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I have been translating the Latin inscription on a 19th century tomb in the parish churchyard, Mitcham, south west London, UK. I'm using a Latin dictionary and a 'Latin Made Simple' book I bought many years ago, as well as online resources. I have been able to translate the inscription but have a hit a problem in what looks like a duplication.

The tomb is of Richard Cranmer, who died in 1828, and is listed grade 2 by Historic England. In addition, his daughter and widow are in the tomb, and their names are listed below his.

Latin Inscription on tomb  of Richard Cranmer

The inscription reads

HIC IACENT

RICARDVS CRANMER LLB HVIVS ECCLESIAE PAROCHVS QVI OBIIT DIE FESTO OMNIVM SANCTORVM A.D. MDCCCXXVIII AET XLIV

ESTHER MARIA LOVISA CRANMER FILIA EIVSDEM NATV MINOR QVAE OBIIT DIE OCTAVO OMN SANCT A.D. MDCCCXLI AET XVII

ELISABETHA MARIA CRANMER EIVSDEM RCI VIDVA OVAE OBIIT DIE QVARTODECIMO OMN SANCT NOV XIV A.D. MDCCCXLV AET XLV

REQVIESCANT IN PACE

AMEN

I have translated this as

Here lies

Richard Cranmer, L.L.B., pastor of the church, who died

on the Feast Day of All Saints 1828, at the age of 44

Esther Mary Louise Cranmer, his young daughter

who died on the eighth day of All Saints 1841, at the age of 17

Elizabeth Mary Cranmer, his widow, who died

on the 14th day of All Saints November 14 1845, at the age of 45

May they rest in peace

The duplication is the date for the third occupant of the tomb, Elizabeth Mary Cranmer. DIE QVARTODECIMO OMN SANCT I have translated as the 14th day of All Saints, which I take to be 14th November. If I have that right, then why is this followed with NOV XIV which is the same date?

It does seem odd to me that they all died around the same time of year, so have I got the OMNIUM SANCTORUM wrong as a date?

I haven't found a translation of this anywhere else, and have looked at British History Online as well as the Mitcham History Series of books by the late Eric Montague, of the Merton Historical Society.

Any help is appreciated. I aim to produce a video of the tomb and want to add the correct translation of its inscription.

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    I know it's not related to the question, but why did you write Elizabeth was 45 at the age of death instead of 40? Is there a "V" we can't see in the inscription? – Carlos Martin May 13 at 17:54
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    Sorry, Carlos Martin, I dropped the V by mistake and have amended the post. It is in the photo, just not very clear. – Wade B May 13 at 18:06
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It does seem a coincidence that they all died in November, but this coincidence has been made into something of a joke.

In the first place the reverend gentleman himself died on November 1st which is the feast of All Saints. This was felt worth noting on the tomb, perhaps in part because All Saints Day is the festival of the Christian dead. There was no need to mention that All Saints Day is November 1st as everyone knows this (or might be assumed to).

The 8th day of a feast (i.e. the same day of the week as the feast) is generally known as the "octave". If someone died on November 8th normally it would be very unlikely to be noted as the octave. However, when the daughter died on November 8th and the time came to add her to the inscription, the coincidence was felt worth noting. The father on the day of the feast and the daughter on the octave of the feast. Again, since "octave" is a recognised word for the day exactly one week after a feast, everyone would understand what was meant.

Lastly, the wife died on November 14th, and the person responsible for her inscription had something of a sense of humour. Although the octave of a feast is a recognised concept, there is not really any such thing as the fourteenth day after a feast. Since the death of her husband and daughter were both inscribed in relation to All Saints Day the person responsible thought to do the same. But nobody would ever really refer to November 14th as the Quartodecimo of All Saints, and so the actual date November 14th was also mentioned.

It is a little like saying X died on Christmas Day, Y died on Twelfth Night and Z died on Fifteenth Night. Twelfth Night is a "real" thing, Fifteenth Night is merely jocular.

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  • Thanks for answering my question, confirming that the date was duplicated, and for providing good reasoning for it. – Wade B May 14 at 11:56
  • I wonder whether there was some malice in that joke, although there is no way to prove it as such. The Cranmer family had been proud of their lineage going back to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, a key figure in the English Reformation. Emily Cranmer, Richard's sister, had four children, and they all converted to Catholicism from 1843. One of her sons was vicar at the Anglican church where Richard's tomb is situated. He resigned his living in 1846. Was the joke his idea? – Wade B May 14 at 13:13
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    I also think it is funny, but it also has a classical flavor as the Romans used to tell dates related to the "calendas" or the "ides" - "X days before the calendas of march". So, given that it is written in Latin, it also makes sense to try to be "more Classical" than the Ancient Romans themselves. – Luiz May 14 at 13:26
  • @WadeB Interesting idea. There certainly could be an element of malice, or at least some mockery or sense of irony. To a Protestant/low churchman referring to holy days might be seen as a Catholic/high church practice. That hadn't ocurred to me. Perhaps your research will find more. Good luck. – davidlol May 14 at 17:53
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    @AndrewLeech All Saints' Day celebrates everyone in heaven, canonized or not, even in the Catholic tradition. All Souls' Day is a special day of prayer for those in purgatory – C Monsour May 15 at 23:23

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