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History

Royal tombs

Westminster Abbey is the final resting place of 30 kings and queens starting with King Edward the Confessor whose magnificent shrine stands just behind the High Altar. Henry III, who built the church you see today, is buried near him.

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Tomb of St Edward the Confessor

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Effigy of Henry III

The tombs of Edward I, Eleanor of Castile, Edward III, Philippa of Hainault, Richard II and Anne of Bohemia are all in the Confessor's chapel. 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 new 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. James I is buried in Henry VII's vault but has no monument.

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Henry V's Chantry Chapel

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. On the floor 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."

Due to lack of space no monuments could be erected for Charles II, Queen Anne, Queen Mary II or her husband King William III. They are all buried in a vault in the south aisle with just simple inscriptions on small stones. The tomb of Mary Queen of Scots is also in this aisle. Boy king Edward VI lies just in front of the altar. George II was the last monarch to be buried in the Abbey, in a vault under the central aisle of this chapel.

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The Lady Chapel

Further reading

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

Westminster Abbey: The Lady Chapel of Henry VII [for tombs in this chapel], edited by T. Tatton-Brown & R. Mortimer, 2003

Royal tombs of Medieval England by Mark Duffy, 2003

The biggest challenge we face is maintaining such a large physical collection of material within a historic building – believe it or not, there’s just not enough space for it all.

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Matthew - Keeper of the Muniments

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