Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Kingdom's most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs. The building itself was a Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. Since 1560, the building is no longer an abbey or a cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England "Royal Peculiar"—a church responsible directly to the sovereign.
According to a tradition first reported by Sulcard in about 1080, a church was founded at the site (then known as Thorn Ey (Thorn Island)) in the seventh century, at the time of Mellitus, a Bishop of London. Construction of the present church began in 1245, on the orders of King Henry III.
Since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, all coronations of English and British monarchs have been in Westminster Abbey. There have been 16 royal weddings at the abbey since 1100. As the burial site of more than 3,300 persons, usually of predominant prominence in British history (including at least sixteen monarchs, eight Prime Ministers, poet laureates, actors, scientists, and military leaders, and the Unknown Warrior), Westminster Abbey is sometimes described as 'Britain's Valhalla', after the iconic burial hall of Norse mythology.
|Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster|
|Denomination||Church of England|
|Previous denomination||Roman Catholic|
|Architect(s)||Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey|
|Nave width||85 feet (26 m)|
|Floor area||32,000 square feet (3,000 m2)|
|Number of towers||2|
|Tower height||225 feet (69 m)|
|Diocese||Extra-diocesan (royal peculiar)|
|Canon(s)||see Dean and Chapter|
|Director of music||James O'Donnell|
(Organist and Master of the Choristers)
|Organ scholar||Benjamin Cunningham|
Location within Central London
|Official name: Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church|
|Criteria||i, ii, iv|
|Designated||1987 (11th session)|
|Region||Europe and North America|
Listed Building – Grade I
|Official name: Westminster Abbey (The Collegiate Church of St Peter)|
|Designated||24 February 1958|
A late tradition claims that Aldrich, a young fisherman on the River Thames, had a vision of Saint Peter near the site. This seems to have been quoted as the origin of the salmon that Thames fishermen offered to the abbey in later years – a custom still observed annually by the Fishmongers' Company. The recorded origins of the Abbey date to the 960s or early 970s, when Saint Dunstan and King Edgar installed a community of Benedictine monks on the site.
Between 1042 and 1052, King Edward the Confessor began rebuilding St Peter's Abbey to provide himself with a royal burial church. It was the first church in England built in the Romanesque style. The building was completed around 1060 and was consecrated on 28 December 1065, only a week before Edward's death on 5 January 1066. A week later, he was buried in the church; and, nine years later, his wife Edith was buried alongside him. His successor, Harold II, was probably crowned in the abbey, although the first documented coronation is that of William the Conqueror later the same year.
The only extant depiction of Edward's abbey, together with the adjacent Palace of Westminster, is in the Bayeux Tapestry. Some of the lower parts of the monastic dormitory, an extension of the South Transept, survive in the Norman Undercroft of the Great School, including a door said to come from the previous Saxon abbey. Increased endowments supported a community increased from a dozen monks in Dunstan's original foundation, up to a maximum about eighty monks.
The abbot and monks, in proximity to the royal Palace of Westminster, the seat of government from the later 13th century, became a powerful force in the centuries after the Norman Conquest. The Abbot of Westminster often was employed on royal service and in due course took his place in the House of Lords as of right. Released from the burdens of spiritual leadership, which passed to the reformed Cluniac movement after the mid-10th century, and occupied with the administration of great landed properties, some of which lay far from Westminster, "the Benedictines achieved a remarkable degree of identification with the secular life of their times, and particularly with upper-class life", Barbara Harvey concludes, to the extent that her depiction of daily life provides a wider view of the concerns of the English gentry in the High and Late Middle Ages.
The proximity of the Palace of Westminster did not extend to providing monks or abbots with high royal connections; in social origin the Benedictines of Westminster were as modest as most of the order. The abbot remained Lord of the Manor of Westminster as a town of two to three thousand persons grew around it: as a consumer and employer on a grand scale the monastery helped fuel the town economy, and relations with the town remained unusually cordial, but no enfranchising charter was issued during the Middle Ages.
The abbey became the coronation site of Norman kings. None were buried there until Henry III, intensely devoted to the cult of the Confessor, rebuilt the abbey in Anglo-French Gothic style as a shrine to venerate King Edward the Confessor and as a suitably regal setting for Henry's own tomb, under the highest Gothic nave in England. The Confessor's shrine subsequently played a great part in his canonization.
Construction of the present church began in 1245 by Henry III who selected the site for his burial. The first building stage included the entire eastern end, the transepts, and the easternmost bay of the nave. The Lady Chapel built from around 1220 at the extreme eastern end was incorporated into the chevet of the new building, but was later replaced. This work must have been largely completed by 1258-60, when the second stage was begun. This carried the nave on an additional five bays, bringing it to one bay beyond the ritual choir. Here construction stopped in about 1269, a consecration ceremony being held on 13 October of that year, and because of Henry's death did not resume. The old Romanesque nave remained attached to the new building for over a century, until it was pulled down in the late 14th century and rebuilt from 1376, closely following the original (and by now outdated) design. Construction was largely finished by the architect Henry Yevele in the reign of Richard II.
Henry III also commissioned the unique Cosmati pavement in front of the High Altar (the pavement has recently undergone a major cleaning and conservation programme and was re-dedicated by the Dean at a service on 21 May 2010).
Henry VII added a Perpendicular style chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1503 (known as the Henry VII Chapel or the "Lady Chapel"). Much of the stone came from Caen, in France (Caen stone), the Isle of Portland (Portland stone) and the Loire Valley region of France (tuffeau limestone). The chapel was finished circa 1519.
Henry VIII assumed direct royal control in 1539 and granted the abbey the status of a cathedral by charter in 1540, simultaneously issuing letters patent establishing the Diocese of Westminster. By granting the abbey cathedral status, Henry VIII gained an excuse to spare it from the destruction or dissolution which he inflicted on most English abbeys during this period.
Westminster diocese was dissolved in 1550, but the abbey was recognised (in 1552, retroactively to 1550) as a second cathedral of the Diocese of London until 1556. The already-old expression "robbing Peter to pay Paul" may have been given a new lease of life when money meant for the abbey, which is dedicated to Saint Peter, was diverted to the treasury of St Paul's Cathedral.
The abbey was restored to the Benedictines under the Catholic Mary I of England, but they were again ejected under Elizabeth I in 1559. In 1560, Elizabeth re-established Westminster as a "Royal Peculiar" – a church of the Church of England responsible directly to the Sovereign, rather than to a diocesan bishop – and made it the Collegiate Church of St Peter (that is, a non-cathedral church with an attached chapter of canons, headed by a dean.)
It suffered damage during the turbulent 1640s, when it was attacked by Puritan iconoclasts, but was again protected by its close ties to the state during the Commonwealth period. Oliver Cromwell was given an elaborate funeral there in 1658, only to be disinterred in January 1661 and posthumously hanged from a gibbet at Tyburn.
The abbey's two western towers were built between 1722 and 1745 by Nicholas Hawksmoor, constructed from Portland stone to an early example of a Gothic Revival design. Purbeck marble was used for the walls and the floors of Westminster Abbey, even though the various tombstones are made of different types of marble. Further rebuilding and restoration occurred in the 19th century under Sir George Gilbert Scott.
A narthex (a portico or entrance hall) for the west front was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the mid-20th century but was not built. Images of the abbey prior to the construction of the towers are scarce, though the abbey's official website states that the building had "towers which had been left unfinished in the medieval period".
Westminster suffered minor damage during the Blitz on 15 November 1940. Then on May 10/11 1941, the Westminster Abbey precincts and roof were hit by incendiary bombs. All the bombs were extinguished by ARP wardens, except for one bomb which ignited out of reach among the wooden beams and plaster vault of the lantern roof (of 1802) over the North Transept. Flames rapidly spread and burning beams and molten lead began to fall on the wooden stalls, pews and other ecclesiastical fixtures 130 feet below. Despite the falling debris, the staff dragged away as much furniture as possible before withdrawing. Finally the Lantern roof crashed down into the crossing, preventing the fires from spreading further.
It was at Westminster Abbey that six companies of eminent churchmen led by Lancelot Andrewes, Dean of Westminster, newly translated the Bible into English, so creating the King James Version in the early 17th century. The Joint Committee responsible for assembling the New English Bible also met twice a year at Westminster Abbey in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the 1990s, two icons by the Russian icon painter Sergei Fyodorov were hung in the abbey. In 1997, the abbey, which was then receiving approximately 1.75 million visitors each year, began charging admission fees to visitors.
In June 2009 the first major building work at the abbey for 250 years was proposed. A corona – a crown-like architectural feature – was suggested to be built around the lantern over the central crossing, replacing an existing pyramidal structure dating from the 1950s. This was part of a wider £23m development of the abbey completed in 2013.
On 4 August 2010 the Dean and Chapter announced that, "[a]fter a considerable amount of preliminary and exploratory work", efforts toward the construction of a corona would not be continued. In 2012, architects Panter Hudspith completed refurbishment of the 14th-century food-store originally used by the abbey's monks, converting it into a restaurant with English oak furniture by Covent Garden-based furniture makers Luke Hughes and Company. This is now the Cellarium Café and Terrace.
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries have been created in the medieval triforium of the abbey. This is a display area for the abbey's treasures in the galleries high up around the abbey's nave. A new Gothic access tower with lift was designed by the abbey architect and Surveyor of the Fabric, Ptolemy Dean. The new galleries opened in June 2018.
Since the coronations in 1066 of both King Harold and William the Conqueror, every English and British monarch (except Edward V and Edward VIII, who were never crowned) has been crowned in Westminster Abbey. In 1216, Henry III could not be crowned in London when he came to the throne, because the French prince Louis had taken control of the city, and so the king was crowned in Gloucester Cathedral. This coronation was deemed by Pope Honorius III to be improper, and a further coronation was held in Westminster Abbey on 17 May 1220.
King Edward's Chair (or St Edward's Chair), the throne on which English and British sovereigns have been seated at the moment of crowning, is now housed within the Abbey in St George's Chapel near the West Door, and has been used at every coronation since 1308. From 1301 to 1996 (except for a short time in 1950 when the stone was temporarily stolen by Scottish nationalists), the chair also housed the Stone of Scone upon which the kings of Scots are crowned. Although the Stone is now kept in Scotland, in Edinburgh Castle, it is intended that the Stone will be returned to St Edward's Chair for use during future coronation ceremonies.
Royal weddings have included:
|11 November 1100||King Henry I of England||Matilda of Scotland|
|4 January 1243||Richard, Earl of Cornwall (later King of Germany),
brother of King Henry III of England
|Sanchia of Provence (the groom's second wife;|
sister of Eleanor of Provence, Henry III's queen.)
|8 or 9 April 1269||Edmund of Crouchback, 1st Earl of Leicester and Lancaster, son of King Henry III||Lady Aveline de Forz|
|30 April 1290||7th Earl of Gloucester||Joan of Acre, daughter of King Edward I|
|8 July 1290||John II, son of Duke of Brabant||Margaret of England, daughter of King Edward I|
|20 January 1382||King Richard II of England||Anne of Bohemia|
|18 January 1486||King Henry VII of England||Elizabeth of York|
|27 February 1919||Captain the Hon. Alexander Ramsay||Princess Patricia of Connaught|
|28 February 1922||Viscount Lascelles||Princess Mary, daughter of King George V|
|26 April 1923||Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), second son of King George V||Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother)|
|29 November 1934||Prince George, Duke of Kent, son of King George V||Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark|
|20 November 1947||Duke of Edinburgh (who was Lt Philip Mountbatten until that morning)||Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II), elder daughter of King George VI|
|6 May 1960||Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Earl of Snowdon)||The Princess Margaret, second daughter of King George VI|
|24 April 1963||Hon. Angus Ogilvy||Princess Alexandra of Kent|
|14 November 1973||Captain Mark Phillips||Princess Anne, only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II|
|23 July 1986||Prince Andrew, Duke of York, second son of Queen Elizabeth II||Miss Sarah Ferguson|
|29 April 2011||Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II||Miss Catherine Middleton|
Westminster Abbey is a collegiate church governed by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, as established by Royal charter of Queen Elizabeth I dated 21 May 1560, which created it as the Collegiate Church of St Peter Westminster, a Royal Peculiar under the personal jurisdiction of the Sovereign. The members of the Chapter are the Dean and four canons residentiary; they are assisted by the Receiver General and Chapter Clerk. One of the canons is also Rector of St Margaret's Church, Westminster, and often also holds the post of Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons. In addition to the Dean and canons, there are at present three full-time minor canons: the precentor, the sacrist and the chaplain. A series of Priests Vicar assist the minor canons.
Henry III rebuilt the abbey in honour of a royal saint, Edward the Confessor, whose relics were placed in a shrine in the sanctuary. Henry III himself was interred nearby, as were many of the Plantagenet kings of England, their wives and other relatives. Until the death of George II in 1760, most kings and queens were buried in the abbey, some notable exceptions being Henry VI, Edward IV, Henry VIII and Charles I who are buried in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Other exceptions include Edward II buried at Gloucester Cathedral, John buried at Worcester Cathedral, Henry IV buried at Canterbury Cathedral and Richard III, now buried at Leicester Cathedral, and the de facto queen Lady Jane Grey, buried in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London. More recently monarchs have been buried either in St George's Chapel or at Frogmore to the east of Windsor Castle.
From 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 buried here as he had apartments in the abbey where he was employed as master of the King's Works. Other poets, writers and musicians were buried or memorialised around Chaucer in what became known as Poets' Corner. 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 in the abbey. The practice of burying national figures in the abbey began under Oliver Cromwell with the burial of Admiral Robert Blake in 1657. The practice spread to include generals, admirals, politicians, doctors and scientists such as Isaac Newton, buried on 4 April 1727, Charles Darwin, buried on 26 April 1882, and Stephen Hawking, buried on 15 June 2018. Another was William Wilberforce who led the movement to abolish slavery in the United Kingdom and the Plantations, buried on 3 August 1833. Wilberforce was buried in the north transept, close to his friend, the former Prime Minister, William Pitt.
During the early 20th century it became increasingly common to bury cremated remains rather than coffins in the abbey. In 1905 the actor Sir Henry Irving was cremated and his ashes buried in Westminster Abbey, thereby becoming the first person ever to be cremated prior to interment at the abbey. The majority of interments at the Abbey are of cremated remains, but some burials still take place – Frances Challen, wife of Sebastian Charles, Canon of Westminster, was buried alongside her husband in the south choir aisle in 2014. Members of the Percy family have a family vault, The Northumberland Vault, in St Nicholas's chapel within the abbey.
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. This grave is the only one in the abbey on which it is forbidden to walk.
At the east end of the Lady Chapel is a memorial chapel to the airmen of the Royal Air Force who were killed in the Second World War. It incorporates a memorial window to the Battle of Britain, which replaces an earlier Tudor stained glass window destroyed in the war.
On 6 September 1997 the formal, though not "state" funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, was held. It was a royal ceremonial funeral including royal pageantry and Anglican funeral liturgy. A second public service was held on Sunday at the demand of the people. The burial occurred privately later the same day. Diana's former husband, sons, mother, siblings, a close friend, and a clergyman were present. Diana's body was clothed in a black long-sleeved dress designed by Catherine Walker, which she had chosen some weeks before. A set of rosary beads was placed in her hands, a gift she had received from Mother Teresa, who died a day before Diana's funeral. Her grave is on the grounds of her family estate, Althorp, on a private island.
In 1998 ten vacant statue niches on the façade above the Great West Door were filled with representative 20th-century Christian martyrs of various denominations. Those commemorated are Maximilian Kolbe, Manche Masemola, Janani Luwum, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, Martin Luther King Jr., Óscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esther John, Lucian Tapiedi, and Wang Zhiming.
On 9 April 2002 the ceremonial funeral of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was held in the abbey. She was interred later the same day in the King George VI Memorial Chapel at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle next to her husband, King George VI, who had died 50 years previously. At the same time, the ashes of the Queen Mother's daughter, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, who had died on 9 February 2002, were also interred in a private family service.
The organ was built by Harrison & Harrison in 1937, then with four manuals and 84 speaking stops, and was used for the first time at the coronation of King George VI. Some pipework from the previous Hill organ of 1848 was revoiced and incorporated in the new scheme. The two organ cases, designed and built in the late 19th century by John Loughborough Pearson, were re-instated and coloured in 1959.
In 1982 and 1987, Harrison and Harrison enlarged the organ under the direction of the then abbey organist Simon Preston to include an additional Lower Choir Organ and a Bombarde Organ: the current instrument now has five manuals and 109 speaking stops. In 2006, the console of the organ was refurbished by Harrison and Harrison, and space was prepared for two additional 16 ft stops on the Lower Choir Organ and the Bombarde Organ.
The bells at the abbey were overhauled in 1971. The ring is now made up of ten bells, hung for change ringing, cast in 1971, by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, tuned to the notes: F#, E, D, C#, B, A, G, F#, E and D. The Tenor bell in D (588.5 Hz) has a weight of 30 cwt, 1 qtr, 15 lb (3403 lb or 1544 kg).
In addition there are two service bells, cast by Robert Mot, in 1585 and 1598 respectively, a Sanctus bell cast in 1738 by Richard Phelps and Thomas Lester and two unused bells—one cast about 1320, by the successor to R de Wymbish, and a second cast in 1742, by Thomas Lester. The two service bells and the 1320 bell, along with a fourth small silver "dish bell", kept in the refectory, have been noted as being of historical importance by the Church Buildings Council of the Church of England.
The chapter house was built concurrently with the east parts of the abbey under Henry III, between about 1245 and 1253. It was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1872. The entrance is approached from the east cloister walk and includes a double doorway with a large tympanum above.
Inner and outer vestibules lead to the octagonal chapter house, which is of exceptional architectural purity. It is built in a Geometrical Gothic style with an octagonal crypt below. A pier of eight shafts carries the vaulted ceiling. To the sides are blind arcading, remains of 14th-century paintings and numerous stone benches above which are innovatory large 4-light quatre-foiled windows. These are virtually contemporary with the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris.
The chapter house has an original mid-13th-century tiled pavement. A door within the vestibule dates from around 1050 and is believed to be the oldest in England. The exterior includes flying buttresses added in the 14th century and a leaded tent-lantern roof on an iron frame designed by Scott. The Chapter house was originally used in the 13th century by Benedictine monks for daily meetings. It later became a meeting place of the King's Great Council and the Commons, predecessors of Parliament.
The Pyx Chamber formed the undercroft of the monks' dormitory. It dates to the late 11th century and was used as a monastic and royal treasury. The outer walls and circular piers are of 11th-century date, several of the capitals were enriched in the 12th century and the stone altar added in the 13th century. The term pyx refers to the boxwood chest in which coins were held and presented to a jury during the Trial of the Pyx, in which newly minted coins were presented to ensure they conformed to the required standards.
The Westminster Abbey Museum was located in the 11th-century vaulted undercroft beneath the former monks' dormitory in Westminster Abbey. This was one of the oldest areas of the abbey, dating back almost to the foundation of the church by Edward the Confessor in 1065. This space had been used as a museum since 1908 but was closed to the public in June 2018, when it was replaced as a museum by the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries, high up in the Abbey triforium.
|London Underground||St James's Park |
|London River Services||Westminster Millennium Pier|
search on "Westminster Abbey" for bell details
The Westminster Abbey by-election, 1921 was a parliamentary by-election held on 25 August 1921 for the British House of Commons constituency of Westminster Abbey in London. The seat had become vacant when the Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) William Burdett-Coutts had died on 28 July 1921. Burdett-Coutts had held the seat since it had been created for the 1918 general election, when he had been returned unopposed.1939 Westminster Abbey by-election
The Westminster Abbey by-election, 1939 was a parliamentary by-election held on 17 May 1939 for the British House of Commons constituency of Westminster Abbey in London.Archdeacon of Westminster
The Archdeacon of Westminster is a senior ecclesiastical officer within Chapter of the Royal Peculiar of Westminster Abbey in London. The post entails overseeing relationships with the twenty-four parishes of which the Dean and Chapter are patrons, and being responsible for the pastoral care of the staff and volunteers of the Abbey.The post is currently held by David Stanton, Sub-Dean and Canon Treasurer of the Abbey, who took up the position in 2018. The role of archdeacon has previously been held with other chapter roles, including Canon Steward, Speaker's Chaplain and Canon Theologian.Burials and memorials in Westminster Abbey
Honouring individuals with burials and memorials in Westminster Abbey has a long tradition.College Green, London
College Green (formally known as Abingdon Street Gardens) is a small public park in the City of Westminster in Central London. The gardens are situated behind Westminster Abbey, and to the east of Westminster Abbey Gardens and are adjacent to the Houses of Parliament. The gardens are not enclosed and are accessible at all times.. During the Brexit discussions the park was closed due to semi-permanent TV broadcasting points and radio and media interview locations.
The park is a common place for television reporters to interview Members of Parliament. Henry Moore's bronze sculpture Knife Edge Two Piece 1962–65 is located in the gardens.The gardens form the landscaped roof of a two-storey underground car park, and were constructed from 1963 to 1964.The site was originally in the River Thames, and separated from the College Garden of Westminster Abbey by a medieval wall with a watergate. Its name refers to the collegiate church of Westminster Abbey, which includes Westminster School.Coronation of Elizabeth II
The coronation of Elizabeth II took place on 2 June 1953 at Westminster Abbey, London. Elizabeth II ascended the throne at the age of 25 upon the death of her father, George VI, on 6 February 1952, being proclaimed queen by her privy and executive councils shortly afterwards. The coronation was held more than one year later because of the tradition of allowing an appropriate length of time to pass after a monarch dies before holding such festivals. It also gave the planning committees adequate time to make preparations for the ceremony. During the service, Elizabeth took an oath, was anointed with holy oil, invested with robes and regalia, and crowned Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).Celebrations took place across the Commonwealth realms and a commemorative medal was issued. It was the first British coronation to be televised; television cameras had not been allowed inside the abbey during her father's coronation in 1937. Elizabeth's was the fourth and last British coronation of the 20th century. It was estimated to have cost £1.57 million (c. £38,680,000 in 2016).Dean and Chapter of Westminster
The Dean and Chapter of Westminster are the ecclesiastical governing body of Westminster Abbey, a collegiate church of the Church of England and royal peculiar in Westminster, Greater London. They consist of the dean and several canons meeting in chapter and are also (less frequently) known as the Dean and Canons of Westminster.Dean of Westminster
The Dean of Westminster is the head of the chapter at Westminster Abbey. Due to the Abbey's status as a Royal Peculiar, the dean answers directly to the British monarch (not to the Bishop of London as ordinary, nor to the Archbishop of Canterbury as metropolitan). Initially, the office was a successor to that of abbot of Westminster, and was for the first 10 years cathedral dean for the Diocese of Westminster. The current dean is John Hall.Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor (Old English: Ēadƿeard Andettere [æːɑdwæɑrˠd ɑndetere]; Latin: Eduardus Confessor [ɛ.dʊˈar.dʊs kɔ̃ˈfɛs.sɔr]; c. 1003 – 5 January 1066), also known as Saint Edward the Confessor, was among the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England. Usually considered the last king of the House of Wessex, he ruled from 1042 to 1066.
Edward was the son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy. He succeeded Cnut the Great's son – and his own half brother – Harthacnut. He restored the rule of the House of Wessex after the period of Danish rule since Cnut (better known as Canute) conquered England in 1016. When Edward died in 1066, he was succeeded by Harold Godwinson, who was defeated and killed in the same year by the Normans under William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. Edgar the Ætheling, who was of the House of Wessex, was proclaimed king after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, but never ruled and was deposed after about eight weeks.
Historians disagree about Edward's fairly long (24-year) reign. His nickname reflects the traditional image of him as unworldly and pious. Confessor reflects his reputation as a saint who did not suffer martyrdom, as opposed to King Edward the Martyr. Some portray Edward the Confessor's reign as leading to the disintegration of royal power in England and the advance in power of the House of Godwin, due to the infighting that began after his heirless death. Biographers Frank Barlow and Peter Rex, on the other hand, portray Edward as a successful king, one who was energetic, resourceful and sometimes ruthless; they argue that the Norman conquest shortly after his death tarnished his image. However, Richard Mortimer argues that the return of the Godwins from exile in 1052 "meant the effective end of his exercise of power", citing Edward's reduced activity as implying "a withdrawal from affairs".About a century later, in 1161, Pope Alexander III canonised the late king. Saint Edward was one of England's national saints until King Edward III adopted Saint George as the national patron saint in about 1350. Saint Edward's feast day is 13 October, celebrated by both the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales.Elizabeth of York
Elizabeth of York (11 February 1466 – 11 February 1503) was the wife of Henry VII, and thus the first Tudor queen. She was the daughter of Edward IV and his wife Elizabeth Woodville, and niece of Richard III. She married Henry VII in 1486, after being detained by him the previous year following the latter's victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field, which started the last phase of the Wars of the Roses. Together, Elizabeth and Henry had a total of four sons, three of whom died before their father, leaving their brother, Henry VIII, to succeed his father as king.
The period of Henry VI's Readeption from October 1470 until April 1471 and the period between her father's death in 1483, when she was 17, and the making of peace between her mother and her uncle Richard, were violent and anxious interludes in what was mostly a peaceful life. Her two brothers, the so-called "Princes in the Tower", disappeared, their fate uncertain. Although declared illegitimate by an act of Parliament, Titulus Regius in 1484, she was subsequently welcomed back to court by her uncle Richard III, along with all of her sisters. As a Yorkist princess, the final victory of the Lancastrian faction in the War of the Roses may have seemed a further disaster, but Henry Tudor knew the importance of Yorkist support for his invasion and promised to marry her before he arrived in England; this was an important move; one which may well have contributed to the hemorrhaging of Yorkist adherence to Richard III.Elizabeth of York was the queen consort of England from 1486 until her death in 1503, but seems to have played little part in politics. Her marriage seems to have been successful. Her eldest son Arthur, Prince of Wales, died at age 15 in 1502, and three other children died young. Her surviving son became king of England and her daughters Mary and Margaret became queen of France and queen of Scotland, respectively; many modern royals, including Elizabeth II, trace their line through Margaret.Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales
The public funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales started on 6 September 1997 at 9:08am in London, when the tenor bell sounded to signal the departure of the cortège from Kensington Palace. The coffin was carried from the palace on a gun carriage, along Hyde Park to St. James's Palace, where Diana's body had remained for five days before being taken to Kensington Palace. The Union Flag on top of the palace was lowered to half mast. The official ceremony was held at Westminster Abbey in London and finished at the resting place in Althorp.Two thousand people attended the ceremony in Westminster Abbey while the British television audience peaked at 32.10 million, one of the United Kingdom's highest viewing figures ever. An estimated 2.5 billion people watched the event worldwide, making it one of the biggest televised events in history.Jerusalem Chamber
The Jerusalem Chamber is a room in what was formerly the abbot's house of Westminster Abbey. It was added in the fourteenth century. The abbot's house was made the deanery when the monastery was dissolved in 1540.
Henry IV of England died in the Jerusalem Chamber on 20 March 1413 and the Committee to write the Authorized Version of the Bible met there in 1611. The Upper House of Convocation often met there, and the Westminster Assembly met there from the Winter of 1643 until its dissolution.The Jerusalem Chamber appeared in act IV of William Shakespare's Play Henry IV, Part 2.Poets' Corner
Poets' Corner is the name traditionally given to a section of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey because of the high number of poets, playwrights, and writers buried and commemorated there.
The first poet interred in Poets' Corner was Geoffrey Chaucer. Over the centuries, a tradition has grown up of interring or memorialising people there in recognition of their contribution to British culture. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the honour is awarded to writers.
In 2009 the founders of the Royal Ballet were commemorated in a memorial floor stone and on 25 September 2010 the writer Elizabeth Gaskell was celebrated with the dedication of a panel in the memorial window. On 6 December 2011, former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes was commemorated with a floor stone. On 22 November 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of his death, writer C. S. Lewis was commemorated with a memorial floor stone. The poet Philip Larkin was commemorated with a floor stone dedicated on 2 December 2016.St Margaret's, Westminster
The Church of St Margaret, Westminster Abbey, in the grounds of Westminster Abbey on Parliament Square, London, England, was, until 1972, the Anglican parish church of the House of Commons. It is dedicated to Margaret of Antioch, and forms part of a single World Heritage Site with the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey
The post of Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey was established in 1698. The role is an architectural one, with the current holder being responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the Abbey and its buildings. In the past, the role has involved overseeing new construction work as well as restoration and architectural conservation. The post has been held by the following people:
Christopher Wren (1698–1723)
Nicholas Hawksmoor (1723–1736)
John James (1736–1746)
James Horne (1746–1752)
Henry Keene (1752–1776)
James Wyatt (1776–1813)
Benjamin Dean Wyatt (1813–1827)
Edward Blore (1827–1849)
George Gilbert Scott (1849–1878)
John Loughborough Pearson (1878–1897)
John Thomas Micklethwaite (1897–1906)
William Lethaby (1906–1928)
Walter Tapper (1928–1935)
Charles Reed Peers (1935–1951)
Stephen Dykes Bower (1951–1973)
John Peter Foster (1973–1988)
Donald Buttress (1988–1999)
John Burton (1999–2012)
Ptolemy Dean (2012–present)Westminster
Westminster is an area of central London within the City of Westminster, part of the West End, on the north bank of the River Thames. Westminster's concentration of visitor attractions and historic landmarks, one of the highest in London, includes the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.
Historically the area lay within St Margaret's parish, City & Liberty of Westminster, Middlesex.
The name Westminster (Old English: Westmynstre) originated from the informal description of the abbey church and royal peculiar of St Peter's (Westminster Abbey), literally West of the City of London (indeed, until the Reformation there was a reference to the 'East Minster' at Minories (Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate) east of the City). The abbey was part of the royal palace that had been created here by Edward the Confessor. It has been the home of the permanent institutions of England's government continuously since about 1200 (High Middle Ages' Plantagenet times), and from 1707 the British Government — formally titled Her Majesty's Government.
In a government context, Westminster often refers to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, located in the UNESCO World Heritage Palace of Westminster — also known as the Houses of Parliament. The closest tube stations are Westminster and St James's Park, on the Jubilee, Circle, and District lines.
The area is the centre of Her Majesty's Government, with Parliament in the Palace of Westminster and most of the major Government ministries known as Whitehall, itself the site of the royal palace that replaced that at Westminster.
Within the area is Westminster School, a major public school which grew out of the Abbey, and the University of Westminster, attended by over 20,000 students. Bounding Westminster to the north is Green Park, a Royal Park of London.Westminster Abbey (UK Parliament constituency)
Westminster Abbey was a constituency in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It returned one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons by the first past the post system of election.
It was created for the 1918 general election, and included all of the former Westminster constituency, as reduced in area in 1885, apart from its Knightsbridge exclave, plus all of the former Strand constituency. It continued to exist until the 1950 general election, when it was merged with the two-seat City of London constituency to form a single-member seat named Cities of London and Westminster.
The seat was sometimes known as the Abbey Division of Westminster or simply Abbey. It was held by the Conservative Party for its entire existence.Westminster Abbey Choir School
Westminster Abbey Choir School is a boarding preparatory school for boys in Westminster, London and the only remaining choir school in the United Kingdom which exclusively educates choristers (i.e. that only choirboys attend the school). It is located in Dean's Yard, by Westminster Abbey. It educates about 30 boys, aged 8–13 who sing in the Choir of Westminster Abbey, which takes part in state and national occasions as well as singing evensong every day (except Wednesday) and gives concert performances worldwide. Recent tours include to America, Hungary and Moscow. Other tours have included Australia, America and Hong Kong.
The school is one of only three choir schools that educate only the male trebles of the choir, the others being Saint Thomas Choir School in New York City and Escolania de Montserrat in Spain.
The headmaster is Jonathan Milton, former headmaster of The Abbey School, Tewkesbury. The organist and master of the choristers is James O'Donnell, former Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral.