She was Queen of England and Ireland for just under 45 years and was the last of the five Monarchs of the House of Tudor. She ruled over a Golden Age of British history and was praised as a heroine of the Protestant cause.
She is, of course, Queen Elizabeth I and on this day in 1603, her funeral was held at Westminster Abbey.
In the few years prior to Elizabeth’s death, her health had gradually deteriorated and she started to suffer with melancholy. In January 1603, Elizabeth becomes visibly unwell and retires to Richmond Palace. Between her retirement to Richmond and her death, Elizabeth refused to consume the required amount of food and drink resulting in her becoming physically emaciated.
By February 1603, the Virgin Queen was becoming even more frail and even began to have ghostly visions of people she had previously known – Mary, Queen of Scots and Lady Katherine Grey being just two of those visions.
As March began, it became clear to those around Elizabeth that she was dying. Her ill health mixed with her severely depressed state saw Elizabeth finally retire to her bed from which she would never rise again. Shortly before her death, the Archbishop Whitgift was instructed to come to her bedside to pray for the Tudor Queen. On 24th March 1603, Queen Elizabeth I died and was succeeded by King James VI of Scotland who also became King James I of England.
The Queen’s body was taken from Richmond Palace along a torchlit barge along the Thames to Whitehall Palace where it was held for over three weeks before her funeral. While her coffin lay in state, a life size effigy of Gloriana was placed atop to act as a symbol of Monarchy while there was for a time no monarch in England (King James I had to travel down to London from Edinburgh).
On 28th April 1603, the final journey of Good Queen Bess took place. Elizabeth’s coffin was carried from Whitehall to Westminster Abbey on a hearse drawn by horses. Above the coffin was a canopy supported by six knights and behind the hears was the Queen’s Master of the Horse, leading her palfrey.
In the words of Chronicler John Stow “Westminster was surcharged with multitudes of all sorts of people in their streets, houses, windows, leads and gutters, that came out to see the obsequy, and when they beheld her statue lying upon the coffin, there was such a general sighing, groaning and weeping as the like hath not been seen or known in the memory of man.”
Elizabeth was subsequently interred at Westminster Abbey in the vault of her grandfather, King Henry VII, until she was moved in 1606 to her present resting place – a tomb in the Lady Chapel of the Abbey which she shares with her half-sister, Queen Mary I.
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The Latin inscription on their tomb reads ‘Regno consortes & urna, hic obdormimus Elizabetha et Maria, sorores, in spe resurrectionis’ which translates to ‘Consorts in realm and tomb, here we sleep, Elizabeth and Mary, sisters, in hope of resurrection’.