Today was the first damp and gloomy one of our trip, so we thought it was a good day to visit Westminster Abbey and to reacquaint ourselves with the good, great and famous buried there.
It is a glorious building, but since 1560, it is no longer actually an abbey or a cathedral. It is instead a Church of England “Royal Peculiar” — a church responsible directly to the sovereign.
The site of coronations since that of William the Conqueror in 1066, it has also seen 16 royal weddings, and many royal funerals. The relics of Edward the Confessor lie here, along with those of Henry III, who rebuilt the abbey in Edward’s honor, as well the remains of many of the Plantagenet kings and their queens. After 1760, monarchs have been buried elsewhere.
It was a thrill to see the tomb of Henry V and Elizabeth I, along with that of Mary, Queen of Scots.
And then there are the scientists, such as Newton and Darwin. Poets Corner contains everyone one might have ever read, from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Dylan Thomas, along with a plaque for Laurence Olivier.
It’s a rather thrilling review of British history and those who made its nation and culture great. The tour ends with a view of the Coronation Chair, commissioned in 1296 by King Edward I and used ever since.
As you may have gathered, no photos are allowed in the Abbey, but here are photos of the chair borrowed from the Web to give you an idea of the texture of tradition celebrated here. (You may be aware that it is now missing the Stone of Scone, which the Scots have promised to return for the next coronation.)
Our evening was spent at the wonderful home of Bernard and Liz, who make us feel so welcome that we have no compunction about bringing our laundry there to wash while we are enjoying cocktails, our favorite quiz show, “Pointless,” and a lovely dinner. Watching from their conservatory as the sun began to set was just one more perfect moment enjoyed with these dear friends.