Burials and memorials in Westminster Abbey

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Honouring individuals with burials and memorials in Westminster Abbey has a long tradition.

History[edit]

Henry III rebuilt Westminster Abbey in honour of the Royal Saint Edward the Confessor, whose relics were placed in a shrine in the sanctuary and now lie in a burial vault beneath the 1268 Cosmati mosaic pavement, in front of the high altar. Henry III himself was interred nearby in a chest tomb with effigial monument. Many of the Plantagenet kings of England, their wives and other relatives, were also buried in the abbey. From the time of Edward the Confessor, until the death of George II in 1760, most kings and queens of England were buried here, although there are exceptions (most notably Edward IV, Henry VIII and Charles I, who are buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle). All monarchs who died after George II were buried in Windsor; most were laid to rest in St George's Chapel, although Queen Victoria and Edward VIII are buried at Frogmore, where the royal family has a private cemetery.

Since the Middle Ages, aristocrats were buried inside chapels, while monks and other people associated with the abbey were buried in the cloisters and other areas. One of these was Geoffrey Chaucer, who was employed as master of the King's Works and had apartments in the abbey. Other poets, writers and musicians were buried or memorialised around Chaucer in what became known as the Poets' Corner. These include: W. H. Auden, William Blake, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, John Dryden, George Eliot, T. S. Eliot, Thomas Gray, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Samuel Johnson, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, Jenny Lind, John Masefield, John Milton, Laurence Olivier, Alexander Pope, Nicholas Rowe, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Thomas Shadwell, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and William Wordsworth. Abbey musicians such as Henry Purcell were also buried in their place of work.

Subsequently, it became one of Britain's most significant honours to be buried or commemorated here.[1]

The practice of burying national figures in the Abbey began under Oliver Cromwell with the burial of Admiral Robert Blake, in 1657.[2] The practice spread to include generals, admirals, politicians, doctors and scientists such as Isaac Newton, buried on 4 April 1727 and Charles Darwin, buried on 19 April 1882.

British Prime Ministers buried in the Abbey are: William Pitt the Elder, William Pitt the Younger, George Canning, Viscount Palmerston, William Ewart Gladstone, Bonar Law, Neville Chamberlain and Clement Attlee.

During the early 20th century, for reasons of space, it became increasingly common to bury cremated remains rather than coffins. In 1905 the actor Sir Henry Irving was cremated and his ashes buried in the Abbey, thereby becoming the first person ever to be cremated prior to interment.[3] This marked a milestone as after the death of Sir Joseph Hooker in December 1911, the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey chose to offer Hooker a grave near Charles Darwin's in the nave, but also insisted that he be cremated before. His widow however declined and so Hooker's body was buried in the churchyard of St Anne's Church, Kew. The majority of interments at the Abbey are of cremated remains, but some burials still take place – Frances Challen, wife of the Rev. Sebastian Charles, Canon of Westminster, was buried alongside her husband in the south choir aisle in 2014.[4] Members of the Percy family have a family vault, "The Northumberland Vault", in St. Nicholas's Chapel, within the Abbey.[5] The ashes of physicist Stephen Hawking were interred in the Abbey on 15 June 2018, near the grave of Sir Isaac Newton.[6][7] The memorial stone, bearing the inscription 'Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking 1942–2018', includes a form of the Bekenstein–Hawking entropy equation relating to black holes.[7]

In the floor just inside the great west door, in the centre of the nave, is the tomb of The Unknown Warrior, an unidentified British soldier killed on a European battlefield during the First World War. He was buried in the Abbey on 11 November 1920. There are many graves in the floors of the Abbey, but this is the only grave on which it is forbidden to walk.[8]

Burials[edit]

British monarchs and consorts[edit]

Audio description of the shrine of Edward the Confessor by John Hall

The following English, Scottish and British monarchs and their consorts are buried in the abbey:

Other royal relatives[edit]

Nave[edit]

The following are buried in the nave:

North Transept[edit]

East side of the North Transept, from left to right, George, Charles and Stratford Canning, General John Malcom, Benjamin Disraeli, Admiral Peter Warren, William Gladstone and Robert Peel
West side of the North Transept, from left to right, monument to Captains William Bayne, William Blair and Robert Manners, statue of Lord Palmerston, monument to William Pitt the Elder

The following are buried in the North Transept:

South Transept[edit]

View of the west wall of Poets' Corner

The following are buried in the South Transept which is known as the Poets' Corner:

Cloisters[edit]

The cloister and garth

The following are buried in the Cloisters:

North Choir Aisle[edit]

The following are buried in the North Choir Aisle:

South Choir Aisle[edit]

The following are buried in the South Choir Aisle:

Ambulatory chapels[edit]

The following are buried in the ambulatory chapels:

St. John the Baptist Chapel[edit]

St. Nicholas' Chapel[edit]

Northumberland Vault:[5]

St Paul's Chapel[edit]

Other ambulatory chapels[edit]

Henry VII's Lady Chapel[edit]

The following are buried in the Henry VII's Chapel:

Unknown location

  • Sir Arthur Ingram (omission from the main burial register during the English Civil War)[16]

Memorials[edit]

The following are commemorated in the Abbey and/or had their Memorial Service in the Abbey, but were buried elsewhere:

Individuals[edit]

Monument to James Cornewall
Monument to Captain Edward Cooke
Monument to General Wolfe

World War I poets[edit]

Sixteen Great War poets are commemorated on a slate stone unveiled 11 November 1985, in the South Transept (Poets' Corner):[22]

20th-century martyrs[edit]

The 20th-century martyrs

Above the Great West Door, ten 20th-century Christian martyrs from across the world are depicted in statues; from left to right:

Formerly buried (removed)[edit]

King Harold I of England was originally buried in the Abbey, but his body was exhumed, beheaded, and thrown into a fen, in June 1040. The body was later rescued and re-buried in the church of St. Clement Danes, Westminster.

A number of Cromwellians were also buried in the Abbey, but later removed, on the orders of King Charles II, and buried in a pit in St Margaret's churchyard, adjoining the Abbey. A modern plaque on the exterior wall of the church records the names of those who were disinterred:

Marie Joséphine of Savoy, titular Queen of France and wife of King Louis XVIII of France, died in exile in England in 1810 and was buried in the Lady Chapel of the Abbey.[24] In 1811, under her husband's orders, her body was exhumed and removed to Cagliari Cathedral, Sardinia.

In November 1869, at the request of the Dean of Westminster and with the approval of Queen Victoria, the philanthropist George Peabody was given a temporary burial in the Abbey, but was later moved and buried in Salem, Massachusetts.

Proposed burials and memorials[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett. p. 26.
  2. ^ Westminster Abbey Mrs. A. Murray Smith, published 1904-08-30
  3. ^ "Woking Crematorium". Internet. The Cremation Society of Great Britain. Archived from the original on 3 August 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  4. ^ "Sebastian Charles". Internet. The Dean and Chapter of Westminster. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "Elizabeth, Duchess of Northumberland – Westminster Abbey". Archived from the original on 31 December 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  6. ^ "Stephen Hawking memorial service set for June". Westminster Abbey. March 2018. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Stars turn out for Stephen Hawking memorial at Westminster Abbey". BBC News. 15 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  8. ^ "The Tomb of The Unknown Warrior". British 1. Archived from the original on 20 September 2016. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Edward V & Richard Duke of York". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 7 June 2022.
  10. ^ a b Stanley, Arthur (1886). Westminster Abbey. London: John Murray. p. 499.
  11. ^ Squire, William Barclay (1885). "Ayrton, Edmund" . In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 02. London: Smith, Elder & Co. He was buried in the west cloisters of Westminster Abbey on 28 May.
  12. ^ Cook, James F. (2004). Governors of Georgia: 1754–2004. Macon: Mercer University Press. ISBN 978-0-86554-954-8.
  13. ^ "Charles Whitworth, Baron of Galway". Westminster Abbey – Charles Whitworth, Baron of Galway. Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  14. ^ "Sir Lewis Robessart, Lord Bourgchier". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  15. ^ "Sir Thomas Ingram". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  16. ^ pixeltocode.uk, PixelToCode. "Sir Arthur Ingram". Westminster Abbey.
  17. ^ "Robert & Olave Baden-Powell". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  18. ^ Coutu, Joan (2006). Persuasion and propaganda monuments and the eighteenth-century British Empire. Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 160. ISBN 9780773576643.
  19. ^ "Commemorations - David Lloyd George". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  20. ^ "NAA - Former Prime Ministers Of Australia, Menzies after office". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  21. ^ Robert Holden and Desmond Gregory (2004). "Villettes, William Ann". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28284. Retrieved 9 September 2017. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  22. ^ "Poets". Net.lib.byu.edu. Archived from the original on 22 September 2008. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  23. ^ Robert Blake – Westminster Abbey, Westminster Abbey
  24. ^ Cf. "The Countess de Lisle", The Times (16 November 1810): 3; "The Queen of France's Funeral", The Times (28 November 1810): 3.
  25. ^ Wilson, David Alec (1923–1934). Carlyle. 6 vols. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., LTD. p. 6:281.
  26. ^ Wilson, David Alec (1923–1934). Carlyle. 6 vols. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., LTD. p. 6:471.
  27. ^ Brown, John Murray (3 February 2013). "Tug-of-war brews over 'king in car park'". Financial Times. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  28. ^ Hodgson, Nick; Loeb, Nick; Lydall, Ross (6 February 2013). "Let battle begin: should Richard III have State funeral at Westminster Abbey?". Evening Standard. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  29. ^ "Carol Vorderman: Captain Sir Tom Moore 'deserves stone in Westminster Abbey'". East London & West Sussex Guardian. 4 February 2021. Retrieved 4 February 2021.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In 1674 the remains of two boys were exhumed from the Tower of London and at the orders of Charles II, they were interred in the wall of the Henry VII Lady Chapel. Westminster Abbey says this: "The urn was opened on 6th July 1933 to examine the bones to try to ascertain if they were human remains. Not all the bones were there as some had been lost or given away when they were found in 1674. The remaining bones were of two young children. The Lady Chapel was closed during the examination and on 11th July the bones were carefully wrapped up and replaced in the urn by the Dean with a parchment recording what had been done. He then read part of the burial service and the urn was re-sealed."[9]
  2. ^ In the 19th century, researchers looking for the tomb of James VI and I partially opened the underground vault containing the remains of Elizabeth I and Mary I of England. The lead coffins were stacked, with Elizabeth's resting on top of her half-sister's.[10]
  3. ^ The position of the tomb of King James was lost for two and a half centuries. In the 19th century, following an excavation of many of the vaults beneath the floor, the lead coffin was found in the Henry VII vault.[10]