16 February 1547 – The Burial of Henry VIII

Posted By on February 16, 2014

The Quire of St George’s Chapel by Charles Wild, 1818

The Quire of St George’s Chapel by Charles Wild, 1818

On the 16th February 1547, following his death on 28th January 1547, Henry VIII’s body was interred in a vault in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, alongside that of his third wife, Jane Seymour. Here is an eye witness account of the proceedings:

“16 strong Yeomen of the Guard took the coffin and with four strong linen towels, which they had for their fees, let it into the vault near unto the body of Queen Jane Seymour, his third wife. Then the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Great Master, Mr Treasurer, Mr Comptroller and the Sergeant Porter, breaking their white staves upon their heads in three parts, as did likewise all the Gentleman Ushers, threw them into the grave. Thus the funeral ended, the trumpets sounded in the Rood loft and the company dispersed.”

Today, there is a memorial slab marking his resting place under the Quire of St George’s Chapel. As well as containing Henry and Jane, this vault also contains the remains of Charles I and an infant child of Queen Anne, the Stuart queen

(Taken from “On This Day in Tudor History” by Claire Ridgway)

21 thoughts on “16 February 1547 – The Burial of Henry VIII”

  1. Miladyblue says:

    Is there any truth to the gruesome report that Henry’s coffin was left in state while the tomb was repaired – at some point it dropped, and black fluid (which was presumed to be blood) came out, and was licked up by mongrel dogs? It was supposed to be some sort of witch’s curse, or something like that, because Henry had betrayed the Church. I seem to recall reading it in The Autobiography of Henry VIII, but I might be wrong.

    1. val says:

      I have heard that as well. I know it was included in the “Autobiography of Henry VIII.” but it was also mentioned in a bio about his son.

    2. Morgan says:

      Friar Peto said if King Henry persisted in his course to divorce Katharine and marry Anne, then he would become like Ahab, and the dogs would lick his blood after he died. King Henry died at Whitehall, and his body was conveyed to Windsor for burial. On the first night, the cortege stopped at Syon, and it was there, after hours of being jerked around on the primitive roads, the casket sprung a leak and the deceased King’s bodily fluids leaked onto the floor. Sure enough, a dog came around and lapped at the blood.

      1. BanditQueen says:

        Wounderful image above by Friar Peto; recall the sermon and the Bible reference as well and have an illustration of the latter and the whore Jezabel and poor Ahab both of whom met terrible fates; but the stuff about Henry’s casket and dogs has no historical value to it. It was far to well made and guarded at all times and there is no truth to the rumours which are actually from a much later age; not contemporary, but the warning is a great one and pity Henry did not accept it as such. But I believe that the judgement of his soul should be left to God and not to historians or commentators as we do not know if he died in grace or not. The witnesses at the end of his life tell us that he gave Cranmer a sign by squeezing his hand that he died in the faith of Christ. Anyone who dies repentent in the faith of Christ will be spared and forgiven. The thief on the Cross made a confession at the last moment. If Henry did as well, he is with Jane in Heaven: he is also ironically probably with Anne as well; but there is no marriage in Heaven, so they may not all be married. But still ove the image: great.

  2. Linda Joyce says:

    He never felt a scrap of human decency for anybody. The lives and families he destroyed by his indiscriiminate executions on a whim. Suggest ‘The return of Anne Boleyn’ by Canon Pakenham Walsh. Like to think in the hereafter they are all forgiving, except some strange secret about Jane Seymour and some hidden papers. What sort of milk sopped cow could have stood by to see her queen brutally executed and then leap willingly into the tyrant’s bed?

    1. margaret says:

      I disagree with what you call jane Seymour ,”a milk sopped cow”i think this is really being unfair to her memory,

    2. Anyanka says:

      Jane in reality had very little choice. Had she not consented to be Henry’s next wife, she and her family could have been seriously penalised financially and possibly even tried as traitors.

      So show willing and live or be banished and possibly lose everything including your lrfe. It’s not much of a choice. The buck stops at Henry’s feet alone.

      1. BanditQueen says:

        Jane and her family chose what they wanted to choose, just as the Boleyn’s had; ambition and success at court against not so much financial ruin but certainly a more peaceful life in the country, limited to local influence. But like the Boleyn’s they had skills that were useful at court and brains that enabled them to use that influence to their best advantage. Jane could have said no to Henry and she did at first, but like Anne she realised that she could offer herself as his wife. I do not believe that had she said no to him as his wife that she would have been banished. Her family would not have risen as high as being related to the Queen brings its rewards; but they would stil have found a place in the world, may even have carved out a place at court as they had military service as an asset as well.

        It is not treason to say you do not want to marry the King and there is nothing to indicate that Henry would have treated the Seymuours as traitors; they may have fell from grace for a short time; but I think that the family had other things to offer than Jane to be important in the world of the court, the country or their own sphere of influence. Jane consented to be Henry’s wife because she wanted to; she may have seen herself as being able to rescue him from himself or to bring him closer to his daughter Mary. Had she said no, the financial consequences speak for themselves; the honours and lands came as the Seymours edged closer to the crown. The court was where you made your fortune; but there were other places and ways to serve the crown; the military being one and the Seymours had seen action. Sir John and Sir Edward and may-be even Thomas had all served in the early Henrican wars in 1513, the sons in 1523-1524, the younger being knighted by Suffolk on the battlefield. They seem to have had good admin skills and served abroad as well. i am sure with the charm of the brothers, they would have found some way to make a fortune; through marriage if nothing else.

        There may have been many instances when it was suicide not to agree with Henry; as Jane herself almost found when she asked him to stop destroying the monastic houses; but in the case of if she had a choice or not to marry him; yes, she did and there is no indication that she wanted anything else but to marry Henry. The only person we know that made a definate decision to change her mind after declaring that she would not want to marry the King is Katherine Parr. She at first said that she would rather be his mistess than his wife, but then made a decison, according to David Starkey to marry Henry out of religous fervour: God told her to marry him. Christine of Milan of course refused his hand save if commanded by the Emperor to do so, as she only had one neck; and Anne of Cleves had no choice as it was a diplomatic marriage. But out of the three domestic wives; they may have been pushed a bit by powerful factions and family; but I believe all three could have said no, had they really wanted to without being accused of treason.

  3. steve rainbow says:

    King Henry VIII had a poor record regarding History’s view of Him and his legacy. Having sworn to his dying Father that a Male heir would be supplied,he felt himself cursed as all his male progeny were bastards,excepting the prince Edward and that child at the cost of his wife.Knowing the historic cost of dynastic disputes he ruthlessly pursued his own course. He was ably assisted by Thomas Cromwell in all these dealings.As for executions,attainders and all the machinery of Tudor Kingship these are badly viewed by us 500 years later, a bad mistake I believe. Treason was a two-fold dreadful act. It harmed the Nation as seen in the first English Civil War and secondly,but perhaps most importantly a person of influence has foresworn his previous Oath.

    1. Sandy says:

      Then again, you are assuming the “person of influence” was actually guilty of treason at all. Of course some were, open rebellions, etc., but everybody knows Queen Anne was railroaded. Provable ‘acts’ with a witness is one thing, but seems to me if you were accused – you were guilty; period – end of story – say goodbye to your head. Henry deserves his bad reputation in my view.

  4. Janet says:

    Was Henry VIII buried someplace else at first and his grave was vandalized and then he was interred at St. Georges Chapel?

  5. BanditQueen says:

    I believe the rumours that his coffin broke open and he had to be stuffed back in and all the stuff about the body exploding to be nonsense. The body was correctly embalmed and yes, the normal excesses of gas from the body, large as it was may have given rise to a rush of talk and rumours; but this is part of the normal decaying of the body and not witchcraft or curses. There were also contemporary descriptions of the full preparations of the body and no-one said any of the above: the coffin was made to fit the King correctly and all of the normal mourning and ceremonies were observed. The coffins were examined in the 1820’s when King William IV ordered a survey of all the royal tombs in the kingdom and the ones in the royal chapel at Windsor were of special interest to him. The vault was opened and the coffin of Henry VIII was found to be damaged but by normal wear and tear and not from any other cause such as vandals, witches, dogs, or any other cause. The bones were also measured and this we know that Henry was about 6 foot 2 from the measures; and we know his frame as well. The coffin of Jane was more slender and more smaller of course and was in better condition, but there was also something to do with the coffin being pushed more against the wall of the vault and may have been damaged when they put the coffin of Charles I in and moved his to make room. They found that there was the small coffin of a child, identified as an infant of Queen Anne and at this time they also confirmed this was were they had placed King Charles I. They had not prepared a vault for King Charles and had a hard time even getting the Cromwell soldiers to allow them to take him into the chapel; so it is not surprising he ended up here. It was probably the one with the best access being in the centre of the Choire in the main chapel, the most important part of the church.

    Many of the rumours are also later inventions and do not stand up to scholarly examination. What is extraordinary about the burial of Henry VIII is that it now is only marked by a plain black slab with the names of himself and Jane and of Charles and the reference to the baby infant. The stone was placed there by William IV. But originally Henry had made orders for a very elaborate tomb and there are sources that give details. It was meant to be surrounded by lamps on stands and have very exciting and beautiful effigies of Jane and Henry with gold and gilt and all the bells and wistles of a grand Tudor tomb. Henry also had a great sarcophocus made which had originally been meant for Cardinal Wolsey in marble and this was to hold the coffin. But by the reign of his son the money had run out and the tomb was not finished. Later it was dismantled and the vault was left as we have it now. The sarcophocus was used later as the base for the tomb of Horatio Nelson, which seems a greatly appropriate thing to do as Henry was the father of the navy that Nelson loved and served for all of his life so heroically.

    Just how did those identifying the tomb vault know it was Henry’s? There is a great window at Windsor that gives a complete key and record of all of the tombs and this is believed to have been used to identify who was buried were at the time when looking for missing graves. I also think that it is fitting that Henry has a plain but elegant black slab as his grave marking; becasue his legacy is greater than a fine tomb could ever have left us. He founded the royal navy; he founded a nation state, he brought us out of the middle ages and into the modern world and placed us amongst the nations that were to rule more than half the world; he is one of the two most iconic and famous of our monarchs; for some he was the father of the greatest English monarch, Elizabeth I; and while others love to have hysterical and emotional outbursts about Henry’s more infamous side; he was more complex than that. Historians point to the much greater image of a King who was magnificant and a great scholar and builder; to the builder of our defences; to a man who stamped his mark on every part of England; and a man that cetainly was our most colourful King; regardless of his marital exploits. And a King and a man that was known by his fellow beings as Henry the Great.

    1. John Reddick says:

      “We may be amused at a defence of Richard III., but we can feel only indignation and disgust at an apology for Henry VIII., whose atrocities are as well authenticated as those of Robespierre, and are less excusable.”
      — Lord Campbell

      By the way, it’s spelled “sarcophagus.”

      1. Banditqueen says:

        Yes, it’s spelt sarcophagus, I know that, so thanks but your comments show disrespect and that you are totally ignorant of history.

        I am not apologising for the so called atrocities of Henry Viii, but you have to balance them with many other things.

        His tyranny didn’t begin until the mid 1530s onwards and there are historical, political and religious and possibly medical factors which put his actions and those of other monarchs into context. As a historian I have to examine the evidence and the sources and to remain as neutral as humanly possible. Your comments are rude and do neither. I can’t find anything he did or didn’t do any more or less horrific or excusable than any of the ruling dictators from the French Revolution which claimed the lives of unknown hundreds of thousands of people in a much shorter time period.

        There is another side to Henry Viii and I am sorry but I am going to repeat it as you are obviously unaware of it.

        He was a great builder and his architecture shows him to be cultured and a true Renaissance Prince, he was a great sportsman in his youth and had vision, he was very well educated and saw that his three surviving legitimate children and his illegitimate son were educated by the finest scholars as well. He built defences around this country which still survive and many still had mounted live guns during WWii. He founded our naval colleges, colleges of medical sciences, he was genuinely interested in the study of medical science, he encouraged scholars and he was a humanist. He founded many schools and made certain those lost during the dissolution of the monasteries were refounded and expanded, he built our navy up from the few ships he inherited and ensured they were well equipped with the latest weaponry. He encouraged industry at home and trade and he protected English goods. He made the country independent and he continued to achieve things even as his personal life was falling apart.

        Yes, this has to be balanced with the treatment of his wife and Princess Mary, the shocking treatment of Anne Boleyn and his friends, the destruction of the monasteries and the execution of several religious people as well as debasement of the coinage and cruel executions during the 1540s, but we also need to put every negative action into context as well as the positive ones. I am not going to list a whole catalogue here as I have discussed Henry Viii on many occasions, but would recommend some further reading before you comment again.

        Was Henry a tyrant? By the exact definition of the day, no, his use of Parliament showed that. By the larger interpretation of his reign, yes, in his latter years he turned tyrannical in many respects.

        Was he a great King? Many of his contemporaries actually believed he was. He achieved more than he is given credit for and he had potential as a man to be great, but his obsession with the need for a son got in his way, making him insecure and paranoid. How historians judge him is up to them, I prefer to remain neutral. How he is judged in the after life is up to the mercy or justice of the Lord, nobody else.

        Here are a few recommendations.

        Henry Viii. J.J. Scarisbrick
        Henry Viii. John Matusklak
        Henry Viii. Study in Tyranny J.Ridley
        Henry Viii Virtuous Prince by David Starkey and his series Mind of a Tyrant on DVD
        Henry Viii Mask of Royalty
        1536 The Year That Changed Henry Viii by Susanna Libscomb
        The Court of Henry Viii by Neville Williams
        The Children of Henry Viii by John Guy.
        Rivals at the Court of Henry Viii by David Starkey.

        There are literally hundreds of others but these are the top and most scholarly. In addition there is a whole library of works on his wives and the men at his Court, including recently Tracy Borman on the men who served him. Think before being disgusted by the posting of someone who actually knows what they are talking about and grow up.

        1. Banditqueen says:

          I might add the two books by Robert Hutchison on The Early Life of Henry Viii and the Last Days of Henry Viii
          The Life of Thomas Cromwell by Diarmaid MacCulloch
          The Life of Thomas Cramner by Diarmaid MacCulloch
          The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell by John Schofield
          The Six Wives of Henry Viii by Paul Rivals
          The Six Wives of Henry Viii by David Starkey
          The Six Wives of Henry Viii by Antonia Fraser

          The Life of Henry Viii by David Loades.

          I am sure you will find something to interest you but these are the best and ones who cite their sources with accuracy and are balanced in their assessment of the King, those who defined him and those he loved.

  6. Sandy says:

    Bravo, very well said Bandit Queen. Most of us who offer our emotional, negative opinions of Henry are obviously supporters of Anne. History (and you as well) show us that he was indeed a great monarch and accomplished much for England in extremely troubling times. As is our societal norm these days, we can be sometimes guilty of considering only the sensational, personal life of the man. It is not fair to judge him by our contemporary standards, as most of us are wont to do, only to study his actions and try to understand them, whether or not we agree with them.

    1. BanditQueen says:

      Hello Sandy, glad you liked that bit: Henry has had a very mixed reception in the eyes of historians but most reflect the times that they are writing in and it is natural when writing about him in the light of his relationships with his wives or treatment of him to vere towards the defence of the woman; that is the way we assess things in a post femanist and more compassionate age. It is also important to remember that Henry was flesh and blood, had his faults, most certainly, but also achieved a lot of things outside of the domestic life of the palace. Most modern historians tend to have a much more rounded view, looking much closer at all of the sources and the reasons behind them, of they had an agenda and could be trusted, etc; very much study goes into such a task; and attempts are made to get closer to the man through his times and those of his contemporaries. The further we move from our subject as historians in time, the further we move from being able to know or understand them; it is just one of those things. It is good to see that there are more sources available now, to enable us to understand the real Henry, just as this site enables us to try and find the soul of the real Anne Boleyn. Having said that some historians go to one extreme or the other, either against Henry or praising him to the heights; I must admit those writings are often the most entertaining, partly because they do not allow themselves to be restricted to the academic rules that we are used to and say exactly how they feel and see things; we may not agree with their words, but they can provide some colourful descriptions.

      Cheers

      Lyn-Marie

  7. irma says:

    Gracias Anne Boleyn Files por todo lo que aprendo sobre la historia de la familia Tudors,esa macabra anecdota en el funeral de Enrique VIII, no la conocia.

  8. Sandy says:

    Yes, I do agree with you. Many historical fiction authors, while they may present more enjoyable reading, are not academics or historians and present theirs or the popular views of the historical part of their stories, while ‘fleshing out’ the parts we can’t possibly know. And really don’t mind that; makes for a good read. I do however, enjoy reading academics’ and historians’ books because I do know how much research goes into their writing as factually correct an account as possible – their academic reputations depend on it. All in all, it is up to each interested person to read as wide a variety of authors as possible to be able to consider all possible views and keep an open mind in trying to understand the society & times we are studying here. It’s wonderful to see all the interest and such a broad field of authors to read and contemplate; as you said, many more sources available now.

    Thank you for the discourse. I have enjoyed hearing your views. That’s half the fun is it not?

    Good day to you!

    Sandy

  9. Jordibird says:

    Ola Isla,
    Estoy de acuerdo con usted que es un buen lugar para averiguar acerca de Los Tudor y la epoca vivian pulg.

    Espero que tenga sentido.
    xx

  10. Miss Kitty says:

    I think King Henry was smart he made sure his advisers were intelligent men so they could do most of the work I have heard that Thomas Cromwell helped King Henry dissolve the monasteries maybe purely because Henry needed the money probably so he could go to war]
    I think King Henry was a good king but I believe the great things he did like building up the navy were only so he could go to war or because he wanted to marry a woman I don’t think he thought much about the future
    maybe the story about his coffin being broken were a myth but didn’t they open the grave and his coffin was broken

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