Why didn’t Mary and Elizabeth move their mothers’ graves?

Full question was "When they got to be queen, why didn't Elizabeth and Mary do anything to upgrade their mothers' resting places (i.e., move their bodies to Westminster Abbey)? In the 1900s, Queen Mary, wife of George V, provided Katharine's grave with a beautiful acknowledgement of Katharine's queenship; why didn't Katharine's own daughter do that for her? Same for Elizabeth?"

I think that Elizabeth was aware that she had many challenges to her throne and that mentioning Anne Boleyn, who was still unpopular with many, would be dangerous, never mind moving her grave. Anne Boleyn was still seen as a traitor who deserved to be buried like one.
As far as Catherine was concerned, she was buried in Peterborough Abbey (now Cathedral) as Princess Dowager, not Queen. Yes, her grave was "upgraded" by Mary of Teck who marked it as the grave of a Queen of England. The cathedral hold a special service annually in her memory.
I'm not sure why Mary did not move her mother's grave, perhaps she felt it was best to leave her mother in peace.


16 thoughts on “Why didn’t Mary and Elizabeth move their mothers’ graves?”

  1. Emma says:

    In Mary’s will she requested that her mother’s body be brought from Peterborough to be buried with her in Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth did not do so probably for political reasons.

  2. Briony Coote says:

    Mary left instructions in her will for her mother to be reburied beside her in Westminster Abbey, but Elizabeth ignored this (as she did the other bequests in the will). But now you mention it, it does seem odd that Mary didn’t move her mother’s grave during her reign.

    As for Elizabeth not moving her mother’s grave, it was most likely a case of letting sleeping dogs lie; the same advice Elizabeth took when she inquired if she should take steps to legitimise herself once she became queen.

  3. caroline farrington watson says:

    Thats a question I have always asked because both girls loved their mothers a great deal especially mary. Elizabeth kept a ring with a hidden picture in it of her mother Anne. She wore the ring all the time and the picture was discovered after her death.

  4. Cookie says:

    I agree with Briony why Elizabeth would not move Anne’s grave. You would have thought that Mary would have moved Katherine’s though. If you look at her reign…she married a Spaniard (the people were not happy), she burned heretics (in her reign more heretics were burned than in Henry’s and Elizabeth combined-the people were not happy), she had two phantom pregnancies (the people were upset). Since Katherine was such a beloved Queen, wouldn’t it have been good politically to honor her and give the nation a chance to bond with her.

    1. Delicia says:

      I know there is no proof, no scientific evidence, or anything else to back up what I’m about to write. Somehow I have always felt that “something” snapped in Mary. I also think that she inherited some of her fathers “insanities” and tyrannical tendencies which Henry surely possessed. Always knowing someone is after you, never knowing when you were going to the tower or get ordered for execution day after day after day has to play on a persons mind. I was always amazed at how the English of that time did not address the plague head on to find its cause. Imagine, fleas/rats and mosquitos. They killed all the dogs at one point but the plague became even worse for it. Now don’t you think someone would have seen the correlation between the two? I love the age of Henry the Eighth and of Elizabeth Rex but the royals today are actually laughable. Why??? No serious investigation into Diana’s death came about. That is not normal for someone of Diana’s caliber. Also, there were to many hiccups in the reports that were given. I still say her and Dodi were murdered. But we may never know. So, Tudor or Windsor being killers is still the same….hush hush.

  5. Panne says:

    There was also a question of money. Both Mary and Elizabeth started their reigns in debt and it did not get better. Phillip did much to empty Mary’s treasures with demands for men and money to fight in the Low Countries. Elizabeth had to recover from Mary’s excesses in war money for Phillip and religious excesses. It was not just a political decision but one of finances; neither could really afford to move their mothers’ graves and do them justice. Having said that, I do admire Mary of Teck for upgrading Katherine’s resting place and believe the same should be done for Anne Boelyn and even Lady Jane Grey. They all played important roles in the history of England and should be acknowledged with the truth at their resting places. Even today, too many believe the myths of Anne when in reality she was not guilty of the charges against her but most probably brought down by her enemies playing on the KIngs’ desire for Jane Seymour, Anne’s inability to give Henry a son, and the superstitions of the day. Lady Jane Grey deserves recognition as an innocent victim of abusive parents and in laws who were hungry to become the power behind the throne. She simply did not know how to say no and avoid being punished and in her fear accepted the crown rather than face the wrath of her parents and father in law. Such sad ladies.

    1. The Grand Duchess says:

      And Queen Jane Gilford and prince consort Dudley Gilford deserved to be buried with honor as fitting their station.

      1. Shoshana says:

        Considering Guildford’s father was one of the main instigators in usurping Mary’s crown in favor of Jane and thus putting her into the position that ultimately cost her head, I’m not sure that Dudly Guildford deserves more than what he now has. In fact, from Jane’s attitude toward him while in the Tower (refusing to meet with him one last time), I would say she was not a happy bride and would have rather never married him nor even known him.

  6. The Grand Duchess says:

    Anne would haven’t killed either Catharine and Mary, Catharine died from cancer of the Heart, and Mary died of cancer of the uterus.
    As for Elizabeth she may never have known where her mother was buried because she would have buried her next to her father and move the Harlot Jane Seymore, to a place near Wolf Hall where she belonged.

    1. Shoshana says:

      I am sure that Elizabeth knew where her mother was buried. It would have taken very little for her to find out; it was probably very common knowledge and would have required a simple question to one of many friends who would not have revealed the conversation if that is what she desired. As for burying Anne next to Henry, I doubt that even if she had moved her mother to a more royal tomb, it would have been next to Henry. After all, although she loved her father, she also knew it was by his decision that Anne was executed. Henry could have easily banished Anne or kept her in prison rather than execute her but to remarry Anne had to die. Jane Seymour was not a harlot; only a woman without power who, whether it was what she wanted or not, must go along with the king’s desire. It was not only for her family to recieve the benefits of having a Queen in the family but also because one just did not go against Henry’s wishes. I have often wondered what would have happened to the Seymours if Jane had refused to marry him. Frankly, in her place, even if he had been a hideously deformed monster, I would have said, “Honey, you are mine! Let’s get married!” Why? I like my head where it is and I’m sure Jane did too.

  7. Joanne says:

    It was considered to bring bad luck in those days to disturb graves or move bodies, and this may have been one reason why those ladies chose to leave well enough alone.
    When King James 1 decided to move the body of his executed mother, Mary Queen of Scots, in 1612 from Peterborough Abbey (incidentally, from right next to Catherine of Aragon) to Westminster Abbey (again, coincidentally, to be placed near Elizabeth 1) his eldest son Henry, Prince of Wales died very unexpectedly a couple of months later at only 16 years of age. The gossip at the time was that it was punishment for disturbing the grave (superstition run wild!)

    Thanks very much for a really interesting site.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      What contemporary sources can you cite that it was bad luck? Although some people were superstitious about this it wasn’t considered bad luck and people were relocated to different burial sites often enough for practical reasons, religious reasons and family reasons.

      For example the movement of Elizabeth I by James and his mother Mary Queen of Scots as you mentioned.

      Other examples include the religious translation of the body of the canonized Saint Philip Howard to Arundel Cathedral in the nineteenth century from Saint Peter ad Vincula in the Tower.

      Henry Viii moved the body of his illegitimate son from Tetford Priory and the bones of his grandfather, Edmund Tudor to Saint David’s Cathedral in Wales. The Duke of Norfolk arranged Henry Fitzroy to be moved to the Chapel at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk. The body of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey was also moved to Framlingham. These are just a few examples. A reburial rite was said, similar to that used for Richard iii in 2015. People were often buried very close to where they died unless rich enough and important enough to go into a planned tomb or family vaulted crypt. If you were the King of course Westminster was the main burial spot since Henry iii, up to George iii, although some exceptions exist. There might have been the odd curse placed on graves and you were meant to let the dead lay in peace, but it wasn’t because of bad luck. It was also extremely expensive to move important people to a new tomb site, so it was practical to leave people where they are. Katherine of Aragon’s burial is also celebrated with a week long festival every year and is a place of pilgrimage.

      Richard iii also moved King Henry Vi in order to prevent a cult which had grown up around his grave, moving him to more suitable premises in Windsor.

  8. Thomas says:

    Katherine of Aragon did have a full monument built over her vault in Peterborough Abbey Church (now cathedral). However, during the Interregnum (Protectorate of Cromwell in the 1650’s, during his Puritan dictatorship) the superstructure was destroyed and removed; most probably because it contained an altar for the offering of Masses for her soul. Though Henry VIII had already abolished the establishment and use of chantry chapels for this purpose, the style of tomb architecture was unchanged from England’s recent Catholic past. Many of England’s oldest churches still have examples of these little chapels built between the columns of the nave of the church. There is no reason to sustect that Queen Katherine’s was any different. When her daughter, Mary I became Queen, there was no reason to ‘upgrade’ the burial site: it would have already existed in the traditional manner.

  9. Banditqueen says:

    Answer money. They simply couldn’t afford to move them and Elizabeth didn’t because it would have caused trouble.

    However, Katherine of Aragon should have been moved, but for me her burial place is beautiful. I wouldn’t move Anne now either but they should have been buried as Queen at some time in Westminster or Windsor.

  10. Terence Tilsley says:

    Purely from a historical point of view Queen Anne Boleyn along with others should be interred either in the Abbey or St Georges Chapel. Just saying

    1. Peter Sanchez osf says:

      I totally agree. These two women seemingly got “the short end of the stick.” They both were victims of Henry VIII’s megalomania and paranoia. Wouldst that todays British government would undertake the task to move them both to either the Abby or St. George’s chapel at Windsor.

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