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Queen joins Abbey for Elizabethan celebration

Friday, 21st May 2010

Queen joins Abbey for Elizabethan celebration

HM The Queen, Visitor of the College of St Peter in Westminster, and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh attended a Service on Friday 21st May 2010 to Celebrate the 450th Anniversary of the Collegiate Foundation of St Peter in Westminster Abbey.

The Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I on 21st May 1560 re-founded the former Benedictine monastery at Westminster as the Collegiate Church of St Peter under the governance of a Dean and Chapter and as a Royal Peculiar, that is not subject to bishop or archbishop but directly answerable to The Sovereign.

Westminster School became independent of the Dean and Chapter’s governance in 1868 but the close relationship remains.

The service was attended by the pupils, staff and governors of Westminster School and Westminster Under School, as well as the staff and volunteers of Westminster Abbey and many other members of the Abbey community.

The service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, who said in his Bidding:

In the gracious presence of The Visitor, whom we are all delighted once more to greet with The Duke of Edinburgh, the twinned communities of Abbey and School gather to give thanks to almighty God for our inheritance and to pray for his direction and blessing now and in the future.

At the conclusion of his Bidding the Dean also offered a prayer for the re-dedication of the Abbey’s restored medieval Cosmati Pavement on the floor of the Sacrarium.

Monika Rubens, Deputy Head Marshal of the Abbey read Deuteronomy 30: 15-end. The Reverend Robert Wright, Canon of Westminster, Rector of St Margaret’s and Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, read 2 Corinthians 4: 1-12.

The Address was given by the Dean.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Graeme Napier and the Reverend Michael Macey, Minor Canons of Westminster and were said by: Philipp Thumfart, pupil of Westminster Under School; Beryl Kearns, a member of the Abbey Community; Emma Ireland, pupil at Westminster School; Charles Cooper, pupil at Westminster Choir School; Dr Tony Trowles, a member of College; and Jan Pancheri, Head Gardener of the Abbey.

The Royal Charter of 1560 was processed through the Abbey during the service. It was carried by the Receiver General, Sir Stephen Lamport KCVO and the Head Master of Westminster School Dr Stephen Spurr. They were accompanied by The Queen’s Scholars of Westminster School singing a plainchant psalm.

The service was sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey conducted by James O’Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers. The organ was played during the service by Robert Quinney, Sub Organist and before the service by James McVinnie, Assistant Organist. The Westminster School Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Tim Johnson, also played before the service.

After the service The Queen examined conservation work in St George’s Chapel on the Coronation Chair.

Her Majesty visited the new Abbey Education Centre at 1 Dean’s Yard and unveiled a plaque.

The Queen visited Westminster School and unveiled a statue of Queen Elizabeth I by the sculptor Matthew Spender (OW).

In the Abbey’s College Garden, The Queen inspected a new herb garden created to commemorate the 450th anniversary.

Her Majesty was also invited to inspect conservation work by English Heritage at the Chapter House.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were present at lunch in College Hall with members of College and Abbey guests.

Message from The Visitor HM The Queen

It gives me great pleasure to be with you on a day which marks such a special celebration in the life of Westminster Abbey and Westminster School.

The relationship between the Visitor and this institution in the nation’s public life is one to which I attach great personal importance. The commemoration of significant moments in our country’s history has been marked many times over the centuries in this beautiful place, and I have every reason to believe that they will continue for many centuries to come, in that remarkable way which is the hallmark of all that happens in the Abbey.

I would like to offer my congratulations to you all on this happy occasion, and to say how much I look forward to the close link which you have had for so long with the Crown continuing into the future. I am confident that over the years to come Westminster School will go on providing the best possible level of education for which it is now so justly famous. I have no doubt that the Abbey will not only remain close to the heart of the Sovereign, but will also continue to reflect and inspire our national life, and to be a spiritual focus for people throughout the United Kingdom and the wider world.

The Dean's lunch speech 

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness

It has been a privilege and pleasure for the Dean and Chapter to welcome you to this celebration of the anniversary of the Royal Charter that has governed collegiate life here for the past 450 years. We are particularly grateful that you have spent time here at the Abbey, opened the new education centre and visited the School.

Today, we have prayed together. The whole collegiate body gathers from time to time to pray together.  Now we have eaten together in College Hall. Where better? To pray together and eat together is what makes a truly collegiate life. Sadly it is particularly rare for the whole collegiate body to eat together. But here we are: the lay vicars and choristers with their Master and Headmaster; the Queen’s Scholars with their Master and the Head Master and Under Master of Westminster School; the advisers and senior staff of the Abbey with the Dean and Chapter. And all, if I may say so, crowned with your presence Ma’am as The Visitor.

You joined the Dean and Chapter for a meal in 1993, but it was in 1966 that you were last in College Hall for a meal. On that occasion, 6th July, you dined with some members of the College to celebrate the 900 years of Edward the Confessor’s Abbey. There is one person, I am told, besides Your Majesty and Your Royal Highness present on both occasions. John Nixon was in 1966 a chorister here. He is here today as a long-serving lay vicar; he is the choir’s librarian.

I talked at the service about continuity. We have a great sense of history and of continuity here at the Abbey. Occasions such as these remind us of what endures. Your gracious presence completes our collegiate circle and focuses our minds on the importance of dutiful service.

Your Majesty, we have loyally drunk your health. I now wish to propose the health of the Collegiate Foundation of St Peter in Westminster. I invite members of College to be upstanding.

The College!

See also

The Dean's Sermon

The Order of Service (PDF, 105KB) 

The lunch menu (PDF, 80KB)

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It’s a privilege to live and work here – the Abbey really is the heart of the country and its history.


Martin - The Dean’s Verger

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