Journal Article

The Exequies of Edward III and the Royal Funeral Ceremony in Late Medieval England

Chris Given-Wilson

in The English Historical Review

Volume CXXIV, issue 507, pages 257-282
Published in print April 2009 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online March 2009 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cep001
The Exequies of Edward III and the Royal Funeral Ceremony in Late Medieval England

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The primary focus of this article is on the funeral of Edward III in 1377, the evidence for which has not been analysed in detail before; however, the article also attempts to use the surviving evidence for Edward III's funeral to establish a more complete history of the development of the royal funeral ceremony in England during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Although there are no reliable narrative accounts of Edward's funeral (as there are for those of Henry V and Edward IV), a great deal of evidence relating to it survives in the accounts of the wardrobe and great wardrobe of the royal household, some of it explicit, some of it tantalisingly suggestive. It was also at around the time of Edward's death, or a little before, that the first English royal funeral ordo was compiled; this too provides clues to the protocol followed in 1377. Comparison with contemporary royal and aristocratic funerals and memorial services in France, and with aristocratic funerals in fourteenth-century England, also raises intriguing questions, especially in relation to the symbolic meaning or meanings which might have been attached to the display of Edward III's effigy, which still survives. Despite the incomplete nature of the evidence, what is argued here is that there are grounds for thinking that Edward III's funeral reflected both the military achievements for which he was famed during his life and the hopes and fears which accompanied his death. The result was a refashioning of the English royal funeral ceremony which was to have a significant influence upon the way in which royal funerals were conducted in both England and France during the fifteenth century and beyond.

Journal Article.  14616 words. 

Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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