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The Tudor Society

14 February – The dog licks up the king’s blood

In today's "on this day in Tudor history", I take you back to 1547 and a rather horrible event that was seen as the fulfilment of a prophecy. Friar William Peto had warned King Henry VIII that if he carried on with his behaviour then he would end up like King Ahab. Strong words!

I then move on to a happier topic, Valentine's Day in the Tudor period. Did the Tudors celebrate Valentine's Day and what did they do to mark the occasion?

Happy Valentine's Day!

You can click here to read a bit more about Valentine's Day.

Also on this day in history:

  • 1492 – Death of William Berkeley, Marquis of Berkeley and a man known as “William Waste-all”. He was buried in the Augustinian friary in London with his second wife, Joan.
  • 1539 – Trial of Sr Nicholas Carew. He was found guilty of treason, after being implicated in the Exeter Conspiracy, and sentenced to death. Carew was executed on 3rd March 1539 at Tyburn.
  • 1556 – Thomas Cranmer was degraded from his office of Archbishop of Canterbury for heresy.
  • 1601 – Execution of Thomas Lee, soldier, at Tyburn. He was hanged, drawn and quartered after being implicated in the failed rebellion of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.

There are 7 comments Go To Comment

  1. M /

    I wonder still, even with an eye witness, if it’s true.
    Happy Valentine’s day! I hope you’re having a lovely day. Michelle t

  2. R /

    The dogs probably were not licking any blood but fluid from the embalming. However, I doubt the story is true as the coffin makers knew how big Henry was, would have made certain it was built well and measured correctly. Moved from place to place, it is possible that fluid could slip out and dogs will lick anything. This would be red like blood and the so called prophecy is a coincidence. Henry and Jane Seymour’s coffins have been examined and Henry’s had burst or been damaged but most probably by earlier opening of the vault to put Charles I in there. The coffins were restored and the vault was secured with all of the coffins in there in a new vault behind security grills which could be explored by the Victorian public.

  3. C /

    It probably is a myth as surely Henry V111 would have a lead coffin which would have been indestructible and other English monarchs, or maybe they did not use lead coffins then but he was a huge man and I should imagine his coffin would have been well made, it is a gruesome story and somehow fulfils the prophecy of Ahab and Jezebel, (who later was thrown to the dogs), it was said those who found the dog licking on the escaped bodily fluids tried in horror to chase the dog away, but he would not be moved and would stare balefully at them circling around and barking, the final indignity of this most feared monarch, I laughed at your expressions Claire when you were telling the story, no doubt you had already eaten your breakfast!😋

    1. < / Post Author

      It could well be true as there was no soldering in those days as such, so the folds of the lead envelope could easily have become damaged on the road, or perhaps the plumber just didn’t do a good job or the chandler didn’t and there was a build up of gases that also put pressure on the envelope – yuck!
      Yes, I left it a while after eating my breakfast to do that one!

      1. R /

        I think it’s a mix of fact and fiction. Fact in that if the coffin was damaged then resin came out, which is red, as red as blood so the dogs probably licked this up. Resin was a gum like substance used a lot in embalming from Ancient Egypt to the nineteenth century and the body and coffin would literally be full of it as it was mixed with other fluids and oils to be put around the organs and poured into the body to preserve it. The coffin would also be sealed with it. It doesn’t actually preserve the body by itself, there are other preservation techniques involved but it was thought to help slow down any decomposition. Coffins are not necessarily built for moving about from place to place so depending on how good the seals were, it is possible some dried fluid leaked out. Lead lining at this time was inferior to that used by the Romans so it broke down. You would need to use mercury to prevent any smells and unfortunately, some animals will lick anything up. In fact it’s a wonder that the dogs were not poisoned.

        I believe it’s myth as we really don’t know who witnessed this and the prophecy was a quotation from the Bible and this did happen to King Ahab who allowed the priests of foreign and pagan gods to pollute the Holy Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem and to operate within his land. His Mrs Queen Jesebel was thrown from a window and also met with a horrible death when the true faith was restored as did the priests from what I remember. The dogs literally came and licked his blood as he lay dying. Father Peto who made this prophecy in 1531 was of course citing the Biblical story and referring to Henry Viii and his recent break from Rome and separation from Queen Katherine. Jesabel no doubt was meant to be Anne Boleyn, who in a later sermon by John Skip, a reformer was compared to Queen Esther. The story possibly took on a life of its own, but the prophecy was more likely a coincidence which people saw as coming true. It was probably no more than some dry resin and a couple of dogs, if it happened. However, I think the coffin would have been too well sealed but you never know.

        1. < / Post Author

          I think something did happen and then, in superstitious times, it became linked to that previous prophecy. I can attest to the “dogs will eat anything” line – ours will eat the most disgusting things and roll in the most disgusting things, and be all waggy tailed about it!

          1. R /

            My brother in law had a dog who got to chocolates which were in a tin, sealed so tight I can’t open them, seriously well sealed, wrapped in paper and in a bag, under their tree. There he was sat looking innocent, chocolate all over his chops, the tin chewed to bits and everything all over the place. No other parcels were touched. Flash definitely knew what he wanted lol.

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14 February – The dog licks up the king’s blood