Thursday, 17 May 2012

Gorgeous funerals

The Parish Clerk (1907)
Peter Hampson Ditchfield
Courtesy : Project Gutenburg
The records of these gorgeous funerals, which are preserved in Machyn's diary and other chronicles, reveal the changes wrought by the spread of Reformation principles and Puritan notions. In Mary's reign they were very magnificent, "priests and clerks chanting in Latin, the priest having a cope and the clerk the holy water sprinkle in his hand." The accession of Elizabeth seems at first to have wrought little change, and the services of the Clerks' Company were in great request. On 21 October, 1559, "the Countess of Rutland was brought from Halewell to Shoreditch Church with thirty priests and clarkes singing," and "Sir Thomas Pope was buried at Clerkenwell with two services of pryke song, and two masses of requiem and all clerkes of London." "Poules Choir and the Clarkes of London" united their services on some occasions. Funeral sermons began to be considered an important part of the function, and Machyn records the names of the preachers. Even though such keen Protestants as Coverdale, Bishop Pilkington, Robert Crowley, and Veron preached the sermons, twenty clerks of the company were usually present singing. Machyn much disliked the innovations made by the Puritan party, their singing "Geneva wise" or "the tune of Genevay," men, women, and children all singing together, without any clerk. Here is a description of such a funeral on 7 March, 1559:

All Saints - Edingthorpe

© Godric Godricson

"And there was a great company of people two and two together, and neither priest nor clarke, the new preachers in their gowns like laymen, neither singing nor saying till they came to the grave, and afore she was put in the grave, a collect in English, and then put in the grave, and after, took some earth and cast it on the corse, and red a thyng ... for the sam, and contenent cast the earth into the grave, and contenent read the Epistle of St. Paul to the Stesselonyans the ... chapter, and after they sang Pater noster in English, bothe preachers and other, and ... of a new fashion, and after, one of them went into the pulpit and made a sermon." Machyn especially disliked the preacher Veron, rector of St. Martin's, Ludgate, a French Protestant, who had been ordained by Bishop Ridley, and was "a leader in the change from the old ecclesiastical music for the services to the Psalms in metre, versified by Sternhold and Hopkins ."

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