me, the body was put in the earth, the Lord Treasurer, Lord Steward, Lord Chamberlain, Lord Treasurer and Comptroller of the King's household "brake their staves and cast them into the grave," Garter proclaimed Henry VIII and all the mourners and attendants "departed to the Palace where they had a great and sumptuous feast."

Read more accounts of the funeral of Henry VII here.

Read more about Westminster Abbey and the Lady Chapel, commissioned by Henry VII as a mausoleum to his dynasty, here

The Tomb of Henry VII 

“Henry VII rests within this tomb, he who was the splendour of kings and light of the world, a wise and watchful monarch, a courteous lover of virtue, outstanding in beauty, vigorous and mighty; who brought peace to his kingdom, who waged very many wars, who always returned victorious from the enemy, who wedded both his daughters to kings, who was united to kings, indeed to all, by treaty, who built this holy temple, and erected this tomb for himself, his wife, and his children. He completed more than fifty three years, and bore the royal sceptre for twenty four. The fifteenth hundredth year of the Lord had passed, and the ninth after that was running its course, when dawned the black day, the twenty first dawn of April was shining, when this so great monarch ended his last day. No earlier ages gave thee so great a king, O England; hardly will ages to come give thee his like.”

So reads the Latin inscription on the grille surrounding the tomb of Henry VII who, on this day, 11 May 1509, was buried at Westminster Abbey. His burial place is far from an unostentatious or humble slab in the ground. Henry VII lies in a vault beneath the floor of Westminster Abbey’s eastern chantry chapel, a Lady Chapel no less, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, commissioned by the king himself. He is commemorated beside his wife, Elizabeth of York; and together they are encapsulated for eternity in a magnificent tomb effigy, created from marble and gilt bronze. 

While the Queen’s effigy head was an idealised image, the King’s was based on his actual death mask, far more animated and life-like than any of his predecessor’s, and far less stylised though it is also thought that Torrigiano was responsible for the design. The outer edge of the original mask was traced on the effigy head, with its sunken upper lip, hollow cheeks, tight jaw, and lopsided mouth, providing all the features of Henry’s cadaver. The only feature to break from this was the nose which was broken off by 1907 and later restored.

In Issue 06, Dr Emma J. Wells looks at the history and creation of this splendid monument to the founder of the Tudor dynasty.


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