Saturday, May 02, 2009

Question from Nina - Elizabeth and Mary's burial

Was Elizabeth I buried on top of her sister? Why was this done?


Anonymous PhD Historian said...

I did some looking around in sources from the period as well as in scholarly books on the subject, but I find no reference to the specific placement of the bodies of Mary and Elizabeth in the vault beneath the tomb structure. One reference says that Elizabeth was "laid to rest next to" Mary, but offers no source for that statement.

It's just a guess on my part, but having visited the Abbey several times and seen the tomb, I'm betting the vault beneath the tomb structure is probably large enough to accommodate the coffins or sarcophagi side-by-side without a need for stacking.

Does anyone have more precise information than my guessing?

May 02, 2009 9:09 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

My copy of the Official Guide (1997 edition) says this:

"Beneath the coffin of Elizabeth rests that of her half-sister Queen Mary. The stones from the broken altars were piled upon Mary's grave during the whole of her sister's reign."

However, I don't know how much of this information is from direct inspection.

For what it's worth!

May 02, 2009 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...

Elizabeth's coffin was placed on top of Mary's according to the "Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey" by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley. He was Dean of Westminster during the reign of Queen Victoria and he was involved in the search for the body of James I. During the search, the tomb of Mary and Elizabeth was opened and the coffins were observed.

From volume 1 of Dean Stanley's book: "In that contracted sepulchre, admitting of none other but those two, the stately coffin of Elizabeth rests on the coffin of Mary."

And from the appendix entitled "The Royal Vaults" in volume 3: "It was instantly evident that it enclosed two coffins, and two only, and it could not be doubted that these contained Elizabeth and her sister Mary. The upper one, larger and more distinctly shaped in the form of the body, like that of Mary Queen of Scots, rested on the other."

"There was no disorder or decay, except that the centering wood had fallen over the head of Elizabeth's coffin, and that the wood case had crumbled away at the sides, and had drawn away part of the decaying lid. No coffin-plate could be discovered, but fortunately the dim light fell on a fragment of the lid slightly carved. This led to a further search, and the original inscription was discovered. There was the Tudor badge, a full double rose deeply, but simply incised in outline on the middle of the cover, -- on each side the august initials E.R., and below, the memorable date 1603."

This appendix also contains accounts of the tombs of Mary Queen of Scots: Edward VI; Henry VII and Elizabeth of York (this is where James was found); some later Stuarts; and many others.

I've forgotten how to cite properly, but my Volume one was part of the fifth edition and it was printed in New York by Anson D.F.Randolph in 1882. R The reference was from page 211. Volume 3 is from the sixth edition and it was also printed in New York by Randolph in 1887. The reference is on pages 264 and 265.

May 04, 2009 4:40 AM  
Anonymous PhD Historian said...

Diane, that is fascinating! Ya gotta love those 19th century antiquarians for their morbid interest in opening old tombs ... and for giving us the answers! Thanks for expanding my knowledge!

May 04, 2009 10:39 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

did they look at the coffins only, or ever observe the bodies?

October 12, 2009 11:11 PM  

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