One of the most famous burial places in the world is Westminster Abbey in Merrie Olde England.
Well, you knew I’d start this in England, even if it isn’t part of the American Cemetery Movement!
One of the most visited places in the world, the London Landmark greets around 30 MILLION people each year.
That’s three times the number that traipse through the White House! Well, when there’s not a government shut down, and the tours are cancelled!
Edward the Confessor, King of England, gets the credit for the Abbey. Originally called St. Peter’s Abbey, it was in disarray, and falling down. Edward wanted a burial place for himself and his Queen. And, being a deeply religious man, he wanted to be buried inside a church.
So, we have Westminster Abbey, sort of. About 230 years later, Henry III started the church building we now know as Westminster Abbey. Of course, Henry claimed he was rebuilding it in honor of Edward, but egos being what they are, probably not!
The Abbey has been host to many weddings. The first in 1100 AD was that of Henry I of England and Matilda of Scotland, and the latest that of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and his Duchess, Catherine nee Middleton.
But, it’s October, so lets talk about the burials!
Reading the markers at Westminster is like reading an English history book!
22 monarchs and some of their spouses are buried there, including Mary Queen of Scots! Elizabeth I’s cousin; she was beheaded for treason, but given a proper burial any way!
As you move from the nave to the transepts to the cloisters, the names of English Noblemen and Notables jump out at you.
The Cloisters and the Poet’s Corner (the South Transept) are the most visited, and contain the remains of some of the most familiar names.
Shakespeare has a memorial there, but he’s buried back home in Stratford – just wanted to clear that UP.
There are many memorials to poets, actors, musicians, and other artists who are buried elsewhere.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Edmund Spenser, Laurence Olivier, Kipling, Dr. Johnson, Thomas Hardy, Handel, Dickens, Browning, and Chaucer of The Canterbury Tales fame are all buried there.
Mrs. Carson, back in High School used to wax eloquent about her visit there and the joy it brought her to see the resting places of so many of her literary heroes.
There are many other poets buried throughout the Abbey, just not in the Poet’s Corner. John Bunyan of The Pilgrim’s Progress is located elsewhere, as are the Cavendishes and Issac Watts.
Just like the Kingdom of Heaven, not all were allowed into the Abbey. When actress Kitty Clive died in 1785, Samuel Horsley, Dean of Westminster, flatly refused her interment. He said, “…if we do not draw some line in this theatrical ambition of mortuary fame, we shall soon make Westminster Abbey a little better than a Gothic Green Room!
And, alas, some were removed! John Pym, who’s attempted arrest of King Charles I sparked the English Civil Ware was dug UP and placed ‘elsewhere’ by Charles’ son Charles II.
Admiral Robert Blake got the boot too. He was the Commander of the British Navy during the Commonwealth years – and probably the Greatest Admiral of all English History, but Charles II was pissed, and had his remains dumped in a common grave in St. Margaret’s Churchyard.
And then of course there’s Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector.
After the Royalists came back to power, they dug him UP, strung him UP (in chains), and beheaded him.
His head was displayed on a pole in front of Westminster Hall from 1661 until 1685!
Now, that’s spooky and scary!