Last week, whilst doing my normal Sunday evening past-time of hunting for treasures on a certain on-line auction site, I happened across this intriguing picture. Needless to say, as a collector of old postcards who verges on being a compulsive hoarder, I couldn’t resist but to buy him and give him a new home. Once he had turned up on my front door mat, further research revealed that this was Robert Scarlett, a grave digger of Tudor England.
Old Scarlett buried within Peterborough Cathedral no less than two queens of two countries – a queen of England and a Queen of Scotland: Katherine of Aragon and Mary, Queen of Scots. The tools of his trade are near at hand – the keys to the cathedral, along with his pickaxe and his shovel. Nearby lies a skull – the ever present representation of death which was his trade.
A picture of a grave-digger or a picture of the Grim Reaper? You decide…
Old Scarlett, died 1594, in his 98th year. Peterborough Cathedral
You see old Scarlett’s picture stand on hie,
But at your feete here doth his body lie.
His gravestone doth his age and death time show,
His office by thies tokens you may know.
Second to none for strength and sturdye limm,
A Scarebabe mighty voice with visage grim.
Hee had interd two queenes within this place
And this townes house holders in his lives space
Twice over: But at length his own time came;
What hee for others did for him the same
Was done: No doubt his soule doth live for aye
In heaven: Tho here his body clad in clay.