This chapter discusses funeral rites between the 15th and 18th centuries. The rites which followed death served many different purposes, including the performance of religious and social duties towards the deceased; the symbolic transfer of rights, obligations, and social position; the expression of solidarity in mourning; and the discharge of duties of hospitality and almsgiving. How far anyone funeral fulfilled these functions largely depended upon the wealth and status of the deceased. Some of the main purposes of funerals changed in the course of time. The Reformation transformed their religious basis. The Civil Wars and Interregnum undermined the neo-feudal foundations of the aristocratic public funeral. Drastic simplification of burial rites by the victorious Puritans, temporary so far as the nation at large was concerned, served as a pattern for subsequent Nonconformist practice.
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