Essays and Orations, Read and Delivered at the Royal College of Physicians to which is Added an Account of the Opening of the Tomb of King Charles

Halford, Henry


[Extract from
's 'Athenae Oxonienses,' folio edition. Vol. ii. p. 703. Printed for Knaplock, Midwinter, and Tonson,
THERE was a passage broke through the wall of the Banqueting-house, by which the King passed unto the scaffold: where, after his Majesty had spoken, and declared publicly that he died a Christian according to the profession of the Church of England (the contents of which have been several times printed), the fatal stroke was given by a disguised person. Mr. Herbert during this time was at the door leading to the scaffold, much lamenting; and the Bishop coming from the scaffold with the Royal corpse, which was immediately coffined and covered with a velvet pall, he and Mr. Herbert went with it to the back stairs to have it embalmed. The Royal corpse being embalmed and well coffined, and all afterwards wrapped up in lead, and covered with a new velvet pall, it was removed to
St. James's
. Where to bury the King was the last duty remaining. By some historians it is said the King spoke
something to the bishop concerning his burial. Mr. Herbert, both before and after the King's death, was frequently in company with the bishop, and affirmed, that he never mentioned anything to him of the King's naming any place where he would be buried; nor did Mr. Herbert (who constantly attended his Majesty, and after his coming to Hurst Castle was the only person in his bedchamber) hear him at any time declare his mind concerning it. Nor was it in his lifetime a proper question for either of them to ask, notwithstanding they had oftentimes the opportunity, especially when his Majesty was bequeathing to his royal children and friends what is formerly related. Nor did the bishop declare any thing concerning the place to Mr. Herbert, which doubtless he would upon Mr. Herbert's pious care about it; which being duly considered, they thought no place more fit to inter the corpse than in the chapel of
King Henry VII.
, at the end of the church of
Westminster Abbey
, out of whose loins
King Charles I.
was lineally extracted, &c. Whereupon Mr. Herbert made his application to such as were then in power for leave to bury the King's body in the said chapel, among his ancestors; but his request was denied, for this reason, that his burying there would attract infinite numbers of all sorts thither, to see where the King was buried; which, as the times then were,
was judged unsafe and inconvenient. Mr. Herbert acquainting the bishop with this, they then resolved to bury the King's body in the Royal Chapel of
St. George
, within the Castle of
, both in regard that his Majesty was Sovereign of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and that several Kings had been there interred; namely,
King Henry VI.
King Edward IV.
, and
King Henry VIII.
, &c. Upon which consideration Mr. Herbert made his second address to the committee of Parliament, who, after some deliberation, gave him an order, bearing date the 6th of February,
, authorising him and Mr.
Anthony Mildmay
to bury the King's body there, which the governor was to observe.
Accordingly the corpse was carried thither front
St. James's
, February 7, in a hearse covered with black velvet, drawn by six horses covered with black cloth, in which were about a dozen gentlemen, most of them being such that had waited upon his Majesty at
Carisbrook Castle
, and other places, since his Majesty's going from
. Mr. Herbert shewed the governor, Colonel Whitchcot, the committee's order for permitting Mr. Herbert and
Mr. Mildmay
to bury him, the late King, in any place within
Windsor Castle
, that they should think fit and meet. In the first place, in order thereunto, they carried the King's body into the Dean's house, which was hung with black, and
after to his usual bedchamber within the palace. After which they went to
St. George's Chapel
to take a view thereof, and of the most fit and honourable place for the Royal corpse to rest in. Having taken a view, they at first thought that the tomb-house, built by
Cardinal Wolsey
, would be a fit place for his interment; but that place, though adjoining, yet being not within the Royal Chapel, they waived it; for, if
King Henry VIII.
was buried there, (albeit to that day the particular place of his burial was unknown to any,) yet, in regard to his Majesty,
King Charles I.
(who was a real defender of the Faith, and as far from censuring any that might be) would upon occasional discourse express some dislike in
King Henry
's proceedings, in misemploying those vast revenues, the suppressed abbies, monasteries, and other religious houses were endowed with, and by demolishing those many beautiful and stately structures which both expressed the greatness of their founders, and preserved the splendour of the kingdom, which might at the Reformation have in some measure been kept up and converted to sundry pious uses.
Upon consideration thereof, those gentlemen declined it, and pitched upon the vault where
King Edward IV.
had been interred, being on the north side of the choir, near the altar, that King being one his late Majesty would often times make honourable
mention of, and from whom his Majesty was lineally propagated. That, therefore, induced Mr. Herbert to give order to N. Harrison and Henry Jackson to have that vault opened, partly covered with a fair large stone of touch, raised within the arch adjoining, having a range of iron bars gilt, curiously cut according to church work, &c. But as they were about this work, some noblemen came thither; namely, the Duke of Richmond, the Marquis of Hertford, the Earl of Lindsey, and with them Dr. Juxon, Bishop of London, who had licence from the Parliament to attend the King's body to his grave. Those gentlemen, therefore, Herbert and
, thinking fit to submit, and leave the choice of the place of burial to those great persons, they in like manner viewed the tomb-house and the choir; and one of the Lords beating gently upon the pavement with his staff, perceived a hollow sound; and thereupon ordering the stones and earth to be removed, they discovered a descent into a vault, where two coffins were laid near one another, the one very large, of an antique form, and the other little. These they supposed to be the bodies of
King Henry VIII.
Queen Jane Seymour
his third wife, as indeed they were. The velvet palls that covered their coffins seemed fresh, though they had lain there above one hundred years.
The Lords agreeing that the King's body
should be in the same vault interred, being about the middle of the choir, over against the eleventh stall upon the sovereign's side, they gave order to have the King's name and year he died cut in lead; which whilst the workmen were about, the Lords went out and gave Puddifant, the sexton, order to lock the chapel door, and not suffer any to stay therein till further notice. The sexton did his best to clear the chapel; nevertheless, Isaac, the sexton's man, said that a foot-soldier had hid himself, so as he was not discerned; and being greedy of prey, crept into the vault, and cut so much of the velvet pall that covered the great body as he judged would hardly be missed, and wimbled also a hole through the said coffin that was largest, probably fancying that there was semething well worth his adventure. The sexton at his opening the door espied the sacrilegious person; who being searched, a bone was found about him, with which he said he would haft a knife. The Governor being therefore informed of, he gave him his reward; and the Lords and others present were convinced that a real body was in the said great coffin, which some before had scrupled. The girdle or circumscription, of capital letters of lead put about the King's coffin, had only these words:
King Charles
's body was then brought from his bedchamber down into
St. George's Hall
, whence,
after a little stay, it was with a slow and solemn pace (much sorrow in most faces being then discernible) carried by gentlemen of quality in mourning. The noblemen in mourning also held up the pall; and the governor, with several gentlemen, officers and attendants, came after. It was then observed, that at such time as the King's body was brought out from
St. George's Hall
, the sky was serene and clear; but presently it began to snow, and the snow fell so fast, that by that time the corpse came to the west end of the Royal chapel, the black velvet pall was all white (the colour of innocency), being thick covered over with snow. The body being by the bearers set down near the place of burial, the Bishop of London stood ready, with the service-book in his hands, to have performed his last duty to the King his master, according to the order and form of burial of the dead set forth in the Book of Common Prayer; which the Lords likewise desired; but it would not be suffered by Colonel Whitchcot, the governor of the castle, by reason of the
Directory to which
(said he)
he and others were to be conformable
. Thus went the
to his grave, in the forty-eighth year of his age, and twenty-second year and tenth month of his reign.'