Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Exhumations

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The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty to authorise the temporary removal from the vault beneath the Sheldon Chapel of a skull, possibly that of William Shakespeare, to enable the carrying out of a detailed archaeological investigation to include laser scanning, radio carbon dating, and an anthropological assessment. The Chancellor found no scholarly or other evidence to support the story that the skull was that of William Shakespeare.

Faculty for exhumation refused, as no exceptional circumstances.

Faculty granted for exhumation of cremated remains, the Chancellor finding sufficient exceptional circumstancs to justify the grant.

Faculty granted for exhumation and reinterment in family grave in another churchyard.

Petition for exhumation refused. Family conflict would not be settled by allowing exhumation.

The cremated remains of a member of the family concerned in this matter had recently been interred in her parents' grave. The interment had been arranged by certain members of the family, who did not discuss the location of the interment with other members of the family, who, as it turned out, objected to the last deceased being interred in her parents' grave, and they applied for a faculty for exhumation. The Chancellor ruled that the interment should not have taken place in the parents' grave without the agreement of all of the next of kin, and accordingly granted a faculty for exhumation and reinterment elsewhere.

Faculty for exhumation granted, due to exceptional circumstances (following guidance in Re Blagdon), namely, medical reasons.

Faculty granted for the exhumation of cremated remains and their reinterment in a family grave in the nearby cemetery, even though the remains had not been interred in a casket, but poured into a hole in the ground.

The petitioner's mother had died in 1991 and the family had had no choice but to follow the then policy of the PCC to have cremated remains interred close together in a double row with memorial tablets touching adjacent ones. Some years later the PCC changed its policy in an area where cremation plots were wider and interments were marked by upright stones. The petitioner's father did not like the area where his wife had been interred as the area looked paved, which he thought unseemly. He had arranged before he died in 2017 for his own remains to be interred in the new area. The petitioner wished to have his mother's cremated remains moved to his father's grave. The Chancellor decided that the combination of three circumstances - the family's unhappiness about the interment in 1991, the change in policy of the PCC, and the creation of a family grave by placing the wife's remains with those of her husband - justified him in granting a faculty.