14 February 1547 – The dog licks up the King’s blood

Posted By on February 14, 2015

Henry VIII by Cornelis Matsys

Henry VIII by Cornelis Matsys

On 14 February 1547, Henry VIII’s coffin was taken to Windsor Castle for burial in St George’s Chapel after resting overnight at Syon Abbey. Apparently, some liquid leaked out of it on to the floor at Syon, and this was thought to fulfil the prophecy made by Franciscan friar William Peto in 1532.* He had preached in front of the King at Greenwich that “God’s judgements were ready to fall upon his head and that dogs would lick his blood, as they had done to Ahab.”

In the 19th century Agnes Strickland quoted “a contemporary document among the Sloane Collection” as saying:

“The king, being carried to Windsor to be buried, stood all night among the broken walls of Sion, and there the leaden coffin being cleft by the shaking of the carriage, the pavement of the church was wetted with his blood. In the morning came plumbers to solder the coffin, under whose feet — I tremble while I write it, was suddenly seen a dog creeping, and licking up the king’s blood. If you ask me how I know this, I answer William Greville, who could scarcely drive away the dog, told me, and so did the plumber also.”

You can read more about Friar Peto’s sermon in my article 31 March 1532 – Friar Peto’s Easter Sermon.

Notes and Sources

*Some give the date as 1533, others as 1535, but Chapuys reports Peto upsetting the King with a sermon on Easter Day 1532. (LP v.941)

  • Strickland, Agnes (1868) Lives of the Queens of England, from the Norman Conquest, in six volumes: Volume II, London, p443

16 thoughts on “14 February 1547 – The dog licks up the King’s blood”

  1. Lynda says:

    Well, that was a little creepy and gross! Informative though!!!

  2. jenny says:

    It does seem prophetic!

  3. Christine says:

    It sounds awful it sounds like he was too big for the coffin too, how undignified it must have stunk to high heaven.

  4. Mary Ann Cade says:

    Isn’t Syon Abbey the same place where Catherine Howard was housed during 1541-1542 while her fate and that of Francis Dereham, Thomas Culpepper and Jane Rochford all played out?

  5. Mrsfiennes says:

    Actually, Father Peto was not imprisoned but met with Henry so that the king could try and persuade him about his marriage to Catherine being invalid.Since that was an impossibility to Peto he choose exile rather than support Henry’s choice of Anne.

    1. Claire says:

      He appears to have been arrested on his return from Toulouse and before going into exile properly:

      “The question of the nullity of the marriage of Henry VIII with Catherine brought the friars into direct conflict with the king. In December, 1528, a discontented friar asserted that many of his brethren were guilty of Lutheranism and spoke ill of the king and of Wolsey. On Easter Sunday (31 March), 1532, William Peto, provincial of the friars, preached at Greenwich before the king, and warned him that he was endangering his crown, for both great and little were murmuring at the marriage. The king dissembled his ill-will, but on the provincial’s departure for a chapter, he caused one of his chaplains, Dr. Curwen, to preach in the friars’ church, contrary to the custom of the convent and the will of the warden. The chaplain’s sermon roused the warden, Henry Elston, to expostulate; in the king’s presence he gave the chaplain the lie. Henry was very angry, and bade the provincial on his return depose the warden. This he refused to do, and the king had them both arrested. Elston was confined at the Grey Friars of Bedford, but some months later he and Peto were at Antwerp carrying on the campaign against the king.”
      ‘Friaries: The observant friars of Greenwich’, in A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1926), pp. 194-198

      Letters and Papers tells of how Peto was first allowed to go to “Tholouse” but that the King eventually had him arrested on his return:

      “On Easter day the provincial [Peto] of the Friars Minors preached at their convent at Greenwich before the King, who was not pleased with the sermon; for the preacher said that the unbounded affection of princes and their false counsellors deprived them of the knowledge of the truth. The King spoke to the provincial afterwards, and heard words which did not please him; for the provincial told him clearly that he was endangering his crown (son estat) for both great and little were murmuring at this marriage. The King dissembled his ill will, and, not being able to alter the provincial’s opinion, gave him leave to go to Tholouse. When he heard of his departure, he caused one of his chaplains to preach there in his presence, contrary to the custom of the convent and the wish of the warden. The chaplain began to contradict what the provincial had preached, saying that he wished he were present to answer him. On this the warden rose, and said that he would answer for his minister in his absence. At the close of his sermon the chaplain dared to say that all the universities and doctors were in favor of the divorce. The warden could not stand this lie, and said, in presence of the King, that it was not so. The King was very angry, and has caused all the bishops to tell the provincial [Peto], who has returned, that he ought to deprive the warden, and make him amend his error. This he will not do, and yesterday the King had them both arrested. They have promised Chapuys they will rather die than change their opinion. The provincial went abroad more to have a book in the Queen’s favor printed than for the chapter. The King thinks he will benefit his cause by allowing preaching in favor of the divorce; but his cause grows worse, for the people murmur incredibly.” LP v. 941

      1. Mrsfiennes says:

        I had not known he returned from exile as I was reading from a wide variety of sources but didn’t check that one.Thanks,Claire.

        1. Claire says:

          That’s ok. He was lucky in 1539 too when he managed to escape punishment for being linked to Cardinal Pole because he was abroad.

  6. Mrsfiennes says:

    He seems to have been but I was only thinking of his past relationship with Catherine and Henry as he was on good terms with them.

  7. Leslie Miller says:

    This isn’t really directly related to your post except that it happened last night/early this morning and it has to do with Anne, Henry, and baby Elizabeth and I feel like I need to share this.

    First, let me say, I’m fairly religious and that right now I’ve felt a bit distant from God and like I’ve been calling to Jesus and not getting an answer. I began to think that maybe I did something heinous in a past life and am now paying for it. So I have done much to ask Jesus for forgiveness and try to wipe the slate clean.

    Anyway, while researching the former I came across some information that said if you frequently think about or are interested in a particular time period or feel a connection to that place, time, period or a particular thing.or if you have an unexplained pain or predeliction in can remnants from a past life. Now, I don’t know if I really was in or around the Tudors. I do know it’s fascinating to m, especially Anne, and that I have spent hours researching things and people related to her story.

    Now my mom is a very mean spirit, she’s broken and she always loved to go to England, I’ve been many times. Her father’s last name is Lanier and I can trace the Laniers in conjunction with Dunnington’s all the way back to Nicholas Lanier who was originally from France. ( Rouen) and was a musician on Elizabeth’s court. The Dunnington’s did a family tree and it appears that Elizabeth gave one of my very great granfathers permission to marry. I know the family tree is correct, because there is a Lanier cemetary here in La and the people who are supposed to be buried there,…are.

    Anyway, last night really wasn’t thinking anything about Anne or the Tudors before bed. I prayed for Anne’s soul the last day or two which came on kind of spontaneously..,in case her soul is in peril or caught in the in between.

    Anne, however, was not on my mind at all last night. I watched. Cupcake Wars for hours on the cooking channel then watched Ghost and went to sleep after watching most of Titanic ( I was up late)

    So.,,,Just before awakening I found myself in REM sleep and had some awareness of the tale end of this dream just as it happened..,

    I dreamed that I was in some gray space, possibly a castle, and it felt like other people were there, but I couldn’t see them. Henry was there and I was holding and trying to calm a little girl, maybe around age 4, she still had the kind of babyish, cute, toddler talk, but she could form sentences that made sense. Henry was there and the little girl was upset. It appeared, it was more like a sensation…it seemed like Henry had asked me what was wrong with the girl, who I knew in my dream was Elizabeth

    Henry was like middle agish,.40’s maybe, he was slightky detached and disinterested, and he was overweight…but not like how perceive him in old age .,,,the room was gray and toward the end of the conversation he seemed to be laying sideways on some elevated thing I could not see and there was a round circular thing something, padded, leather?, and wormlike on one half of it,…that last was the last image I saw before waking up.

    Back to Elizabeth….prior to that last scene…the main part was…it felt like we were walking somewhere, me and Henry and some people on the court or relatives I couldn’t see and it was quiet and gray…like a quiet or dark corridor in a castle..,possibly secret, I could see some type of faint brick and mortar on the walls in one spot.,.

    I was holding baby Elizabeth ( toddler) and she was grumpy and whiny and I was trying to find out what was wrong. She was in pale yellow, really pale, maybe cream nightclothes. and had short, almost shoulder length, hair that had big waves, like big curls, and she had big eyes, she was clearyvagitated and weepy.

    So I asked her what was wrong and the crux of it was that she didn’t like that palace, her mommy was there. So I asked her questions about why and in her weepy, almost crying, baby state, she told me and I relayed it to Henry he seemed to be blaise about it. He was listening to me, but seemed to be barely acknowledging what I was saying and with no emotion whatsoever, though he was being ” pleasant” in my dream. I think the jist of it was me explaining to Elizabeth that her mommy had lived, had been happy, she lived at the palace and was happy there and then she died. The fact that she died seemed to upset Elizabeth and she seemed to know what had happened to her even though I tried to sugarcoat it in the presence of Henry saying ” And then she died… ( responding to Elizabeth’s inquiry) She was happy and then she died. Sometimes things happen. It’s natural things sometimes end…This answer did not comfort Elizabeth.

    I can’t remember all of what I asked Elizabeth and exactly what she said, but the last part of it…which I told Henry, after the first time, was something like this.

    “Your mommy lived here. She was happy here”
    To which Elizabeth replied “But she died here”

    I relayed what was wrong with Elizabeth and what she had said to Henry who was extremely blaise and he said ” ( so…and so…I can’t remember the name) died here too ( recently)

    That was it. Henry was very detached and I thought what he said was cold.

    Anyway. Elizabeth’s hair was like more of a golden blonde with maybe the faintest hint of red and ginger…just before a strawberry blonde…like a faded out strawberry blonde….more gold.

    Oddly enough the palace mentioned was Blenheim….which to my knowledge is nit historically correct….but who knows…my psyche me have had it confused with Hampton Court.

    That dream may have been just a product of my subconcious
    ..but it seemed somewhat real, but slightly lucid, what is amazing is the detail. Why in the heck would I dream about carrying the baby ( toddler) Elizabeth? Weird. I wasnt even thinking about The Tudors before bed.

    It is even weirder when you pair it up with something that happened a few years ago..I believe in ghosts, I also think Jesus and Mary want us to steer away from them, yet still they are here..,

    A few years back I was watching old re-runs of The Tudors and I had this ghost app thing on my phone…now it was more or less a “toy” and didnt claim to be accurate. My thoughts were that the app could pull words or phrases from your phone and then make phone speak them through the app on your phone….thus making wherever you were appear ” haunted” So…when one night after watching The Tudors my phone through the app said ” Henry” I thought nothing if it….then later one day, maybe the next day, I was in my bedroom and was startled by what appeared to be the torso of a bulky man wearing puffed sleeves and a gold and reddish/burgundy brocade. I really thought someone was in my room…

    I started to scream “What are you doing in here?”

    Then …just like that…the image was gone. I really thought someone was standing there and I was shaken a minute…but I could not see anything but the torso. It was so vivid I could see detail in the brocade and color, but at the same time it wa foggy.

    My phone app couldn’t do that and I was awake when it happened.

    1. Christine says:

      It’s all in your mind, your brain stores things you have thought about and read we have a memory section in our brain and when we are asleep we dream, you don’t have to be particularly thinking about these things to dream about them, it’s just the subconscious part of your brain working.

  8. Christine says:

    I read in the Daily Mail today the 17th that Henry nearly married for the seventh time in this new book just out, his intended was Katherine Willoughby the Duchess Of Suffolk, but he never went through with it as she was too feisty for his liking and a bit of a nag, (He was probably thinking of Anne here) the author says they flirted and exchanged xmas presents as far back as the 1530s and he was thinking of divorcing Katherine Parr to marry her, she had two sons so proved she could carry full term, but his previous matrimonial affairs had wearied him and he never went through with it, interesting to contemplate however .

  9. BanditQueen says:

    I doubt that the story is true, as why would the Kings coffin come open. It would have been made from the finest wood, strenthened and made to ensure that it would not break. Some embalming fluid may have leaked out; that did happen from time to time; but I doubt that the coffin actually burst open and dogs arrived. I think someone saw the fluid, remembered the sermon from years before, recalled the prophecy and the Biblical story of King Ahab and Jezabel, who is meant to be Anne Boleyn, and put the whole thing together and so the story has come down to us. Agnes Strickland did not always get her facts or her documentary sources correct. I love her books but historians have criitized them for errors and for repeating myths and legends as fact. I understand the reference and the sermon certainly did cause a stir, but I think the story of the body bursting forth is most probably an urban myth.

  10. Paul says:

    Hi all.
    I think there is something to the body bursting from the coffin, and the dog licking the blood. Prophesies and visions don’t necessarily appear the way the movie industry portrays them. Henry had been ill with an infected leg for years. Who knows what other secondary infections there were inside him giving off gas after his death and building up pressure inside his neatly sealed can… I mean lead coffin.

  11. Jenny says:

    What a judgment on a man who thought himself god. Apparently God disagreed.

  12. Jane says:

    Whilst it is true that Strickland is noted for her errors and hazy sources, it wouldn’t be impossible for the coffin to split. The mention of a plumber and soldering suggests that the coffin was either made of lead or lead lined at the least, which would only have been affordable to the very wealthy, or a monarch. Now lead is very strong, but the solder could be a weak spot, and lead could burst through wood. Carriages would not have had good suspension and it could have got battered enough to leak. And dogs have such an acute sense of smell, a modern day one can scent meat through plastic bags so..umm euuw it could scent a leaky coffin.

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