„The dead body requires more dressing” – the Post-mortem Examinations of Polish Kings and Queens from 16th to 18th Centuries in Preparation for the Funerals Cover Image
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„Ciało umarłe większego wymaga opatrzenia” – sekcja zwłok polskich królów i królowych od XVI do XVIII wieku w kontekście przygotowań do ceremonii pogrzebowej
„The dead body requires more dressing” – the Post-mortem Examinations of Polish Kings and Queens from 16th to 18th Centuries in Preparation for the Funerals

Author(s): Jarosław Pietrzak
Subject(s): Middle Ages, 6th to 12th Centuries, 13th to 14th Centuries, 15th Century, 16th Century, 17th Century, 18th Century
Published by: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego
Keywords: post-mortem examination; body; corpse embalming; poison; monarch
Summary/Abstract: The article focuses on post-mortem examinations of Polish kings and queens between 16th and 18th centuries. The attitude of Roman Catholic Church and university circles towards autopsy is discussed. The definition and terminology of the post-mortem examination is provided, different for the past and modern times. The subsequent part of the article addresses the objections the rulers had concerning their autopsies and expressed in their wills, the time, place and the people conducting the post-mortem examinations and the exceptions to the usual conduct. The reasons for autopsies are analysed: the need to learn the cause of death and the verification of the hypothesis about poisoning, the necessity to protect the corpse against decaying until the funeral and a very popular practice of burying different parts of the body, such as heart, liver, tongue and eyes, which started at the end of the 17th century. Finally, corpse embalming and the substances used in the process are described. In conclusion the ceremonious meaning of conducting autopsy and paying respect to the royal majesty are indicated, as well as the phenomenon of transferring the post-mortem examinations from the royal circles to aristocracy and nobility in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries.

  • Page Range: 142-170
  • Page Count: 29
  • Publication Year: 2020
  • Language: Polish