Tuesday, 8 November 2011
those curious but mangled figures of some of our princes, which were carried at their interments*
In a chamber or gallery over Islip's Chapel, not ordinarily accessible to the public, is an exhibition of, perhaps, equal interest to the monuments interspersed throughout the sacred edifice, or rivalling in interest the famous exhibition of a somewhat similar character in Baker Street—that of Madame Tussaud. The collection has received the name of the "Ragged Regiment," and also "the Play of the Dead Volks." For many centuries preceding the present a curious custom prevailed at State funerals—namely, having exposed to view in the funeral car, or carried in the procession, a waxen effigy of the individual whose remains were about to be consigned to the tomb. The head of the defunct monarch, statesman, or warrior was modelled in wax, an effigy was built up, and clad in the actual garments worn by the deceased in his lifetime, but embellished with false gems. When the coffin had been deposited in the vault, the waxen effigy was either placed over the tomb as a sort of temporary substitute for a stone monument, or in some other convenient spot. Several of these effigies are preserved in glass cases like zoological specimens in the narrow chamber above referred to.
"View of the CHantry Chapel in Westmisnter Abbey, over the Tomb of Henry V, where the Curious Figures, commonly called the Ragged Regiment, now lie (in 1786) neglected, and mouldering into dust"
The Ragged Regiment - Max Beerbohm visits the effigies
*Walpole / Anecdotes of Painting in England