Essay, Pages 4 (778 words)
Britain’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
There is another tomb located on the grounds of Westminster – that of Britain’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Much like that of the tomb of the same name in Washington D. C. , this tomb is meant to signify the remembrance of the thousands of soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. Also, the “Roll of Honour of the Civilian War Dead 1939-45”, a list containing over 66,000 names in seven volumes, is displayed near the west door of the Abbey.
(Dean and Chapter of Westminster)
Cromwell and his followers
The Abbey is not without its controversy, however. During the reign of the English Republic, in the mid 17th century, Oliver Cromwell was briefly interred following his death. During his life, Cromwell led a successful revolution to over through the Stuart king, Charles I, and have him beheaded. However, following the re-establishment of the Stuart dynasty a decade later, King Charles II had Cromwell and his men exhumed and moved.
Oliver Cromwell had an elaborate funeral followed by burial in Henry VII’s chapel.
When King Charles II was restored to the English throne he decided that Cromwell and his followers, who had executed his father Charles I, should be exhumed from the Abbey and by Royal Warrant dated September 9th l661 the bodies were dug up. Cromwell, Henry Ireton (his son-in-law) and John Bradshaw (president of the tribunal which condemned Charles I to death) were hanged and decapitated at Tyburn gallows (where Marble Arch stands today).
The heads were set up on poles outside Westminster Hall. Other followers of Cromwell, and also his mother Elizabeth, were re-buried in a common grave outside the Abbey, on the north side.
The royal weddings
The Abbey has also been the site of many royal weddings. Within recent memory, the wedding between Prince Charles, and Princess Diana Spencer took place at Westminster in 1981. This event, captured on live television, would be seen by an estimated 750 million viewers (BBC) making it the most watched program ever broadcast up to that time. While this event was seen with optimism, it was only sixteen years later that Westminster housed the funeral of Princess Diana.
With over one million people in attendance, and an estimated total of 2.5 billion more who viewed on television, Diana, and Westminster became two icons of international prominence. Britain and the world have said farewell to Diana, Princess of Wales, at the end of an unprecedented week of mourning. A four mile procession brought her coffin to Westminster Abbey, where politicians and celebrities joined the Royal Family in a subdued congregation. Over a million people lined the route of the funeral cortege to the abbey and along her final journey to the Spencer family home in Northamptonshire. (BBC) Because of the television age, Westminster Abbey has seen a popularity that has stretched world wide.
The wedding and funeral of Princess Diana
Events, such as the wedding and funeral of Princess Diana allowed the world to feel the power that people and places can offer. Westminster Abbey has also been immortalized most recently, by a very popular work of fiction – The Da Vinci Code. Within this novel, and the subsequent movie of the same name, Westminster Abbey was again positioned prominently in the view of the world stage. Within the context of the story, an ancient sect of Christians held on to the secret that Jesus Christ married, and fathered a son with Mary Magdalene.
This secret union and the child that followed were hidden from history by the organization called the “Priory of Scion”. The Priory of Scion, through the act of maintaining this secret, hid clues the location of the sarcophagus of Mary Magdalene. One of these clues was hidden within the Westminster Abbey. Whether any part of the story of The Da Vinci Code is true, is of little consequence to the Abbey. However, as the international popularity of the book contends, events surrounding places such as Westminster Abbey hold a fascination throughout the world.
It is the long standing history of the Abbey, and its influence on popular culture that allowed for such fiction to become so widely accepted. The people of London have felt the impact of Westminster Abbey their entire lives. For many, especially the younger generation, the Abbey has come to symbolize the most important and deeply effective events of their lives. Sean Downs is a twenty-seven year old man who was born and raised in London. His life time has seen some of the most important events of recent British history take place – allowing him to witness them first hand.