DUKE OF ROTHES
The funeral of John, 1st and only Duke of Rothes, reveals just how elaborate an heraldic funeral on a grand scale was. The Duke passed away on July 27th 1681 and it was almost a month later on August 21st before his funeral took place. Having held the office of Lord High Chancellor of Scotland, he was afforded a full state funeral. It included every possible type of heraldic funeral trapping, as well as two complete regiments of artillery. Following the troops were two conductors with black staffs over their shoulders, then two gumpheons ( square flags), one bearing a death’s head with the words memento mori ( remember, you must die) the other bearing an hourglass wit the words fugit hora ( hours fly). There then followed a line of poor men in mourning cloaks that bore the Duke’s cipher and coronet. Next followed a trumpeter, his banner charged with the ducal achievement, then came a cavalier on horseback. Next was a banner of the ducal colors or liveries borne by a gentleman. He was followed by the Duke’s servants, who in turn were followed by the Pencil of Honor, a swallow-tailed flag bearing the entire achievement of arms, next was one with the paternal arms (Leslie), followed by the standard of honor (similar to the pencil of honor but with a square end). The warhorse was led by two ‘lacquies’ who were bare headed. Two trumpeters followed, then Bute and Carrick pursuivants of arms (heralds) in mourning gowns and tabards. Another small group of heraldic flags then followed: the Great Gumpheon, another gumpheon bearing the arms of Abernathy with a ‘laurel wreath in mourning’ and the Little Mourning Standard.
After a group of gentlemen in mourning gowns and hats, there followed another two pursuivant if arms, Kintyre and Dingwall, after which came the spurs, gauntlets, the breastplate, shield, helm, wreath and sword of the deceased. Two more retainers then led the dead man’s packhorse, after which walked a goodly procession of officers and counsellors of Edinburgh, members of the judiciary and government and representatives of the peerage, followed by the last of the pursuivants, Unicorn and Ormonde. Two trumpeters then announced eight bearers with banners of kinship. On the paternal side ( the right) were those of the Earl of Roxburgh, Hamilton of Evandale, the Earl of Perth and the Earl of Rothes; and on the left the descent through his mother from the Duke of Antragne, the Earl of Tullibardine, the Duke of Lennox and the Earl of Mar. The mourning horse then followed, bearing a black trapper adorned with panels bearing the ducal arms. The last of the heraldic flags, the Great Mourning Banner, bore the ducal achievement of arms and the motto. Two more trumpeters announced six heralds: Islay, with the shield of Leslie; Albany, with that of Abernathy; Marchmount, with the crest, motto, and wreath; Rothesay with the helm, coronet and mantling; Snowdon with the Sword and Ross with the targe.
The Duke’s servants and household officers followed, after which was led the Duke’s horse for riding to Parliament covered with a richly embroidered saddlecloth. Next came a gentleman bearing the Duke’s coronet, followed by two archbishops and then Lord Lyon (the chief herald of Scotland) in tabard and mourning cloak carrying a diamond shaped ‘hatchment’ bearing the Duke’s entire heraldic achievement. More trappings of Parliament followed, including the Lord Chancellors purse. Then followed the most extraordinary sight of the whole incredible spectacle; the coffin of the Duke itself, carried beneath a pall of mortcloth decorated with the arms of the Duke and his relations. These were interspersed with death’s heads, ciphers, and silver tears. Upon the cloth, which was borne by close relations, was the Duke’s coronet. The coffin was carried beneath a great canopy decorated like the pall, the poles of which were carried by noblemen’s sons. Then followed the principal mourners and the mourning coach, the official procession being brought to a close by His Majesty’s Guard. The procession was said to have reached 5 miles in length. The entire affair cost about £ 30,000 ($ 4 Million at today’s prices), which was supposed to have been paid by the government, although in the end the family was left to pick up most of the enormous bill. From the end of the 17th century, Protestant Britain saw a ‘noble rebellion’ against the profligate cost of the grand heraldic funeral, which had become prohibitive even for the richest of families. Many of the traditions and trappings that had been associated with such a funeral, such as armor for example, had themselves become long outdated and scarce, although up to that time there were still specialist manufacturers who carried on producing special ‘funeral armor’.