Westminster Abbey: A royal venue for royal weddings

Compiled by Shomini Sen

The Royal wedding of the year between Prince William and Kate Middleton took place in the breathtaking Westminster Abbey. A long tradition of royal weddings has taken place at the venue. In fact William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth herself had gotten married at the beautiful grand church.

Founded in 960 AD, the Westminster Abbey is a gothic church situated in Westminster, London, England. It is situated on the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is regarded as the traditional place for coronation and burial for monarchs of Commonwealth Realms. The abbey held the status of a cathedral between 1546-1556.

Since the beginning of its foundation, the abbey has enjoyed a strong linkage with the monarchy. Over the years, Kings and Queens have been benefactors of the Abbey, beginning with King Edgar (reigned 959–75), who gave the original monastic community at Westminster substantial lands covering most of what is now the West End of London. Almost a century later, King Edward built his palace close the abbey and built for it a large stone church, which became his burial ground. Richard II, Henry V, Henry VII and Elizabeth I were all influential in shaping the Abbey’s history.

Westminster Abbey or the Collegiate Church of St. Peter as its formally known, is a ‘Royal Peculiar’. This means it is a free chapel of the Sovereign, exempt from any ecclesiastical jurisdiction other than that of the Sovereign.

Interestingly, the Westminster Abbey has played host to only 15 royal weddings till date. Although history records several weddings but sources close to the abbey state that all the weddings may have not taken place inside the abbey. Some of the weddings may have taken place at St Stephen’s chapel in the Palace of Westminster. Princess Patricia, a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, began the modern trend for royal marriages at Westminster Abbey in 1919 and Princess Mary and Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, who married the future George VI, chose to follow her example.

William’s aunt, Princess Anne was also married at the abbey in 1973 while Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son, Prince Andrew got married at the Abbey in 1986.