Friday, 15 June 2012

Burials at Old Saint Paul's Cathedral


Burials at
Old Saint Pauls
Project Gutenburg
St. Paul's, as we see, was rich in tombs of mediæval bishops; as to Royalty it could not be named as compared with Westminster Abbey, for the City was not a royal residence except in very rare cases. But here we come to two tombs of Kings. Sebba was buried in the North Aisle in 695. He had been King of the East Saxons, but being afflicted with grievous sickness he became a monk. His tomb remained until the Great Fire, as did that of Ethelred the Unready, next to it. On the arches above were tablets containing the following inscriptions:—
"Hic jacet Sebba Rex Orientalium Saxonum; qui conversus fuit ad fidem per Erkenwaldum Londonensem Episcopum, anno Christ DCLXXVII. Vir multum Deo devotus, actibus religiosis, crebris precibus & piis elemosynarum fructibus plurimum intentus; vitam privatam & Monasticam cunctis Regni divitiis & honoribus præferens: Qui cum regnasset annos XXX. habitum religiosum accepit per benedictionem Waltheri Londinensis Antistitis, qui præfato Erkenwaldo successit. De quo Venerabilis Beda in historia gentis Anglorum."1
"Hic jacet Ethelredus Anglorum Rex, filius Edgari Regis; cui in die consecrationis his, post impositam Coronam, fertur S. Dunstanus Archiepiscopus dira prædixisse his verbis: Quoniam aspirasti ad regnum per mortem fratris tui, in cujus sanguinem conspiraverunt Angli, cum ignominiosa matre tua; non deficiet gladius de domo tua, sæviens in te omnibus diebus vitæ tuæ; interficiens de semine tuo quousque Regnum tuum transferatur in Regnum alienum, cujus ritum et linguam Gens cui præsides non novit; nec expiabitur nisi longa vindicta peccatum tuum, & peccatum matris tuæ, & peccatum virorum qui interfuere consilio illius nequam: Quæ sicut a viro sancto prædicta evenerunt; nam Ethelredus variis præliis per Suanum Danorum Regem filiumque suum Canutum fatigatus et fugatus, ac tandem Londoni arcta obsidione conclusus, misere diem obiit Anno Dominicæ Incarnationis MXVII. postquam annis XXXVI. in magna tribulatione regnasset."
Certainly in this latter terrible epitaph, it cannot be said that the maxim de mortuis was observed. But it speaks the truth.

Of a much later date is a royal monument, not indeed of a king, but of the son and father of kings, namely, John of Gaunt. He died in 1399, and his tomb in St. Paul's was as magnificent as those of his father in the Confessor's Chapel at Westminster, and of his son at Canterbury. It was indeed a Chantry founded by Henry IV. to the memory of his father and mother, Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster. She was Gaunt's first wife (d. 1369), and bore him not only Henry IV., but Philippa, who became wife of the King of Portugal, and Elizabeth, wife of John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon. It was through Blanche that Gaunt got his dukedom of Lancaster. She died of plague in 1369, during his absence in the French Wars, and was buried here. Before his return to England he had married (in 1371) Constance, daughter of Pedro the Cruel, and hereby laid claim to the crown of Castile, as the inscription on his monument recorded. Their daughter married Henry, Prince of the Asturias, afterwards King of Castile. Constance died in 1394, and was also buried in St. Paul's, though her effigy was not on the tomb. In January, 1396, he married Catharine Swynford, who had already borne him children, afterwards legitimised. One of them was the great Cardinal Beaufort; another, John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, was the grandfather of Margaret Tudor, mother of Henry VII. Gaunt's third wife (d. 1403) is buried at Lincoln. The long inscription on the monument closed with the words, "Illustrissimus hic princeps Johannes cognomento Plantagenet, Rex Castilliæ et Legionis, Dux Lancastriæ, Comes Richmondiæ, Leicestriæ, Lincolniæ et Derbiæ, locum tenens Aquitaniæ, magnus Seneschallus Angliæ, obiit anno XXII. regni regis Ricardi secundi, annoque Domini MCCCXCIX."

Close by John of Gaunt, between the pillars of the 6th bay of the Choir, was the tomb of WILLIAM HERBERT (1501-1569), first Earl of Pembroke of the second creation, a harum-scarum youth, who settled down into a clever politician, and was high in favour with Henry VIII., who made him an executor of his will, and nominated him one of the Council of twelve for Edward VI. He went through the reign of Mary not without suspicion of disloyalty, but was allowed to hold his place at Court, and in the reign of Queen Elizabeth he was accused of favouring the Queen of Scots, though here also he overcame the suspicions, and did not lose his place. He married Anne, the sister of Queen Catherine Parr, and they were both buried in St. Paul's.

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