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April 28, 1603 – Funeral of Elizabeth I

The Queen's casket surrounded by her ancestors' heraldic banners
The Queen’s Casket surrounded by her ancestors’ heraldic banners (artist unknown – public domain via Wikimedia Commons and the National Maritime Museum)

Elizabeth’s funeral was worthy of her Gloriana legend, with its procession of more than a thousand people, all dressed in hoods and suits of black. Stow’s Chronicle gives a wonderful description, and I could have stopped there but that doesn’t give a visceral feel for the pageantry. For that, I went straight to Henry Chettle’s The Order and Proceeding at the Funerale of Elizabeth I (which the University of Michigan was kind enough to digitize for us). I’m abridging and combining just a little…since six pages of a bulleted list would make most people’s eyes cross (but feel free to click through if you’re up for a challenge!). So here goes.

The procession started from Whitehall with the Knight Marshal’s men to clear a way through the crowd. The line-up gives a great idea of the pecking order, since participants’ rank gradually increase as the cortege goes on – other than Standard Bearers, who were sprinkled in there to create phalanxes and keep order (and in the listing of the servants it really gives a wonderful insight into just how complicated it was to run a palace!).  

First up were 15 poor men and 260 poor women, marching four abreast. Then came servants of Gentlemen, Esquires and Knights (servants of higher-ranking people come later), followed by a somewhat random (to me) assortment of porters, trumpeters, sergeants at arms to precede the Standard of the Dragon, borne by Sir George Bourcher.

The next phalanx began with a riderless horse covered in black cloth. Behind it lined up children, then “menial servants” (wheat porters; wine-porters; bell-ringer; maker of spice bags; cart takers; grooms of the almery, stable, woodyard, scullery, pastry, scalding house, poultry, catery, boiling house, larder, kitchen, laundry, ewery, confectionary, wafery, chaundry, pitcherhouse, cellar, pantry, bakehouse, and counting house), then servants of noblemen and ambassadors.

Next came trumpeters, a “blewmantle” (!) and a sergeant at arms to precede the Standard of the Greyhound, borne by M. Herbert, brother to the Earl of Pembroke. They led a procession, four abreast, of higher ranked servants of the Crown (porters, almondry, herbingers, woodyard, scullery, pastry, poultry and scalding house, purveyors of the poultry, purveyors of the acatry (meat and fish), stable, boiling house, larder, kitchen, ewery, confectionary, wafery, purveyor of the wax, tallow chandler, chaundrie, pitcher house, brewers, buttery, cellar, pantry, garneter, bakehouse, counting house,  spicery, chamber, robes, wardrobe), and servants of Earls and Countesses.

Another assortment of porters, trumpeters and a sergeant at arms, this time to precede the Standard of the Lion, borne by M. Thomas Somerset.

And another phalanx beginning with a riderless horse – this one covered in black velvet. Behind it lined up the Sergeant of the Vestry, then children of the Chapel in their surplices, then Gentlemen of the Chapel dressed in copes and “singing Clerks.” Next came still higher servants: the Deputy Clerk of the Market, extraordinary clerks, the cofferer, the master cook for the household, pastry, larder, scullery, woodyard, poultry, bakehouse, acatry, and stable. Next sergeants (Gentleman Herbinger, woodyard, scullery, pastry, catery, larder, ewery, cellar, pantry and bakehouse), then the Master Cook of the Kitchen, the clerks of the equerry, the second and third clerk of the chaundry, the second and third clerk of the kitchen, the supervisors of the dresser, the surveyer of the dresser, musicians, apothecaries and chirurgiens, sewers of the hall, marshal of the hall, sewers of the chamber, groom porter, gentlemen ushers, chief clerk of the wardrobe, chief clerk of the kitchen, two clerk controllers, clerks of the green cloth, master of the household, cofferer.

I’m guessing there was another phalanx, though this one did not get a riderless horse – but it did get the Banner of Chester, borne by the Lord Zouche between two sergeants at arms. You can tell we’re starting to get to the more important people…still not quite there yet: this group includes the clerks of the Council, clerks of the Privy Seal, clerks of the signet, clerks of the Parliament, doctors of physics, the Queen’s chaplains, secretaries for the Latin, Italian and French tongues.

Then a large red cross between two sergeant at arms to precede the Banner of Cornwall borne by the Lord Herbert, son and heir to the Earl of Worcester. The line-up behind him consisted of the officers to the Mayor of London; the Aldermen of London; solicitors, attorneys, and sergeants at law; the Master of Revels and the Master of the Tents; the Lord Chief Baron and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; Master of the Jewel House; knights who had served as Ambassadors and Gentlemen Agents; sewers for the Queen; sewers for the body; esquires of the body; gentlemen of the Privy Chamber; Gentlemen Pensioners (holding their pole-axes head-downwards and covered with black).

The Banner of Wales, borne by the Viscount Bindon, started the next phalanx, which brought the Master of the Requests, agents for Venice and the Estates, the Lord Mayor of London, Sir John Popham, Sir John Fortescue, Sir Robert Cecil (Principal Secretary), the Controller and Treasurer of the Household, “Windsor.”

Next the Banner of Ireland, borne by the Earl of Clanricard, followed by Barons, Bishops, Earls’ oldest sons, Viscounts, Dukes’ second sons, Earls, Marquesses. Next, some churchmen: the Bishop of Chichester, Almoner, Preacher at the Funeral, the Lord Keeper and Archbishop of Canterbury, the French Ambassador (Chettle didn’t mention it, but I read somewhere else the Ambassador’s train was six feet long).

Still with me? We’re just getting to the good part!

Four more Sergeants at Arms introduced the Great Embroidered Banner of England, borne by the Earl of Pembroke and the Lord Howard of Effingham. Next a listing that I didn’t quite get – I’ve read elsewhere that this was “heralds” but the list has bullets for “Somerset and Richmond”, “York, Helme and Crest”;  “Chester, Target”; “Norrey, King at Arms, Sword” and ; “Clarenceaux King at Arms, Coat.”

Right behind them came the hearse, topped with the wax effigy of the Queen. This was a “lively picture of Her Highness’ whole body, crowned in her Parliament robes, with her scepter in her hand, lying on the corps, embalmed and leaded, covered in purple velvet.” The effigy was borne in a chariot drawn by four horses trapped in black velvet; the chariot was covered by a canopy and surrounded by 12 noblemen (six on each side) carrying bannerols representing Elizabeth’s lineage (Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, King John and Elizabeth of Angouleme, Henry III and Eleanor of Aragon; Edward I and Eleanor of Castille, Edward II and Isabel of France, Edward III and Philippa of Haynolt, Edmond Duke of York and Isabel of Castille, Richard Earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer, Richard Duke of York and Cecily Neville, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn).

Finally, the mourners, led by the Palfrey of Honor (ridden by the Earl of Worcester, Master of the Horse, with two esquires and a groom to lead him away), with the Gentlemen Ushers of the Privy Chamber and the Garter and Clarencieux heralds. The Marchioness of Northampton acted as chief mourner; her train was carried by two countesses. She was followed by the “assistant mourners”: fourteen Countess’ assistants, the Ladies of Honor, Countesses, Viscountesses, Earls’ daughters, Baronesses, and finally Maids of Honor of the Privy Chamber.

The procession ended with the Captain of the Guards (and all the guards following, five abreast), with their halberds pointed down.


Rest in peace, Gloriana.


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April 28, 1603 - Funeral of Elizabeth I
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