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The Funeral of Henry Percy, Sixth Earl of Northumberland*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 July 2014

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Extract

The staging of aristocratic funerals was among the variety of ideological controls and display employed by Henry VIII to reduce the great magnate families of the north and place the country under central authority. An examination of the funeral of Henry Percy (1502/03?–1537) may be especially instructive because of the important and unusual relationship between the Crown and Percy. In fact, the sixth earl's funeral is worth examining in detail because it clearly reflected not only this personal and family relationship but also one step in the transfer of power from the north to the court.

It was not at all unusual that the College of Arms should have been a main instrument by which Henry VIII manipulated the ceremony. As marshalls of aristocratic Tudor funerals and prominent participants in them, the heralds of the College customarily used the occasions to convey an abundance of political information whose display was intended to serve the interests of the Crown. This included information about the rank of the deceased, his or her relation to the Crown, and the enduring authority of the elite, all of which could be represented in symbols so conventional that their array and magnificence would communicate clear meaning. Henry VIII's subordination of the College and his support for it — increased prestige and employment for the heralds, for example, and their expansion from registrars to regulators of armorial bearings or insignia — may therefore be seen as attempts to help manage the aristocracy in a time of rapid social change.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © North American Conference on British Studies 1990

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Footnotes

*

The authors wish to thank the College of Arms for photocopies of the original manuscripts. They wish to thank also Professor Marjorie McIntosh for commenting on the draft of this paper, and the University of Colorado for financial assistance.

References

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