A general rite

BL, Harley MS 6466, f.33r

The title of the manuscript I found is ‘The Order of Service and Observance for the removal of the body of the foresaid late earl’ (Ordinacio servicij & observancie pro remocione corporis dicti nuper Comitis). ‘Richard earl of Warwick, time Henry VI’ (Richard’ Com Warrwic. temp H.6) follows in brackets, indicating this earl was Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (1382-1439). Beauchamp was a close ally to Henry V and a key player in the Hundred Years War.

The document was used for Beauchamp’s reburial ceremony in late 1475. He had been buried, initially, in the main body of the church of St Mary, Warwick, in 1439, while his extravagant chantry chapel was built.

The tomb of Richard Beauchamp

Despite the title mentioning the Earl of Warwick, this is where the specificity ends. Several passages in the document make it clear that this was not a rite created specifically for the Earl of Warwick but rather of general usage. Most obvious of all of these instances is the use of a capital N (for ‘nomine’ or name), where the appropriate name of the deceased could be inserted. Therefore, despite the precise title, this order of service is representative of a fifteenth-century reburial ceremony and dates to just a year before a reburial ceremony that Richard III attended himself (for that of his father and brother).

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