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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: July 2020

Chapter 7 - Royal Mortality

from Part I - The Life Cycle


This chapter discusses the life-expectancy of rulers, the frequency of violent death in different times and places and burial practices. Some dynasties developed long-lasting mausolea, notably the kings of France at St.-Denis, but in other realms there were changes in the choice of royal burial church, sometimes reflecting changes in dynasty, sometimes alterations in the territory of the kingdom. Reinterments of the royal dead, which were not rare, had public political significance. There is discussion of the physical qualities of tombs, their material, grave goods and epitaphs, and also the development of tomb effigies, including the joint effigies of kings and queens sometimes found in the later Middle Ages. The burial of body parts in different places multiplied centres of remembrance, despite official disapproval of the practice by the papacy. Finally, cases of damnatio memoriae, the conscious desecration of enemy tombs, are discussed.

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