Interment In The Dark
For a time in the United Kingdom, night time burials and observance of funeral rituals were the only options for those without resources. The Regency Era refers to a period in the United Kingdom after the Georgian era and before the Victorian era. During this short transition – 1811-1820 – King George III was removed from power as he was deemed inefficient to rule. His son, the Prince of Wales (George IV) became Prince Regent, and served as interim ruler.
This almost decade long time frame was characterized by a spike in elegance and style for those who could afford it. It was a period that saw great improvement in fine arts and architecture. Unfortunately, it was also when the social divide between the high class and low class was at its greatest. Aristocrats enjoyed lavish, detailed lifestyles while poverty among the poor soared to new heights.
Due to this social divide, more of the poor had to work during the day. This meant they were not able to bury their loved ones until after work. This turned out to be in their best interest, as it was less expensive to do so than it was during the day. This is because the College of Arms – a royal body that oversee the burial of prominent members of society during the day – was not able to exact fees for oversight. Neither were most clergy who also profited from costly day time burials and memorial customs.
As a result, night time burials and related funeral traditions became a way for the poor to get around the fees they could not afford.
It is interesting to note that the College of Arms could not object to the night time burials as there was no law forbidding them. They also could not exploit the living by preying upon burial rites for the dead.