Arthur & Augusta Stanley

In the south eastern chapel of Henry VII's chapel in Westminster Abbey is the grave and monument of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, the great Victorian Dean of Westminster. The monument, paid for by public subscription and designed by J.L. Pearson, was unveiled in 1884. It consists of a free-standing altar tomb of alabaster on which lies a white marble effigy on a draped bier and is by the sculptor Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm. There are four shields on each side and another at each end. These include Stanley’s coat of arms "argent on a bend azure three stags heads cabossed or".

The inscription around the top of the tomb chest reads:

Arthur Penrhyn Stanley second son of Edward Stanley Bishop of Norwich, Dean of this Collegiate Church MDCCCLXIV-LXXXI. Born Dec XIII MDCCCXV Died July XVIII MDCCCLXXXI.

Just by the monument is the grave of Stanley and his wife and this inscription reads:

Augusta Elizabeth Frederica 5th daughter of Thomas Bruce 7th Earl of Elgin and Kincardine the beloved wife of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley Dean of this Collegiate Church for 30 years the devoted servant of Queen Victoria and the Queen’s mother and children for 12 years the unwearied friend of the people of Westminster and the inseparable partner of her husband’s toils and hopes uniting many hearts from many lands and drawing all to things above. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley born December 13, 1815 installed January 9, 1864 died July 18, 1881.

At the sides are inscribed Augusta's dates:

Born April 3rd 1822, Died March 1st 1876

At the base:

I see that all things come to an end but thy commandment is exceeding broad – Psalm CXIX. 96 We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.

The motto of the Stanley family "Sans changer" and that of the Bruce family "Fuimus" are on a strip at the top with the Alpha and Omega and Chi Rho symbols.

Lady Augusta Stanley memorial window

In 1877 the Dean had erected a stained glass window for his wife in this chapel, made by Messrs Clayton & Bell. The glass was destroyed by blast in 1940 but an inscription still remains along the ledge which reads:

To the memory of Augusta Elizabeth Frederica Stanley the beloved wife of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley this window was dedicated by her husband A.D.1877

The window showed episodes from the life of her ancestor Robert the Bruce and scenes associated with the lives or deaths of three of her brothers, James, Earl of Elgin (Viceroy of India), General Bruce and Sir Frederick Bruce (British Minister in Washington DC). At the base were shown the six acts of mercy, to reflect Augusta’s life.

Life and career

Arthur was born on 13th December 1815 at Alderley rectory in Cheshire where his father Edward (d.1849) was rector (he later became Bishop of Norwich). His mother was Catherine (Leycester) and he had two brothers (Charles d.1849 and Owen d.1850) and two sisters (Mary who nursed in the Crimea and died 1879 and Catherine who married Charles Vaughan). He was educated at Rugby School and Balliol College Oxford. In 1844 he wrote a life of Thomas Arnold, his old head master at Rugby. His Historical Memorials of Canterbury Cathedral and Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey are his other well known books and he wrote many theological works. In 1851 he was made a canon of Canterbury Cathedral and later became canon of Christ Church Oxford and regius professor of ecclesiastical history at Oxford. He travelled widely and also accompanied the Prince of Wales on a tour of the Middle East.

On 22nd December 1863 in Westminster Abbey he married Lady Augusta Bruce, woman of the bedchamber to Queen Victoria. In January 1864 he was installed as Dean of Westminster and he greatly expanded its national role. In 1874 he went to St Petersburg to officiate at the wedding of the Queen's son Prince Alfred. Lady Augusta died in 1876 after an illness lasting several years and most unusually the Queen, together with Princess Beatrice, attended the funeral although they viewed it privately from the Abbot's Pew (accessed from the Deanery) overlooking the nave. She records the event in her diary and they placed wreaths on the coffin which was covered with a violet pall. Alfred Lord Tennyson was to have been one of the eminent pall bearers but he was ill. Stanley died at Westminster on 18th July 1881 and was buried with his wife. They had no children.

Lady Augusta's relative Victor Bruce, 9th Earl of Elgin, presented ancient porphyry slabs for the area immediately in front of the new High Altar table.

The unpublished manuscript Recollections by Dean Stanley is kept at the Abbey Library and a transcript is available there. This recalls funerals and other events from 1865.

His portrait by Rosa Koberwein (after Angeli) hangs in the Deanery.

A maquette (model) for a seated statue of the Dean, not executed, is on display in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries in the Abbey triforium.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004 for Arthur and Augusta Stanley

“Memoirs of Edward and Catherine Stanley” by Arthur, 1879

“Life and correspondence of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley” by Rowland Prothero, 1893

"A Victorian Dean” edited by Albert Baillie and Hector Bolitho, 1930

“Letters of Lady Augusta Stanley” edited by Baillie and Bolitho, 1927

“Later letters of Lady Augusta Stanley” edited by Baillie and Bolitho, 1929

"Excellent Dr Stanley. The life of Dean Stanley of Westminster" by J. Witheridge, 2013


3rd April 1822


1st March 1876


Writer; dean; historian; priest/minister


Lady Chapel

Memorial Type

Tomb; statue

Material Type

Marble; alabaster

Arthur & Augusta Stanley
Lady Augusta Stanley

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Arthur & Augusta Stanley
Dean Arthur Stanley

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Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Arthur & Augusta Stanley
Augusta Stanley window before destruction

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Arthur & Augusta Stanley
Dean Stanley's tomb

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster