A Notable Funeral

The sheer amount of stuff that went on in Greenwich in 1512 makes me wonder whether if we have to wait another five hundred years for anything else after this year’s cornucopia of pomp. But exactly five hundred years ago Henry VIII was well into his stride as king and he never shied from splendid excess. He was still enamoured of his first wife and all was feasting and fun.

I’ll talk about the fun another time when the sun’s shining, but given the darkness of days at the moment, today I want to look at an altogether soberer affair. Not that that stopped the feasting, of course. This was, after all, Henry.

His future queen, Anne Boleyn, was just a child at the time, but that didn’t mean her family wasn’t influential at court and when her aunt, the Lady Muryol, Viscountess Lysle, nee Howard, second daughter of the Earl of Surrey, died in childbirth, it was an excuse to show the importance of the family by holding a mooosive funeral for her.

It was well known that the friars of Greenwich were important to Queen Katherine, so it was decided that the priory would be a good place for lady Muryol to be buried (although she died in 1512, she wasn’t actually buried until 1513.)

The shindig began at her father’s place in Lambeth – The Lord Treasurers, where all the notables ‘and other mourners’ partook of a ‘sumptuous dyner’ then listened to the requiem being sung.

The corpse was then put in a black-draped barge, with a large, white cross. Various ‘official’ mourners, ministers, officers of arms and twelve torch bearers all got in too. Then there was another barge, full of courtly mourners – lords, knights and sundry gentlemen.

My favourite barge is definitely the third, though. This one, presumably nicely up-wind of the other two, contained sixty ‘poor men’ carrying torches. Presumably they’d been co-opted into wearing their sixty black gowns by the lure of hard cash. It occurs to me that even given their probably emaciated state, it must have been quite a barge to take sixty of them. They had to make sure that their torches burned all the way from Lambeth until they corpse was interred.

I’m not sure where the Friars’ Stairs were – presumably somewhere between where Garden Stairs and the Kings Steps are now, but the procession solemnly trooped up them as the Father and the rest of the friars waited, then the corpse was taken through the churchyard, so that the Queen and her ladies could see them.

I am sure it was a very solemn event, but it interests me that it was all so carefully stage-managed for maximum pomp and exposure to the Royal view. Given what happened about twenty years later, perhaps they were taking the long view.

In the meanwhile the intrigue continued. Muryol was the wife of Sir Thomas Knevet, and though he wasn’t her first husband they had several children.  Muryol’s daughter, Elizabeth, by her first marriage, became an orphan when Knevet himself died, also in 1512.

I can’t imagine what they were thinking of, making dodgy Charles Brandon, the original creepy ‘uncle,’ her guardian – didn’t it occur to anyone that the first thing he would do, given that she was monied, titled and alone, would be to engage himself to be married to his young ward? Happily for her (though not for the King’s sister) the sensible young woman refused to marry Monsieur Slimeball when she became of age, leaving him free to roam around for his next conquest,  keeping all the titles he’d accrued.

Tch. Those Tudors, eh…


2 Comments to “A Notable Funeral”

  1. valley_girl says:

    Wouldn’t the third barge have been better down-wind rather than up-wind. i.e taking the smoke from the torches and other ‘odours’ away from the toffs?

  2. Jack Cross says:

    Given that “although she died in 1512, she wasn’t actually buried until 1513″, I shouldn’t have thought the smell of the “poor men” was the main problem, was it…..(1512, no refrigeration)