King Henry VIII of England was and remains buried in a 'temporary vault'

King Henry VIII of England was and remains buried in a 'temporary vault'

A marble slab marks Henry VIII and Jane Seymour’s final resting place in the Quire of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle; however, this was only intended to be temporary while a grand monument was completed.In his will, Henry VIII describes the monument as being ‘almost made’ but what is perhaps not so well known is that the original tomb was not Henry’s at all, rather Cardinal Wolsey’s. In 1524, Thomas Wolsey commissioned the great Italian Renaissance sculptor, Benedetto da Rovezanno, to construct a magnificent tomb for him. By the time of Wolsey’s fall from favour, the marble base, pillars and statues were appropriated by Henry VIII and redesigned for his own use. A description of Henry VIII’s tomb, designed by Jacopo Sansovino, appear in John Speed’s The history of great Britaine (London, 1627). It is believed that while compiling his work, Speed had access to a manuscript owned by Nicholas Charles (Lancaster Herald from 1608-1613) showing or describing plans for the construction of the tomb. The original manuscript is lost but the magnificence of Henry’s planned tomb can be gleaned from Speed’s work and from conjectured drawings made by Alfred Higgins in 1894, one of which can be seen here. Clare Rider, Archivist and Chapter Librarian, refers to Speed’s work in her description of Henry’s grand tomb, “No expense was to be spared in crafting the vast edifice, ornamented with ‘fine Oriental stones’ and resplendent with white marble pillars, gilded bronze angels, four life-size images of the King and Queen Jane, and a statue of the King on horseback under a triumphal arch, ‘of the whole stature of a goodly man and a large horse’. In all, there were to be one hundred and thirty four figures, including St George, St John the Baptist, the Prophets, the Apostles and the Evangelists, ‘all of brass gilt as in the pattern appeareth’.” An effigy of the king was cast and polished in Henry’s lifetime but the monument was not complete by the time of his death in 1547. Even though some work continued during the reign of his children, the monument remained unfinished and in 1646 the Commonwealth parliament sold the effigy of Henry VIII to raise funds.