Page:Notes and Queries - Series 11 - Volume 9.djvu/70

This page needs to be proofread.


NOTES AND QUERIES. [11 s. ix. JAN. 24, wu.


laid between the bodies of those most beloved of all the Saxon saints, St. Oswald and St. Wulstan, whose names were known tnd revered by all their countrymen.

" King John died at Newark on the 10th October, 1216, when his body was conveyed to Worcester and buried before the high Altar in the Sacrarium.

" The high Tomb on which the King's effigy now rests is a work of the sixteenth century. On this Tomb rests the thirteenth-century effigy of King John, tlte earliest effigy of an English monarch remaining in this country. It was originally the cover of the stone coffin in which the body of the King was interred. The effigy was evidently sculptured soon after the inter- ment of the King, and represents him in the regal habiliments. On either side of the head is the figure of a bishop, perhaps intended to represent St. Oswald and St. Wulstaii.

" He was literally buried between these two saints, St. Wulstan's and St. Oswald's shrine being on either side of his tomb.

" It was long supposed that the Tomb was only a Cenotaph, and that the remains of the King were interred before the Altar of the Lady Chapel ; and as the removal of the Tomb from its present position was in many ways thought to be desirable, it was determined, during some repairs in 1797, to open the Tomb and see if it contained the remains of the King ; and, if not; to remove it to its original site. On the Tomb being opened the stone coffin containing the body of the King was discovered at the bottom of the Tomb, lying on the pavement, covered with only two elm boar ds the space in the Tomb being filled up with rubble." ' Handbook to Worcester Cathe- dral,' 1891.

" On the 17 July, 1797, the body of the King was exhumed; it measured five feet six inches and a half. The dress in which the body of the King was found appears to have been similar to that in which the figure is represented on the Tomb, excepting the gloves on its hands, and the crown on its head, which on the skull in the coffin was found to be the celebrated monk's cowl in which he is recorded to be buried, as a passport through the regions of purgatory. This sacred envelope appeared to have fitted the head very closely, and had been tied or buckled under the chin by straps, parts of which remained. The body was covered with a robe reaching from the neck nearly to the feet ; it had some of its em- broidery still remaining near the right knee ; it was apparently of crimson damask and of strong texture." From ' An Account of the Discovery of the Body of King John,' by Valentine Green, F.S.A., 1797.

The dress on the body here described bears no similarity to the habit of a monk ; nor does the close-fitting covering on the head resemble a monk's cowl, but corresponds with the description kindly given by MR. CARL J. WALKER (for which I beg to thank him) of " the skull cap of quilted leather, known as the capuchin, and worn under the helmet of a knight when armed for battle." See p. 436 of the last volume.


The name of this covering for the head may be the origin of the fable of the King being buried in a monk's cowl. .

We may note the significance of the gloves, which (according to Bruno, Bishop of Segni) denote that the hands they cover " should be chaste, clean, and free from all impurity."

King John may be said to have died in harness, having caught cold when crossing the Wash during his war with the traitor barons. The fever which ensued was the cause of his death, and will account for the covering on his head remaining upon him during his illness and at his death.

King John's antagonist, Prince Louis, afterwards King Louis VIII. of France, died from a somewhat similar cause, but on an expedition more fortunate to him. He was returning from his successful campaign against the Albigenses, after which every- thing had been arranged to the advantage of the King and the Church. He was passing by Auvergne in October, 1226, when an illness originally contracted at the siege of Avignon (which had been fatal to so many of the Crusaders) seized him with greater force, and was further aggravated by the jourmey, as well as complicated by dysentery. He died at Montpensier the following month. His body was taken to Paris, and buried with his ancestors in the abbey church of St. Denis.

Thus died the son of King Philip Augustus, whom the irregularly elected and papally appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, the leader of the barons against ' King John, desired to make King of England ; and, strangely enough, his body also was exhumed, though not with so much respect as that of King John. It was taken from its tomb when, by order of the National Convention, the monuments of the abbey were demolished. The tombs were plundered by order of the Municipality of Paris in October, 1793, and the following is a description of the scene by M. Petit Dutaillis :

" When tfife_tomb of the son of Philip Augustus was opened at St. Denis in 17 93, therein were found the rotten remains of a wooden sceptre, a skeleton enveloped in a grey-coloured shroud ornamented with gold lace, and on the head a white skull-cap surrounded with a band of wool and gold tissue."

The skull-cap found on his remains seems to be of the same character as the one found on the skull of King John, and as the death of each of them appears to have arisen under similar circumstances, the cap worn underneath the helmet not having been removed during the illness or at the death