At least once a book, I refer to some lord or lady enduring obsequies from the footmen, maids or characters of lesser rank. Invariably, Madam Copy Editor will leave a margin note for me that “obsequies” are funerary rites, though I’ve only heard the word used in that sense when somebody alludes to “final obsequies.”
Turns out Madam Copy Editor is right, which is often the case. OED lists one definition for obsequy as: A funeral rite or ceremony; a funeral. Also: a commemorative rite or service (performed at the grave of the deceased or elsewhere) (now rare).
And yet, there is another definition, from the same root as obsequiousness, as follows:
Ready compliance with the will or pleasure of another, esp. a superior; deferential service;
From what I can tell, the first definition cropped up as a variant of the Latin exsequiae, meaning final rites, in the sense of a duty to the dead, while the second definition is the modern descendent of the Latin obsequiem, having the same meaning of deferential service.
Maybe, in future books, I’ll have the maids and footmen being merely attentive and polite, lest somebody think I’m sending a character to a premature reward.