Queen Elizabeth II is currently lying in state in Westminster Hall, giving thousands of mourners who have queued for many hours the opportunity to pay their respects to the late monarch.
On the morning of September 19, the coffin will be transported in procession to Westminster Abbey, where the state funeral service will take place. The iconic church served as the location of Her Majesty’s coronation in June 1953.
More than 3,000 Royal Family members and notable figures have been buried in Westminster Abbey and, although the Queen will be laid to rest at Windsor’s King George VI Memorial Chapel, here’s a brief history on the gothic church in London.
What year was Westminster Abbey built?
First records of the Abbey date to 960 AD, when monks built a house of worship on the banks of the Thames. King Edward I, known as Edward the Confessor, expanded the monastery in 1065, which survived until the mid-1200s.
The Westminster Abbey we know today came after the original structure was rebuilt by Henry III in 1245 in a gothic style. However, Edward’s original designs, such as the round arches and monks’ quarters, were retained.
Since William the Conqueror in 1066, all British monarchs have been coronated in the Abbey, with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII, neither of whom were crowned despite being named king. Edward V was a minor and had the shortest reign of any English monarch, two months and 17 days. Edward VIII abdicated in 1937 just before his coronation so he could marry divorcee Wallis Simpson.
The west towers, designed by architect Nicholas Hawksmoor in the 1700s, were the last addition to the abbey before 2018’s Weston Tower, worth £23 million ($26 million), was built.
What religion is Westminster Abbey attached to?
Westminster Abbey started off as a Catholic monastery but was converted to the Church of England (C of E) denomination during the 16th century Reformation and has been C of E since.
Every monarch is anointed supreme governor and defender of the faith of the Church of England by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The title dates to the Tudor period of King Henry VIII, who was granted the title defender of the faith in 1521. After he renounced the authority of the papacy, which prohibited him from divorcing Catherine Of Aragon, he proclaimed himself “supreme head on earth of the Church of England”, states the Royal Family website.
Protocol before 2013 stated royals couldn’t marry a person of Catholic or other faiths. Members who married outside the Church Of England automatically lost their spot in line to the throne. Rules later changed to allow marriage of any faith as long as the monarch remained C of E.
How many kings and queens are buried at the abbey?
About 3,300 people are buried in the Abbey, including Sir Isaac Newton. In total, 30 kings and queens have been laid to rest in the building, including:
- Edward I (Edward the Confessor)
- Edward III
- Richard II
- Henry V
- Edward VI
- Mary I
- Elizabeth I
- James I
- Charles II
- William III
- Mary II
- Queen Anne
- George II