Since the thirteenth century, Westminster Abbey has been the burial place of Britain’s monarchs and the setting for coronations and royal weddings. It is without doubt one of the most stunning buildings in London, with various array of architectural styles, starting from the austere French Gothic of the nave to the astonishing complexity of the Lady Chapel. Half national church, half national museum, the abbey’s aisles and transepts are full of rare assortment of tombs and monuments honoring Britain’s biggest public figures, from politicians to poets.
TOMBS AND MONUMENTS
Many sovereigns and their consorts are buried in Westminster Abbey. Some tombs are intentionally plain, whereas others are lavishly embellished. The shrine of the Saxon king Edward the Confessor and tombs of medieval monarchs are situated at the heart of the abbey. The Grave of the Unknown Warrior within the nave commemorates these killed in World War I who had no formal resting place. Monuments to plenty of Britain’s public figures crowd the aisles (Chaeucer, Shakespear, Dickens …)
THE CORONATION CEREMONY
Almost every monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned in Westminster Abbey. The king or queen proceeds to the abbey, accompanied by a few of the crowns, scepters, orbs, and swords that form the royal regalia. The jewelled State Sword, one of the most precious swords on this planet, represents the monarch’s personal sword. She or he is anointed with holy oil, to indicate divine approval, and invested with ornaments and royal robes. The climax of the ceremony is when St. Edward’s Crown is positioned on the sovereign’s head; there’s a cry of “God Save the King” (or Queen), the trumpets sound, and guns at the Tower of London are fired.