CORONATIONS, STATE OCCASIONS AND BURIALS
Westminster Abbey is a truly special and sacred place. It is the Coronation Church, where almost every English monarch has been crowned in an, almost, continuous line, stretching back to King William 1st (William the Conqueror), whose Coronation took place in the Abbey on December 25th 1066. Many of this country’s King’s and Queen’s are also buried here, and so to step inside is to get as close as is possible to those who, quite literally, shaped the history of this land.
However, many of its treasures can be easily missed, unless you know what to look for and, more importantly, exactly where to look.
The Only External Guides
Allowed To Guide Inside the Abbey
Cue your qualified guide. Because, as with so many of London’s major attractions, Blue Badge Guides are the only external guides that are permitted to guide inside Westminster Abbey. That is because, as part of the two year course of study that leads to this respected qualification, Blue Badge Guides carry out in depth study of the Abbey, and its history, after which they must pass a rigorous practical examination to prove themselves worthy of guiding inside this true institution.
You’ll Bypass the Lines and Get a Discount!
Furthermore, when you visit the Abbey with your own Blue Badge Guide, you can sail past the line and, not only enter by your own entrance, but also enjoy a general discount on the admission fee. What’s not to like about that!
A Dramatic Start to a Dramatic Tour
The tour begins by the Great West door of the Abbey, the two magnificent towers on either side of which are true London landmarks. In short, they are absolutely spectacular.
Your guide will present a brief history of Westminster Abbey, and then tell you of the famous names who have passed in and out of these huge doors. From King’s and Queen’s to Princes and Princesses, all of whom will, in narrative at least, pass before your gaze in a magical cavalcade of Royal history.
Where the Choristers are Taught
Then we move in through a time worn gateway to entered the almost rural setting of a tranquil square which is fringed by two of London’s truly impressive schools. One of them is where the choristers, whose angelic voices make attending evensong at the Abbey such a haunting experience, are educated, and your guide will treat you to a melodious rendition of the history of the school!
The Tranquillity of the Cloisters
Time then to enter the abbey via the side entrance that only Blue Badge Guides can use. This pitches us straight into the cloisters where the noise, rush and bustle of the modern city outside will be reduced to a distant, a very distant, murmur.
The Abbey’s Monastic Past
Your guide will tell you of the Abbey’s monastic past. From its mysterious beginnings, bathed in the mystic glow of long ago legend, on through through its upheavals as the Norman’s tightened their grip on their newly conquered domain, to the turbulence of Henry V111′s dissolution and its the church’s subsequent fate at the hands of Mary 1st and Elizabeth 1st.
The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
Instilled with a firm understanding of the Abbey’s past, you’ll then move inside to stand by one of the Abbey’s most poignant memorials, the tomb of the unknown Warrior.You will learn of the horrors of World War 1, hear about the inspiration behind the establishment of this tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in the carnage of the battlefields, and discover how one fallen warrior was chosen to represent his brothers in arms.
Coronations, Royal Weddings and Elton John
The tour then encounters the Coronation chair, currently in the process of being restored, but still showing the scars acquired over its 600 years of existence. Passing the spot where Elton John performed his moving rendition of Candle In the Wind at the funeral of Princes Diana, we make our way to the spot where Prince William and Kate Middleton were married on April 29th 2011. Your guide will also tell you about some of the less successful weddings that have taken place here through the ages.
Next, we look back to the rain swept day in 1953 (sixty years ago!) when our current Queen, Elizabeth 11′s Coronation took place here. Your guide will recreate the pomp and ceremony for you on a breathtaking, though necessarily highlighted, accounts of the day’s events.
The Tombs of King’s and Queen’s
Time then to meet with the King’s and Queens to whom Westminster Abbey is the final resting place. Edward the Confessor, Edward 1st,Henry v11, Mary 1st, Elizabeth 1st, James 1st and his mother, the tragic Mary, Queen of Scots, are just some of those whose tombs you will stand beside as your guide outlines their stories.
The Magnificent Henry V11 Chapel
Without doubt, one of the glories of Westminster Abbey is the exquisite Henry V11 Chapel. It has so many visuals to feast you eyes upon but none more breathtaking, nor more awe-inspiring, than its stunning ceiling.
Our final stop will be poets corner where many of this country’s greatest writers and poets are buried, memorialised, and, in some cases, both. You’ll stand by the graves of Charles Dickens and Geoffrey Chaucer. You’ll see the memorial to William Shakespeare, and enjoy a sequence of introductions to the lives and times of some of the greatest literary figures of all time.
So join us for a fascinating tour through a truly magnificent place, as you come face to face with the lives, times and resting places of the Kings and Queen’s, Statesmen and Generals, Writers, poets, artist and actors to whom Westminster Abbey is now a permanent residence.