Heraldic Funerals part 2

The funeral of Elizabeth I
In Britain the greatest age for the Heraldic funeral was the 16th and 17th centuries. The marshalling of such events was largely the responsibility of the officers of arms, who jealously guarded their rights because of the fees they could charge for their services. These fees were known as “funeral droits”. These were payable from the estate of the deceased and were considerable. The amount of the fees paid was dependent on the deceased’s degree and the rank of the Herald. In England the Heralds kept a close eye on anyone, especially painters and engravers, who might encroach on their lucrative racket. There are records of brawls erupting at the door of the church over fees even as the corpse was on his way to his final resting place. Each part of the funeral of a member of the nobility was regulated by the Heralds, from the number of mourners, their degree and the size of their trains, to the number, shape, and size of the flags. The following letter to Garter Dethick who held office form 1586 until 1606 illustrates the degree of detail involved in the preparations:
Good Mr. Garter, I pray you, as your leisure doth best serve you, set down advisedly and exactly, in every particular itself, the number of mourners due to my calling, being a viscountess of birth, with the number of waiting- women for myself, and the women mourners, which, with the chief mourner and her that shall bear the trayne, will be in number ten, beside waiting women, pages and gentlemen wishers. Then I pray you the number of chief mourners of Lords, Knights, and gentlemen…..  Good Mr. Garter, do it exactly; for I find forewarnings that bid me to provide a pick-axe etc. So with my most friendly commendation to you, I rest,

Your old Mistress and Friend,

Elizabeth Russel, Dowager

Elizabeth IThe reply Mr. Garter sent is very lengthy and includes the following details for the funeral procession. It is to include Bannerolls ( a type of heraldic banner showing ‘impalements’ for family marriages), the Great Banner borne by a Knight or esquire, a preacher, a Garter King of Arms and 2 heralds. The Lady Chief Mourner was to have her gown, mantle, traynes, hood and tippets, 11 yards of black cloth. Garter King of Arms was allowed liveries as a knight, 6 yards of cloth, the heralds 5 yards….

The funeral procession of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 is recorded in a magnificent 40 foot scroll, which identifies each of the main participants by name. The procession included common people, knights and their ladies, and aristocrats. Among them, all of England is represented. Poets wrote elegies and lamentations for Elizabeth. The people showed the dead Queen the greatest respect and the funeral procession consisted of over 1000 mourners. The many Londoners who watched the procession swelled this number. The coffin was draped in purple velvet, befitting a Queen of England. The coffin was drawn by four horses, which were draped in a black livery. A large canopy that was held by six Knights of the Realm covered the coffin. On top of the coffin lay an effigy of Queen Elizabeth, dressed in the finest of clothes. The effigy was so life-like it made the people of London gasp. The chief mourners were all dressed in black - the materials varied according to their rank. The long procession of mourners wound its way to Westminster Abbey

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