[PW] tasting embalming fluid a common practice?

Kevin O'Kelly rkokelly at gmail.com
Thu May 5 12:15:27 PDT 2016

I read recently that in 1779 some workmen were digging a grave in the aisle
of a church in Danbury, Essex and found a knight's tomb. The coffin was
opened to reveal a well-preserved boy in a substance described by a witness
as "l a liquor or pickle resembling mushroom catchup." This witness tasted
the fluid describing it as, "found it to be aromatic, though not very
pungent partaking of the taste of catchup and of the pickle of Spanish

I have also read that after the Great Fire of London two gents wandering
through the ruins of Westminster Abbey found the tomb of Dean Colet had
cracked open. Seeing that he "lay in liquor, like boiled brawn" they
decided to taste it.

Now the fact that  tasting  embalming fluid was considered worth mentioning
suggests that it was unusual. On the other hand, if three men did it, I'm
sure many more did.

I was wondering if anyone knows any more about the practices of exhumation
to take a look at pickled corpses.

Not really the same but these incidents remind me of the time Pepys went to
see the opened tomb of Catherine of Valois and kissed the corpse, writing
in his dairy, "this was my birthday, 36 years old, and I did kiss a queen."


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