The distinguished author-poet Thomas Hardy passed away on January 11, 1928. One of the most respected authors in Britain at the time of his death, his works included 18 novels, including “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” and “Jude the Obscure” along with more than a thousand poems. But a problem arose when his friends and relatives began planning his funeral.
Hardy’s literary status was such that it was assumed that he should be buried at the legendary Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey. But in his will, Hardy had directed that he be buried near the grave of his late first wife at St. Michael’s Church in Stinsford, a few miles from his home in Dorchester.
Hardy had married Emma Lavinia Gifford in 1870, but the marriage was tumultuous and the couple were barely speaking when Emma died suddenly in 1912. Despite the fact that his relationship with his wife was so badly strained, Hardy poured out his grief and love in a massive body of lyrical poetry that easily surpassed any work he had done previously.
Despite his obvious grief over the loss of Emma, Hardy married his secretary, Florence Dugdale, just over a year later. Florence was 40 years younger than her employer and continued to manage his affairs until his death.
Hardy’s literary status was such that it was assumed that he should be buried at the legendary Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey. But in his will, Hardy had directed that he be buried near the grave of his late first wife, his parents and grandparents at St. Michael’s Church in Stinsford, a few miles from his home in Dorchester.
The argument over Hardy’s burial place was finally settled by a strange compromise. His heart was removed and placed in a casket. The rest of Hardy’s body was cremated and the ashes were placed in another coffin. At 2:00 p.m., the ashes, along with a spadeful of dirt from Dorset were interred at Poets Corner. At the same time, Thomas Hardy’s heart was buried at St. Michael’s Church in Stinsford.
Not to be outdone, the people of Dorcester held a memorial service at the same time for the great poet who had lived among them for so many years, even though they had no remains to bury in their churchyard.
Thomas Hardy’s status as one of the greatest novelists and poets England had ever produced has never been challenged. The unique set of funerals for this beloved man bears testament to an enduring regard for both the man and his literature. His graves are still visited by people wishing to pay their respects for the man and his immortal work.
There’s a great website detailing Thomas Hardy’s life and works at