This is an anonymous account of the funeral of dowager queen Katherine Parr. It should be noted that her husband, Thomas Seymour did not attend his wife’s funeral and burial. One could believe that his grief was too great to be present. Lady Jane Grey was the chief mourner.
This is believed to have been the first Protestant funeral of a royal in England, happening on the 7th of September 1548, two days after her death.
A short account of the interment of the lady Katherine Parr, Queen Dowager, late wife to King Henry VIII, and after, wife to Sir Thomas Seymour, Lord Seymour of Sudeley, and High Admiral of England.
On Wednesday, the 5th of September, between two and three of the clock in the morning, died the aforesaid lady, late Queen Dowager, at the castle of Sudeley in Gloucestershire, 1548, and lieth buried in the chapel of the said castle.
She was cered (wrapped in a wax cloth) and chested in lead accordingly, and so remained in her privy chamber until things were in a readiness.
Hereafter followeth the provision in the chapel.
It was hanged with black cloth garnished with escutcheons (heraldic shields) of marriages – viz. King Henry VIII and her in pale, under the crown; her own in lozenge, under the crown; also the arms of the Lord Admiral and hers in pale, without crown.
Rails covered with black cloth for the mourners to sit in, with stools and cushions accordingly, without either hearse, majesty’s valence, or tapers – saving two tapers whereon were two escutcheons, which stood upon the corpse during the service.
The order in proceeding to the chapel:
First, two conductors in black, with black staves (wooden sticks).
Then, gentlemen and esquires.
Then, officers of household, with their white staves (wooden sticks).
Then, the gentlemen ushers.
Then, Somerset Herald in the King’s coat. (Representing the King)
Then, the corpse borne by six gentlemen in black gowns, with their hoods on their heads.
Then, eleven staff torches borne on each side by yeoman about the corpse, and at each corner a knight for assistance – four, with their hoods on their heads.
Then, the Lady Jane, daughter to the lord Marquis [of] Dorset, chief mourner, led by an estate, her train borne up by a young lady.
Then, six other lady mourners, two and two. Then, yeomen, three and three in rank.
Then, all other following.
The manner of the service in the church:
When the corpse was set within the rails, and the mourners placed, the whole choir began, and sung certain Psalms in English, and read three lessons. And after the third lesson the mourners, according to their degrees and as it is accustomed, offered into the alms-box. And when they had done, all other, as gentlemen or gentlewoman, that would.
The offering done, Doctor Cloverdale, the Queen’s almoner, began his sermon, which was very good and godly. And in one place thereof, he took an occasion to declare unto the people how that there should none there think, say, nor spread abroad that the offering which was there done, was done anything to profit the dead, but for the poor only. And also the lights which were carried and stood about the corpse were for the honor of the person, and for none other intent nor purpose. And so went through with his sermon, and made a godly prayer. And the whole church answered, and prayed the same with him in the end. The sermon done, the corpse was buried, during which time the choir sung Te Deum in English.
And this done, after dinner the mourners, and the rest that would, returned homeward again. All which aforesaid was done in a morning.
Note: The English version of Te Deum sounds greatly different from the original (less beautiful in my opinion) but by listening to this you can imagine the day of her funeral. If you’d like to hear the original version, CLICK HERE.
Katherine Parr’s final resting place is where she and Thomas Seymour spent their final months together and where she gave birth to their daughter, Mary…St. Mary’s Chapel, Sudeley Castle.
Katherine Parr: Complete Works & Correspondence, edited by Janel Mueller