On 28th April 1603 Queen Elizabeth I was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey after her death on the 24th March. When Elizabeth died she was placed in a lead coffin and taken from Richmond Palace to Whitehall. With the new King James I travelling to London from Scotland, to take the throne and oversee Elizabeth’s funeral proceedings, Elizabeth was to lie in state at Whitehall. With no anointed monarch on the English throne a life size effigy was placed atop of Elizabeth’s coffin as a representation of the throne.
With James now in the capital Elizabeth’s funeral was prepared and on 28th April her coffin was placed on a horse drawn hearse, which had black velvet hung around it and taken to Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth’s coffin was adorned with purple cloth, the colour of royalty, and the effigy was placed again on top of the coffin.
As the coffin was carried to the Abbey a canopy covered the hearse carried by six knights. Behind the hearse came the procession led by the Master of the Horse and her palfrey horses. The Countess of Northampton was the Chief Mourner and led the rest of the procession towards the Abbey. Over 1000 official mourners were part of the procession with many more Londoners taking to the streets as the procession past them by.
Elizabeth was originally buried in the chapel that her grandfather, King Henry VII, before she was moved three years later to the vault that she now shares with her sister, Queen Mary I, in the Lady Chapel. The sister’s vault was inscribed in Latin with the following phrase at the request of King James I;
“Regno consortes & urna, ic obdormimus Elizabetha et Maria sorores, in spe resurrectionis”
This translates in English to
“Consorts both in throne and grave, here we rest two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in hope of our resurrection.”
John Stow attended Elizabeth’s funeral and later wrote:
“Westminster was surcharged with multitudes of all sorts of people in their streets, houses, windows, leads and gutters, that came 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, neither doth any history mention any people, time or state to make like lamentation for the death of their sovereign”
Elizabeth’s funeral marked the end of the Tudor reign which had ruled England for 118 years.