Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in Westminster, London, England (UK), located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English, later British and later still (and currently) monarchs of the Commonwealth Realms. The abbey is a Royal Peculiar and briefly held the status of a cathedral from 1546 to 1556.
Westminster Abbey is a collegiate church governed by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, as established by Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I in 1560, which created it as the Collegiate Church of St Peter Westminster and a Royal Peculiar under the personal jurisdiction of the Sovereign. The members of the Chapter are the Dean and four residentiary Canons, assisted by the Receiver General and Chapter Clerk. One of the Canons is also Rector of St Margaret's Church, Westminster, and often holds also the post of Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons.
Henry III rebuilt the Abbey in honour of the Royal Saint Edward the Confessor whose relics were placed in a shrine in the sanctuary and now lie in a burial vault beneath the 1268 Cosmati mosaic pavement, in front of the High Altar. Henry III himself was interred nearby in a superb chest tomb with effigial monument, as were many of the Plantagenet kings of England, their wives and other relatives. Subsequently, most Kings and Queens of England were buried here, although Henry VIII and Charles I are buried in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, as are most monarchs and royals after George II (Queen Victoria and some other members of the Royal Family are buried at Frogmore to the east of Windsor Castle).
These include: William Blake, Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, John Dryden, George Eliot, T. S. Eliot, Thomas Gray, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Samuel Johnson, John Keats, the Brontë sisters, Rudyard Kipling, John Masefield, John Milton, Laurence Olivier, Alexander Pope, Nicholas Rowe, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Jane Austen, Thomas Shadwell, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Dylan Thomas and William Wordsworth.
Westminster School and Westminster Abbey Choir School are also in the precincts of the Abbey. It was natural for the learned and literate monks to be entrusted with education, and Benedictine monks were required by the Pope to maintain a charity school in 1179.
Westminster Abbey has a long tradition as venue for royal weddings although there were no royal weddings for more than five centuries between 1382 (Richard II to Anne of Bohemia) and 1919. There were only two weddings by reigning monarchs (Henry I and Richard II).
11 November 1100: King Henry I of England was married to Matilda of Scotland
9 April 1269: Edmund of Crouchback, 1st Earl of Leicester and Lancaster, son of King Henry III was married to Lady Aveline de Forz
30 April 1290: Joan of Acre, daughter of King Edward I was married to the 7th Earl of Gloucester
8 July 1290: Margaret of England, daughter of King Edward I was married to John II, son of Duke of Brabant
20 January 1382: King Richard II of England was married to Anne of Bohemia
27 February 1919: Princess Patricia of Connaught was married to Commander Alexander Ramsay
28 February 1922: The Princess Mary, daughter of King George V was married to Viscount Lascelles
26 April 1923: The Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI), second son of King George V was married to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later to become The Queen Mother).
29 November 1934: The Prince George, Duke of Kent, son of King George V was married to Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark
20 November 1947: The Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II), elder daughter of King George VI was married to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten RN (later Duke of Edinburgh).
6 May 1960: The Princess Margaret, second daughter of King George VI was married to Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Earl of Snowdon)
24 April 1963: Princess Alexandra of Kent was married to Angus Ogilvy
14 November 1973: The Princess Anne, only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II was married to Captain Mark Phillips
23 July 1986: The Prince Andrew, Duke of York, second son of Queen Elizabeth II, was married to Miss Sarah Ferguson.
The next royal wedding is planned to be on 29 April 2011 between Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton.