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February 15, 1547 – Henry VIII Interred

Henry would be quite annoyed to know that his resting place in the Quire of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor is marked only by a simple marble slab. He would probably also be annoyed that he shares his spot not only with his wife Jane but also Charles I, and an “infant child of Queen Anne.”

Narcissist that he was, Henry had plans for a permanent, over-the-top memorial. He did hire the artist (stole him from Wolsey…) and start some of the work during his lifetime (like the effigy and some of the candlesticks), but with wars in France and Scotland he ran short of funds and placed the instructions in his will so as to pass on the responsibility. Edward made a bit of progress, but he too was short of funds and passed on the instructions in his own will. Mary did nothing, but Elizabeth considered it, even drawing up new plans before abandoning the idea.

After that, the original instructions got lost until the seventeenth century when a manuscript was discovered that gave the details. John Speed included it in his History of Great Britain so I’ve reproduced it here (cleaning it up a smidge). But first I’m giving a rendering – not the “pattern” Henry kept referring to, since that was never recovered, but two nineteenth century conjectural drawings drawn by Somers Clarke for Alfred Higgins FSA, which are held in the St. George’s Chapel Archives. They give an idea of what the tomb likely would have looked like…though with more figures including the King on horseback…

Conjectured drawing of Henry’s tomb by Alfred Higgins, 1894 (copyright The Deans and Canons of Windsor)

Without further ado, I give you Henry’s vision:

The manner of the Tomb to be made for the King’s Grace at Windsor.

First, the pavement whereupon the Tomb shall stand, shall be of Oriental stone: That is to say, of Alabaster, Porfido, Serpentines, and other stones of divers colors, as the pattern shows.

Item, upon the same Pavement shall be two great steps under all the work of like Oriental stones.

Item, the Basement of the Pillars shall be of white Marble with Angels… holding between them gilt Crowns or Garlands, and white Marble as more clearly shows in the pattern.

Item, above the said Basement and Angels, shall be all the Old Testament, that is to say, fourteen Images in the fourteen Casements of the same two Pillars of the Prophets, and all the sixteen Pillars which shall be shall be of stones Serpentine, Porfido and Alabaster, and other fine Oriental stones, of such colors as is shown in the Pattern; and the foot of every pillar, and also the head shall be of Brass. And every Prophet shall have an Angell sit at his foot, with Scripture of the name of his Prophet, and above over the head of the same shall be the story of his Prophet: in every of which Story shall be at least thirteen or eleven figures.

Item, above all the same Pillars shall be another Basement of white Marble, with a partition being made of such fine Oriental stones as the Pillars be, wherein shall be written such Scripture as please you.

Item, above the same Basement shall be the Story of the new Testament, that is to wit, with the Images of the Apostles, the Evangelists and the four Doctors of the Church, and every Image shall have sitting at his foot a little child with a Scripture of the name of his Image, and a little Basket full of red and white Roses, which they shall show to take in their hands, and cast them down off the Tomb and over the Pavement, and the Roses that they shall cast over the Tomb shall be enameled and gilt, and the roses that they cast over the Pavements shall be of fine Oriental stones of white and red.

Item, behind all the same Images of the new Testament round shall be made in brass and gilt all the life of Iesus Christ from the nativity to his ascention, and it shall be so clearly and perfectly made, that the Mystery of Christ’s life to his ascention shall plainly appear.

Item, above the said new Testament and Images thereof, and above the said life of Christ, shall be a Quire of twenty Angels standing upon a Basement of white Marble, with great Candlesticks in their hands having lights in them showing to honor and reverence the same Tomb.

Item, all these foresaid figures, stories and ornaments shall be made to garnish and ornate the two Pillers of the Church between which the Tomb shall be set.

Item, between the said two great Pillars of the Church thus garnished, shall be a Basement of white Marble of the height of the Basement of the Pillars, and therein the Epitaph of the King and Queen, with letters of gold, of such Scriptures as ye devise.

Item, upon the same Basement shall be made two Tombs of black-touch, that is to say, on either side one, and upon the said Tombs of black Touch shall be made the Image of the King and Queen on both sides, not as death, but as persons sleeping, because to show that famous Princes leaving behind them great fame, their names never do die, and shall lie in royal Apparels after the antique manner.

Item, over the right hand, over both the sides of the same Tomb shall be an Angell which shall hold the King’s Arms, with a great Candlestick, having as it were light on it as a Lamp, and in like manner shall be another Angel holding the Queen’s Arms on the left hand with a like Candlestick.

Item, on the right hand and left hand on both the sides over the said Images of the King and Queen, shall be two Angels showing to the people the bodies of the King and Queen holding above their Heads veils of gold, and the Crowns of the King and Queen on their hands.

Item, between the said two Tombs of black Touch and the said Angel over the King & Queen shall stand an high Basement like a Sepulchre, and on the sides whereof shall be made the story of Saint George, and over height of the Basement shall be made an Image of the King on Horseback, lively in Armor like a King after the Antique manner showing in countenance and looking on the said two Images lying on the said Tombs.

Item on the right hand and left hand of the said two Tombs shall be four Pillars of the foresaid Oriental stones, that is to say, on either side two Pillras, and upon every Pillar shall be a like Basement of white Marble with partitions for Scriptures as shall be above the other Pillars. And on the same four Basements of the said Pillars shall be made four Images, two of Saint John Baptist, and two of Saint George, with four little children by them casting roses, as is aforesaid.

Item, over the said Image of the King on Horseback shall be made an Arch triumphal, of white Marble wrought within, and about it, and upon the same Arch, in manner of a Casement of white Marble garnished with like Oriental Stones of divers colors, as the pattern shows, and on the two sides of the said Casement shall be made and set of gilt brass, the story of the life of Saint John Baptist, and one height of the said Casement shall be made five steps, every one more than other downward, of like Oriental stones, as the said Pillars shall show.

Item, on the four corners of the said Casement shall be made the Images of the four Cardinal virtues having such Candlesticks in their hands as is above said.

Item, on the top of the highest step of the said five steps on the one side shall be an Image of the Father, having in his left hand the Soul of the King and blessing with his right hand, with two Angels holding abroad the Mantle of the Father on either side.

Item, in likewise shall be made on the other side the said Image of the Father, having the soul of the Queen in his left hand, blessing with his right hand with like Angels.

The height of the same work from the Father unto the Pavement shall be twenty-eight feet.

Item the breadth and largeness of the said work shall be fifteen feet, and the Pillars of the Church in greatness, five feet: and so the largeness of the said work, from the uttermost part of the two great Pillars shall be twenty feet.

Item, each of the Images of the fourteen Prophets, shall contain every Image five feet in length, and the Angels shall contain two and a half feet in length.

Item, each of the twenty Pillars shall contain ten feet in length.

Item, each of the Images of the Apostles, Evangelists and Doctors shall contain five feet in length and the Angels as is abovesaid.

Item in likewise each of the twenty Angels of the quire shall contain two and a half feet in length, and in likewise the Images of the Children two and a half feet.

Item, the four Images of St. John Baptist and St. George and all the figures of the father and Angels on the five steps shall be five feet.

Item, the four Images of the King and the Queen shall be of the Stature of a man and woman, and the four Angels by them of the stature of a man every one.

Item, the Image of the King on Horseback with his Horse shall be of the whole stature of a goodly man and large Horse.

Item, there shall be one hundred and thirty four figures, forty-four Stories, and all of gilt Brass, as appears in the pattern.


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February 15, 1547 – Henry VIII Interred
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