All Royals are, but it has nothing to do with ensuring Henry VIII doesn’t rise from the dead in search of a future ex-wife.
The death of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is unlikely to have slipped your notice. Aside from a multitude of unusual rituals surrounding her death (such as the Informing of the Bees), one peculiar truth has emerged: her coffin will weigh a surprising amount, given her little stature.
This is due to the fact that her coffin, like Princess Diana’s and Prince Philip’s before her, will be lined with lead. It’s already lined with lead and has been waiting for her for 30 years.
The habit of putting (posthumously) royals in lead-lined coffins dates back hundreds of years and has nothing to do with preventing Henry VIII from returning from the dead and escaping from his grave for one final divorce (iron would be better for fighting off the supernatural if that were the case).
Kings, Queens, Princes, and Princesses have been interred in lead coffins for generations to preserve their remains. The custom extends back to a time when modern means of preservation were not yet accessible; formaldehyde was not found to preserve remains until 1869.
Decomposition affects everyone, from Kings to peasants, which means bodies might end in a very untidy manner, as the first Norman King of England, William the Conqueror, did.
While riding in a combat, William suffered an injury that punctured his intestines. As he died, the people in his life – most of whom he had not treated well, including his son, with whom he was at odds – opted not to arrange his funeral. After he died, his body was allowed to decompose on a stone slab while someone volunteered.
As the body began to rot, a knight took it upon himself to transfer it 112 kilometers (70 miles) to Caen to be buried. The monarch, no longer preoccupied with authority, now passed the time by gathering gas through decomposition.
A fire in the city warmed the corpse up even more and kept those gases growing when they arrived. It was too swollen to fit into the sarcophagus by the day of the burial. The gravediggers tried to force him in nevertheless, against simple physics, like a youngster attempting to drive a square toy through a circle-shaped hole.
According to Benedictine monk and writer Orderic Vitalis, the body blew, and “the distended bowels ruptured, and a terrible odor attacked the noses of the spectators and the whole assembly.” The mourners were coated with dead king juice.
Royals who made it inside their caskets in subsequent centuries enjoyed a more dignified finish because to a technology that allows their remains to be kept for up to a year longer than in normal coffins.
Lead-lined coffins delay the decomposition of the deceased by keeping moisture out of the casket. Lead does not decompose and hence remains impermeable, avoiding decomposition but also the discharge of odors and fumes, which is undesirable if numerous Royals share a vault or may be relocated in the future.
For centuries, this style of casket was beyond of reach for all but the most rich in Europe, and it is still legally needed in the UK for any dead that are to be placed above ground.