Lilies and roses for a King

King Henry VI was born at Windsor on 6 December 1421 and succeeded to the throne at the age of nine months as King of England.   Henry was crowned 6 November 1429 at Westminster Abbey a month before his eighth birthday.  He was imprisoned and died in the Tower of London on 21 May 1471.   His body was taken to Chertsey Abbey for burial.

In the Treasurers’ accounts of the College of St George for 1483-84 an entry refers to the payment of £5 10s 2d ‘for expenses about the removal of King Henry VI from Chertsey’.   According to the contemporary account of John Rous, ‘the King’s body was taken out of his grave in the abbey church of Chertsey in August 1484, and honourably received in the new collegiate church of the Castle at Windsor where it was again buried with the greatest solemnity to the south of the high alter’.

The tomb of Henry VI became the object of veneration and the scene of miracles of healing attracted many pilgrims.  Miracles attributed to the King included those connected with one of his treasured relics – an old hat – the King’s Medicine against Headache.   Relics were kept at Windsor until the Reformation.  The metal collecting box for alms still stands beside the tomb.

On 4th November 1910 a formal investigation was made to establish exactly where King Henry’s body had been placed.   Within the second arch on the south side of the Quire, the marble step was removed and space opened.  The shrine appears to have been in the same area as the present slab which had been placed in the centre of the South Quire Aisle in 1790 and was moved to its present position in 1927.

Henry VI was not considered a successful king but rather a good and holy man widely regarded as a saint.   His one lasting achievement was in education, founding Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge.  At Windsor we commemorate his birthday with the ceremony of the Lilies and Roses.  Boys from Eton College attend an obit service together with representatives from Eton and King’s to lay lilies and roses on the tomb of Henry VI while special prayers are said.

“Let Thy blessing O Lord, be upon the Colleges of Thy servant King Henry VI and as Thou has appointed unto them diversities of gifts, grant then also the same spirit, so that they may together serve Thee to the welfare of Thy realm, the benefit of all men, and Thy Honour and Glory; through Jesus Christ Our Lord”.

Enid Davies (Assistant Archivist)

The Queen's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.