Monday, April 29, 2013

A body of corruption.

Today's research snippet: The burial of King Henry 1. Don't read this while eating lunch!

As yet the body of King Henry remained unburied in Normandy; for he had died on the first day of December. His body was brought to Rouen where his entrails, brains, and eyes were buried; but the remainder of his body being cut asunder with knives in every part, and then sprinkled with a quantity of salt, was wrapped up and sewed in bulls’ hides to avoid the offensiveness of the smell, which being strong and continued, was overpowering to those who stood near it. In consequence of this, even the person who, in consideration of a large sum, had opened the head with a hatchet for the purpose of extracting the brain, which was in a most corrupt state, although he had wrapped up his own head in napkins, still met with his death therefrom, and had poor reason for rejoicing at his bargain. He was the last of the many slain by King Henry.
His attendants then conveyed the royal corpse to Caen, where, while it was lying in the church in which his father had been buried, it was steeped in a quantity of salt and wrapped up in numerous hides, still a black and disgusting liquid matter coming through the hides oozed forth therefrom, and being caught in vessels placed beneath the bier, was carried away by the servants fainting with disgust.
See, therefore, reader, whoever thou art, how the body of a most potent King, whose head had been decked with a crown, gold and the choicest gems, with splendour almost divine, whose two hands had been radiant with sceptres, the rest of whose person had glittered all over with tissue of gold, his mouth used to be supplied with food so exquisite and delicious, before whom all were wont to arise, whom all had dreaded, or congratulated, or admired – See I say, to what that body was reduced; how horribly he was put out of sight, how shockingly thrust aside! Behold the result of human affairs, upon which the judgment ever depends and learn to have a contempt for all that thus terminates, all that is thus reduced to annihilation.
At last the remains of the royal corpse were brought to England, and were, in 12 days after, on his birthday, buried at the Abbey of Reading, which the same King Henry had founded and enriched with many possessions. Thither also, came King Stephen from his court, which at the feast of the Nativity, he had been holding in London, to meet the body of his uncle; and with him, William, archbishop of Canterbury, and many bishops and nobles, and there they buried King Henry with the respect due to a man so great.


The Sion Gospel book -10th-12th centuries.