Translation of Henry III

On this day 730 years ago the body of Henry III was removed from its resting place under the Cosmati pavement at the high altar of Westminster Abbey to a new tomb constructed for him in the shrine of St Edward just behind the altar. The ceremony was low-key as Henry would have wanted it. In 1269, at the translation of the remains of Edward the Confessor to the newly constructed shrine, Henry declined to wear his crown so as not to make the event about himself. For his own reburial in 1290, he was found to be intact, with a luxuriant beard. This was meant to bolster the case for his canonisation, which had picked up steam a few years earlier when it was found that visits to him at the old tomb were as curative as those to other relics in the abbey, such as the blood of Christ and the girdle of the Virgin. His son Edward I, however, refused to believe outlandish stories about miracles. When a knight declared that the dead king had restored his sight, Edward replied that he knew his father’s justice well and was sure he would have had the man’s eyes gouged out for talking like that. In the end, Henry never did attain sainthood. For all the peace he promoted and poor he fed in his 56 years on the throne, he never went on crusade. The honour went instead to his contemporary Louis IX of France, who had gone on two crusades. Both of them were unqualified disasters that led to the final destruction of the crusader states, but he tried.

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