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William and Catherine Gladstone

In 1903 an over-life size marble statue to William Gladstone was unveiled in the north transept of Westminster Abbey. The inscription reads:

Erected by Parliament to the Right Honourable William Ewart Gladstone four times Prime Minister. Born December 29 1809 Died May 19 1898.

It stands next to the statue of Robert Peel and is by the sculptor Sir Thomas Brock. His was the last standing statue to be erected inside the Abbey. Due to lack of space it was decided that future memorials should be in the form of tablets, floor stones or windows (the only exception to this rule being the recumbent effigy of Lord Salisbury 1903).

The funeral was held at the Abbey on 28th May 1898 and several members of the Royal family attended. His was the first State funeral since that of William Pitt (Benjamin Disraeli's family having declined the honour for him). Gladstone was the first to have a public lying in state in Westminster Hall prior to the service (the Painted Chamber there had formerly been used until destroyed by fire). The service also included hymns and a service booklet was published.

His gravestone, with brass letters and a cross at the base, was put in after the death of his wife and reads:

Here are buried William Ewart Gladstone Born Dec 29 1809. Died May 19 1898 and Catherine his wife the daughter of Sir Stephen Glynne Eighth Baronet of Hawarden Castle. Born Jan 6 1812. Died June 14 1900

William was a son of Sir John Gladstone, 1st Baronet (d.1851) and his second wife Anne (Robertson) and was born in Liverpool. His sisters were Anne and Helen and another brother was John. He joined his brother Thomas (who also became a Member of Parliament) at Eton College and went on to study at Christ Church, Oxford. In 1833 he gave his maiden speech as a Member of Parliament on the emancipation of slaves. From 1852-1855 he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He went on to serve as leader of the Liberal Party and held the office of Prime Minister four times (1868-1872, 1880-1885, 1886 and 1892-1894). During his time the 1870 Education Act was passed but he was not able to obtain Home Rule for Ireland which he strongly advocated. He married Catherine Glynne in 1839 and they had four sons and four daughters - William Henry (his son William was killed in 1915), Agnes (who married Edward Wickham), Stephen (rector of Hawarden), Catherine (who married the Reverend H. Drew), Helen, Henry and Herbert (who became a Cabinet minister).  In 1894 he resigned office and declined a peerage.

Further reading for his father and the Gladstone family

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for William and Catherine

The Life of William Ewart Gladstone by John Morley, 3 volumes, 1903

The Gladstone Diaries ed. by M.R.D.Foot & H.Matthew (14 volumes) 1968-1994

The Gladstones, a family biography 1764-1851 by S.G. Checkland, 1971

British royal and state funerals, music and ceremonial since Elizabeth I, by M. Range 2016

History of Parliament online for John and Thomas

Born

29th December 1809

Died

19th May 1898

Occupation

Statesman

Location

North Transept

Memorial Type

Grave; statue

Material Type

Marble

William and Catherine Gladstone
William Gladstone

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

William and Catherine Gladstone
William and Catherine Gladstone grave

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

You are surrounded by history at the Abbey, not like a museum where it’s just displayed, but here you are standing where history has happened.

Gerlinde - Abbey Marshal

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