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The Tomb of King Henry I
near St. James RC Church, Reading
King Henry I founded Reading Abbey in 1121 and chose to make it his family mausoleum. He died in France fourteen years later, before the building work was complete. Despite fierce competition from Rouen cathedral, the Royal body was embalmed, wrapped in bull's hides and shipped back to Reading for burial before the Abbey's High Altar. His funeral was attended by Queen Adeliza, the new King, Stephen, and most of the Archbishops, Bishops and nobles of England. The former gave a hundred shillings for the maintenance of a lamp to burn constantly over his grave; and a fine effigy of the monarch was later erected over the same. It was probably not unlike that of his grandson still to be seen at Fontevrault in Anjou.

A tradition, current in the 16th century, held that King Henry was buried in a silver coffin and it is thought that this inspired the workmen demolishing the choir to break into his tomb. Finding only a stone sarcophagus, they scattered the Royal bones: "thrown out to make room for a stable for horses". Today King Henry is remembered by a large memorial cross in the Forbury Gardens and a small plaque in the South Transept, close to his last resting place.



    Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.