Who is Buried in Westminster Abbey? Where History Sleeps Eternally

Westminster Abbey, formally known as the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, has a history dating back over a thousand years. Its origins trace back to the Benedictine monks who settled in the area in the mid-10th century.

However, the abbey as we know it today began to take shape in the 13th century when King Henry III decided to rebuild the church in the Gothic style. This ambitious project laid the foundation for the magnificent structure that stands today.

A Royal Connection

One of the defining features of Westminster Abbey is its strong association with the British monarchy. It has been the site of countless royal ceremonies, including coronations, weddings, and funerals. This connection to the monarchy is reflected in the many members of the royal family who are buried here.

The Notable Burials

Westminster Abbey graves

One of the most prominent groups of individuals interred in Westminster Abbey is the monarchs of England. Since the time of Edward the Confessor, who was canonized as a saint after his death, many kings and queens have been laid to rest within the abbey’s walls.

Here are some of the notable monarchs buried in Westminster Abbey:

Edward the Confessor

Reign: 1042-1066

Edward the Confessor is a pivotal figure in the history of Westminster Abbey. He ordered the construction of the original abbey in the mid-11th century, and it was consecrated shortly before his death. Edward’s tomb is located in the center of the abbey, and his shrine was a place of pilgrimage during the medieval period.

Henry III

Reign: 1216-1272

As mentioned earlier, King Henry III played a significant role in the redevelopment of Westminster Abbey in the 13th century. He is buried in a sumptuous tomb within the abbey, which reflects the Gothic architectural style he helped promote.

Westminster Abbey Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I

Reign: 1558-1603

The tomb of Queen Elizabeth I, one of England’s most famous monarchs, can also be found in Westminster Abbey. Her rule is often referred to as the Elizabethan era, a time of great cultural and political significance for England.

Mary, Queen of Scots

Reign: 1542-1567

Mary, Queen of Scots, led a tumultuous life, marked by political intrigue and conflict. After her execution, her body was interred in Westminster Abbey, a decision that was somewhat controversial due to her Catholic faith.

Poets and Writers

Westminster Abbey is not just a resting place for monarchs; it is also a sanctuary for some of the greatest poets and writers in British history. These individuals have contributed to the cultural and literary heritage of the nation, and their presence within the abbey reflects their enduring significance.

Geoffrey Chaucer

Years of Activity: 14th century

Geoffrey Chaucer, often regarded as the “Father of English Literature,” is best known for his masterpiece, “The Canterbury Tales.” His tomb, located in the Poets’ Corner, is a testament to his enduring influence on the English language and literary tradition.

Charles Dickens

Years of Activity: 19th century

Charles Dickens, the beloved Victorian novelist, also finds his final resting place in Westminster Abbey. Dickens is celebrated for his iconic characters and vivid depictions of Victorian society.

CHARLES DICKENS' GRAVE at Westminster Abbey

Samuel Johnson

Years of Activity: 18th century

Samuel Johnson, the renowned lexicographer and essayist, is another literary giant whose tomb can be found in the Poets’ Corner. His influential work, “A Dictionary of the English Language,” helped standardize English spelling and usage.

Scientists and Innovators

The abbey is not only a repository of literary and royal history but also a place where some of the world’s most brilliant scientific minds are remembered. These individuals have made significant contributions to various fields of science and innovation.

Sir Isaac Newton

Years of Activity: 17th century

Sir Isaac Newton, one of the most influential scientists in history, is buried in Westminster Abbey. His groundbreaking work in physics and mathematics laid the foundation for many scientific advancements.

Charles Darwin

Years of Activity: 19th century

Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution by natural selection, is commemorated with a memorial in the abbey. His revolutionary ideas continue to shape the fields of biology and anthropology.

Sir Ernest Shackleton

Years of Activity: 19th-20th centuries

Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famed Antarctic explorer, is remembered in Westminster Abbey for his courageous expeditions and leadership in the face of adversity. His story of survival in the harsh Antarctic conditions remains an inspiration to many.

Musicians and Composers

Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey

Music has always been an integral part of human culture, and Westminster Abbey pays tribute to some of the greatest composers and musicians in history. Their contributions have enriched the world of classical music and continue to be celebrated.

George Frideric Handel

Years of Activity: 18th century

George Frideric Handel, the German-born composer famous for his oratorio “Messiah,” is buried in Westminster Abbey. His composition remains a beloved fixture of the holiday season.

Henry Purcell

Years of Activity: 17th century

Henry Purcell, a prolific composer of the Baroque era, is another musical luminary laid to rest in the abbey. His works have had a lasting impact on classical music.

Political Figures

Westminster Abbey Political Figures graves

In addition to monarchs, poets, scientists, and musicians, Westminster Abbey is also home to the graves of numerous political figures who have played pivotal roles in shaping the course of British history.

Sir Winston Churchill

Years of Activity: 20th century

Sir Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister during World War II, is honored with a memorial within Westminster Abbey. His leadership and oratory skills were instrumental in guiding the nation through a tumultuous period.

William Pitt the Younger

Years of Activity: 18th-19th centuries

William Pitt the Younger, one of Britain’s youngest Prime Ministers, is buried in the abbey. He served during a crucial period in British history, including the Napoleonic Wars.

Benjamin Disraeli

Years of Activity: 19th century

Benjamin Disraeli, a prominent Victorian-era statesman and two-time Prime Minister, also finds his final resting place in Westminster Abbey. He is known for his political reforms and contributions to Conservative ideology.

Military Heroes

Westminster Abbey Military Heroes

Westminster Abbey pays homage to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country. The graves of military heroes serve as a reminder of the courage and valor displayed on the battlefield.

The Unknown Warrior

Year of Burial: 1920

The Unknown Warrior is a symbol of all the unidentified soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. His tomb in Westminster Abbey represents the countless soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery

Years of Service: 20th century

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, a prominent British military commander during World War II, is remembered for his role in the Allied victory. His grave serves as a tribute to his leadership and dedication to the British armed forces.

Religious Figures

Westminster Abbey Henry III

Given its status as a place of worship, it’s no surprise that Westminster Abbey also houses the remains of prominent religious figures who have had a significant impact on the Christian faith.

Richard Chenevix Trench

Years of Service: 19th century

Richard Chenevix Trench, a theologian and Archbishop of Dublin, is one such religious figure. His contributions to theology and biblical scholarship are commemorated within the abbey.

John Wesley

Years of Service: 18th century

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, is celebrated for his religious reforms and evangelical work. His tomb is a testament to the enduring influence of Methodism in the United Kingdom and beyond.

The Significance of Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is not merely a burial site; it is a cultural and historical treasure trove that offers insights into the development of British society and its enduring contributions to the world. The presence of these individuals within its walls serves as a tangible link to the past, connecting us to the lives, achievements, and legacies of those who have gone before us.

A Place of Commemoration and Inspiration

The abbey serves as a place of commemoration where visitors can pay their respects to the remarkable individuals who rest there. It is also a source of inspiration, reminding us of the heights that can be achieved through human endeavor, whether in the fields of literature, science, music, politics, or religion.

An Architectural Marvel

In addition to its historical and cultural significance, Westminster Abbey is renowned for its architectural beauty. The stunning Gothic architecture, intricate stained glass windows, and intricate stone carvings all contribute to its allure. Visitors can marvel at the craftsmanship of centuries past while contemplating the lives of those who have left their mark on history.


Are there any specific criteria for someone to be buried in Westminster Abbey?

Yes, Westminster Abbey has specific criteria for burials. Generally, individuals interred here have made significant contributions to British culture, history, or society. The decision is often made on a case-by-case basis, and it is an honor reserved for those who have left a lasting impact.

Is there an admission fee to visit Westminster Abbey, and do visitors have access to the burial sites?

Yes, there is an admission fee for visiting Westminster Abbey, as it is a working place of worship and a tourist attraction. While visitors can explore the abbey’s interior, some burial sites, particularly those of monarchs, are not accessible to the public due to their sacred nature.

How are the graves and memorials maintained in Westminster Abbey?

Westminster Abbey has a dedicated team of conservators and historians responsible for the maintenance and preservation of the graves and memorials. They employ various techniques, including cleaning, restoration, and documentation, to ensure the historical integrity of the site is preserved.

Can one request a burial or memorial in Westminster Abbey for a loved one today?

In recent times, Westminster Abbey has become more selective in allowing new burials or memorials due to limited space. Requests are carefully considered and typically reserved for individuals who have made exceptional contributions to public life or have strong connections to the abbey.

Are there any restrictions or guidelines for photography inside Westminster Abbey?

Yes, there are restrictions on photography inside Westminster Abbey. While visitors are generally allowed to take photos, there are specific areas where photography is not permitted. These typically include close-ups of burial sites and altars. It’s advisable to check with the staff or refer to posted guidelines when visiting.

Is there a limit to the number of visitors allowed inside Westminster Abbey at any given time?

Yes, there may be limits to the number of visitors allowed inside Westminster Abbey at one time, especially during special events, ceremonies, or times of high demand. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable visit, it’s recommended to check the official website for information on visiting hours and any potential restrictions.


Westminster Abbey stands as a testament to the rich tapestry of British history and culture. It is a place where the past meets the present, where monarchs, poets, scientists, musicians, political figures, military heroes, and religious leaders find their final resting place. Each tomb, memorial, and monument within the abbey tells a story of achievement, sacrifice, and the enduring impact of these individuals on the world.

As visitors walk through its hallowed halls, they are not only surrounded by breathtaking architecture but also by the echoes of history and the achievements of those who have shaped the course of human civilization. Westminster Abbey is more than a church; it is a living museum of the past, an homage to greatness, and a source of inspiration for generations to come.