Westminster Abbey: a wedding venue steeped in history

Anna Tomforde (MCT)

 LONDON — Coronations, royal weddings and funerals have been held in Westminster Abbey since the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066, when William I was crowned king on Christmas Day.

The present building, whose imposing, mainly Gothic style resembles the great cathedrals of Reims, Chartres and Amiens, dates from the reign of Henry III in 1245.

It is the final resting place for 17 monarchs, but also holds the graves and memorial stones of Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, David Livingstone, Georg Friedrich Handel, William Wordsworth and Charles Dickens — to name but a few.

The Abbey, which as a Royal Peculiar belongs to the Crown, has been described as the “parish church of the world,” on account of its close historic links with Europe, America and with all Commonwealth countries.

It has a long tradition as a venue for royal weddings, going back to 1100. In the 20th century, the parents of Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother, exchanged their vows there in 1923.

In November, 1947, amid the austerity of postwar Britain, the present queen married the Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey, where she was crowned in 1953, following her father’s premature death.

Princess Margaret, the queen’s younger sister, married Antony Armstrong-Jones at the Abbey in 1960. The queen’s only daughter Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips there in 1973 while her brother Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, walked down the aisle with Sarah Ferguson in 1986. None of the three liaisons stood the test of time and each was dissolved.

For Prince William, his marriage to Kate Middleton in the ancient place of worship will carry poignant memories of the funeral service there for his mother, the late Princess Diana, in 1997 — when he was 15.


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