Did women attend funerals during the Regency? That is a rather complex question for which a simple "yes" or "no" answer will not suffice. The statement that Regency women did not attend funerals due to their "delicate sensibilities" has been repeated on a number of sites across the web, despite the fact that research shows such sentiments to be purely Victorian. Some women who lived during the Regency did attend funerals while many others did not, for various reasons related to their social position, their faith and even their geographical location.
When, where and why a Regency woman might, or might not, attend a funeral …
Based on surviving records, women of all classes often did attend funerals from the Middle Ages right through the seventeenth century. This practice began to change as the eighteenth century advanced. Prior to this new age of rationalism and enlightenment, it was considered inappropriate to show one’s deep grief in public. The reason for this attitude was the expectation that the deceased had gone on to a better place, where he, or she, would enjoy an eternity of peace and serenity in the company of a loving God. It was considered by the clergy that such a fate was not an occasion of mourning, but of rejoicing. Nevertheless, many people did feel great sadness at being forever separated from their loved ones and tears and weeping were not fully suppressed at most funerals, particularly by the female members of the funeral party.
The change in funeral practices that began in the eighteenth century occurred among those of the upper classes and can be ascribed to two emerging cultural philosophies, the advent of "polite society" and the advance of the age of reason and rationalism. As the eighteenth century progressed, the aristocracy and the gentry sought means by which they could distinguish themselves from the lower classes. The rise of politeness was the keystone of this philosophy. But this did not mean simply knowing which fork to use or knowing to whom and how deeply to bow or curtsey. Members of polite society were typically involved in ongoing intellectual pursuits, they often patronized the arts and sciences, they made it a point to exhibit exceptional, but restrained, taste and they cultivated refined and elegant behaviour. One of the principal tenants of that behavior was never to reveal any strong emotion in public. Members of polite society were expected to remain calm and in control at all times. This was reinforced by the axioms of the new rationalism which became prevalent during the age of reason. Rational people were expected to behave in a calm and collected manner, restraining any expression of strong feeling in public.
Aristocratic and upper-class ladies who were members of polite society often found it very difficult to restrain their tears and weeping at the loss of a loved one. It would be extremely embarrassing to them to loose control during the course of a funeral service in which many people were in attendance. It would be equally embarrassing to the male members of their family who were expected to maintain a stoic calm in the face of death, even that of a loved one. Thus, ladies of aristocratic and upper-class families, primarily those who were members of the Church of England, gradually ceased attending funeral services. This change did not happen all at once. It seems to have begun in London and slowly spread across England during the last decades of the eighteenth century, first to other large urban areas, and then to smaller cities and towns.
There were other reasons why the upper-class Anglican ladies of polite society did not attend funerals in the latter decades of the eighteenth century. These restrictions do seem to have been instituted by men as a means by which to shield their ladies, not only from vulgar behavior, but also from the risk of physical harm. A mark of status for wealthy upper-class funerals was a large contingent of attendants in the funeral procession. The majority of these attendants were hirelings contracted by the undertaker who managed the funeral. It was not uncommon for these hired attendants to join the funeral procession heavily intoxicated. Despite the solemnity of the proceedings, these inebriates often made crude and vulgar remarks on a variety of topics as the procession moved along, none of which were fit for the ears of gently-bred ladies. As propriety and respectability came to be valued more highly, the male members of polite society wished to protect the ladies of their families from the vulgarities to which they would almost certainly be subject as they traveled in the funeral procession. Therefore, by the end of the eighteenth century, upper-class ladies very seldom took part in funeral processions, even those for close family members.
However, ladies who took part in funeral processions could be in much greater danger than just hearing crude and vulgar language. They could also be at risk of real physical harm. Another significant status symbol of aristocratic and upper-class funerals was that these funerals were almost always held at night. These high-profile funeral processions drew very large crowds along their routes and there were often those in the crowds with criminal intent. It was not uncommon for these ruffians to wait at a distance until the coffin was taken from the hearse at the place of interment, after which they would attack the unprotected vehicles. These thugs typically stole the escutcheons from the carriages in the procession, as well as anything else of value, and sometimes even attacked the funeral attendants. There were also usually a number of pick-pockets who took advantage of the attack on the funeral vehicles to move through the crowd, stealing everything they could get their hands on. Since women were not allowed to attend the actual interment, any ladies who might have been in the funeral procession would have been in the vehicles, virtually unprotected should one of these attacks take place. There are records which show that at least some of the coachmen and other procession attendants did sometimes attempt to fend off these attacks, but they were seldom successful and were often injured in the attempt. These attacks on funeral processions continued into the nineteenth century. For example, in March of 1802, the funeral procession for the deceased Duke of Bedford was attacked, at about 1:00am, by a gang of ruffians, just as the coffin had been carried into the church. In the melee, one of the attendants was knocked down and trampled by a horse, severely injuring his leg. The crowds then attempted to swarm into the church, breaking a great many windows in the attempt. Is it any wonder that most men did not want their womenfolk in such processions? Or that very few women wished to be exposed to such dangers?
The funeral practices of the royal family were very similar to those of the aristocracy, with a few differences. The ladies of the royal family usually did ride in carriages in the grand funeral processions of deceased members of their family. However, they were quite safe, since all royal funeral processions were accompanied by a large contingent of armed troops. These soldiers were not part of the procession merely as a mark of honor for the deceased. They were also there to protect the royal funeral procession from any kind of attack or assault. In the centuries long before the eighteenth, and right through the Regency, though the ladies of the royal family often rode in royal funeral processions, they did not attend the funeral or interment services for the deceased members of their family. In fact, that tradition was not broken until the funeral of King William IV, in 1837, when Queen Adelaide not only rode in his funeral procession, she attended both the funeral and interment service. She was the first queen of England to accompany her spouse to his final rest in several centuries.
By the turn of the nineteenth century, many of the wealthier members of the middle class were imitating the funeral practices of the aristocracy, including elaborate funeral processions and night-time burials. For those who lived in urban areas and were members of the Church of England, those imitations usually included the exclusion of women from participation in some or all aspects of the funeral service. These women were not expressly forbidden from attending funeral services, but many felt that to do so was very unladylike. However, not all middle class women felt that way, and they did ride or walk in the funeral procession, and also attended the funeral service in the church. However, none of these women were allowed to attend a grave-side service in an Anglican church yard.
Grave yards associated with Anglican churches were consecrated ground, and most ministers at these churches would not allow any more people than were absolutely necessary at a grave-side service, often known as the committal. Typically, only the chief mourner and immediate male relatives were allowed to attend an Anglican grave-side committal. It appears that women were excluded, at least in part, due to the perception that they were sinful by nature, as sisters of Eve. Due to this attitude, it was not until the early twentieth century that most male doctors were willing to provide any kind of pain relief to a woman in labor because they believed the pain of childbirth was God’s punishment for the sins of Eve. Well into the nineteenth century, once a woman had given birth and was able to leave her bed, she would go through a ritual known as "churching." The first time she went to church after the birth, a special service would be held, in part, thanksgiving for the birth, but also a request for forgiveness for the "sinful act" by which she had conceived her newborn babe. Mrs. Cassandra Austen attended such a service after the birth of her daughter, Jane, just as she had after the birth of all of her other children. And her husband was the minister of the church!
Regency women who were members of the various dissenting sects did not usually follow these Anglican practices. There are a few letters which survive from the first decades of the nineteenth century from dissenting women to their pastors, asking if they might attend the funeral of a family member or friend. The extant responses from these pastors consistently advise their parishioners that there was nothing in the tenets of their faith which would prohibit them from attending these funerals. A couple went so far as to state that they considered the avoidance of funerals by "fashionable" ladies as lacking in true feeling. Not only did women of the Quaker, Baptist, and other dissenting faiths attend the funerals of family and friends, they also attended the grave-side services, and in many cases, even spoke a few words at those services. A well-bred upper-class Anglican lady would have been utterly scandalized at the very idea.
Women of the lower classes, or those living in rural areas, might attend all or part of the funeral service for a deceased family member or friend. If there was any kind of funeral procession, it was usually on foot, and many women walked along behind the coffin to the church. Most also attended the church service, but, if they were of the Anglican faith, they would not attend the committal at the grave-side. But most of these women had other duties which needed their attention while the men attended the burial service. Few lower class or rural people could afford the expense of a night-time burial, and it was therefore still customary among most of those families to invite the principal mourners back to their homes after the burial for a meal. Therefore, while the men were at the grave-side committal, the women returned to the home of the deceased to complete preparations for the funeral meal. The Anglican upper classes had forgone this important ritual of grieving and healing when they adopted night-time burials, to their detriment.
Though Anglican women of the aristocracy and the gentry did not usually attend funerals during the Regency, they were involved in the various rituals and ceremonies for the deceased which led up to the funeral. By the Regency, the corpse would not usually be washed and dressed by family members. Instead, it would be prepared by professionals hired by the undertaker who managed the funeral. Midwives often performed this service for extra income, though, if requested by the family, a male attendant would wash and dress a male corpse. There were no funeral parlors until long after the Regency, so the deceased would remain in the home, on view, until the day of the funeral. Once the body was placed in the coffin and was ready for viewing, the ladies of the house usually took on the responsibility of sitting vigil while the deceased remained in the house. Though prayers were said for the deceased during this time, the primary purpose of vigil was to be sure the corpse was truly bereft of life, and not in a deep sleep. It was the custom that at least one person remain with the body around the clock until it was taken from the house for the funeral, watching for any sign of life. The majority of this burden fell on the women of the house, though children and male family members did usually take part, at least for short periods. By the day of the funeral, the female relatives of the deceased were usually exhausted and did not have the strength to attend the funeral service, even if doing so had been considered acceptable.
It was also customary during the Regency to provide small tokens of remembrance to all of the mourners who attended a funeral. In most cases, it was the ladies of the house who had the responsibility of gathering these favors and tying them up for presentation. Such favors could range from handkerchiefs to gloves to hatbands, all usually black. The most simple favors were sprigs of rosemary, symbolic of remembrance, tied with a black silk ribbon. Among the upper classes, more substantial gifts were made, especially to principal mourners. These might include mourning rings and other morning jewelry, such as brooches or lockets. Such tokens of remembrance might include a lock of the deceased’s hair as well as an engraving with their name or initials, the date of their death, and even a brief sentiment of remembrance. Personal items which had belonged to the deceased might also be given as mementos to their closest friends and family members. These personal mementos were usually selected by the senior female member of the deceased’s family, either based on their will or left to the discretion of the lady. Once these various mourning gifts had been gathered, the ladies of the house would set themselves to the task of preparing them for presentation. All the rosemary springs would be tied with a length of black silk ribbon, while all the other favors would be wrapped in silk cloth and tied with a silk ribbon. The favors, such as rosemary sprigs, handkerchiefs, gloves and hatbands, would usually be presented to the mourners when they arrived at the house on the day of the funeral. The more expensive mourning jewelry and personal mementos were often presented to the recipients personally, in the days after the funeral had taken place. It should be noted that such gifts were not made only to men, quite of lot of them were intended for ladies as well.
During the Regency, most of the ladies of the aristocracy and the gentry who were members of the Church of England, especially those living in large urban centers, did not usually attend the funerals of even their closest friends and family members. Many of these ladies abstained from attending these services due to a combination of social pressure and their own physical and emotional exhaustion at such times, unwilling to expose their personal feelings publicly when they were not in full control of themselves. However, few of them were idle during this time of sorrow. They kept vigil through many a night with the deceased, gathered favors, mourning gifts and personal mementos which they prepared for presentation to the mourners. Many women of the middle classes emulated this behaviour in an attempt to be thought fashionable. Ignoring such fashionable behavior, women of dissenting faiths, those of the lower classes and those living in rural communities, usually attended all, or at least part of the funeral ceremonies for their loved ones. Which is not to say that there were not a few hardy souls among the upper-class ladies who did ride in the funeral procession and attend the funeral service for someone whom they especially loved and admired. They would have caused some tongues to wag, but a woman of strong character would have put her commitment to the deceased above such considerations.
Funerals at night! That I didn’t know. Wonderful article, Kathryn.
Apparently there is a long history among the aristocracy for night-time funerals. I am pursuing that line of inquiry now. The references are scarce, but I hope to be able to post an article here on the subject at some point in the future. I am glad you liked this article.
Neither did I. Fabulous article. I tweeted and shared on FB.
Thank you very much!
I had no idea funeral processions were so dangerous! Thanks for all this information. It certainly paints a picture.
I was stunned when I found the information on the attacks on funeral processions. Even more so when I found comments stating that they were fairly common. Since today nearly everyone is respectful of a funeral procession, it never occurred to me that was not always the case.
I am glad to know you found the article of interest.
My goodness, attacks on funeral processions? amazing! plot bunnies in that, surely, an attack of thieves disguising what is actually an attempt on the life of one of the mourners… I have not approached funerals correctly hitherto, I fear. I must rectify this.
Oh, dear! What genie has now been let out of the bottle?! 😉
If you want to read the report of the attack on the Duke of Bedford’s funeral, you can find the article in The Lady’s Magazine Or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex: Appropriated Solely to Their Use and Amusement for 1802. It is available at Google Books.
I do confess myself mystified that such a thing would appear in a “Lady’s” magazine. Go figure!
Many thanks! how odd… unless it was published to reiterate to ladies why they should NOT attend funerals…
That makes perfect sense! Give the ladies a vicarious thrill while proving to them they should stay home.
Thank you for writing about this important topic.
Do you happen to know if – presumably – female duties (in small house at least, without many servants) such as drawing curtains, stopping clocks at the time of death, covering mirrors with crape or veiling – would such rites be practiced in the Regency period or is it more Victorian?
And how long would a mourning wreath be suspended over the front door of a deceased person’s house? I read it might be for 6 to 12 months – but what makes the difference?
Thanks a lot in advance for any hint.
Anna M. Thane
From what I have read, most of those duties did fall to the ladies, and they did draw curtains and stop clocks in their homes during the Regency. Curiously, when it came to mirrors or looking glasses, sometimes they were draped with black, but just as often they were turned to the wall instead during the Regency. It seems to me that it would have been much easier to drape them in black. The only thing I can think is that since black cloth was so expensive, it was less expensive to turn the mirrors to the wall, even if it was more work.
Based on my research, which is not yet complete, during the Regency, all of this was done in the room where the deceased was laid out in their coffin before the funeral. In some homes it was not done in the other rooms of the house, in others it was. But I have no idea how or why those decisions were made.
The use of wreathes on doors may be a Victorian custom. Based on my reading, during the Regency, armigerous families, that is, those entitled to bear heraldic arms, hung a funeral escutcheon, or what was also known as a hatchment, on their front doors. These were wooden panels in shield, lozenge or square shapes, on which were painted the armorial bearings of the deceased. They seem to have been hung on either the hearse bearing the corpse or on the carriage of the chief mourner in the funeral procession, after which they were hung on the front door of the home of the deceased, for some period of time. But I do not yet know the length of time they were hung or how that was determined.
For families without the right to bear arms, I am not sure how they signified a house was in mourning. I have come across vague references to the use of black bunting or black bows hung on front doors, and in at least one case, the door knocker was wrapped in black cloth, but no mention of wreathes. But so far, I do not have enough information to be able understand or explain these practices.
I am sorry I cannot be of more help.
TERRIFIC POST! Very helpful. I’ve taken liberties with the accepted conventions in this area, and now I can point to your succinct, readable text on the subject. One detail: Didn’t Queen Victoria use pain relief for her last two births, and didn’t Albert (her birthing coach before it was popular), start administering it even before the docs showed up? Chloroform, I think… must go check, now.
I am glad you liked the post. I must admit, some of the information I uncovered during my research was quite unexpected.
I would not be surprised if Queen Victoria used pain-killers, she REALLY hated the pain of child-birth, about as much as she loved sex! But she was the queen, so she could do as she pleased and Albert loved her, so he would not want to see her suffer. I have not spent a lot of time on her reign, especially the later years.
From my studies in the history of medicine with regard to women, most midwives did provide some kind of pain relief to the women whom they were helping, as did a few male accouchers, who had a sense of compassion. But quite a lot of the male attendants at a birth had this holier-than-thou attitude that women had to endure the pain with no relief. Of course, these were the same “professionals” who used to go from a surgery or an autopsy to a childbirth without washing their hands, since they would just get dirty again during the birth. Thousands of women and their babies died until these clowns finally wised up!
Thanks for stopping by.
What a fascinating article! Thank you for posting. BTW, a few years ago when I went on an Early Bird tour with RT, we visited a funerary museum. It’s amazing to see the various ways in which other cultures deal with death.
My pleasure! I am glad you liked it.
I had no idea there were such things as funerary museums. It must have been fascinating. Death is such an absolute, but so very terrifying to many people, they will do just about anything to feel they have some control.
Thanks for stopping by.
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Wow, a great research for the way of Regency Death and ladies at funerals.
Thank you very much!
Thanks for writing this. I’ve really enjoyed reading it and have shared it among my friends. I have one question for you. The funeral I am describing in my own novel (based on a real aristocratic funeral) included a lady’s carriage in the procession. Was the carriage likely to be empty or would the lady then have remained in the carriage during the service?
If there was a lady’s carriage in the procession, then most likely, there was at least one lady in the procession. From what I could tell, ladies were least likely to attend a funeral in London. If your funeral is taking place outside of London, in a smaller city or in the country, then it seemed ladies might be more likely to attend funerals. Even in London, some determined ladies did ride in a funeral procession, and some even attended the church service, but so far as I know, none attended a grave-side service.
Also, the lower in rank the deceased is, the less likely that a large crowd might be attracted to the procession and make mischief. The Duke of Bedford’s procession attracted a large crowd because he was a powerful duke. If your deceased is a viscount, or a baron, and not politically powerful or socially prominent, there will be fewer people attracted, and hopefully, those with less criminal intent. Of course, if your deceased aristocrat was powerful and/or prominent, and your funeral is taking place in London, there seems to some options for you. If the lady, or ladies, do attend the funeral service in the church, their carriage may take them home as soon as they leave the church. If they don’t attend the church service and stay in their carriage, perhaps someone in their family has arranged some kind of protection for them. Instead of allowing the undertaker to hire the coachman and any other attendants, the coachman, footmen and any other attendants are family retainers who are armed and will protect the ladies at any cost.
Then again, if the “lady” in the carriage was the mistress of the deceased, perhaps she has joined the funeral procession unbeknownst to the family, and has ensured she has sufficient protection in case of any unpleasantness. She may or may not choose to attend the church service.
I hope this helps give you some ideas. Good luck with your story!
This post is amazingly informative (and entertaining), Kat. Thanks very much for sharing this research. One question: I did come across a mention of an afternoon funeral, though I can’t remember whose right now. Could a funeral of an upper middle class person be held in the afternoon?
The funeral of an upper middle class person might very well take place in the afternoon during the Regency.
From what I have discoverd so far with regard to night-time funerals, they originated with royalty and the upper aristocracy in the seventeenth century. They became more common among the aristocracy in general through the eighteenth century, and were not imitated by the middle classes until close to the end of the eighteenth century. However, by then, they were really just a status symbol. And, they were very expensive. A night-time funeral could cost twice as much, or even more, than a day-time funeral. So only middle class people who were both wealthy and social climbers were most likely to have a night-time funeral during the Regency. A sensible upper middle class family would be much more likely to have a day-time funeral than one at night. Perhaps the deceased might specify that was their wish in their will, if they had any social-climbing relatives whom they thought might want to show off with a night-time funeral.
I hope that helps to clarify.
Wow, night-time funerals and processions that were attacked… so much that I didn’t know. Question: in the “country” (say, Meryton or Rosings), did they also have night-time funerals, or could they have them in the day?
Lady Catherine de Burgh might specify she wanted a night-time funeral, because she thought so highly of herself, and she was very wealthy. But I think very few of Jane Austen’s other characters would have had a night-time funeral. The fees to the church alone would be doubled for a night-time funeral, and most of the residents of the towns and villages in Jane Austen’s stories would have thought such a thing very uppity.
Under the influence of Lizzie and Jane, both sensible ladies, I suspect that neither Mr. Darcy or Mr. Bingley would have a night-time funeral, since they would not want to show off. Now, Sir Walter Elliot would almost certainly want a night-time funeral, considering how well he thinks of himself. The problem in his case, would be the expense. Since he is such a wastrel, it is unlikely there would be enough money by the time he died to give him a big funeral procession and a night-time funeral. Even if Captain Wentworth could afford it, I doubt Anne would let him pay for such extravagance.
Hello, this is such and interesting topic to me as I’m writing a sequel to P&P (yes, I know many others have done so!) which opens with the death of Lady Catherine. I’m all excited now as I have to decide who will and will not (of the womenfolk) attend the funeral…thank you!!!
You are quite welcome!
I glad to know you will be embellishing your story with historical details of Regency funerals. I hope your readers will enjoy the added Regency flavor. You are welcome to post a link here to your book, once it becomes available, so that visitors to this post can easily find it.
Good Luck with your story.
Thanks, Kat that’s really kind. At the moment I’m writing purely for my own amusement so I don’t really know what shape this story will take, because other than a blog and some craft articles for magazines, I’ve never published anything.
I started this story because I felt really disappointed by the way the P&P sequels (even the PD James ‘Death comes to Pemberley’) didn’t follow the character development that Jane had created. Her stories are about family and the way they interact (the good, the bad and the ugly) but one thing she never does is describe an action she has no experience of – her weddings are sketchy for example, so your information about funerals and woman largely not attending them was helpful.
I imagine that Jane’s peer group didn’t attend funerals either… which gives me a very good idea about how I might introduce some friction between Darcy and Elizabeth… their arguments are so good at moving the action forward in P&P 😉
Thank you for this! It’s very timely for the funeral scenes I’ll need to write soon. I’ll look forward to your post on why funerals were at night.
Royal funerals seem to be in a class of their own (so to speak).
You are right about royal funerals, they had very special rules which the rest of the population did not have to follow. Though they had begun to relax by the early nineteenth century.
The post on night-time funerals will be some time in coming. The sources are scarce and I am having to request many of them through Inter-Library Loan, which will take time. Based on what I know at this point, there were two main reasons why royals and top aristocrats moved to night-time funerals. Partly to avoid having to deal with the College of Heralds, who had had nearly complete control over royal and aristocratic funerals since the Middle Ages. The other reason seems to have been in some way related to aristocratic women who did not want to be embalmed after death, and somehow they could avoid that if they were buried at night. Certainly intriguing!
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I’ve read that the original reason mirrors were covered in the room where the deceased was laid out was because if the soul saw itself in the mirror, it would be so entranced by its beauty that it would get stuck and not go to heaven. In Jewish custom you remove chair cushions becaus you’re in mourning and you don’t need to be comfortable and the mirrors are covered because you’re not focused on vanity.
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! These customs and associated lore are fascinating, but they seem to be slipping away from many of us in the modern era. It is nice to have them recorded for others.
What about military wives and their husband’s funerals (those stationed at home in England during the Regency particularly)? Would those be during the day? Would the wife attend, regardless of her class? Or would class still play a role?
Most funerals held at night were for wealthy, high-ranking aristocrats, so class did play a role in the time at which the funeral would be held. Unless a soldier was also a high-ranking aristocrat, his funeral would more likely be held during the daytime than at night.
Regardless of whether or not the funeral of a military man was held during the day or at night, in most cases, neither his wife nor any other female members of his family, would attend the graveside service. The ladies might attend the church service, if there was one, but it was considered bad form for a woman to follow the coffin to the grave itself. Many women did not even feel equal to attending the church service and remained at home.
There was a grand procession and funeral when Admiral, Lord Nelson was laid to rest in 1806. It was held during the day, and wound through the streets of London on the way to the church. Women were not even expected to be on the streets for the procession, though some did come out. However, even Lord Nelson’s wife was excluded from both the church service and the actual burial. Emma Hamilton was also forbidden from attending.
Women in some dissenting religious sects, such as Quakers, would attend the graveside service. However, most dissenters were also pacifists, so very few of them joined any of the military services. However, if a deceased military man was a Quaker or other dissenter, his wife might attend his funeral from church service to the graveside. Even so, at least some people would probably talk.
I hope that helps to clarify.
This is very helpful. Thank you!
If I may ask, how is the post on night-time funerals coming along?
You can find it here: https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/the-regency-way-of-death-origins-of-night-funerals-2/
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This is all very interesting and answers the question I had, while reading a PnP variation. The most prominent night-time funeral I can think of is that of Hero in Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing. If course, she is not really dead, but the funeral profession plays a prominent part in the story. Even though it takes place in Italy, I’m sure Shakespeare used it because it was a UK phenomena (and very theatrical)! I have a mental image of people carrying torches, winding through the countryside. I don’t know whether it was a men only affair but I suspect so.
Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I am glad to know you found the article useful.
A real night-time funeral in England would have been highly unlikely to include women until the twentieth century, even if the funeral was for a woman. So, Shakespeare probably intended Hero’s funeral to be sans females. And, as I recall, in Kenneth Branagh’s film version of the play, Beatrice and Hero’s other female relatives did not attend her funeral.
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I have looked through the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and the service used for the Churching of Women and I can’t find any reference at all to the woman asking for forgiven for the sin by which the conceived their child. Do you have any reference for this assertion please?
I think you may have a few wires crossed. So far as I know, in both the Anglican and the Catholic Churches, the “churching” ritual was in thanksgiving for a healthy child and mother, once the woman had recovered after the delivery. It also included a blessing for both mother and child that they would life a good and pious life.
Though the sex act was considered a sin outside of wedlock by most religions, it was considered quite acceptable inside marriage, so long as the intent was to conceive a child. There are differing views on intercourse for recreational purposes only, even inside marriage, by the more conservative religions.
Hope that will help.