John Weever, Ancient Funeral Monuments, the epistle, contents and some abstracts..

The Epistle


The Author to the Reader



Having seene (judicious reader) how carefully in other Kingdomes, the Monuments of the dead are preserved, and their Inscriptions or Epitaphs registered in their Church-Bookes; and having read the Epitaphs of Italy, France, Germany, and other Nations, collected and put in print by the paines of Schraderus, Chytraeus, Swertius, and other forraine Writers. And also knowing withall how barbarously within these his Majesties Dominions, they are (to the shame of our time) broken downe, and utterly almost all ruinated, their brasen Inscriptions erazed, torne away, and pilfered, by which inhumane, deformidable, act, the honourable memory of many vertuous and noble persons deceased, is extinguished, and the true understanding of divers Families in these Realmes (who have descended of these worthy persons aforesaid) is so darkened, as the true course of their inheritance is thereby partly interrupted: grieving at thsi unsufferable injurie offered as well to the living, as the dead, out of the respect I bore to venerable Antiquity, and the due regard to continue the remembrance fo the defunct to future posteritie, I determined with my selfe to collect such memorials of the deceased, as were remaining as yet undefaced; as also to revive the memories of eminent worthy persons entombed or interred, either in Parish, or in Abbey Churches howsoever some of their Sepulchres are at this day no where to be discerned, neither their bones and ashie remaines in any place to bee gathered. Whereupon with painefull expences (which might have beene well spared perhaps you will say) I travailed over the most parts of all England, and some part of Scotland; I collected the Funerall Inscriptions of all the Cathedrall Churches of the one, and in some of the other, and ever by the way gathered such as I found in Parochiall Churches: I likewise tooke view of many ancient Monuments not inscribed, demanding of the Church officers, or others the inhabitants, for whom such and such Tombes or Sepulchres were made and erected, which was told me according to that truth which was delivered unto them by tradition: after all this scrutinie, finding so few, or none at all in many Churches (time, the malignitie of wicked people, and our English profane tenacitie, having quite taken them away for lucre sake) I was altogether discouraged to proceede any further in this my laborious and expencefull enterprise; untill I came casually into the acquaintance of my deare deceased friend, Augustine Vincent, Esquire, Windsor Herald, & Keeper of the Records in the Tower, who perswaded me to goe forward as I had begun, and withall gave me many Church-Collections, with divers memorable Notes, and Copies of Records, gathered by himselfe and others, adn by his meanes I had free accesse to the Heralds Office, to write out such antiquities as I could there finde for my purpose.

But above all, I am most bound to love the foresaid Vincents memory, for that he made me knowne to that honourable Gentleman Sir Robert Cotton, Knight and Baronet; who forthwith apprehending the scope and drift of this my Argument (his generous disposition being alwaies ready to afford his best furtherance to other mens industrious labours) gave me his able directions, and withall, lent me out of his inestimable Librarie, such Bookes and Manuscripts as were most fitting for my use.

But alas, this worthy repairer of eating-times ruines, this Philadephus, in preserving old Monuments, and ancient Records: this Magazin, this Treasurie, this Store-house of Antiquities, Sir Robert Cotton, is now lately deceased, whose excellent good parts are well conceived in a Funerall Elegie which hath happily come into my hands, and which I thinke fitting here to be inserted.


[Elegy in Latin follows]


He died at his house in Westminster, the first of May, about ten of the clocke in the forenoone, Anno 1631, being aged threescore yeares, three moneths, and some few odde dayes. He tooke to wife Elizabeth, one of the daughters and heires of William Brocas Esquire, by whom hee had issue, onely one Sonne, Sir Thomas Cotton Baronet, now living; who married Margaret, Daughter of the Lord William Howard, grandchild to Thomas Duke of Norfolke, by whom hee hath issue, one Sonne, named John, and two Daughters, Lucie and Francis.

But to returne: I have had many helpes, I confesse, from Sir Henry Spelman, Knight, and John Selden Esquire, the most learned Antiquaries now living of our times: nor have the helpes beene few which I have long received from the well furnisht, and daily increasing Librarie of Sir Simonds D'Ewes Knight, whose industrious directions, and ready assistance, were as often vouchsafed unto mee, as I had occasion to request, and whose long studied, and still intended labours for the publique good, though in another kinde, may in due time make his memory and themselves deare unto posteritie: Divers of the Heralds have much furthered these my intended designes: namely, Sir Richard, and Sir Henry Saint George, Knights John Philipot and William Le Neve, Esquires, which I shall ever acknowledge, as occasion presents itselfe.

Venerable Bede, when hee compiled the Chronicles of the English Saxons, had all the helpe that might be of the Bishops and learned men of this Land. Cymbertus wrote unto him all that was done in Lincolnshire: Nothelmus also sent unto him all that he had gathered together in Sussex, Surry, and Kent. Alcuinus gave him his labours and collections for the Province of Yorke. Daniel of Winchester made him privie of all that was done amongst the West Saxons: and from all other quarters of the Land, were Letters, Scrowles, and writings, directed unto him by messengers, to aide and assist him in his enterprise, as he doth himselfe acknowledge in his Epistle Dedicatory to Ceolnulph, King of the Northumbers.

Now generous Reader, as hee had these helpes for the perfecting of his Ecclesiasticall Historie, and as I have had the acceptable assistance of many of my good friends, studious in this kinde, for the finishing of this first part, and the rest of the worke now in hand, which is already in good forwardnesse, let me intreate thy furtherance in the same thus farre, that, in thy neighbouring Churches, if thou shalt fine any ancient funerall Inscriptions, or antique obliterated Monuments, thou wouldst be pleased to copie out the one, and take so much relation of the other as tradition can deliver; as also to take the Inscriptions and Epitaphs upon Tombes and Gravestones which are of these times; and withall to take order that such thy collections, notes, and observations may come safely to my hands; and I shall rest ever obliged to acknowledge thy paines and curtesie.

And I would earnestly desire the Tombe-makers of this Cittie of London, and elsewhere, that they would be so carefull of posteritie, as to preserve in writing the Inscriptions or Epitaphs which they daily engrave upon Funerall Monuments, from whom I shall expect the like kindnesse, and to whom I will ever remaine alike thankfull. For, I intend, God willing, hereafter to publish to the view of the World, as well the moderne, as the ancient memorialls of the dead throughout all his Majesties foresaid Dominions, if God spare me life; if not, it is enough for me to have begun, as Camden saith in his Epistle to the Reader of his book Britannia, and I have gained as much as I looke for, if I shall draw others, when I am dead, into this argument; whose inquisitive diligence and learning, may finde out more, and amend mine.

It may seeme, peradventure, unpleasing to some, for that I do speake so much of, and extoll the ardent pietie of our forefathers in the erecting of Abbeyes, Priories, and such like sacred Foundations.

To which I answer with Camden, that I hold it not fit for us to forget, that our Ancestours were, and we are of the Christian profession, and that there are not extant any other more conspicuous and certaine Monuments of their zealous devotion towards God, then these Monastries with their endowments, for the maintenance of religious persons, neither any other seed-plots besides these, from whence Christian Religion and good literature were propogated over this our Island. Neither is there any other act of pietie more acceptable in the sight of Almighty God, then that of building Churches, Oratories, and such like sacred edifices, for the true service of his heavenly Majestie.

Ethelbert the first Christian Kign of Kent, having built S Pauls Church London, and divers other Churches and religious structures as I shew hereafter, is thus commended to posteritie by this Epitaph following; which passed with applause no question in those dayes.

[Latin, then translated as..]

King Ethelbert lyeth here

closed in this Polyander,

For building Churches sure he goes

To Christ without Meander


The pious care likewise and gracious intention of our late Lord and Soveraigne King James of famous memory, had, for the repairing of the foresaid Church of Saint Paul, adn the earnest desire and purpose, which our dread Lord and Soveraigne now hath (proceeding out of his zeale to Gods glory and his divine worship) for the repairing and upholding, as his Father intended, fo that venerable large Fabricke adn goodly Pyle of building, will be had in remembrance to all generations and their names will be registered in the booke of the living.

And the munificent allowance towards the said worke from William Laud, now Lord Bishop of London, of one hundred pounds by the yeare, while he doth continue there Bishop, shall be commended and hand in remembrance of all his Successours forever.

It may, perhaps, bee distafull to some for that I write so fully of the fall and backsliding of Religious Persons from their primitive zealous ardour of piety, making that the maine cause of the dissolution of the Abbeyes: which I doe, for that some of opinion that because many of these Monasteries were built upon the occasion of rapine and bloud, the Founders thereby thinking to expiate their guilt, and make satisfaction for their sinnes an errour in point of Divinity) these sacred structures howsoever consecrated to the service of Almighty God, could not stand fast, not continue in one and the same state for many ages; therefore I thinke it meete adn expedient to discover and lay open to the world, the manifold enormities of the professed votaries residing in such religious foundations; that it may evidently appeare that it was not the sinnes of the Founders (whose pious intentions we ought to have a more reverend opinion) that their donations were of no longer continuance but that the delinquencies of the religious Orders themselves, were the sole cause of their owne utter subversion.


I may, perhaps, be found fault withall because I doe not chorographically and according as Churches stand, neare or further remote in one and the same Lath, hundred or wapentack, emprint and place the Funerall Monuments in thsi my booke; but slip sometimes from one side of a County to another before I emprint an Epitaph. To which give me leave to make this answer, that having found one or two ancient Funerall inscriptions, obliterated Sepulchres, in this or that Parish Church, I have ridden to ten Parish Churches distant from that, and not found one. Besides I have been taken up in divers Churches by the Churchwardens of the Parish, and not suffered to write the Epitaphs, or take view of the Monuments as I much desired, for that I wanted a Commission which would greatly would have encouraged me (and still it would) as that of Henry the eight did John Leyland, in the prosequution of this businesse.

I conclude the Epitaphs and Funerall inscriptions in this booke as I finde them engraven, with a cuius anime propitierur Deus: or with God pardon his Soul; which some may say might have been as well left out of my booke, as they are in many places scraped out of the brasse: And I write the Latine in the same manner as I finde it either written or imprinted as capud for caput, nichil for nihil, and the like, as also E vocall for F dipthong, dipthongs being but lately come into use. And now I hope that neither the conclusion of the one, nor termination of the other will seem any way offensive to my intelligent Reader.

I likewise write the Orthographie of the old English as it comes to my hands, and if by the copying out of the same it be any manner of wayes mollified, it is much against my will, for I hold originalls the best, whereby some may object the simplicitie of my unlaboured stile, and the rough hewen forme of my writing. To which I reply, that this my kinde of Argument is incapable of all eloquent speech.

When I cite Ovid or Lucan, I use those exquisite translations of George Sandys and Thomas May Esquires.

Some will say, that the Epitaphs of London are already printed, and true it is that some are, especially such as are of later times, with whom I do not meddle at all, onely I set downe those of more antiquitie, which have either beene omitted in the collection, or for which I have some historicall elucidations, for the better understanding of the qualities of the parties defunct and interred.

Having had the helps and collections of many, my Reader may finde errours in some, which hereafter I shall studie to amend, intreating in the meane time a favuorable construction.

Many are the errataes, I am afraid, which will be found in the printing, the greatest I have met withall I have amended, not doubting but some also of consequence have escaped mee; and for those of lesser note, I have passed them over, desiring my Reader to correct and pardon.

Thus, curteous Reader, submitting my selfe, and this worke, to thy learned and friendly censure, I take my leave. From my house in Clerkenwell Close, this 28. of May 1631.


Te Moneant, Lector, tot in uno funera libro,

Tempore quod certo tu quoque funus eris


So many burials, Reader, in one booke

Warne thee, that one day, thou for death must looke



A TABLE OF THE DISCOURSE summed into certaine Chapters or Heads, bearing these following Contents


The first Chapter, Fol. 1

Discusses and treates of Monuments in generall


Chap. 2. fol. 5.

Of Funerall Monuments, Graves, Tombes, or Sepulchres, of the ancient custome of Burials: of Epitaphs and other Funerall Honours


Chap. 3. fol. 10.

Of Sepulchres answerable to the degree of the person deceased. The divers manner of bearing man and woman to the grave. When both sexes began to be borne alike.


Chap. 4. fol. 12.

Of the excessive expences bestowed upon Funerals in former times.


Chap. 5. fol. 18.

The reasons wherefore so many have made their own Sepulchres or Tombes, in their lifetime. Of the care that all or most of all men, have of decent buriall. The burying of the dead, a worke acceptable unto God. A Funerall Hymne of Aurelius Prudentius to the like purpose.


Chap. 6. fol. 29.

Of the care and cost anciently used in the preserving whole and entire, the bodies of the dead. Strange waies, customes and fashions of buriall


Chap. 7. fol. 32.

Of Cenotaphs Honorarie, and Religious: of the reverence attributed to these emptie Monuments


Chap. 8. fol. 37.

Of the sanctitite ascribed sometimes to ancient Funerall Monuments, and of the ardent desire most men have and ever had to visite the Tombes and Sepulchres of eminent and worthy persons.


Chap. 9. fol. 42.

Of the punishments both by humane lawes, and Gods severe justice, inflicted upon such malefctors in foregoing Ages; who violated Sepulchres. Of church-robbers.


Chap. 10.fol. 50.

Of the rooting up, taking away, erazing and defacing of Funerall Monuments in the severall raignes of K. Henry the eight, and Edward the sixt. Of the care Queene Elizabeth, of famous memory, had for the preservation of the same. Her proclamation in the second yeare of her raigne againste breaking or defacing of Monuments of Antiquity, being set up in Churches, or other publike places, for memory and not for superstition.


Chap. 11. fol. 57.

The conversion of this our Nation from Paganisme to Christianitie, including generally the Foundations of Religious Structures in the same. The piety in the primitive times, both of Religious and Lay persons.


Chap. 12. fol. 66.

Of the fall or backsliding, as well of Religious Votaries, as of Lay people from the foresaid zealous ardour of pietie.


Chap. 13. fol. 78.


Of the abrogation, aboltion and extinguishment of the Popes Supreame and exhorbitant authoritie within the King of Englands dominions


Chap. 14. fol. 89.

The policie used by Henry the eight, and his Councell in the expelling of the Popes foresaid authoritie out of his dominions.


Chap. 15. fol. 104.

The policie used by the King and his Councell for the dissolution and extirpation of Religious foundations, and religious orders within this Realme of England and Wales, the reformacion of religion, of Inscriptions in Churches; the Kings warrant for the surrender of Religious Houses: an information to Queene Elizabeth, of the severall abuses done unto the state generall and Crowne, by the corruption of such as were imployed by her Father upon the suppression of Abbeys


Chap. 16. fol. 127.

The time of the institution of Religious Orders, their severall Names and Authors, and the infitie increase of their Fraternities and Sisterhoods.


Chap. 17. fol. 157.

Of the sundry wayes and meanes by which Religious Votaries, and others of the Clergie enriched themselves and other Churches: of Pardons, Pilgrimages and Romescot.


Chap. 18. fol. 176.

Of Parishes, Bishoprickes, Sanctuaries, and of the Ecclesiasticall estate of England and Wales.






[16] ... moderate weeping and mourning at Funeralls, was never dissallowed; nay it hath been ever highly commended, accounted the chief grace of Funeralls, promised for a blessing to the godly, and the want thereof, a malediction or curse; and moderately to mourne after the interment of our friends, is a manifest token of true love; by it wee expresse the naturall affection wee had to the departed, with a Christian-like moderation of our griefe; whereby our faith to God [s?] ward is demonstrated. For as God hath made us living, so hath he made us loving creatures, to the end we should not be as stocks and stones, voide of all kinde and naturally affection, but that living and loving together, the love of the one should not end with the life of the other. And now to go a little further, I say, that to mourne and sorrow for parents, children, husbands, wives, kindred and friends, is not any matter of noveltie but most ancient...


I observe that wee, in these dayes, doe not weepe and mourne at the departure of the dead, so much, nor so long, as in Christian dutie we ought. For husbands can burie their wives, and wives their husbands, with a few counterfeit teares, and a sowre visage masked and painted over with dissimulation; contracting second marriages, before they have worne out their mourning garments, and sometimes befoe their cope mates be cold in their graves.

Young heires may attend upon the corps of their parents to their buriall places, seemingly making great shewes of inward griefe and sorrow but

Haeredus flectus sub persona risus est

The weeping of an heire, is laughing under a visard or disguise.


And if his father have impaired , or not augmented his state and inheritance, this young master will reduce the convoy of his fathers obsequies, to some unwonted parsimonie, answerable to these verses of Persius...


Now howsoever the procuration of funerals, the manner of buriall, the pompe of obsequies, bee rather comforts to the living, then helpes to the dead, and although all these ceremonies be despised by our parents on their death beds; yet should they not be neglected by us their children, or nearest of kindred, upon their interments.


But funerals in any expensive way here with us, are now accounted but as a fruitlesse vanitie, insomuch that almost all the ceremoniall rites of obsequies heretofore used, are altogether laid aside: for see see daily that Noblemen, and Gentlemen of eminent ranke, office, and qualitie, are either silently buried in the night time, with a Torch, a two-penie Linke, and a Lanterne; or parsimoniously interred in the day-time, by the helpe of some ignorant countrey-painter, without the attendance of any one of the Officers of Armes, whose chiefest support, and maintenance, hath ever depended upon the performance of such funerall rites, and exequies. So that now by reason of this generall neglect of Funeralls, and the sleight regard wee have of the needfull use of Heraulds, many and great errours are daily committed, to the great offence and prejudice of the ancient Nobilitie, and Gentrie of this Kingdome, and to the breeding of many ambiguous doubts and questions, which may happen in their Descents, and issues in future ages: And nothing will be shortly left to continue the memory of the deceased to posteritie; pilfrey and the opinion some have, that Tombes, and their Epitaphs, taste somewhat of Poperie, having already most sacrilegiously stolen, erazed, adn taken away, almost all the Inscriptions and Epitaphs, cut, writ, inlaid, or engraven upon the Sepulchres of the deceased; and most shamefully defaced the glorious rich Tombes, and goodly monnuments of ourmost worthy Ancestors. It could bee wished that some order might be taken for the preservation of these few which are as yet remaining: for to mine own knowledge, by the oberservation I have made in many Churches, the Monuments of the dead are daily thus abused.


[Chapter 5: as above]


It was usuall in ancient times, and so it is in these our dayes, for persons of especiall ranke and qualitie to make their own Tombes and Monuments in their life-time; partly for that they might have a certaine house to put their head in (as the old saying is) whensoever they should bee taken away by death, out of this their Tenement, the world; and partly to please themselves, in the beholding of their dead countenance in marble. But most especially because thereby they thought to preserve their memories from oblivion...

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