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Westminster Abbey celebrates Dickens’ Bicentenary

Tuesday, 7th February 2012

Westminster Abbey celebrates Dickens’ Bicentenary

Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall attended a ceremony at Westminster Abbey on 7th February 2012 at 11.15 am to celebrate the life and work of Charles Dickens on the 200th anniversary of his birth.

The great Victorian writer was buried in the South Transept of Westminster Abbey on 14th June 1870.

In his Welcome, the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said:

On this day two hundred years ago was born one of the greatest of writers in the English language. Charles Dickens’ passion and compassion, so powerfully influential in his own day, continue to move and inspire his world-wide audience through his stories and books. We, his descendants and his admirers, gather today at his grave, to recall and celebrate Dickens’ life and achievement, to be inspired and enriched by his writing and his example, and to remember and honour him with thanksgiving to almighty God.

The Prince of Wales was invited to lay a wreath on Dickens’ grave as part of the ceremony, which is one of a number of events being held internationally this year to mark the anniversary.


Excerpts of Dickens’ writings were read during the ceremony. Claire Tomalin, Dickens’ biographer, read from a letter that Dickens wrote to his sister. Mark Charles Dickens, Great Great Grandson and Head of the Dickens Family, read from The Life of Our Lord, which Dickens wrote for his children. Actor and director Ralph Fiennes read ‘Jo’s Will’ from Bleak House. The Right Reverend Michael Dickens Whinney, Great Great Grandson, read Luke 14: 7-14.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Rowan Williams, gave the Address.

Before inviting the Prince of Wales to lay the wreath, the Dean read from an account of Dickens’ burial in The Times 15th June 1870.

Prayers were offered by the Reverend Dr James Hawkey, Minor Canon and Sacrist, who said: ‘Let us praise God, the source of all creativity and beauty, for the flair and genius of Charles Dickens; for his gifts of observation and imagination; for his writing and characterisation; for his humour and ability to captivate, and to move.’

The ceremony marked the largest gathering of descendants of the great novelist, with over 200 family members attending. The congregation also included well-wishers from the world of literature, film, theatre and media.

See also:

The Order of Service (PDF, 368 KB)

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Address

Dickens 2012 website

Charles Dickens Museum website

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