Anne Boleyn Catherine of Valois Charles I Edward I Edward IV Edward the Confessor Edward V Edward VI exhumed Henry VIII History - Ancient King John King of England Medieval & Modern News Queen of England Richard II Richard III Tower of London Westminster Abbey

The corpses of 10 Kings and Queens of England exhumed centuries after death

Edward the Confessor

The current discovery and reburial of the stays of Richard III captivated the general public’s creativeness; the medieval king stepped from the pages of historical past into the complete glare of the fashionable world.  He was not the primary monarch to have curious onlookers gaze upon his mortal stays centuries after he met his finish.  Listed here are 10 different kings and queens of England whose stays have been uncovered, both by chance, or out of morbid curiosity.


Edward the ConfessorEdward the Confessor was among the many final Anglo-Saxon kings of England, ruling from 1042 to 1066.  The main constructing challenge of his reign was Westminster Abbey, which was constructed as a royal burial church, however was solely accomplished round 1090, after his death.  Edward’s unique Westminster Abbey demolished in 1245 to make means for Henry III’s new constructing, which nonetheless stands.

A collection of strokes led to Edward’s death on 5 January 1066.  He was buried within the incomplete Westminster Abbey on 6 January 1066, and was succeeded by Harold Godwinson, who was topped the identical day.  Later that yr Harold was defeated and killed by the Normans underneath William the Conqueror on the Battle of Hastings.

Edward the Confessor was canonised virtually a century later in 1161 by Pope Alexander III.  Within the medieval interval Saint Edward was revered as one of England’s nationwide saints, however his stays weren’t allowed to relaxation in peace.

Henry I and his half-Saxon Queen, Matilda of Scotland, had Edward’s (her nice uncle) tomb opened in 1102.  The corpse was reported to be uncorrupted, thought-about to make certain proof of saintliness.  Bishop Gundulf, who was current on the time, was stated to have plucked a hair from Edward’s lengthy white beard, for which he acquired a extreme reprimand from the Abbot of Westminster.

Edward’s coffin was as soon as once more opened by Henry II in 1163.  Edward’s physique was discovered wrapped in material of gold with a gold-embroidered mitre on his head and purple footwear at his ft, his lengthy white beard nonetheless curling on his chest.  His corpse was lifted out and the material of gold eliminated.  The stays have been rewrapped in a silk material and put it in a picket coffin, then transferred to a brand new tomb in a ceremony presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket.  The pilgrim’s ring Edward was discovered to be sporting was appropriated by Henry II as a relic, and the material of gold was ‘three splendid copes’.

Edward was disturbed as soon as extra in 1685, when workmen have been eradicating scaffolding used within the coronation ceremony for James II.  A rafter fell, crashing into Edward’s coffin.  A richly ornamented and enamelled crucifix and gold chain chain have been found underneath Edward’s shoulder bones and got to James II.  When James swiftly fled England in 1688, they have been apparently stolen by fishermen.


King JohnKing John, also referred to as John Lackland, was King of England from 1199 till his death in 1216.  He misplaced the duchy of Normandy in his wars with France, and a baronial revolt on the finish of his reign led to the sealing of the Magna Carta.

He was on marketing campaign to quell riot inside his kingdom in September 1216 when he contracted dysentery in East Anglia.  It was right now that he’s stated to have misplaced a big half of his baggage practice, together with the Crown Jewels, as he crossed one of the tidal estuaries which empties into the Wash, being sucked in by quicksand and whirlpools.  By the point he reached Newark Citadel he was unable to journey any farther and died on the night time of 18 October 1216.  His physique was escorted south by an organization of mercenaries and he was buried in Worcester Cathedral.

John’s tomb was reopened in 1797 for an antiquarian research.  A gown of crimson damask had initially coated his physique however most of the embroidery had deteriorated. The stays of a sword and elements of a scabbard lay by his aspect.  He was discovered to be 5 ft 6½inches tall.


Edward IEdward I, also referred to as Edward Longshanks (being a tall man for his period) and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307.  He was on his option to wage warfare in Scotland when he developed dysentery and died on 7 July 1307.  His embalmed physique was introduced south and buried in Westminster Abbey.

Edward’s tomb was opened in 1774 by the Society of Antiquaries with permission from the Dean of Westminster.

They discovered the physique discovered wrapped in a robust linen material, waxed on the within, whereas the top and face have been coated with a material of crimson sarsinet.  The king was richly wearing a purple silk damask tunic with a stole of thick white tissue throughout his chest, set with filigree gilt metallic and semi-precious stones.  Above these he wore a royal mantle of wealthy crimson satin.  From the waist downwards he was coated with a wealthy material of figured gold.  In his proper hand was a sceptre with a cross of copper gilt.  In his left hand was a rod round 5 ft lengthy and a white enamel dove.  On his head was a gilt metallic crown.  Once they lifted the crown his cranium appeared naked, however his face and arms appeared intact.

They measured the physique at 6 ft 2 inches lengthy.

Sketch from the 1774 exploration of Edward I of England's tombSketch from the 1774 exploration of Edward I of England’s tomb


Richard IIRichard II succeeded to the English throne on the age of ten in 1377 and reigned till 1399.  The first main problem of his reign was the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, which noticed the 14 year-old king play a serious half in its profitable suppression.  Richard was ultimately deposed by Henry of Bolingbroke, who had himself topped as King Henry IV.

Richard died in captivity in Pontefract Fort in February 1400; he’s thought to have been starved to death, although questions stay relating to his last destiny.  His physique was taken south from Pontefract and displayed within the previous St Paul’s Cathedral earlier than burial in Kings Langley Church in Hertfordshire.  In 1413, Henry V – in an effort to atone for his father’s act of homicide – moved Richard’s physique from King’s Langley to its ultimate resting place in Westminster Abbey, the place the stays of his spouse Anne have been already entombed.

The tomb was opened in 1871 throughout restoration work.  The skulls of the King and Queen have been seen, with no marks of violence seen on both.  The skeletons have been almost good; even some of the tooth have been preserved.  Two copper-gilt crowns which have been recognized (from an earlier 19th century tomb-opening) to have been buried with the our bodies had disappeared, however a employees, sceptre, half of the ball, two pairs of royal gloves, and fragments of their peaked footwear nonetheless remained.

A quantity of relics have been clearly taken from the tomb in 1871, as they have been lately discovered in a cigarette field within the basement of London’s Nationwide Portrait Gallery.  The contents of the field, dated 31 August 1871, included fragments of wooden (probably from the coffin itself), some material, and a bit of leather-based from one of the royal gloves.

Richard II -b


Catherine of ValoisCatherine of Valois, spouse of Henry V, was the Queen consort of England from 1420 till Henry’s death in 1422.  Their 9 month-old son inherited the crown as Henry VI.  The younger queen dowager launched into a relationship (which can have been marked by a secret marriage) with Welsh courtier Owen Tudor.  Their youngsters went on to discovered the Tudor dynasty which dominated the Kingdom of England from 1485 till 1603.

Catherine died on three January 1437, shortly after childbirth, in London, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

In 1667 Catherine’s corpse was flaunted to guests who have been prepared to pay the Abbey employees.  The well-known diarist Samuel Pepys recorded the day he took his spouse and daughters to Westminster Abbey and was permitted to embrace the corpse:

“I now took them to Westminster Abbey, and there did show them all the tombs very finely, having one with us alone, there being other company this day to see the tombs, it being Shrove Tuesday; and here we did see, by particular favour, the body of Queen Katherine of Valois; and I had the upper part of her body in my hands, and I did kiss her mouth, reflecting upon it that I did kiss a Queen, and that this was my birth-day, thirty-six years old, that I did first kiss a Queen.”


Edward IVEdward IV was King of England from 1461 till October 1470, and once more from April 1471 till his death in 1483.  The first half of his reign was marred by the violence related to the Wars of the Roses.

When his well being started to significantly fail in 1483, together with his 12 year-old son Edward in line to succeed him, he named his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, (shortly to turn into Richard III) as Protector after his death.

What truly induced Edward IV’s death it isn’t recognized – some have steered pneumonia and typhoid, and even poison.  It might simply have been as a result of an unhealthy way of life, as he had turn into stout and inactive within the years earlier than his death.  He died on 9 April 1483 and was buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Fort.

His tomb was rediscovered in 1789 throughout restoration work on St George’s Chapel.  When the lead coffin was opened some lengthy brown hair was discovered close to the cranium, with shorter hair of the identical color on the neck of the skeleton.  Within the backside of the coffin was a darkish liquid, which immersed his ft to a depth of three inches.  A doctor at Windsor analysed the liquid and concluded that it got here from the dissolution of the physique.  After the invention of the tomb, many relics have been eliminated, together with locks of the king’s hair and a phial containing some of the liquid.


Edward VEdward V was King of England from his father Edward IV’s death on 9 April 1483 till 26 June of the identical yr.   He was by no means topped, and his 86-day reign was dominated by the affect of his uncle and Lord Protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who succeeded him as Richard III.

Edward and his youthful brother Richard, Duke of York, have been the ‘Princes in the Tower’ who disappeared after being despatched to the Tower of London.  Duty for his or her deaths was extensively attributed to Richard III, though it has by no means been confirmed.

In 1674 workmen remodelling the Tower of London dug up a picket field containing two small human skeletons.  The bones have been discovered buried 10 ft underneath the staircase resulting in the chapel of the White Tower.  One nameless report was that they have been discovered with “pieces of rag and velvet about them”; which might point out that the our bodies have been these of aristocrats.  4 years after their discovery, the bones have been positioned in an urn and, on the orders of King Charles II, interred in Westminster Abbey in a sarcophagus designed by Sir Christopher Wren, with the Latin inscription: “These brothers being confined to the Tower of London and there stifled with pillows, were privately and meanly buried, by the order of their perfidious uncle, Richard the Usurper.”.

The bones have been eliminated and examined in 1933, by the archivist of Westminster Abbey, Lawrence Tanner; a number one anatomist, Professor William Wright; and the president of the Dental Affiliation, George Northcroft.  By measuring sure bones and tooth, they concluded the bones belonged to 2 youngsters across the right ages for the princes.  The bones have been discovered to have been interred carelessly together with hen and different animal bones, in addition to three very rusty nails.  One skeleton was bigger than the opposite, however many of the bones have been lacking, together with half of the smaller jawbone and all of the tooth from the bigger one, and many of the bones had additionally been damaged by the unique workmen.  No additional scientific examination has since been carried out on the bones, which stay in Westminster Abbey.

The discovery of the stays of Richard III beneath a carpark in Leicester in 2012, and their in depth DNA testing, might settle the matter of whether or not the three units of stays are associated.  Nevertheless, the Church of England, backed by Queen Elizabeth II, has repeatedly refused to permit forensic exams on the youngsters’s bones on the grounds that it might set a precedent for testing historic theories that might result in a number of royal disinterments.


Ann Boleyn

Anne Boleyn was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 because the second spouse of King Henry VIII.  Henry VIII pursued her whereas he was nonetheless married to Catherine of Aragon and he turned on having his marriage annulled by the Pope so he can be free to marry Anne.  When Henry married Anne regardless in 1533, the Pope excommunicated him, which led to the break between the Church of England and the Church of Rome.  Later that yr, Anne gave delivery to the longer term Queen Elizabeth I.  Henry was disenchanted to have a daughter fairly than a son.  Anne went on to have three miscarriages, and by 1536, Henry was courting Jane Seymour.

Henry had Anne and her brother George Boleyn investigated for adultery, incest and excessive treason.  They have been arrested and despatched to the Tower of London, the place they was tried earlier than a jury and discovered responsible.  Though the proof towards them was unconvincing, they have been condemned to death.

Henry commuted Anne’s sentence from burning to beheading, and moderately than have a queen beheaded with the widespread axe, he introduced an professional swordsman from  France, to carry out the execution.

On the morning of Friday 19 Might 1536, Anne Boleyn was executed inside the Tower precincts, two day after her brother’ beheading.

She climbed the scaffold and made a brief speech to the gang:

“Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it.  I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best.  And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.”

It’s thought that Anne prevented criticising Henry in an effort to save Elizabeth and her household from additional penalties, however even underneath excessive strain she didn’t confess guilt.

Anne’s ermine mantle was eliminated and she lifted off her headdress, tucking her hair underneath a coif.  After a quick farewell to her weeping ladies-in-waiting, she kneeled down and one of her women tied a blindfold over her eyes.  She knelt upright, and the execution consisted of a single stroke.

She was buried in an unmarked grave within the Chapel of St Peter advert Vincula, the parish church of the Tower of London.

In 1876, it was found that the chapel’s pavement had sunk in two locations and had to get replaced.

When the pavement was lifted, the bones of a feminine have been discovered at a depth of about two ft, not mendacity of their unique order, however heaped collectively right into a smaller area.

The bones have been then examined by a surgeon, Dr Frederic Mouat, who confirmed in a memorandum that they belonged to “a female of between twenty-five and thirty years of age, of a delicate frame of body, and who had been of slender and perfect proportions; the forehead and lower jaw were small and especially well formed. The vertebrae were particularly small, especially one joint (the atlas), which was that next to the skull, and they bore witness to the Queen’s ‘lyttel neck’.”

He famous that the skeleton, was about 5 ft to five ft three inches in peak. A cautious examination of the finger bones didn’t present any proof of a sixth finger or any sort of malformation.

He went on to say that the stays have been in keeping with descriptions of Anne and the sitter of the well-known Holbein portrait of the queen.

Though the bones have been combined up, no different stays have been discovered at that spot.  The bones of George Boleyn weren’t discovered however it was thought that the bottom had been disturbed within the late 18th century and his stays eliminated then, or that he was buried in an space not touched by the restoration work.


Edward VIEdward VI, the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, was topped king in 1547 on the age of 9.  His reign was marked by financial issues and social unrest that, in 1549, erupted into riot and revolt.

A standard perception is that Edward VI was sickly all through his childhood.  Nevertheless, regardless of a life threatening fever on the age of four, current historians consider that he loved usually good well being till the final six months of his life.  In February 1553, on the age of 15, Edward fell unwell with a fever and cough (in all probability tuberculosis) that steadily worsened.  He died at Greenwich Palace  on 6 July 1553 and was buried within the Henry VII Woman Chapel at Westminster Abbey.

In 1871 there have been considerations that some of the royal burial vaults beneath the abbey have been deteriorating.  With Queen Victoria’s permission, a number of of the vaults have been opened and examined.  Edward’s vault was found fairly accidentally. As there was just one lead lined coffin within the chamber, it was deemed worthy of examination.  The coffin was in poor situation by means of age and moisture injury.  The lead lining seemed to be the one adhesive holding the container collectively.  With out disturbing the precise contents it was famous that the skeletal stays have been seen, as have been the remnants of a cranium cap.  The coffin lid had an inscribed plate in Latin which said that the mortal stays inside have been these of Edward VI.



Charles I

Charles I used to be the monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Eire from 1625 till his execution in 1649.  Charles believed within the divine proper of kings and his reign was marked by his quarrels with the Parliament of England, which sought to curb his powers.  This finally led to the English Civil Struggle between Charles’ Royalist forces and Parliamentarian forces led by Oliver Cromwell.  Charles was defeated and imprisoned, then tried and convicted for top treason in January 1649.

Charles’s sentence of death by beheading was scheduled for 30 January 1649.  On the morning of his execution he wore two shirts to stop the chilly climate inflicting any noticeable shivers that the gang might have mistaken for worry.  He walked underneath guard from St James’s Palace to the Palace of Whitehall, the place an execution scaffold was erected in entrance of the Banqueting Home.  Standing on the scaffold he delivered his final speech (largely inaudible to the clamouring crowd), which concluded, “I shall go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be.”  He stated a prayer then put his head on the block, signalling to his executioner that he was prepared by stretching out his palms; he was then beheaded with one clear stroke of the axe.

The severed head was held up by its lengthy hair and flaunted to the gang.  After the execution, the king’s and his embalmed physique have been positioned in a lead coffin and taken for burial in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Citadel (his burial in Westminster Abbey having been refused by the brand new regime), the place he was laid to relaxation alongside the coffin of Henry VIII.

The coffin was reopened in 1813, within the presence of the Prince Regent.  It bore the inscription ‘KING CHARLES 1648′ (In England up to 1752, Lady Day on 25 March was New Year’s Day, so based on the English calendar, the King’s execution occurred in 1648 not 1649).

When a sq. opening was made within the lid, they found a decayed inner picket coffin and the physique rigorously wrapped in material which had been doused in a greasy resin.  When the material was faraway from the face, the pores and skin was darkish and discoloured, however muscle mass of the brow and temples have been intact.  The cartilage of the nostril was gone, however the left eye was open and full, nevertheless it quickly deteriorated on publicity.

Charles’ pointed beard was completely preserved.  The form of the face was an extended oval, many of the tooth remained, as did the left ear.  The head was discovered to be unfastened, so was picked up and seen.  The again half of the scalp had a remarkably recent look; the pores of the pores and skin have been distinct and the tendons and ligaments of the neck have been agency.  The hair was thick on the again half of the top, and was discovered to be of a lustrous darkish brown color; the beard was a redder brown.  The hair was minimize brief, suggesting it was carried out both for the comfort of the executioner, or locks have been taken as mementoes.  The fourth cervical vertebra had been sliced via completely easily by the executioner’s axe.



Westminster Abbey: Chapels and Royal Tombs,  Historic Memorials of Westminster Abbey,  Account of the Opening of the Tomb of King Charles

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