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Westminster Abbey and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Abbey remains open for worship and you are welcome to join us at our daily Eucharist service if you are able to travel here safely within current government guidelines.

However, for the time being we are unable to open the Abbey and St Margaret’s Church for general visiting.

Mary I

Mary Tudor was the fifth child of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon but the only one who survived infancy. She was born on 18th February 1516 at Greenwich Palace. After her parents' divorce she lived at Hatfield with her half-sister Elizabeth and succeeded to the throne on the death of Edward VI. Her reign saw the persecution of hundreds of Protestants, but she did revive the Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery at Westminster for a few years (the illumination featured on this page is from the charter re-founding the monastery). England also lost its last remaining possession in France at this time and Mary is supposed to have said that when she was dead the word 'Calais' would be found engraved on her heart.


On 25th July 1554 in Winchester Cathedral she married Prince Philip of Spain. She insisted that Philip receive the title of king consort and all official documents bear their joint names. The chair said to be used at this ceremony is still at Winchester. However Philip left England a few years later when he realised he would have no heir.


She was crowned in the Abbey on Sunday 1st October 1553. Both Anne of Cleves and the future Elizabeth I followed the queen as she processed into the Abbey. Mary had a new supply of coronation oil made, sent by the Catholic bishop of Arras. She felt that the earlier oil had been 'tainted' by her Protestant brother Edward VI at his coronation. The ceremony was conducted by the Bishop of Winchester as the Archbishop of Canterbury had been imprisoned in the Tower of London. The ceremony followed that of 1547 but the Queen eliminated several aspects which she thought were offensive. For example she did not wear St Edward's robe and only carried the orb in the outgoing procession. She also chose not to use the ancient Coronation Chair for the crowning as she thought this might have been 'polluted' by Edward. A new one is said to have been sent to her by the Pope but it is not known what happened to this. (It is only since James I's coronation that the ancient chair has always been used for both anointing and crowning as some earlier monarchs used it for just one part of the ceremony). A large raised platform was constructed in the lantern (so everyone could see her) and she had to climb thirty steps to reach her throne on the top of this.

Burial and funeral effigy

Dying childless on 17th November 1558 she was buried in a vault in the north aisle of Henry VII's Lady Chapel in a coffin, above which the large monument was later erected. The wooden effigy carried at her funeral still exists and both head and unclothed body (having previously been separated) are on view in the new Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries.

Elizabeth I's coffin was later placed on top of Mary's in the vault.

James I erected a large monument above the graves but this only bears the effigy of Elizabeth on it. Mary is mentioned in one of the inscriptions, which can be translated:

Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of the Resurrection.

Further reading

Mary I. England's Catholic Queen by John Edwards, 2011

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004

The funeral effigies of Westminster Abbey, edited by A. Harvey & R. Mortimer, revised edn. 2003

Mary Tudor. A Life by David Loades, 1989

The drama of coronation by Alice Hunt, 2008

The Real Tudors: Kings and queens rediscovered by C. Bolland and T. Cooper, National Portrait Gallery exhibition 2014

Papers about her funeral are at The National Archives, Kew, Surrey


18th February 1516


17th November 1558


14th December 1558


1st October 1553


14th December 1558


Lady Chapel; Triforium

Memorial Type


Portrait of Mary I wearing an orange, red and white dress
Queen Mary I by Master John, 1544

© National Portrait Gallery, London [Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0]

Mary I and Philip of Spain depicted on a charter seated on thrones
Mary I and Philip of Spain as depicted on a Westminster Abbey charter

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Inscriptions on the tomb of Elizabeth I and Mary I, reading: 'Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of the Resurrection.'
Sisters inscription on Elizabeth I's tomb

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Wooden funeral effigy of Mary I, lying on a flat surface, left hand missing
Mary I funeral effigy

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 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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