Fascinating Facts About Henry VIII's Tomb That Made Us Say 'Whoa'
Vote up the facts about Henry VIII's tomb that surprise you.
King Henry VIII, famous for his marital troubles - he married six women, beheading two of them - is a larger-than-life figure in history. However, despite his titanic legacy, the circumstances surrounding his burial were rather unimpressive. Where do kings get buried? Not all end up like King Tut of Egypt, in a grand tomb usually associated with royalty.
If you ever wondered whatever happened to Henry VIII after he perished in 1547 at age 55, his grave was a crypt in St. George’s Chapel, forgotten about until much later. It was rediscovered during the 19th century during excavations for yet another royal vault. Other facts about Henry VIII’s tomb might surprise you, as well.
- Photo: Charles Wild / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain11,346 VOTES
The Vault Was Lost For Nearly 150 Years Before Being Found During Construction In 1813
Despite Henry VIII’s enormous stature as a king, people quickly forgot about his tomb, perhaps because his final resting place hadn't been finished, but also due to the unsettled nature of English politics after his demise. Each of Henry's children faced threats to the throne, and though Elizabeth reigned for several decades, her successors were far less stable.
So Henry’s tomb wasn't discovered until the 19th century, when it was found during excavations for a new vault overseen by the Regent, George, Prince of Wales, who would go on to become king himself, George IV.
- Photo: Alfred Young Nutt / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain2840 VOTES
His Coffin Was Badly Broken And His Remains Exposed
During his lifetime, Henry VIII was very concerned about appearances, but he suffered several indignities in death. Though a story about his blood being licked by dogs is apocryphal, when his tomb was rediscovered, the coffin broke open, revealing parts of Henry's body.
For a Renaissance monarch so concerned with appearances, this discovery would have been the height of ignominy, revealing the myth behind his royal aura.
- Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain3848 VOTES
The Black Marble Sarcophagus Built For Him Was Used For Someone Else
During Henry VIII’s early reign, few courtiers exerted as much influence as Thomas Wolsey. Born in humble circumstances, Wolsey managed - through his own ruthlessness and sharp intelligence - to become not only Henry’s right-hand man, but also a cardinal. He might have even hoped he would become pope.
As a result of his rise, Wolsey planned an elaborate tomb for himself, including a magnificent black sarcophagus carved by Benedetto da Rovezzano. Henry eventually commissioned the artist to recarve it for him. But as with so many other aspects of Henry’s interment, the plan didn't work out. After several centuries, George III presented the sarcophagus for the interment of Horatio Nelson.
- Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain41,073 VOTES
He Shared His Resting Place With Charles I, Jane Seymour, And Queen Anne's Stillborn Child
At first, Henry VIII shared his resting place with his third wife, Jane Seymour. Though she perished very young, she'd done the one thing Henry sought most in his wives: provided a son. It's widely believed she was the only one of his wives Henry actually loved.
The two monarchs were alone in the vault until 1649, when they were joined by Charles I, who was executed after his defeat at the hands of Parliament. Members of Parliament chose the tomb because they believed it was far away from potentially unruly London crowds. Later, another body was added to the tomb: one of Queen Anne's stillborn children.
- Photo: PMRMaeyaert / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.05717 VOTES
Four Of The Candlesticks Made For His Tomb Were Sold To St. Bavo Cathedral In Belgium
Henry VIII spared no expense in making sure his tomb was decorated with the finest accouterments, including four fancy candlesticks. The decorative items ended up far from their intended resting place, however: in the custody of St. Bavo’s Cathedral, in the city of Ghent, Belgium.
Replicas of the candlesticks can still be seen in St. George’s Chapel.
- Photo: Steven Isaacson / Flickr / CC-BY-SA 2.06680 VOTES
His Planned Official Resting Place Was Started Before He Passed, But Never Finished
Henry VIII planned a very elaborate tomb for himself at Windsor Castle's St. George's Chapel, one suitably matched to his own vision of himself and his accomplishments. Among other attributes, it was supposed to feature an enormous effigy of himself, and many of its constituent elements were appropriated from his former adviser, Thomas Wolsey, a churchman with similarly grand ambitions for his final resting place.
Although some elements of the tomb had been completed at the time Henry perished, various wars - particularly with Scotland and France - kept him short of funds. Similar financial woes beset his three children during their own reigns, and though Elizabeth I made some efforts to finish the tomb, none came to completion.