The April 29, 2011, wedding of Prince William and Kate was a thoroughly modern affair. Kate Middleton arrived via car, not stuffy carriage. William and Kate’s streamlined, modern style has been duly noted and praised. But Westminster Abbey is steeped in royal tradition and ancient rites. Here are five facts you may not know about the site of the royal wedding.
Westminster Abbey is the Royal Church
Consecrated in 1065 and rebuilt in 1245, Westminster Abbey has been dubbed “the Royal church.” All British royal coronations since 1066 have been held at Westminster Abbey, and many British kings and queens are buried within the Abbey. It has been the site of 15 royal weddings, although it was overlooked for Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding because it was deemed too small.
The famous coronation chair, dating to 1297, is securely housed in the Abbey. It didn’t play a role in the royal wedding, however – that will need to wait until Prince William’s father, Prince Charles, is crowned King one day.
Kate Will Enter Through the Great West Doors
Kate Middleton entered Westminster Abbey though its main entrance, the Great West Doors (seen in the photo above). In contrast to the age of most everything in the Abbey, Kate passed beneath statues of Martin Luther King and other twentieth century martyrs as she entered the cathedral.
Kate’s Procession Trivia
Once she entered Westminster Abbey, Kate walked over the memorial to Winston Churchill. Churchill reportedly declined to be buried in the Abbey, saying “no one walked over me in life, and they’re not going to after death.”
She deviated a bit from a straight line at that point, because The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, a black marble stone surrounded by poppies, lies in the center of the aisle. This memorial to unidentified soldiers killed in war is considered too sacred to be stepped on, even by a royal.
Westminster Abbey Boasts Lofty Company
Prince William and Kate were in lofty company during their wedding. A small sampling of the folks buried at Westminster Abbey includes
- Queen Elizabeth I
- Poet Ben Jonson (who is buried upright at his request; his name is incorrectly spelled “Johnson” on the tomb)
- Lord Tennyson
- William Wilberforce
- Henry Purcell
- Isaac Newton
Kate Becomes Catherine
Westminster Abbey marked the spot where Kate Middleton became Catherine Windsor. Kate requested to be called “Catherine,” her given name, during the wedding ceremony.
Did you watch William and Kate’s wedding? How about Charles and Diana’s?
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Kate Middleton biography (aff. link)