173:  The Funeral, and My Friends

A portrait of a full-faced, balding man that is accepted as one of William Shakespeare because of the facial reseblance to his funeral monument and the engraving made for the First Folio.
That villain Snakes-Purr.

I did not concern myself overmuch with Her Late Maj’s obsekwies.  Some fool poets had writ lamentations, but not that villain Snakes-Purr.

There was none to write the poem for him, I guess.

Oh, I had much to think on, and revengeous plans to make.

Mr Secretary Cecil was making plans, too.  He’d gone to greet King James, and invite him to his brother’s house, and to his own house of Tibbles [Theobalds].

Why?  Was Mr Secretary keeping the King close?  Or was there much to be spake of for the coming of our new Queen and the crowning?  The King and Queen were to be crowned together.

Some of Her Late Maj’s gowns and jewels were dispatched to the new Queen so she would not be shamed by her attire.  And the Pretty Penny, sister to the late Earl of Essex, was arrkst to be among those who would join the new Queen when she came into England.

The new Queen: Anne of Denmark (1574- 1619). Wearing Elizabeth’s pearls?  The portrait is attrib. John de Critz, c.1605.

Came the day I heared a great buzz in the streets, and I followed others of mine household onto our leads [roof].

I never before saw the streets and river so throng.  A multitude was coming from the city.  They were going westwards to White-Hall.

Yes.  At last Her Late Maj was to be put in her grave 

Then I glimpsed something wonderful.  A lean grey cat came over our wall, ran swift across our yard, and into the garden of the house that lay next us.

Another soon followed.  And I swear that she glanced up at our house as she passed.  Both were gone in a trice, but I knew them for the same two cats that came nigh unto the Tower and seemed to be seeking me.

My friends!  I loitered on our roof praying for their return.

Instead, there came from the west a groaning so great that I thought the world was coming to its end.

It was a wauling raised by the multitude when they beheld (or nosed) Her Late Maj being conveyed from White-Hall to the church where she was to be stowed away [Westminster Abbey].

Any cat nigh would have fled on the instant.  Small wonder I never saw my lank grey friends again that day.

But when I did make their akwayntance they had newes that set mine ears afire.  They told me they had found that villain Snakes-Purr!

A drawing of part of the procession, showing Elizabeth’s coffin surrounded by mourners carrying her ancestors’ banners. Her effigy is just visible lying on top.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorA more respectful account of Elizabeth’s funeral comes from John Stowe.  “The 28 day of Aprile being her funerall … the cittie of Westminster was surcharged with multitudes of all sorts of people in their streets, houses, windows, leads and gutters, that came to see the obsequie, and when they beheld her statue or picture lying upon the coffin set forth in Royall Robes, having a Crowne upon the head … and a ball and sceptre in either hand, there was such a general sighing, groning, and weeping as the like has not been seene and knowen in the memorie of man…[1]

Westminster Abbey has a restored version of the effigy of Elizabeth, with the original corset.

The coffin, draped in purple velvet, was on a carriage drawn by four great horses with black velvet trappings.  The black-clad mourners were estimated at about 1,600.  That may be an exaggeration, but the procession was long.

Led by the Knight Marshall’s men “to clear the way”, and interspersed by standard bearers, heralds, trumpeters etc, the lowest came first: 15 poor men, and 260 poor women.  Then a riderless horse with a black cover, and the servants of Elizabeth’s household in reverse rank order.  Among the full list (by occupation, not name) are the children of the woodyard and the scullery, a variety of grooms, porters, yeomen, clerks, then office holders such as chaplains and physicians, and senior administrators.

Next were the judiciary, councillors, male members of the nobility (those who weren’t carrying banners or escorting the coffin), senior clergy, and ambassadors.  Then the coffin, and the palfrey of honour (riderless, led by the Earl of Worcester).  Last came the high-ranking female mourners in their normal order of precedence.

The train of official female mourners, from ‘Vetusta Monumenta’ (1796). Univ. of Missouri Digital Library.

The Marchioness of Northampton was chief mourner, followed by countesses, baronesses, and the maids of honour.  The Palace guard brought up the rear, their weapons reversed.[2]

Unfortunately, Harry doesn’t tell us whether or not his Earl’s mother, the dowager Countess of Southampton, and Bess Vernon, the young Countess, were among the mourners.  My guess would be the elder was, and perhaps the younger as well.

After the funeral the select few ladies who’d been invited to join Queen Anne left for Berwick-on-Tweed near the Scottish border.  Most, however, including Bess Vernon, did not meet her until she was near London.  

Sir Robert Cecil must have been extraordinarily busy.  On 18 April he was with the King in York, still working out the timing for James’ entry into London.  It wouldn’t have done for James to arrive on or close to the day of the funeral. A proper reception was necessary.

Cecil seems to have wanted to keep James and his courtiers in a holding pattern, via Burghley House at Stamford (where the Earl of Southampton presented himself on 25 April) and then at his own house (Theobalds) where members of the Privy Council could join the King after the funeral.  

Queen Anne’s departure from Edinburgh was scheduled for mid-May, so she could reach London by end June in good time for the coronation on 25 July 1603.  Her departure did not go according to plan.  See Anne’s Wikipedia entry.

The amount of organisation required for a royal funeral, two royal progresses, and a coronation within the space of four months is mind-boggling.


[1] John Stow The Annales, or general chronicle of England… (1615) p.815

[2] The Order of the Procession is printed in John Nichols’ Progresses and public processions of Queen Elizabeth…Vol III (1823) pp 620-626.

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