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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday

Highgate; High Victorian

Tombstone of Karl Marx

Highgate Cemetery in North London is one of the most thrilling cemeteries I have ever visited.  About 10 years ago, after often saying we should, I went with some friends to take a tour.  It happened to be a beautiful Halloween Day with  gorgeous weather and suitably gray autumnal skies.  The cemetery tour was, and probably still is,  divided in two halves--the very old half we were escorted through but the younger (and not by much) was self-guided.  I remember the older half was the more interesting if you're into high Victorian ornamentation and morbidity.  And, who is not?

Karl Marx was buried in the newer half, as was George Elliot.  However, the family of Charles Dickens was in the older side.  The tour didn't actually take us to their graves though because it was dangerous terrain...sunken graves and uneven ground.  Yet we still saw many incredibly amusing and beautiful monuments.  I rather think it is because they don't want the Dickens' graves vandalized by fans.

Tombstone of author George Elliot

Also on the older half was the grave of Elizabeth Siddal, the Pre-Raphaelite model.  She was the wife and muse of the artist/poet Dante Rossetti.  Her end was tragic and, wracked with guilt over her long, sordid demise, Rossetti threw the only copy of his poems into the casket with Elizabeth just before she was buried.  He was tormented for years by this whole episode and eventually had Elizabeth exhumed to retrieve and publish his poems.  Charming.  Dorothy Parker even wrote a verse about it.

Elizabeth Siddal

Put this tour on your list if you are ever in London.  Otherwise, Westminster Abbey is pretty fabulous too and more accessible.  Queen Elizabeth I and her half-sister Queen Mary Tudor are entombed together.  Not always the best of friends in life, they have no choice now.


  1. Far be it for me to correct your English history BUT I believe it is Mary Queen of Scots who is buried next to Elizabeth I. I don't know where her half sister Mary is. And frankly, I don't care. She was ghastly and rather brutal. Well, hey. Let me know if I am wrong (I am not). Love and Kisses, your sister who wouldn't mind being buried next to you if I was planning on ever having a grave.

  2. Well hello and thank you for playing. If this were a real game show you would hear a sharp, annoying buzz right now. Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Tudor are buried together. Across the Abbey lies Mary Queen of Scots all by herself but in an extremely showy tomb. Her son, James I would not let her be outdone by her cousins.