Westminster Abbey

horney Island is one of several small islands that formed part of the River Thames west of the city of London. Several streams entered the river at that point creating a marshy landscape covered with thickets and wild animals. On that landscape a religious community grew up in the dark ages. Suggestions have been made that there was a Roman temple dedicated to Apollo on the site. This was later replaced by a Christian building. Sebert, a Saxon who died in the early seventh century, may have been the founder of a religious community on the site of Westminster Abbey but this may be just a story. A tomb with the remains of Sebert and his wife Ethelgoda exists in the Abbey today after being moved first by Edward the Confessor and then by Henry III when rebuilding work was done.

The real story of Westminster Abbey begins with Edward the Confessor. In 1042 Edward returned from exile after the death of Harthacanute. Edward had made a vow of pilgrimage to Rome, but the nobles that were advising him persuaded the King that his position as head of the country was too important to go on such a risky journey. The Pope sent word that Edward was released from the vow if he instead built a church in honour of St. Peter. To this Edward agreed and in 1050 work began on the Thorney Island site. The abbey was dedicated in 1065 just weeks before Edward died. He was buried in his new church in January of 1066. The new church was the site of another important event in 1066 when William the Conqueror was crowned King of England on 25 December.

The body of Edward was moved first in the reign of Henry II and then again by his grandson Henry III who began rebuilding the church starting with the Lady Chapel in around 1220. In 1245, in tribute to Edward the Confessor, Henry started much larger and expensive reconstruction work of the whole church. Enough of the new building was ready in 1269 for the church to be consecrated and the coffin of the Confessor to be moved again into its new home.

The abbey has been the main site for the coronation of English Kings and Queens since then and holds the remains of both the nobility and ordinary people. A Lady Chapel was constructed at the east end of the cathedral and, as it holds the remains of King Henry VII, is known as the Henry VII Chapel. The Italian scupltor Torrigiano was given the job of designing and constructing the King's tomb. Also buried here are the monarchs Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.

Dimensions: Interior

FeetInches
Length of nave1660
Breadth of nave387
Height of Nave1018
Breadth of Aisles167
Breadth of nave and aisles719
Length of choir1559
Extreme breadth of choir384
Height of choir1012
Length from north to south of the trancepts and choir2032
Length of each trancept825
Breadth of trancept including aisles848
Extreme length from west door to piers of Henry VII's Chapel4030
Extreme length from west door including Henry VII's Chapel5116

Dimensions: Exterior

FeetInches
Extreme length of Abbey4236
Extreme length of Abbey including Henry VII's Chapel5300
Height of western towers to pinnacles2254
Height of nave and trancept roofs1383
Height of lantern1510
Height of north front to pinnacle1660

Dimensions: Henry VII's Chapel

FeetInches
Interior length1046
Exterior length1066
Interior breadth6910
Exterior breadth820
Interior height615
Exterior height820
Source: Historical Memorials of Westmeinster Abbey 1882, Part 1:Arthur Penrhyn Stanley;
Section of Westminster Abbey across presbytery
YearMonthEvent
1065   Lands from Pershore allocated to Westminster
 Edward the Confessor took lands from Pershore Abbey and allocated them to his new Abbey church at Westminster.[1] 
 Dec  Dedication of Westminster Abbey
 Work on the Abbey at Westminster was either complete or very nearly so at its dedication. Edward the Confessor who had devoted himself to creation was to die less than two weeks later. 
1066 Dec 25  William the Conqueror becomes King of England
 William the Conqueror was coronated as King of England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day of 1066.[2]

Episode: Norman Conquest  
1068 May 11  Matilda is crowned Queen
 William brought his wife Matilda of Flander to England to crown her Queen of England. Matilda's coronation took place at Westminster Abbey and the ceremony was performed by the archbishop of York.[2]

Episode: Norman Conquest  
1087 Sep 26  William II (Rufus) crowned at Westminster
 William II (Rufus) was crowned at Westminster Abbey by Archbishop Lanfranc after the death of his father William the Conqueror. 
1100 Aug 5  Henry I succeeds
 Henry was crowned king at Westminster Abbey. (Under Henry, the lodges continued and the first Magna Carta of charter of liberties was obtained by the Normans, restoring the laws of Edward the Confessor.)[3] 
 Nov 11  Henry I marries Matilda of Scotland
 Henry I married Matilda of Scotland, daughter of Malcolm III and sister of Edgar, the King of the Scots. The ceremony took place at Westminster Abbey.[4] 
1121 Jan 30  Coronation of Adeliza of Louvain
 Shortly after her marriage to King Henry, Adeliza's coronation was performed at Westminster Abbey. 
1135 Dec 26  Coronation of Stephen of Blois
 Stephen of Blois was crowned King Stephen of England at Westminster Abbey.

Episode: Stephen's succession to the throne  
1136 Mar 22  Coronation of Matilda of Boulogne
 Queen Matilda, the wife of King Stephen, was crowned at Westminster Abbey. 
1154 Dec 19  Henry crowned at Westminster Abbey
 Henry of Normandy crowned Henry II of England, and Eleanor of Aquitaine crowned Queen, at Westminster.
[5]

Episode: Civil War Stephen and Matilda  
1155 Christmas  Henry II at Westminster Palace
 The king spent the festive period at Westminster Palace. Repairs must have been completed if the royal court spent time there.[6] 
1163 Oct 13  Edward the Confessor moved
 The body of Edward the Confessor was moved to a more fitting location within the Abbey. The ceremony was attended by Henry II and Thomas Becket. 
1170 Jun 14  Henry II coronation of Prince Henry
 To insult Thomas Becket, Henry II used the Archbishop of York in the coronation of his son Henry. This was an act that infringed the rights of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The coronation took place at Westminster Abbey.[4]

Episode: Henry II and Thomas Becket  
1189 Sep 3  Richard I Crowned King
 Richard I was crowned king in Westminster Abbey. He was escorted along a path of woollen cloth. At the head of the procession was the clergy, first the priors next the abbots then the bishops. In the midst of the bishops were four barons holding golden candelabra, followed by Geoffrey de Lucy, John Marshal, William Marshal and William Fitzpatrick holding the Cap of State, golden spurs, golden sceptre and golden verge. The golden crown was carried by William de Mandeville. Richard was anointed with holy oil on his head, chest and hands. During the service a bat was seen to flutter around the throne which was seen to be an evil omen.[7] 
1199 May 27  John is crowned King of England
 John is crowned as King of England at Westminster Abbey.[8] 
1200 Sep 8  John and Isabella are crowned
 John and Isabella returned to England in late September and were both crowned at Westminster Abbey. 
1220 May  Coronation of Henry III
 At his coronation in Westminster Abbey, Henry was reminded of his duties at king to maintain peace, defend the rights of the crown and to dispense justice where required. Henry was only around thirteen years old. The day before the coronation Henry laid the foundation stone of a new Lady Chapel at the Abbey. 
1236 Jan 20  Coronation of Eleanor of Provance
 Queen Eleanor was crowned at Westminster Abbey. 
1245   Rebuilding of Westminster Abbey
 Henry started the work of rebuilding Westminster Abbey as a tribute to Edward the Confessor.[9] 
1269 Oct 13  Westminster Abbey consecrated
 Sufficient parts of the abbey were completed for the monks to hold their first service in the new building. October 13 was chosen possibly to commemorate the moving of Edward the Confessor's body just over 100 hundred years earlier. Henry III died before he could witness the completion of the whole church. 
1274 Aug 19  Edward I crowned at Westminster
 Seventeen days after returning from the Crusade, Edward was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey. 
1307 Oct 28  Edward I buried at Westminster Abbey
 After lying in state for several weeks at Waltham Abbey Edward's body was moved to Westminster Abbey for burial. 
1308 Feb 25  Edward's Coronation
 Edward II was crowned at Westminster Abbey. During the ceremony Gaveston was given the honour of carrying the crown. During the banquet that followed the King spent much more time with Gaveston than his wife. The Queen's uncles, who had travelled with her from France, left to report back to the King of France of the King's favouritism for Gaveston over Isabella. As part of the coronation ceremony Edward swore an oath that he should abide by the laws and customs that the community and realm determined.[10]

Episode: Edward II and Piers Gaveston  
1327 Jan 25  Edward III becomes King of England
 Edward III succeeded his father to the English throne on the 25th of January and was crowned at Westminster Abbey a few days later by Archbishop Walter Reynolds.[11]

Episode: Isabella, She-Wolf of France and death of Edward II  
1330 Mar 4  Coronation of Philippa of Hainault
 Philiippa of Hainault, the wife of King Edward III, was crowned at Westminster Abbey. (or Feb 18?) 
1361 Oct  Marriage of the Black Prince and Joan of Kent
 Edward, the black Prince married Joan of Kent at Westminster Abbey. 
1362   Westminster Abbey Nave
 Rebuilding work was begun on the nave and west cloister at Westminster Abbey. The architect in charge of the works was Henry Yevele.[12] 
1377 Jun 21  Edward III Dies
 Edward III, the King of England died in June 1377. One year earlier Edward's eldest son and heir to the throne, Edward the Black Prince died. Richard, the son of the Black Prince, was proclaimed heir to the throne. King Edward was ill for some time before his death, and John of Gaunt another of Edward's sons took the affairs of the nation under his control. Edward was buried in Westminster Abbey in a tomb designed by Henry Yevele.[13]

Episode: Edward III - The Hundred Years War  
 Jul 16  Richard II is crowned
 The 10 year old Richard II was crowned king of England. Ceremonies were overseen by his uncle John of Gaunt. Henry Percy was created Earl of Northumberland at the ceremony in recognition for his services as a soldier leading troops against the French. 
1378   Murder at Westminster Abbey
 Westminster Abbey was closed for several months after a murder took place in the Choir. The Abbey was not reopened for services until it was reconsecrated. Two knights called Schakell and Hawle had taken a Spanish Count prisoner whilst fighting with the Black Prince. As usual a ransom was required for the release of the Count. The Count was allowed to return to Spain to organise the ransom leaving his son as a hostage to ensure the ransom was paid. At this time John of Gaunt was in the process of acquiring the crown of Castile and the saga with the Count's son was an embarrassment. When the two knights refused to release their prisoner they were arrested and sent to the Tower of London. They managed to escape from the Tower and fled to Westminster Abbey and sanctuary, but this was ignored by a group of soldiers led by the Constable of the Tower, Alan Boxhall. Schakell was captured but Hawle and a monk were murdered in the Choir. Several of those involved were excommunicated meaning that they could not be buried after their deaths.[14] 
1382 Jan 14  King Richard marries Anne of Bohemia
 Richard II married Anne, the sister of Wenceslas of Bohemia. This was a diplomatic move over the French as the king of France Charles V wanted Anne his marry his own son. The marriage was not popular as a large loan had to be paid to Wenceslas for the privilege. (or Jan 20). The coronation of Queen Anne took place a few days later at Westminster Abbey. 
1395   A tomb for Richard II and Anne
 Henry Yevele designed a tomb for King Richard II and his first wife Anne of Bohemia at Westminster Abbey,[12] 
1399 Oct 13  Henry IV becomes king
 Henry IV is crowned king of England after the abdication of Richard II. He was crowned at Westminster Abbey. 
1413 Dec  Richard II's body moved
 In an act of respect to Richard II, Henry had the dead king's body moved to its proper resting place in Westminster Abbey. 
1421 Feb 23  Queen Catherine crowned
 Queen Catherine was crowned at Westminster Abbey.  
1429 Nov 6  Henry VI crowned King of England
 Although Henry was still too young to reign he was crowned as Henry VI, King of England in response to the Duke of Bedford's concerns over the events in France. Henry was crowned at Westminster Abbey.

Episode: Henry VI and Joan of Arc  
1445 May 30  Margaret of Anjou crowned
 After a triumphant entrance to London a few days earlier Margaret stayed at the Tower of London for a few days before going to Westminster Abbey where she was crowned. [15] 
1461 Jun 28  Edward IV is crowned
 The Yorkists were in control after the battle of Towton and Richard and George were brought back to England where they were made Knights of the Order of the Bath. Edward took part in the crown-wearing ceremonies at Westminster Abbey and became King of England. Shortly afterwards his younger brother George was given the title of Duke of Clarence.

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
1465 May 26  Elizabeth crowned
 Elizabeth Woodville was finally crowned Queen at Westminster Abbey.

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
1470 Qtr 4  Edward (V) is born
 King Edward IV's wife Elizabeth gave birth to her first son. Elizabeth had taken refuge at Westminster Abbey after King Henry VI had been restored to the throne by the Earl of Warwick and King Edward had fled to Burgundy. The baby was named Edward and would be heir to the English throne.

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
1476   Caxton at Westminster
 William Caxton rented rooms near Westminster Abbey and set up the first printing press in England. 
1478 Jan 15  Marriage of Richard, duke of York
 Richard, duke of York, married Anne Mowbray, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, at Westminster. The two were only children. Anne died in 1481 at the age of 8 or 9.
 
1483 Jul 6  Richard III is crowned King
 Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was declared the true heir to the English throne after the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville was deemed unlawful and their sons illegitimate. He and Anne Neville, his wife, were crowned at Westminster Abbey. 
1485 Oct 30  Henry Tudor is crowned.
 Henry Tudor is crowned as Henry VII at Westminster Abbey.[16]

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
1487 Nov 25  Coronation of Elizabeth of York
 Elizabeth of York was crowned at Westminster Abbey. 
Early Modern Period (1500-1800)
1503 - 1519 Construction of Henry VII Lady chapel
 Henry VII ordered the construction of a new Lady chapel at the east end of Westminster Abbey. The building work was carried out in the Perpendicular style. 
1509 Apr 21  Death of Henry VII
 Henry fell in and within just over a day he died of the illness. His body was first moved to St. Paul's and then to Westminster Abbey where he was buried next to his wife.[17] 
 Jun 24  The coronation of Henry VIII
 Henry and Catherine of Aragaon were crowned at Westminster Abbey.

Episode: Henry VIII and his Six Wives  
1533 Jun 1  Coronation of Anne Boleyn
 Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England at Westminster Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer.

Episode: Henry VIII and his Six Wives  
1547 Feb 20  Edward VI crowned
 The coronation of Henry VIII's son Edward took place at Westminster Abbey. 
1553 Oct 1  Mary Tudor crowned
 The coronation of Mary Tudor took place at Westminster Abbey. Mary became the first true Queen of England. In the past, Matilda and Lady Jane Grey had come close but neither had ever been crowned.

Episode: Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Day Queen  
1558 Nov 17  Queen Mary dies
 Queen Mary died at the age of forty two. She was buried at Westminster Abbey. 
1559 Jan 14  Coronation pageants
 The tradition of holding pageants on the eve of the coronation was followed and Elizabeth viewed them all as she made her way from the Tower to Westminster. They were of a political nature showing the problems of the past and hopes for the future. 
 Jan 15  Coronation of Elizabeth
 The coronation of Elizabeth I took place at Westminster Abbey. She was crowned by Bishop Oglethorpe of Carlisle as the other more senior bishops refused to crown her due to their reluctance to accept the new Protestant religion. 
1626 Feb 2  Charles crowned
 Charles I was crowned at Westminster Abbey. 

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