Sunday, April 13, 2008

Heart Burials at Westminster Abbey

I visited Westminster Abbey about two years ago but don't remember the tourist flyer mentioning heart burials there.

"An obelisk with a strange purpose stands in Westminster Abbey - in the side chapel directly to the south of the gilt monument to Henry VII in his own chapel. It contains the heart of Esmé Stuart, Duke of Richmond and Lennox. He died in Paris in 1660, aged 11.

A monument containing a heart is a rare thing above ground at Westminster. Many hearts in urns interred in the vaults there are recorded, though, notably monarchs' hearts. The last king to have his heart buried separately at Westminster was, I think, George II in 1760.

It is sometimes said that heart burial dates back to the Egyptians...

...Separate burial for hearts was revived between the 12th and the 18th centuries among notables. A splendid book on the subject, simply called Heart Burial (1930), by Charles Angell Bradford, deserves to be reprinted..."

From Wikipedia: In medieval Europe heart-burial was fairly common. Some of the more notable cases of this include:
Burial site of Thomas Hardy's heart
Burial site of Thomas Hardy's heart

A more modern example is that of Thomas Hardy whose ashes were interred in Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey whilst his heart was buried in his beloved Wessex alongside his first wife. A recent biography of Hardy details the arguments over the decision, and addresses the long-standing rumour that the heart was stolen by a pet cat so that a pig's heart had to be used as a replacement.[1]