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.

37 Annotations

First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

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".


Judith Boles  •  Link

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

Margaret  •  Link

A little necrophilia today?

Robert Gertz  •  Link

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..."



"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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

jeannine  •  Link

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

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

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

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

"...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

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

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

john  •  Link

"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

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


"You are telling the truth?"

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

"Good...I suppose."


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

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

Linda F  •  Link

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

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

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")?
Or did he refer to an early mythbusters experiment with conventional drinking glasses?

pepfie  •  Link


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. -

Second Reading

Autumnbreeze Movies  •  Link

When an old nun died at my school (1961) all the girls were led to the chapel, where she lay in state; after prayers, they were led to her coffin to bow and kiss her foot (dressed in black stocking) - the kissing was optional. We had never seen this nun before. Some girls complied, other refused. I refused feeling disgusted.

Autumnbreeze Movies  •  Link

In Italy, corpses of 'saints' are dressed in colourful robes and paraded around towns on feast days dedicated to them. I saw this in Gubbio, Paciano in Umbria), Bagnoreggio in Tuscany.

fate  •  Link

In re: the issue with Pepys kissing and embracing the mummified corpse of Katherine of Valois.

This was not nearly as creepy or disgusting as it seems now, though it probably was unusual for it to have been on the lips – such as was left of them. Remember, although post-Renaissance and post-Reformation, this was still an age of reliquaries, honouring of the dead, and general morbidity. It was very common for gentlemen to wear rings in honour of dead relatives, that would have in the jewel/setting small parts of the dead person. As martinb states, Oliver Cromwell's head was on display still; in fact, Oliver Cromwell's decaying corpse had been dug up and put on trial after the Restoration.

In addition, at this time and for quite a while, mummies from Egypt were components of various powders, tonics, and other such things. King Charles II apparently used to rub powdered mummy (literally) into his skin. I recall reading of people having bits of mummies as decorations or ornaments as late as the Georgian period, when unwrapping mummies was a public spectacle.

So not quibbling at the issue with Pepys kissing Katherine on the *lips* or groping her upper body (not that there would have been breasts to grope, I feel he'd more likely have simply grasped the shoulders as he leant over) - just indicating that it was not in the slightest bit odd that he kissed her or otherwise touched the exposed corpse. It's not like he opened the coffin or anything; she was displayed openly like that.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"we homeward to the Glass-House, and there shewed my cozens the making of glass"

There were glasshouses at various times on both sides of the Fleet river and near the Duke of York's Playhouse. Glass House Alley (north out of Tudor St) still bears witness to them. In 1696 there were said to be 24 glasshouses in London and Southwark, making a variety of glass: looking-glass, crown-glass, flint- and bottle-glass etc. (Per L&M footnote)

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"I had one or two singing-glasses made, which make an echo to the voice, the first that ever I saw"

The glasses vibrated in sympathy when certain notes were sung, their sound continuing after the voice ceased. Cf. Birch, ii.453. (L&M note)

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"to the Glass-House, and there shewed my cozens the making of glass,....[later] 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"

This occasion appears to be the one which Pepys recalled in 1677, when he setr down an account of his health. He wrote then that it was after exposing his eyes to the brightness of the flames of the glasshouse that ihe began to suffer attacks of pain when reading: printed in Bryant, ii.407. (L&M note)

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"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."

L&M: The theatres usually opened at noon, though performances did not begin until 3.30 p.m. Early attendance was necessary to secure a seat when a new play was berng performed. The play intended to have its performance on this day was probably Shadwell's The Royal Shepherdess, first acted on 25 February.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"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"

L&M: She wass the beautiful Queen of Henry V and gad died in 1437 at the age of 46. She had been buried in the Lady Chapel which was pulled down by Henry VII, at the e. end of [Edward] the Confessor's chapel. http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/…

Kew Gardener  •  Link

During the height of the 2020 pandemic, when the Orthodox Metropolitan bishop of Montenegro died, people were still going up to kiss his body.

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

So, between a routine morning at the office and the theater, Mr. Pepys "put a mouthfull of victuals in [his] mouth" - unusual language - then took the "upper part of [Queen Katherine's mummified] body in [his] hands". An interesting day indeed, though given the mummy's fragile condition images of Sam "manhandling" it and waltzing with it through the abbey seem unlikely. We phant'sy that Captain John Tinker of Portsmouth, who on Sunday last had asked Sam for leave to come up to London, mayhap brought from a ship come from Tangiers certain remarkable Herbs grown there, whose vapors when smok'd are renown'd to soothe the eyes, with minor side effects on the Minde.

This is not Sam's first encounter with the Leathery Ones. Last spring, on his way back from a merry party at Sir G. Whitmore’s, "by moonshine (...) I having there seen a mummy in a merchant’s warehouse there [sic], all the middle of the man or woman’s body, black and hard" (...) it pleased me much, though an ill sight", so much so that the merchant offered "a little bit, and a bone of an arme". This had been Sam's first - "I never saw any before" (https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/…). But not the last, then, and only the vanguard of the flood of mummies that are soon to come to London and end ground up in paintpots and medicine jars, walking about in Victorian phantasms and (with luck) stored away between clay pots in museums, a 200-year British love-story with mummies that will be reconsidered with the advent of synthetic pigments but also because the Egyptians tired of it and clamped down.

With less of a magickal pretext, we also note that this hadn't been the first time that Sam, who's always got to touch everything, makes contact with a cadaver out of curiosity, see https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/…. And yes, many cultures do refuse to consider their dead as necessarily best served by being locked away and out of sight - why, we ourselves confess to have once been honor'd to share a bedchamber with our hosts' ancestral mummy, who was very decent and quiet company. But of course there are mummies, whose worship may well be idolatrous, and then there are Royal Mummies. Hundreds still come to King Charles to be touched for the King's Evil. In an antique, mummified Queen this virtue must have been distillated & concentrated by the dessication process!

Oh, and by the way, 'tis Carnaval season, halfway 'tween the winter solstice and spring, and a time when mummies are so potent, they almost glow in the dark.

Nicolas  •  Link

Stephane, I’m enjoying your witty and learned commentary. I believe you’ve taken on the mantle of Robt. Gertz.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Nicholas Penny was Pepys’ tailor with a shop on Fleet Street from January 1665/66 onwards.
The Duke of York’s theater was in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
These places are not particularly close for ladies to walk between on a frosty day, which is probably why "my tailor" is not highlighted by Phil.

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