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History

Royal tombs

Westminster Abbey is the final resting place of 30 monarchs starting with King Edward the Confessor himself whose magnificent shrine stands just behind the High Altar. Another five monarchs, including Henry III who built the church you see today, surround him.

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Tomb of St Edward the Confessor

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Effigy of Henry III

When Henry V died in 1422 he was buried near to St Edward and above his tomb was built a chantry chapel in which Holy Communion is still celebrated every year on 25th October, St Crispin’s Day, the anniversary of his famous battle at Agincourt. From 1503 Henry VII lavished huge sums on a chapel just east of Henry V. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary it is the last great masterpiece of English medieval architecture. Its spectacular fan vaulted ceiling and the King's imposing tomb continue to inspire awe and wonder 500 years on.

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Henry V's Chantry Chapel

By comparison, Queen Mary II and her husband King William III are buried in a vault in the Lady Chapel and their only memorial is a simple stone tile in the floor of the chapel's south aisle. In the chapel’s north aisle the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I is buried with her half-sister the Catholic Queen Mary I in an imposing tomb. Beside their tomb is the inscription:

"Remember before God all those who divided at the Reformation by different convictions laid down their lives for Christ and conscience sake."

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The Lady Chapel

Further reading

Visit our Royalty page to see a full list of Royal tombs at Westminster Abbey

The Shrine of St Edward the Confessor is one of the most powerful features of the Abbey. To stand in the presence of a man who is both a saint and a monarch is awe-inspiring.

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The Reverend Christopher Stoltz - Minor Canon

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