The funeral of Charles Henry Mordaunt, 5th Earl of Peterborough

Charles Henry Mordaunt, the 5th Earl of Peterborough (and 3rd Earl of Monmouth) and cousin to Grace Dalrymple Elliot did little of note throughout his life apart from embroil himself in a couple of scandals with high-born ladies, and if he is remembered at all to history it is chiefly, as we mention in our book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliot, on account of his extravagant funeral.

The Earl had died at his Wiltshire seat, Dauntsey House, on the 16th June 1814 and was buried in the adjacent churchyard.  A description of this funeral can be found in Wiltshire: The Topographical Collections of John Aubrey, which although largely written in the seventeenth-century was never then published. It was brought up to date by John Edward Jackson, including the information on the 5th Earl’s funeral, and published by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1862.  We thought it might interest our readers to hear the details.

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
Dauntsey Church, Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The Funeral ceremonies of this last Earl were conducted on the most expensive scale. The body lay in state in a very large room hung from the ceiling with superfine cloth; eighty wax lights, many of them weighing a pound each, were kept burning. The dress of the body in the coffin was composed of satin and the finest cambric; the coffin, covered with the richest Genoa velvet and escutcheons of Arms: for the silver-gilt nails alone £85 was charged. The pall gorgeous. The body was placed on a magnificent platform ornamented with festoons of black satin, surmounted with a dome lined inside and outside with rich black velvet and covered with ostrich plumes. The platform fringed with velvet and behind it a transparency of the Armorial bearings. Banners and shields round the room and eight mutes in constant attendance. From the room to the Church is about 20 yards: but the procession, in order to be seen, went a circuit of two miles. It consisted of a hearse, seven coaches and six, a carriage and four for the clergymen, six marshalmen, eight mutes, two feather-men, eight underbearers, forty six pages and a grand page on horseback bearing the coronet. Nine servants received two suits of clothes each. The undertaker’s bill was £3000. The executors Sir E. Antrobus and Mr. Coutts Trotter objected. An action was brought at Salisbury: they paid £2000 into Court. Justice Burrough advised a reference and Mr. Moore, a Barrister, finally settled the whole cost to be £2568.

Doom Board, 14th.c., above rood screen, Dauntsey Church, Wiltshire (via Wikimedia).
Doom Board, 14th.c., above rood screen, Dauntsey Church, Wiltshire (via Wikimedia).

David Russell had acted as an assistant to Mr Dore, the undertaker, and said that, in the twelve years he had been in that line of business ‘the funeral ceremonies were on the largest and most expensive scale that he had ever witnessed or heard of.’ Mr Dore had received his first instructions on the funeral ‘from an intimate friend of the late Lord Peterborough, Mr. Smith, who informed him that the funeral was to be conducted in no ordinary way and that he must exercise his own judgment in the preparation of it, on a plan of adequate splendour.’ Mr Smith was Joseph Bouchier Smith, also mentioned in our book, making free with the money of others in planning his friends’ funeral! The ensuing disagreement over the bill took some four years to settle.[1]

Header image:

Dauntsey Park House – you can read more about the house, now a wonderful location for film, television, events and weddings, by clicking here.

[1] The Bury and Norwich Post, 9th December, 1818

Advertisements

One thought on “The funeral of Charles Henry Mordaunt, 5th Earl of Peterborough

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s