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Burials and memorials in Westminster Abbey facts for kids

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

History

Elizabeth I of England grave (left) 2013
Tomb effigy of Queen Elizabeth I

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 superb 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 also 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 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. These include: W. H. Auden, William Blake, Robert Burns, 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. 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 and Charles Darwin, buried 19 April 1882.

Eight British Prime Ministers are buried in the Abbey; William Pitt the Elder, William Pitt the Younger, George Canning, Henry John Temple, 3rd 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. 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. Members of the Percy family have a family vault, "The Northumberland Vault", in St Nicholas's chapel, within the Abbey. The ashes of physicist Stephen Hawking were interred in the Abbey on 15 June 2018, near the grave of Sir Isaac Newton. 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.

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.

Burials

British Monarchs and Consorts

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

Elizabeth I of England grave (left) 2013 crop2
Elizabeth I of England as shown on her tomb
In the 19th century researchers looking for the tomb of James 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.
The position of the tomb of James I of England 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.

Other monarchs and royals

  • Prince Edmund "Crouchback", Earl of Lancaster, son of Henry III
  • Princess Katherine, daughter of Henry III
  • Prince Henry, son of Edward I
  • Princess Eleanor, Countess Consort of Bar, daughter of Edward I
  • Prince Alphonso, Earl of Chester, son of Edward I
  • Prince John, Earl of Cornwall, son of Edward II
  • Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VII
  • Prince Edmund, Duke of Somerset, son of Henry VII
  • Prince Henry, Duke of Cornwall, heir apparent to Henry VIII
  • Lady Arabella Stuart, descendant of Henry VII
  • Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, Electress Palatine, daughter of James VI & I, grandmother of George I
  • Rupert, Prince Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Cumberland, son of Elizabeth of Bohemia
  • Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, heir apparent of James VI & I
  • Prince Charles James, Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay, infant son of Charles I
  • Mary, Princess Royal, Princess Consort of Orange, daughter of Charles I
  • Princess Anne, infant daughter of Charles I
  • Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, son of Charles I
  • Anne Hyde, Duchess Consort of York and Albany, first wife of James II
  • Charles, Duke of Cambridge, son of James II
  • James, Duke of Cambridge, son of James II
  • Edgar, Duke of Cambridge, son of James II
  • Charles, Duke of Kendal, son of James II
  • Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, son of Queen Anne
  • Other infant children of Queen Anne
  • Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales (son of George II, father of George III) and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha
  • Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, son of George II
  • Princess Amelia of Great Britain, daughter of George II
  • Princess Caroline of Great Britain, daughter of George II
  • Prince George William of Great Britain, infant son of George II
  • Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, brother of George III
  • Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn, son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, brother of George III
  • Princess Louisa of Great Britain, daughter of Frederick, Prince of Wales, sister of George III
  • Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain, daughter of Frederick, Prince of Wales, sister of George III
  • Prince Frederick of Great Britain, son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, brother of George III
  • Prince Octavius of Great Britain, infant son of George III
  • Prince Alfred of Great Britain, infant son of George III

Nave

The following are buried in the nave:

North Transept

The following are buried in the North Transept:

South Transept

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

Cloisters

Westminster Abbey cloister
The cloister and garth

The following are buried in the cloisters:

North Choir Aisle

The following are buried in the North Choir Aisle:

South Choir Aisle

The following are buried in the South Choir Aisle:

  • Andrew Bell
  • James Kendall
  • Sir Paul Methuen
  • Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell
  • Dame Sybil Thorndike
  • Charles Whitworth, 1st Baron Whitworth

Ambulatory chapels

The following are buried in the ambulatory chapels:

St. John the Baptist Chapel

  • Sir Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, KG, Lord Burghley (d. 1623)
  • Lady Dorothy Neville Cecil (d. 1608; 1st wife of Sir Thomas Cecil, daughter of John Neville, 4th Baron Latimer)

St. Nicholas' Chapel

Northumberland Vault

List of burials:

  • George Seymour, Viscount Beauchamp (d. 1745; only son of Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset)
  • Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset (d. 1750)
  • Frances Percy, Née Thynne, Duchess of Somerset, (d. 1754; widow of 7th Duke)
  • Lady Elizabeth Anne Frances Percy, (d. 1761; daughter of the 1st Duke of Northumberland)
  • Elizabeth Percy, Née Seymour, Duchess of Northumberland (d.1776)
  • Lady Elizabeth Percy, (d. 1779; daughter of Algernon Percy, 1st Earl of Beverley, at the time styled Lord Algernon Percy)
  • Lady Charlotte Percy, (d. 1781; daughter of Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland, at the time styled Earl Percy)
  • Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland, (d. 1786)
  • Lord Henry Percy, (d. 1794; son of Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland)
  • Lady Louisa Margaret Percy, (d. 1796; daughter of Algernon Percy, 1st Earl of Beverley)
  • Lord Algernon James Percy, (d. 1805; son of George Percy, 5th Duke of Northumberland, at the time styled Lord Lovaine)
  • Lord Henry Algernon Pitt Percy, (d. 1809; son of George Percy, 5th Duke of Northumberland, at the time styled Lord Lovaine)
  • Lady Margaret Percy, (d. 1810; daughter of George Percy, 5th Duke of Northumberland, at the time styled Lord Lovaine)
  • Isabella Susanna Percy, Née Burrell, Countess of Beverley, (d. 1810; Widow of Algernon Percy, 1st Earl of Beverley)
  • Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland (d. 1817)
  • Lady Elizabeth Percy, (d. 1820; daughter of Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland)
  • Frances Julia Percy, Née Burrell, Duchess of Northumberland, (d. 1820; 2nd wife of the 2nd Duke of Northumberland)
  • Hugh Percy, 3rd Duke of Northumberland (d. 1847)
  • Lady Agnes Buller, Née Percy, (d. 1856; daughter of Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland; wife of Major General F.T. Buller)
  • Algernon Percy, 4th Duke of Northumberland (d. 1865)
  • Charlotte Florentia Percy, Née Clive, Duchess of Northumberland, (d. 1866)
  • George Percy, 5th Duke of Northumberland, (d. 1867)
  • General Lord Henry Hugh Manvers Percy VC KCB, (d. 1877)
  • Lady Louisa Percy, (d. 1883; daughter of George Percy, 5th Duke of Northumberland)
  • Louisa Percy, Née Drummond, Duchess of Northumberland, (d. 1890; wife of Algernon George Percy, 6th Duke of Northumberland)
  • Algernon George Percy, 6th Duke of Northumberland, (d. 1899)
  • Alan Ian Percy, 8th Duke of Northumberland (d. 1930)
  • Helen Magdalen Percy, Née Gordon-Lennox, Duchess of Northumberland, (d. 1965)
  • Hugh Algernon Percy, 10th Duke of Northumberland, (d. 1988)
  • Elizabeth Diana Percy, Née Montagu Douglas Scott, Duchess of Northumberland, (d. 2012) Ashes interred

St Paul's Chapel

  • Katherine Percy, Née Neville, Countess of Northumberland, (d. 1596; daughter of John Neville, 4th Baron Latimer; wife of Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland)
  • Sir Lewis Robessart (d. 1430), and his wife Elizabeth Bourchier, 4th Baroness Bourchier (died 1432)

Other ambulatory chapels

  • Robert Aytoun
  • Eleanor de Bohun
  • Anne of Cleves
  • Lionel Cranfield, 1st Earl of Middlesex
  • John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall
  • Sir Rowland Hill
  • Simon Langham
  • Edward Talbot, 8th Earl of Shrewsbury
  • William de Valence, 1st Earl of Pembroke
  • Catherine of Valois
  • George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
  • Katherine Villiers, Duchess of Buckingham
  • Sir Thomas Ingram, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Privy Chancellor; son of Sir Arthur and Alice Ferrars Ingram of Temple Newsam in Yorkshire; 1672 (south ambulatory chapel, near the steps to the Lady Chapel)
  • Frances Ingram, wife of Sir Thomas Ingram and daughter of Thomas Belasyse, Lord Viscount Fauconberg; 1680
  • Mary Ingram, daughter of Sir Thomas and Frances Ingram; 1651

Henry VII's Lady Chapel

The following are buried in Henry VII's Chapel:

Antoine Philippe, Duke of Montpensier, brother of French King Louis Philippe I

  • Joseph Addison (buried in a vault in North Aisle; also a white marble statue in Poets' Corner)
  • Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (buried, with her son Charles, in a tomb in South Aisle)
  • Hugh Dowding, 1st Baron Dowding
  • George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle (also memorial Henry VII Chapel, South Aisle)
  • George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax
  • Prince William, Duke of Gloucester (son of Queen Anne)
  • Viscount Trenchard
  • Maj. Gen. Charles Worsley (no memorial remains)

Unknown location

  • Sir Arthur Ingram (1562-1642), son of Hugh and Anne Goldthorpe Ingram; buried 26 Aug. 1642; omission from main burial register during the English Civil War.

Memorials

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

Individuals

World War I poets

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

  • Richard Aldington, buried in Sury, Ardennes, France
  • Laurence Binyon, author of "For the Fallen", buried in Reading, Berkshire
  • Edmund Blunden, buried in Long Melford, Suffolk
  • Rupert Brooke, author of "The Soldier", buried in Skyros, Greece
  • Wilfrid Gibson, one of the Georgian poets
  • Robert Graves, author of I, Claudius and the only poet of the sixteen still living at the time of the commemoration, buried in Deià, Majorca, Spain
  • Julian Grenfell, buried in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
  • Ivor Gurney, buried in Twigworth, Gloucestershire
  • David Jones, buried in Crofton Park, Lewisham
  • Robert Nichols, buried in St Mary's Church, Lawford, Essex
  • Wilfred Owen, author of "Dulce et Decorum est" and "Anthem for Doomed Youth", buried in Ors, France
  • Herbert Read, buried in Stonegrave, North Yorkshire
  • Isaac Rosenberg, buried in Pas-de-Calais, France
  • Siegfried Sassoon, buried in Mells, Somerset
  • Charles Sorley, also commemorated at the Loos Memorial in France
  • Edward Thomas, buried in Agny Military Cemetery, France

20th-century martyrs

Westminster Abbey - 20th Century Martyrs
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)

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

A number of Cromwellians were also buried in the Abbey but later removed, in 1661, 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:

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 later moved and buried in Salem, Massachusetts.

Proposed burials and memorials

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