Death and the Noble Body in Medieval England
We all die, but how we perceive death as an event, process or state is inextricably connected to our experiences and the social and environmental culture in which we live. During the early middle ages, the body was used to demonstrate a whole range of concepts and assumptions: the ideal aristocrat possessed a strong, whole and virile body which reflected his inner virtues, and nobility of birth was understood to presuppose and enhance nobility of character and action. Here, the author examines how contemporary ideas about death and dying disrupted this abstract ideal. She explores the meaning of aristocratic funerary practices such as embalming and heart burial, and, conversely, looks at what the gruesomely elaborate executions of aristocratic traitors in England around the turn of the fourteenth century reveal about the role of the body in perceptions of group identity and society at large. Dr DANIELLE WESTERHOF is Honorary Visiting Fellow, School of Historical Studies, University of Leicester.
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accusations Anglo-Norman argued aristocratic aristocratic traitors attitudes behaviour beheaded Bellamy bodily Brut buried Bynum cadaver Cambridge Cathedral Chapter Chronicle church Cistercian concept Cornwall corpse corruption crimes Culture David ap Gruffydd dead death Despenser the Younger discussion display Dru Drury Earl Edmund Edward effigies embalming English entrails evisceration example execution Flores historiarum Fryde funeral Ganelon Garendon Abbey Gittos Hailes Hailes Abbey Heart Burials Henry Henry of Almain Henry’s History honour Hugh Despenser ideal ideas John judgement king king’s knight knighthood knightly Law of Treason London Matthew Paris Medieval England metaphorical Middle Ages monastic Monasticon Mondeville Montfort Moreover mos teutonicus multiple burial noble body one’s Oxford patronage physical political Priory punishment Ramon Llull religious houses revenants Richard Roland Rotuli parliamentorum royal Simon Fraser social society soul status thirteenth century Thomas tion tomb treason Tyranny and Fall viscera viscera burials Vita Edwardi Secundi vols Wallace’s William Wallace Woodbridge