James IV: Life Story

A Renaissance Prince

Chapter 14 : Aftermath

It was some time before James' body was identified amongst the thousands dead. In the end it was recognised by Lord Dacre, English Warden of the West March and taken to Berwick. From there, it travelled to Surrey, to Sheen Priory in a lead-lined coffin.

Sheen-Priory-after-the-Dissolution
Sheen Priory, after the Dissolution

James had been excommunicated in the summer of 1513, as threatened by Pope Julius II, the sentence being carried out by Cardinal Bainbridge, Archbishop of York – hardly a neutral figure!

This excommunication caused some difficulty in burying James, as, in theory, an excommunicate could not be buried in sacred ground.

Henry VIII, showing a modicum of Christian charity to his brother-in-law, wrote to the Pope, requesting permission to bury James IV, which was granted.

"As it is to be presumed the King gave some signs of repentance in his extremities, the Pope allows him to be buried with funeral honours, trusting the oversight thereof to Richard [Fox] bishop of London, or some prelate chosen by the King."

It was planned that James would be buried, as befitted a king, at St Paul's Cathedral, however, that never happened and his body was left in a store-room at Sheen. There it remained for over fifty years, until the coffin was opened and the body desecrated in Elizabeth's time.

Red-Herring-Pub-Wood-Street-London
Red Herring Pub, Wood Street, London

The head was, apparently, rescued by the Queen's Glazier, who arranged for it to be buried at the Church of St Michael at Wood Street, central London - a site now graced by the Red Herring pub.


This article is part of a Profile on James IV available for Kindle, for purchase from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

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