Henry VIII's snubbed grand funeral plans unearthed with 'lost' tomb discovery


Henry VIII's snubbed grand funeral plans unearthed with 'lost' tomb discovery

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Anne Boleyn ‘did conspire to kill Henry VIII’ reveals expert

The brutal king, best known for his six marriages, initiating English Reformation and beheading anyone who went against him, reigned over England for 38 years until his death in 1547. Experts continue to debate Henry’s final cause of death, but most agree obesity hastened it after he suffered a leg wound from a jousting accident in 1536. He died in his now-destroyed Palace of Whitehall in London, aged 55, and was interred into a vault at Windsor Castle, where he remains to this day.

But this was far from what the King had in mind, historian and British History Tours organiser Philippa Brewell uncovered.

She told History Extra: “We can only imagine the consternation and anger he would feel to know that the shrine-like tomb he designed for himself was never completed.

“Indeed, despite his keen control of self-image in life and instructions for his tomb and image in death, he remains in a ‘temporary’ vault under the Quire in St George’s Chapel.

“The chamber is marked simply by a black marble slab placed there almost 300 years later on the orders of William IV, its functional description the only thing alerting us to his presence beneath.”

Henry VIII had much grander plans for his funeral

Henry VIII had much grander plans for his funeral (Image: GETTY)

Henry's Whitehall Palace

Henry’s Whitehall Palace (Image: GETTY)

The plaque reads: “In a vault beneath this marble slab are deposited the remains of Jane Seymour Queen of King Henry VIII 1537, King Henry VIII 1547, King Charles I 1648 and an infant child of Queen Anne.”

Ms Brewell detailed how every “minute detail” of the change of power to his nine-year-old son, Edward VI, was managed and planned by Henry himself.

She added: “This included Henry’s funeral which would, through impressive pageantry and ceremony, assert once again that the Tudors were rightful kings of England under God.

“Always one for self-appreciation, Henry also wanted to show that he had been a true Renaissance King on the European stage.

“For his tomb, Henry requested ‘a convenient altar honourably prepared and apparelled with all manner of things requisite and necessary for daily masses there to be said perpetually while the world shall endure’.

READ MORE: Henry VIII’s ‘lost palace’ hidden below London’s streets 300 years on from tragic fire

Henry wanted to impress with his funeral

Henry wanted to impress with his funeral (Image: GETTY)

“Neither the tomb, nor the masses, were completed as Henry had stipulated.”

Although Henry states in his will that the tomb was almost complete, wars with Scotland and France during the latter part of Henry’s life had drained the Exchequer and work is thought to have slowed.

Around the same time, the master sculptor responsible for the work, Benedetto da Rovezzano, returned to Italy due to bad health.

Benedetto was commissioned to complete the tomb in St George’s Chapel for the King, however, Henry did not see it finished, and so it has since come to be known as “the lost tomb of Henry VIII”.

Ms Brewell explained how the grand tomb would have looked.

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Henry was buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle

Henry was buried at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle (Image: GETTY)

She added in 2020: “A black marble sarcophagus, confiscated from Cardinal Wolsey by Henry, was already at Windsor.

“Thanks to John Speed, the 17th-century mapmaker and antiquarian, and his 1627 book ‘The History of Great Britaine,’ we are able to understand how Henry planned to use it for himself.

“Fortuitously, for Henry’s original manuscript has since gone missing, Speed transcribes the instructions Henry left for a double tomb, magnificent in size, decoration and iconography.

“Described in around 1,400 words, the plans included effigies of the King and Queen as if sleeping, numerous angels, prophets aloft columns, scriptures and children with baskets of red and white roses scattering them down over the tomb and the pavement beyond.

“It would have been fabulous, very ‘Henry-esque’ – if it had been built.”

Henry remains in a 'temporary' vault

Henry remains in a ‘temporary’ vault (Image: WIKI)

Some believe the tomb was not completed before his passing due to pure fear, as talk of the death of the King was considered a treasonable offence at the time.

The King was only told the day before that he was dying, allowing just enough time for him to take the last rites – essential in the Catholic faith.

According to experts at The Tudor Travel Guide, each of Henry’s three children expressed intentions to complete the memorial but failed to do so too.

The black sarcophagus remained at Windsor for more than 250 years until the Georgians found a use for it and transported it to the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, where it now holds the coffin of Admiral Lord Nelson.