Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The poet Robert Browning was born on 7 May 1812 in London, a son of Robert Browning (1782-1866) and Sarah (Wiedemann). He married Elizabeth Barrett, a famous poet in her own right, in September 1846. They lived much of their life in Italy, due to her poor health, and their son was also called Robert (but known as Pen). The Ring and the Book is considered to be his best work and his poem 'Oh, to be in England, now that April's there' is well known. Browning died at his son's house on the Grand Canal in Venice and was to have been buried alongside his wife in Florence but the cemetery had been closed.
The Dean of Westminster, a friend of the poet, offered burial in Westminster Abbey and the family accepted. Robert's body was returned to London by train. The various certificates needed for the journey through Italy and France are kept in the Abbey archives. The British Vice Consul in Venice certified that his body was enclosed in three sealed cases, one of metal and two of wood. He was buried in Poets' Corner, near Chaucer's monument, on 31 December 1889. The Dean had also agreed to the family's request that Elizabeth be re-interred with her husband but then the family withdrew their application. Alfred, Lord Tennyson was laid to rest beside him in 1892 and the ashes of John Masefield, who died in 1967, lies at his head.
The gravestone is composed of brown and cream Italian marble and the inscription reads:
"ROBERT BROWNING MAY 7 1812 DEC 12 1889".
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
In 1906 an inscription was added at the base of the stone:
"His wife ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING is buried in Florence 1806-1861".
She was a child of Edward Barrett and was an invalid when Robert began a correspondence with her which led to a secret engagement and later marriage. Her first work to gain public attention was The Seraphim and other poems. After Wordsworth's death it was thought she might succeed him as Poet Laureate but that did not happen. Her main work is Aurora Leigh.
A photograph of the stone can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.
A bi-centenary wreath laying will be held in the Abbey on 7 December 2012.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)
The Life of Robert Browning, by Clyde de L.Ryals, 1996
The Robert Browning Centenary Celebration at Westminster Abbey May 7 1912 edited by Professor Knight, 1912.