Charles I is buried
What to do with the body of a king executed as a traitor? This unusual situation exercised both royal supporters and those of Parliament for several days after Charles I was executed on January 30 1649 . On February 6, however, Sir Thomas Herbert, Charles's loyal Groom of the Bedchamber who had been with him to his end, and Captain Anthony Mildmay, were granted permission by the authorities to bury the king at Windsor Castle , in St George's Chapel , something of a compromise site: Westminster Abbey would have been too glorious an end in Parliament's eyes, and too central to affairs in London ; at the chapel in Windsor he would however be interred with the likes of Henry VI , Henry VIII , and Edward IV ; and its associations with the Order of the Garter were also felt by the late king's friends to be fitting for Charles.
Thus on February 9 1649 (1648 in the old style, new year falling on March 25 until more than a century later) the body of Charles I was brought on a black-draped hearse to Windsor Castle, through a heavy snowstorm (painted rather romantically by the 19th century artist Charles Cope), accompanied by some of the great nobles left to the royal party: the Duke of Richmond, and the Lords Southampton, Lindsey and Hertford; various retainers were also in evidence: Mildmay and Herbert of course, and also Abraham Dowsett, Sir Henry Firebrace, and William Levett.
Precisely where in the Chapel of St George Charles should be laid to rest was not decided when the burial party arrived: various spots were considered, until the tomb of Henry VIII was determined as fitting to his status. His body, temporarily resting in his old bedchamber, was brought down to the chapel without ceremony.
The late king's enemies were determined his burial would not be a rallying point or add to the nascent view of him as martyr: a parsimonious budget of £500 was set for carriage and interment; Bishop Juxon was supposedly obstructed by the Governor of Windsor Castle at every end and turn (another event recalled in a famous painting by Victorian artist Charles Lucy); during the laying of Charles's body in the tomb occupied by Henry VIII and Jane Seymour the Parliamentary witnesses pointedly and insultingly kept their hats on; and no burial service proper was allowed - no words or prayers said over the king's remains.
Once the body was in the tomb, and the black pall laid over it, everyone was ushered out of the Chapel by the Governor, who locked it and pocketed the keys. The power of Parliament over the king in death as in life had been very clearly displayed
More famous dates here
11346 views since 23rd February 2007
On this day: