UPDATED POST AT https://sparkypus.com/2020/07/28/james-ist-royal-gooseberry-in-the-henry-vii-vault/


Entrance to the tomb of Henry Vll as seen on the opening of the vault in 1869.  Drawing by George Scarf.  

How did James I come to be interred in Henry Vll’s vault?  Unfortunately it’s not known,  but we do know how it was discovered to be the case.  In 1868, Dean Stanley’s attention was drawn to conflicting reports of  the whereabouts of James’ and his Queen, Anne of Denmark’s vault.    Recognising the importance of ‘the knowledge of the exact spots where the illustrious dead repose’ (1) Dean Stanley resolved to get to the bottom of it.


Dean Stanley

Although it had been noted  by one brief line in the Abbey’s register that James had been buried in Henry’s vault, ‘This was not enough for  Dean Stanley.  He loved exploring and he pursuaded himself that he must first eliminate all other possible places by opening up each of the Royal vaults in turn’ (2).  Vault after vault was opened, some were empty, some crammed full.  The coffins were discovered of a multitude of royal and noble personages including Mary, Queen of Scots (Dean Stanley thought James might have been interred with his mother),  Mary Tudor and her sister Elizabeth, the latter ‘s coffin on top of the other, Edward Vl, the numerous children of James II and of Queen Anne, and many others too numerous to mention here.  The vault of Anne of Denmark was also found, her coffin standing alone besides the empty space where James, her husband, should have been.  Where was he?


James lst painted by Daniel Mytens

Laurence Tanner, Keeper of the Muniments and Librarian,  Westminster Abbey,  wrote ‘Night after night the Dean with a few of the Abbey staff was able to carry out his self-imposed task undisturbed.  On one occasion the historian Froude was present.  Speaking of it afterward he said ‘it was the weirdest scene – the flaming torches, the banners waving from the draught of air, and the Dean’s keen, eager face seen in profile had the very strangest effect.  He asked me to return with him the next night, but my nerves had had enough of it’.  (3)

At last, with nowhere else left to look, the actual vault of Henry was opened and to the Dean’s surprise, if not perhaps to that of others, James was found!  It was discovered on examination of the lead coffins therein , that Elizabeth’s had been slightly damaged at the top, possibly when it was removed to allow James’ in and then she was replaced, being rather squashed into the space between the two kings.  Its easy to imagine Henry spinning in his  coffin, as, after the enormous expense of his funeral, he and his Queen are now sharing their tomb with a gooseberry, albeit a royal one.  And here they are…


To find out more about the costs of Henry’s funeral see my post https://sparkypus.com/2020/07/19/was-henry-vii-mean-his-funeral-and-other-expenses/ 

You might also like https://sparkypus.com/2020/05/14/the-privy-purse-accounts-of-henry-vii-1491-to-1505-2/  and



  1. Dean Stanley, Westminster Abbey, p.651
  2. Laurence Tanner, Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary, p.177
  3. Laurence Tanner, Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary, p.177




  1. They have room if they had the will. Presumably it would be a bit problematic to house the remains of a man who they are still allowing to be named as a child killer on the inscription on the urn containing the supposed bones of Edward and Richard.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think I read somewhere that James may have wanted to be buried with Tudor because like him, he was founding a new dynasty, the Stuarts and the burial linked the two dynasties. Not only this but James was related to the Tudors anyway. Henry VII’s daughter Margaret married the Scottish king and James was a descendent of this union.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. James may or may not have wished to have been buried with Tudor but I wonder what Tudor would have made of it though? The cost of Tudor’s tomb was astronomical as was his funeral. My guess is, for what its worth, he would have been peeved, very peeved. I do find it rather strange that James would not have wished to be buried alongside his wife who was already lying at rest in a tomb which had plenty of room in it for him.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. A belated attack of Scots thrift, maybe? 😉 Something James wasn’t known for in life.
        BTW, you mean James I and VI, don’t you? 😦

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I wonder what Elizabeth would have thought about being squashed between two kings? And I’ll warrant that James would MUCH have preferred to be next to Henry, rather than her. But another excellent article, sparkypus.

    A side thought prompted by missing royals being found in someone else’s tomb. Might this explain, for example, the lost whereabouts of Richard III’s son, Edward of Middleham? The boy has to be somewhere…but where? With whom?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Regarding the overcrowded tomb, I’ve always wondered why James’ coffin appears to be so much larger than either Henry’s or Elizabeth’s, when he wasn’t all that tall or that heavy. Simply propaganda?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. How do we know it was James’s decision where he was actually buried? He may have been put there for political reasons by his successor(s) when his own preference might have been to be with his wife (or perhaps the Duke of Buckingham?).

    Liked by 1 person

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