Tuesday 23 February 1668/69

Up: and to the Office, where all the morning, and then home, and put a mouthfull of victuals in my mouth; and by a hackney-coach followed my wife and the girls, who are gone by eleven o’clock, thinking to have seen a new play at the Duke of York’s house. But I do find them staying at my tailor’s, the play not being to-day, and therefore I now took them to Westminster Abbey, and there did show them all the tombs very finely, having one with us alone, there being other company this day to see the tombs, it being Shrove Tuesday; and here we did see, by particular favour, the body of Queen Katherine of Valois; and I had the upper part of her body in my hands, and I did kiss her mouth, reflecting upon it that I did kiss a Queen,1 and that this was my birth-day, thirty-six years old, that I did first kiss a Queen. But here this man, who seems to understand well, tells me that the saying is not true that says she was never buried, for she was buried; only, when Henry the Seventh built his chapel, it was taken up and laid in this wooden coffin; but I did there see that, in it, the body was buried in a leaden one, which remains under the body to this day. Thence to the Duke of York’s playhouse, and there, finding the play begun, we homeward to the Glass-House, and there shewed my cozens the making of glass, and had several things made with great content; and, among others, I had one or two singing-glasses made, which make an echo to the voice, the first that ever I saw; but so thin, that the very breath broke one or two of them. So home, and thence to Mr. Batelier’s, where we supped, and had a good supper, and here was Mr. Gumbleton; and after supper some fiddles, and so to dance; but my eyes were so out of order, that I had little pleasure this night at all, though I was glad to see the rest merry, and so about midnight home and to bed.

  1. Pepys’s attachment to the fair sex extended even to a dead queen. The record of this royal salute on his natal day is very characteristic. The story told him in Westminster Abbey appears to have been correct; for Neale informs us (“History of Westminster Abbey,” vol. ii., p. 88) that near the south side of Henry V.’s tomb there was formerly a wooden chest, or coffin, wherein part of the skeleton and parched body of Katherine de Valois, his queen (from the waist upwards), was to be seen. She was interred in January, 1457, in the Chapel of Our Lady, at the east end of this church; but when that building was pulled down by her grandson, Henry VII., her coffin was found to be decayed, and her body was taken up, and placed in a chest, near her first husband’s tomb. “There,” says Dart, “it hath ever since continued to be seen, the bones being firmly united, and thinly clothed with flesh, like scrapings of tanned leather.” This awful spectacle of frail mortality was at length removed from the public gaze into St. Nicholas’s Chapel, and finally deposited under the monument of Sir George Villiers, when the vault was made for the remains of Elizabeth Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, in December, 1776. — B.

25 Annotations

Terry Foreman   Link to this

Ossory to Ormond
Written from: [Dublin]
Date: 23 February 1669

By the Duke's letter of February 23, Lord Ossory had notice of the diposal [sic] of this Government to my Lord Privy-Seal [John, Lord Robartes], to whom he has written a letter, herewith enclosed, for the Duke's approbation.

The regret of the Duke's friends, at his loss as their Governor, is much allayed with the thought of their having escaped my Lord of Orrery, whose positive assertions that he was to have command, ... "have rendered him despicable"...

Repeats the mention of his desire of service abroad. Would be satisfied to command those regiments in Flanders, "that are of the King's subjects; with a reasonable appointment".

http://www.rsl.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/projects/ca...

Judith Boles   Link to this

I wonder if Sam realized he shared a connection of February 23rd with Catherine of Valois? Her coronation was on Sunday, 23 February 1421.

Terry Foreman   Link to this

The letter of Ormond to Ossory to which the latter replies (above) is surely that of 16 February. http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1669/02/16/#c42...

Margaret   Link to this

A little necrophilia today?

Robert Gertz   Link to this

Yes, charming Sam...I wonder if Bess got to enjoy the vision of her husband embracing the corpse of Henry V's queen.

"Just don't call me Kate in bed tonight..."

***

Heaven...

"Did you have to remind me of this one?"

"Now, Bess..."

"I remember now why I found all your visits to my crypt so creepy. Some one's at the door."

"Bother...Wish we still had Jane to answer it. Don't understand why we can't have servants here."

"Samuel Pepys? My card. I believe you know my wife..."

"Aren't you?..." Bess, staring...

"King Henry V...?" Sam, staring...

"I've been told I'm allowed to punch out ten of the men who diddled my poor Kate in her grave and you are one of the lucky winners, Mr. Pepys."

"So it was a love match...That is so nice..." Bess sighs. "Don't hurt him too much, please."

"I suppose in a way this is an honor of sorts..." Sam notes. "Sire...By your leave..."

***

Dorothy Willis   Link to this

Why in the world would anyone kiss a mummy? Not only is it revolting, it's --- it's impolite -- disrespectful! I suppose he was showing off for the girls. I wonder how long after that it was before he kissed his wife or their pretty guests.

Michael L   Link to this

Ewwww.

I had heard of this entry, but it is still pretty shocking to read. It's bizarre how matter-of-factly he can just segue into reporting on the latest play in the next breath.

Mary   Link to this

Folk in various countries still practise the devotional kissing of mummified remains, action that would have been more widely familiar in the 17th century.

I'm not suggesting that Sam's action was in any way devotional; just that the action of applying one's lips to a mummified corpse (or parts thereof) would not have provoked the shudder of horror or disgust that it elicits in many societies today.

gingerd   Link to this

Don't forget that in those days mummy was highly valued for its supposed medicinal properties, maybe Sam thought that by kissing the relic he was gaining some sort of protection.

Terry Foreman   Link to this

A culture change? Those of you in the UK would not do this sort of thing today?
(This isn't the Blarney Stone.)

Mary   Link to this

No, TF, not these days.....

...at least, not so far as I am aware.

jeannine   Link to this

Sam walks out of the tombs snapping his fingers and bursting into his version of the Katy Perry Song...

I kissed a Queen and I liked it
The taste of Katherine of Valois
I kissed a Queen and I liked it
I hope my wife didn’t mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don’t mean I’m in love tonight
I kissed a Queen and I liked it
I liked it

Elizabeth’s & the Girls walk out of the tombs snapping their fingers and bursting into their version of the Katy Perry song ...

Sam kissed a corpse and he liked it
The taste of her shriveled body
Sam kissed a corpse and he liked it
It seems that he didn’t mind it
It was so wrong
It wasn’t right
Hope he washes his lips tonight
Sam kissed a corpse and he liked it
He liked it

martinb   Link to this

Terry, I think it's safe to say that few in the UK today would go in for this sort of thing.

It's not just the kiss that's shocking, it's the note of excitement (I kissed a queen, I kissed a queen!) and the expert confidence of the embrace -- the phrase "I had the upper part of her body in my arms" is reminiscent in its anatomical matter-of-factness of descriptions of encounters with Mrs Bagwell et al. The fact that he's doing all this in front of his wife is interesting too...

Perhaps it's worth reminding ourselves that the sight of rotting corpses and their component parts was then an element of daily life in London. As Pepys was bending to kiss his queen in the Abbey, Cromwell's decaying head was still on display at the end of a wooden pole not far away, above Westminster Hall, where it was to remain for several years. Such everyday familiarity with the dead may have helped to breed the kind of contempt for them which we seem to see exemplified here.

Terry Foreman   Link to this

martin, I suppose that's consistent with the matter-of-fact scenes at Tyburn, where bodies were torn asunder, and the 'lying in' of bodies at home before burial, as it was in Pepys's day. I forgot Cromwell's head was still on display.

Linda F   Link to this

Not only kissed the corpse, but held it. These are the consecrated remains of an anointed queen, not a criminal's or traitor's head rotting in public opprobrium. No observance of any ecclesiastical prohibition against disturbing the remains of the consecrated dead. Disrespectful and gross beyond belief, whatever the mores of the time. If this was commonplace, then shame on the Abbey for permitting it -- got to be a better way to build that repair fund. But I would think that Sam just did this without anyone's leave. And you can be sure that he would have objected strenuously to anyone's manhandling his own wife's corpse in such a way.

Dinah   Link to this

"...this was my birth-day, thirty-six years old, that I did first kiss a Queen."

Sounds like our Sam is hopeful of kissing additional Queens in the future!

Jenny   Link to this

We've only become squeamish about the dead in the last 50 years or so. It was very common during my husband's youth in Britan for family members to lay-out the body and have the casket in the house. In the Maori culture of New Zealand the body in an open casket is surrounded by loved ones until the burial. A friend of mine had her father at home in a closed casket until the funeral. It is not something my family has ever done but it is certainly not uncommon.

I'm sure this happened even in the US until, like childbirth, these natural events were taken over by the "specialists".

You only have to think of the various festivals for the dead in many cultures where it is not thought gross or disgusting to dress up and honour dead ancestors.

Perhaps disrespectful of Sam but death was all around on a daily basis. I remember his horror during the plague of seeing unburied bodies and his shock at the sight. (Although there was a quite a lot of "bury them so I don't get it" in that).

Allen Appel   Link to this

At least he didn't describe the experience in his fake foreign language. Now that would have been truly creepy.

john   Link to this

"here we did see, by particular favour"

By whose favour?

(Apropos lying in state, rural houses in North America once had coffin windows.)

john   Link to this

At my uncle's open-casket funeral, I was urged to kiss his corpse. I declined (being about 12 or so) but adults had no qualms.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

Heaven...

"You are telling the truth?"

"Bess, I swear I never made love to your corpse."

"Good...I suppose."

"You...Suppose?"

"Just...How come Katherine and not me?"

Why do I stay when their conversations go this way? Hewer sighs.

Linda F   Link to this

Re: "By whose favour?"

The Encyclopdia entry for Catherine of Valois, tab above, states that her corpse was a "tourist attraction" at the Abbey for years. The note to today's entry speaks of its being in the "public gaze" until removed. So the viewing, despite Sam's saying so, would not seem to have been a particular favor, although his guide may have so represented it.

The particular favor may have been allowing Sam to get close enough to manhandle (I cannot get over that part) the queen's remains. There must have been a law. . . .

Loved ones at their burial are something altogether different.

Teresa Forster   Link to this

In 'My Family and Other Animals' by Gerald Durrell, set in the 1930s, the family are in Corfu Town on the feast day of a saint whose naked, mummified feet are on show in the church. The faithful are encouraged to queue up and view and the kiss this sight – which Gerry's sister Margot enthusiastically does, much to the consternation of their mother, who calls to Margot over the crowds, '... the air, ... the air!', though Margot doesn't or won't understand.

pepfie   Link to this

Has anybody been able to find a contemporaneous example of those singing-glasses? Obviously, they ("which make an echo to the voice") weren't musical glasses or a Franklin type glass armonica. Could they have been a sort of Helmholtz resonator shattering at their resonant frequency ("the very breath broke one or two of them")?
http://physics.kenyon.edu/EarlyApparatus/Rudolf...
Or did he refer to an early mythbusters experiment with conventional drinking glasses?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MythBusters_%28200...

pepfie   Link to this

Singing-glasses?

may. 20. [1663] mr. Hook added that blowing a glasse ball wth a Lamp after it was come to a certain degree of heat, he had heard a sound in it like that which is made in the expt. of drawing a wett finger about the Lip of a glasse wth water which there by that pressure is made to frisk obseruing farther that the glasse being all red hott the noyse ceased but returning in the cooling to the former degree ^ /of that it/ was heard againe till it became cold and soe Ceased. -
http://webapps.qmul.ac.uk/cell/Hooke/hooke_foli...

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