George Grote, the celebrated historian, was buried in the south transept of Westminster Abbey on 24 June 1871. He was the eldest son of George Grote, an eminent banker in London, and his wife Selina Mary (Peckwell), and was born on 17 November 1794 near Beckenham in Kent. He became a fellow of the Royal Society, Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, trustee of the British Museum and Member of Parliament for London. His reputation as an author is based chiefly on his twelve volume History of Greece. In 1820 he married Harriet Lewin, also a noted writer, but no children survived. George was offered a peerage but declined it. Various eminent peers and men of letters addressed a petition to the Dean of Westminster requesting Grote’s burial here: “We, the undersigned, considering the eminent services rendered by the late Mr George Grote to literature and learning by his published writings and the cause of education by his unremitting exertions through life, earnestly request the Dean of Westminster to allow his remains the honour of sepulture within the walls of the Abbey”. Even though George was an atheist Dean Stanley recalled that “not a single question was raised as to his religious opinions”. The inscription on the gravestone reads:
“GEORGE GROTE HISTORIAN OF GREECE. BORN NOVEMBER 17 1794. DIED JUNE 18 1871. IN AETERNA MEMORIA ERIT JUSTUS.”
The Latin can be translated “The righteous man shall be in everlasting remembrance”. A white marble bust was erected nearby which has the same inscription as the grave, except for the Latin phrase. A few years later another historian of Greece, Connop Thirlwall, was buried in the same grave.
A photo of the bust and gravestone can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.