Westminster Abbey is one of Britain’s greatest medieval buildings- a living witness to British history. For centuries, Kings & Queens have walked down its aisle for their date with destiny.
Let’s start at the Royal Entrance to get a sense of the long history of the Abbey and why one King thought it so important he was willing to spend a tenth of the entire income of the nation on it.
Then it’s through a hidden courtyard into the main cloisters to find out why the Tudor monarch Henry VIII, plunged the country into political and religious upheaval, leaving the Abbey as one of the few survivors of an earlier age.
Fortunately, there are other survivors too – the shrine of a Royal Saint who founded the church, the Coronation Chair on which monarchs are crowned, and the tombs of those whose reigns shaped our history. A King starved to death, three rival Queens and a wife of Henry VIII, they’re all here.
And alongside them can be found the names of some of the most famous people from our history – the scientists Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin and the writer Charles Dickens.
But there is one grave that stands apart from the rest – the grave of the Unknown Warrior, a soldier of World War 1, whose body was brought from France to be buried here on 11 November 1920.
We’ll talk about the Royal weddings and funerals, and also spend time searching through past Coronations – the ultimate showpiece of British monarchy, and yet for all their pomp and show, not always delivered flawlessly and occasionally foreshadowing difficult times to come (as you will hear).
A tour of Westminster Abbey is a tour through British history.
Did you know?
- Three rival Queens lie buried in the Abbey – Mary I (Bloody Mary), Elizabeth I (the Virgin Queen) and Mary Queen of Scots. The first imprisoned the second, and the second executed the third.
- Oliver Cromwell (the man who ruled England as Lord Protector after executing King Charles I) was buried in the Abbey following his death in 1658. But his body was only allowed to rest there for three years before being dug up by the newly restored King.
If you want to know more, you’ll have to book a tour.