Hands up – who dreamt of being a Royal bride as a child because it can’t just be me?! What with the extravagant wedding gowns, incredible settings, and stunning details & decor, there’s no denying that royal weddings truly have it all.
The British royalty has an extensive history of impressive wedding ceremonies that capture the world’s attention. From Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer to Prince William and Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, these weddings continue to inspire us all.Embed from Getty Images
When it comes to planning a Royal Wedding, one of the most important decisions a Royal bride and groom-to-be faces is deciding where to hold their marriage ceremony – after all, choosing the right venue is pivotal for such an internationally renowned event. For members of the royal family, these options may include Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, St James’ Palace, and St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. And the final choice often comes down to tradition, size of the wedding guest list, and the Couple’s & Monarch’s wishes.
Westminster Abbey in London is by far one of the most iconic and popular ceremony venues for Royal Weddings, and it has served as the location for every coronation since 1066. Most recently, Westminster Abbey was the location of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. And is the venue for King Charles’s coronation to be held on the 6th of May, 2023.
The Abbey is a place of great importance for the UK and has a history that spans nearly 1,000 years. It was founded in 1066 by Edward the Confessor to be his royal burial church, and today it is still used as a place of worship and celebration. To learn more about this iconic London landmark, read on!
In this article, I will cover:
- History of Westminster Abbey
- Architecture of Westminster Abbey
- Famous Weddings at Westminster Abbey
- Is it possible to get married at Westminster Abbey?
- Coronations of British Monarchs at Westminster Abbey
- The Coronation of His Majesty The King Charles III
- Interesting Facts about Westminster Abbey
- How to Visit Westminster Abbey
History of Westminster Abbey
The Abbey has been the setting of some of the most important religious ceremonies in British history, including the Royal Coronations and a long line of British royal weddings. The first Coronation was that of William the Conqueror in 1066, and the latest Coronation will be King Charles’ on 6th May 2023. Before this, Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation made her the longest-reigning Monarch in British history.Embed from Getty Images
Westminster Abbey has seen many important events, including the funeral of the late Queen and numerous high-profile memorial services, and is a repository of national identity and culture.
The tombs of many Royal Monarchs and respected historical figures, like Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton, are preserved at the Abbey. And for literature enthusiasts, Poets’ Corner is truly a place of pilgrimage.
Westminster Abbey has also been witness to some of the nation’s most remarkable moments of sorrow. During World War II, it suffered extensive damage due to bombings. However, thankfully much of this has been restored.
Its rich cultural and religious heritage makes Westminster Abbey important to Britain’s national identity. It is a place where millions have come to celebrate, mourn and pay their respects over the years, making it one of England’s important historical and spiritual monuments.
Architecture of Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is one of London’s most iconic pieces of architecture, with a striking Gothic style. The design was started in 1042 by Edward the Confessor and has expanded over centuries with additions from many kings and queens. The current layout includes three main sections – the nave, quire, and sanctuary. The nave serves as the main entrance and houses some chapels along its sides. Moving further into the interior, you reach the quire, which contains seating for choristers along with pulpits, pews, and screens. The sanctuary is the most sacred part of the Abbey, featuring the altar. The beautiful Gothic design is a sight to behold with its intricate stonework and impressive tall towers, and it sits proudly in Westminster, London.
Famous Weddings at Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is a popular wedding venue for British royalty and has been the site of 16 royal weddings since 1100. The first Royal marriage held at the Abbey was between Henry I and Princess Matilda of Scotland.
Over the last century, the site is most recognized for hosting the weddings of the late Monarch Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip (the Duke of Edinburgh), and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William & Kate).
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince PhilipEmbed from Getty Images
The marriage of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten RN, held at Westminster Abbey in 1947, was a remarkable and joyous occasion for Britain. During the post-war austerity period, their union provided an uplifting moment of jubilation for all citizens of the United Kingdom.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had a true love story like no other. They experienced over seven decades of marriage together, raising their four children – Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward – and traveling worldwide for royal engagements. Always devoted to one another, their relationship was an example of unconditional love that inspired many throughout their lifetimes.
After the Duke of Edinburgh’s death in April 2021, Queen Elizabeth remained devoted to his memory. Her passing on 8th September 2022 came after a long and meaningful life of love and service to her country. The royal couple is indeed an inspiration to us all.
Duke and Duchess of CambridgeEmbed from Getty Images
William and Kate’s wedding was a fairytale event that showcased the couple’s deep love for each other. On 29th April 2011, around 2 billion people around the world tuned in to witness the live coverage of their union at Westminster Abbey. The royal procession began with William and his brother, Prince Harry, riding in an open-top 1902 State Landau carriage from Clarence House to Westminster Abbey. Thousands of cheering well-wishers lined the streets of London along their route in support of the marriage. The ceremony was a traditional Anglican service with readings from close family members, including William’s brother Harry and Kate’s sister Pippa Middleton.
The royal bride wore a timelessly elegant wedding dress featuring hand-embroidered lace designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. The long, flowing train made for a stunning sight as the bride walked down the long aisle at the Abbey. Kate carried a bridal bouquet of myrtle, lily-of-the-valley, sweet William, and hyacinth. Kate continued with the years of tradition held for royal brides by including a sprig of myrtle in her flowers. It is believed that the particular sprig used in the bouquet was taken from the myrtle bush planted at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight by Queen Victoria & Prince Albert after their wedding.
After Kate & William’s beautiful wedding ceremony, the newlyweds enjoyed a royal carriage ride around London, waving joyfully to gathering crowds before arriving at Buckingham Palace for a lavish reception. The Duchess of Cambridge later returned to Westminster Abbey to lay her bouquet on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior – a longstanding tradition started by Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923 to honor fallen soldiers.
The Duke and Duchess’s wedding at Westminster Abbey was one of the most momentous celebrations of modern times, an occasion of love and happiness that will be remembered throughout history.
Other notable Royal Weddings that have taken place at Westminster Abbey include
King George VI and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923
Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong Jones in 1960
Princess Alexandra and Sir Angus Ogilvy in 1963
The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) and Captain Mark Phillips in 1973
The Duke of York and Sarah Ferguson in 1986.
Is it possible to get married at Westminster Abbey?
It would be amazing to have your own wedding at Westminster Abbey, right? So is it possible? Well, yes, but only if you fulfill the religious requirements and meet one of the following criteria:
- A member of the royal family
- Members of the Order of the Bath
- Live within Westminster Abbey’s precincts
So, it’s not that easy! But worry not because you can still go inside and tour Westminster Abbey as a visitor and garner some royal wedding inspiration – details further down! Although, if you do have your heart set on getting married at a Royal residence, you may wish to consider these alternatives (but also impressive) options for your wedding venue:
- Kensington Palace, London
- Kew Palace, London
- Cliveden House, Berkshire
- Hampton Court Palace, Surrey
- Osborne House, Isle of Wight
Coronations of British Monarchs at Westminster Abbey
Coronations at Westminster Abbey have been a staple of British royal life since 1066 when William the Conqueror took to the British throne and was crowned King of England. The ceremonies are steeped in centuries-old traditions that have evolved, but there is still an awe-inspiring atmosphere as each new Monarch takes the throne. During a coronation, the new King or Queen will ascend the steps of Westminster Abbey and sit upon St Edward’s Chair, after which they take their oaths of allegiance to the crown. Following this, the traditional crowning ceremony takes place with The Archbishop of Canterbury placing Saint Edward’s Crown on the Monarch’s head. After which, the new King or Queen will be anointed with holy oil and presented with the Sword of State.
A Coronation is an extraordinary experience for all, marking the Monarch’s status as Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Each Coronation has its own unique character, which reflects on the pageantry, music, and poetry which are unique to them. It serves as a wonderful reminder of the history and tradition that has sustained the monarchy over hundreds of years.
The Coronation of His Majesty The King Charles III
Westminster Abbey was the location for the latest royal coronation of His Majesty King Charles III. This momentous occasion took place on Saturday, 6th May 2023 with communities around the United Kingdom coming together to celebrate with special gatherings, festivals, and neighborhood parties.
The official coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey lasted for around 2 hours marking all of the key moments during the service, including the official crowning of the King by the Archbishop of Canterbury – which was televised across the world and attended in person by many heads of state, dignitaries, and fellow Royals.Embed from Getty Images
The newly crowned King Charles and Queen consort, Camilla, then returned to Buckingham Palace in the ornate Gold State Coach, waving to vast crowds of supporters on their way. Once at the palace, the King & Queen consort took to the balcony, with fellow members of the royal family, to wave to the happy crowds which filled the mall – where they were treated to a celebratory flypast by the RAF.
The festivities continued into the weekend with a large outdoor concert at Windsor Castle featuring an impressive line-up of music, including singers Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, & Andrea Bocelli.
Interesting Facts about Westminster Abbey
- There’s an old superstition about Westminster Abbey that if someone touches the ‘Edward’s Stone’ outside the abbey door – they will be married within a year!
- Funerals for many prominent royals and historical figures have been held at Westminster Abbey over the years, including the recent funeral of the late Queen, and those of Charles Darwin and Princess Diana.
- The famous Abbey is home to thousands of tombs and monuments, including monarchs, famous poets, politicians, musicians, scientists, and other notable people.
- Hidden beneath the Abbey’s floor is a mysterious underground passage called the Pyx Chamber. It’s believed to have been used by kings and queens in medieval times for secret meetings and negotiations.
- Westminster Abbey also has its own resident ghost – known as ‘The Grey Friar.’ He has been spotted many times walking through the cloisters and halls wearing a long grey robe!
How to Visit Westminster Abbey
You might not be able to get married at Westminster Abbey, but you can certainly explore the location of some of history’s most spectacular Royal weddings – which is an incredible honor in itself! Here’s my advice for getting the most out of your visit.
TOP TIPS WHEN VISITING WESTMINSTER ABBEY:
1) Buy tickets in advance – Westminster Abbey is a popular tourist attraction, and interest is likely to peak in 2023 due to the King’s Coronation. To guarantee entry, I recommend buying your tickets well before your visit, which you can purchase directly from their website HERE.
2) Get familiar with the layout – The Abbey is vast and contains a variety of chapels, tombs, galleries, and other points of interest. To make sure you don’t miss a thing, take some time (before your visit) to read up on what’s where, and be sure to get a map when you arrive at the entrance.
3) Don’t forget your camera – Westminster Abbey has been part of London’s history for centuries, so you will definitely want to document your time there. There are plenty of great photo spots around the Abbey.
4) Enjoy the audio tour – Westminster Abbey offers an audio tour, which is a great way to learn about the history and architecture of the Abbey while exploring it in your own time.
And if you are unable to get there in person, you can enjoy a virtual tour of the Abbey HERE.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about this incredible Royal venue. Westminster Abbey is truly one of the most iconic and historic buildings worldwide, and that’s why it’s such a popular venue for Royal ceremonies and events. Bring on the next Royal Wedding at Westminster Abbey!
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