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Where Great Men Sleep


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The universal practice of antiquity was to place the burial places outside the precincts of the towns. It was reserved for Constantine the Great, as Dean Stanley points out, to give the earliest example of the interment of sovereigns not only within the walls of a city, but within a sacred building, when he (a.d. 337) and his successors were laid in the church of the Apostles at Constantinople. This precedent was from that time followed both in East and West, and every European nation now possesses its royal hallowed cemetery.

The peculiarity of Westminster Abbey, however, consists not only in the fact that it has united the consecration of the English kings with their sepulture - for the Polish kings were crowned and buried in Cracow Cathedral, as were the Russian Tsars in the Kremlin - but in the circumstance that the ceremonies performed at the royal church were for ages rendered remarkable by taking place quite contiguous to the royal residence.

The like may be said of Dunfermline, where Malcolm Canmore, Malcolm IV and Robert the Bruce rest, and where Charles I was born, and of Holyrood, which contains the tombs of such well-known Scottish kings as David II, James II and James V; here, as at Westminster, the sepulchral abbey and the royal palace are adjacent. But Westminster Abbey is more than the repository of royal remains. It is also the last resting place of many of our greatest men being indeed what the church of Santa Croce at Florence is to Italy, what the Valhalla is to Germany, and what the Pantheon at Paris is intended to be to France's great men.

It was founded by King Edward the Confessor, who was buried there on January 6, 1066. His Norman successors were interred, like him, each in his own special sanctuary, unless some special cause intervened. The Conqueror was buried at Caen in the abbey there, which he had dedicated to S. Stephen. William Rufus, killed in the neighbouring forest, was interred at Winchester, where the Anglo-Saxon kings had lived, been crowned, and been buried, and where (that is in the cathedral) are the tombs of Swithin the patron saint, Walkelyn the founder, William of Wykeham, the creator of Winchester College and New College, Oxford, Bishop Hoadley, the latitudinarian counsellor of George II's queen, Joseph Wart on, head master of the aforementioned school, Izaak Walton, author of "The Compleat Angler," and Jane Austen, the famous novelist. (King Alfred's is in S. Bartholomew's Church in that city.) Henry I reposes at Reading in the abbey founded out of his father's treasure for the benefit of his father's soul; Stephen, who stole the throne from Maud, in his abbey at Faversham; Henry II in the great Angevin abbey at Fontevrault, where Richard I and John's heart and John's wife Isabella are also to be found; and John himself in Worcester Cathedral, where on the plea of "safety first" he lies snug and inviolable between two Saxon saints, Wulstan and Oswald.

The precedent of entombing our kings in Westminster Abbey was set by the Saxophile Henry III. The first of his family to be born in England, he married a Saxon princess at Westminster and founded a Lady Chapel there. Subsequently he demolished S. Edward's Abbey and erected a new one at enormous cost, which was completed in 1269. He and his son Edward I and his daughter-in-law Queen Eleanor were buried in the Confessor's Chapel, where they are laid with its founder and with Edward III and Queen Philippa, Richard II and Queen Anne of Bohemia, and Henry V. Edward II, barbarously murdered at Berkeley Castle, rests in S. Peter's Abbey at Gloucester, now Gloucester Cathedral, where also is buried its sometime bishop, William Warburton, the famous author of " The Divine Legation of Moses." Though he died in the Jerusalem chamber of the Royal Palace of Westminster, Henry IV sought his grave in Canterbury Cathedral, where he sleeps with his second wife, Joan of Navarre, and with S. Thomas a Becket (murdered there in December, 1170), Stephen Langton, the author of the Great Charter, Anselm the learned philosopher, Edward the Black Prince, and the well-known Car dinals, Chatillon, Bour-chier, Pole and Morton. The martyr-like Henry VI was murdered in the Tower by Richard Duke of Gloucester and buried in the Lady Chapel of Chertsey Abbey; his rival, Edward IV, was buried at Windsor, where - in S. George's Chapel - Henry VIII, Charles I, George III, George IV and Edward VII also lie at rest.

The boyish Edward V and his brother, Richard Duke of York, were first buried in the Tower, where they had been murdered by order of Richard Duke of Gloucester; but in the reign of Charles II their remains were disinterred and re-buried in King Henry VII s Chapel in Westminster Abbey, where they have for company those of Henry VII and his queen, Queen Mary I, Queen Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, James I, the unfortunate Arabella Stuart, Elizabeth Queen of Bohemia, Prince Rupert, Charles II, Anne Hyde, first queen of James II, William HI and Queen Mary II, Queen Anne and her eighteen children, George II and Queen Caroline, Frederick Prince of Wales (father of George III), and William Duke of Cumberland, the victor of Culloden. Here, too, were buried, before his own death, three members of Oliver Cromwell's family, his mother, Elizabeth Stuart, through whom he traced his royal descent, his sister Jane, and his favourite daughter Elizabeth Claypole. The Lord Protector himself was interred in a vault at the extreme end of the chapel on November 23, 1658. The subsequent disinterment of his remains and of those of two other regicides buried here, Ireton and Bradshaw, and their hanging, decapitation and burial under the gallows at Tyburn on January 31, 1661, make up a story of petty royal vengeance with which everybody is acquainted. Among the other well-known personages who sleep in King Henry VII's Chapel are George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, the favourite of James I and Charles I; his dissolute son of the same name and title, Dryden's "Zimri"; Clarendon, statesman and historian (at the foot of the steps to the chapel); George Monk, Duke of Albemarle, the general who brought about King Charles II's Restoration; Savile, Marquess of Halifax, statesman and wit; Charles Montagu, Earl of Halifax, patron of men of genius; Addison and his friend Craggs, both secretaries of state; Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire, a noble poet who married an illegitimate daughter of James II and built Buckingham House, now His Majesty's palace; and John Campbell, second Duke of Argyll, famous as being one of the main supporters of the Scottish Union and the chief lieutenant and bitter enemy of the great Duke of Marlborough.

That gallant admiral Robert Blake was buried here, only to be evicted at the Restoration; while, of the three celebrated Parliamentarians entombed in S. John the Baptist's Chapel, the two Commoners, John Pym and Sir William Strode and the general Robert Devexeux, second Earl of Essex, the third only escaped a similar fate. James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh and Biblical chronologist, another great man laid in the Abbey in Commonwealth times, was left undisturbed in S. Paul's Chapel, where he has such incongruous neighbours as Sir Rowland Hill, the originator of the Penny Post, and James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, the latter of whom is commemorated by a gigantic portrait-statue, the work of Sir Francis Chantrey, which absolutely dwarfs the chapel. Of the occupants of the other chapels in the Abbey it is sufficient to say that Langham, Archbishop of Canterbury, lies in S. Benedict's, Lord Lytton, statesman and novelist, in S. Edmund's, and Walpole's rival, William Pulteney, Earl of Bath, in Abbot Islip's.

The South Transept, hardly known now by any other name but Poets' Corner, derives the origin of its peculiar glory from a single tomb, that of Geoffrey Chaucer, who was laid at the entrance to S. Benedict's Chapel in 1400, not, seemingly, as a famous poet, but as a member of the royal household under Richard II and Henry IV. His existing monument was erected in 1551, and presumably his ashes were removed to a grave made beneath it. Near Chaucer rests Spenser, definitely buried in the south transept as a poet by his friend the Earl of Essex, Queen Elizabeth's favourite. Michael Drayton came next to this hallowed spot, and then Ben Jonson, who used to lie beneath a tombstone bearing the inscription "O rare Ben Johnson." After the Restoration Sir William Davenant, Sir John Denham and Abraham Cowley joined the company; while on May 13, 1700, the great John Dryden was admitted to it. But Shakespeare, though he has a statue in the east aisle, is buried of course at Stratford-on-Avon church; while Milton reposes in S. Giles's, Cripplegate, where John Foxe, the martyrologist, is also laid. Milton, however, has been honoured by a bust in the Abbey since 1737.

Coming to the age of "The Spectator," we find that Steele, Addison, Atterbury, Congreve and Swift are buried not in Poets' Corner, but the first at his seat near Carmarthen, the second in the Tudors' Chapel, the third, the banished Dean, at the Abbey's west door, the fourth in the nave in the vault of his patroness, Henrietta Duchess of Marlborough, and the fifth in S. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, where lies also the Duke of Schomberg, William Ill's famous general. Prior and Gay, however, rest in the south transept; but the great poet of their time, Alexander Pope, preferred to be laid in the central aisle of Twickenham parish church by the side of his beloved parents. James Thomson, too, the author of "The Seasons," though his bust is placed in the Abbey, is buried not there but at Richmond; and Gray, whose monument is next to Milton's, reposes in the famous country churchyard of Stoke Poges.

Among late eighteenth century celebrities who lie in Poets' Corner are Dr. Johnson, David Garrick, James Macpherson (the author of Ossian), and the two dramatists Cumberland and Sheridan. Goldsmith is commemorated by a tablet placed on the south wall of the transept; but he is buried on the north side of the Temple churchyard. Campbell, author of so many of our national songs, and Gary, translator of Dante, are both laid among the poets; but from this company our greater early nineteenth century bards are absent, though Wordsworth is represented in the Abbey by a seated figure of himself and Southey has memorials both here and in Bristol Cathedral, in which latter place, by the way, Bishop Joseph Butler, author of "The Analogy of Religion," is buried.

Wordsworth, indeed, rests in Grasmere and Southey in Crossthwaite churchyard; Byron in the church of Hucknall Torkard, near his seat, Newstead Abbey; Coleridge in Highgate churchyard; Scott in Dry-burgh Abbey; and Keats and Shelley in the old Protestant cemetery at Rome. Among the players laid in or near the south transept are Thomas Better-ton, Spranger Barry, Samuel Foote, John Henderson, Anne Bracegirdle, Anne Old-field, Mrs. Cibber, Mrs. Barry and Henry Irving. Music is represented there by Henry Lawes, Henry Purcell, William Croft, Samuel Arnold, Dr. Burney, Sterndale Bennett and Handel. Of great men of science, Sir Isaac Newton enjoyed the peculiar honour of being buried in front of the Choir. Herschel the astronomer, John Hunter the surgeon, Livingstone the explorer, and Darwin rest in the nave. Edward Jenner, the discoverer of vaccination, is buried, however, in the chancel of the parish church of his native Berkeley, Gloucestershire; while William Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, is now interred in the Harvey Chapel in Hempstead Church, Essex. Later nineteenth century men of letters who rest among the poets include Macau1ay, Dickens, Tennyson, Browning and Hardy, the famous novelist. Thackeray, however, is buried at Kensal Green; while Carlyle reposes in the churchyard of his native Ecclefechan in Annandale.

Speaking very generally, we may declare that our statesmen are buried in the north transept of the Abbey. There lie the great Earl of Chatham (with a monument by Bacon), his son the younger Pitt, Charles James Fox, Lord Mansfield (with a monument by Flaxman), Grattan, Castlereagh, Canning, Palmerston, Sir Stamford Raffles, Earl Canning and Gladstone. But many have been buried privately, William Cecil, Elizabeth's adviser, at Burghley Park, Stamford; Sir Robert Walpole in the parish church near his seat, Houghton Hall, Norfolk; Burke in the parish church of Beaconsfield; Warren Hastings in the parish churchyard of Daylesford; Lord North in the family vault at All Saints' Church, Wroxton, Oxfordshire; Sir James Mackintosh at Hampstead; Peel in the parish church of Drayton-Bassett, Staffordshire; and Disraeli in Hughenden churchyard. Before we turn from the western to the eastern fane it may be as well to ascertain the burial places of a group of miscellaneous persons. Of kings and queens, Richard III is entombed at the Grey Friars, Leicester; Queen Anne Boleyn in S. Peter's Church, in the Tower of London; Queen Catherine of Aragon in Peterborough Cathedral; the less noble portions of James II's body in the parish church of S. Ger-main-en-Laye, Paris; George I at Hanover; Queen Victoria with the Prince Consort at Frogmore. The headless body of Sir Walter Raleigh is interred in S. Margaret's Church, Westminster; that of Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor and author of " Utopia," in Chelsea Church. Francis Bacon, "the great apostle of experimental philosophy," reposes at S. Michael's Church, St. Albans; John Selden, the eminent jurist, in the Temple Church; a greater John, Knox, the Scottish Reformer, in the kirkyard of S. Giles's Cathedral, Edinburgh, now the paved courtyard of the Parliament House, where the initials "I.K." mark the spot. Anthony Ashley Cooper, first Earl of Shaftesbury, Dry den's "Achitophel," at Wimborne St. Giles; Robert Burton, author of "The Anatomy of Melancholy," in the north aisle of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford; Chillingworth, the famous divine, in Chichester Cathedral; and Malthus, the clerical author of, the "Essay on Population," in Bath Abbey Church.

Harry Hotspur rests in York Minster, where he has for neighbour Richard Sterne, Archbishop of York and grandfather of the novelist. Our greatest soldier, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, was buried on August 9, 1722, in the Duke of Ormond's vault in the Abbey; but twenty-four years later his remains were removed by Duchess Sarah to a mausoleum in the chapel of Blenheim Palace, where a few weeks later she was laid by his side. General Wolfe, who won Canada for us on the Heights of Abraham, was buried in his father's grave at Greenwich; Sir Charles James Napier, the conqueror of Scinde, in the small churchyard of the garrison chapel at Portsmouth.

Turning now eastward, we find that among famous Elizabethans who lay in Old S. Paul's were William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke; Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper and father of his greater son Francis; Sir Philip Sidney, courtier, soldier and poet; Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor; Francis Walsingham, sagest, after Lord Burghley, of the queen's counsellors; and Dr. Donne, the famous Dean and "metaphysical" poet, whose remains and monument are preserved in Wren's church.

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Pictures for Where Great Men Sleep

TOMB OF EDWARD III
TOMB OF EDWARD III >>>>
A MAUSOLEUM OF BRITISH STATESMEN IN THE NORTH TRANSEPT OF WESTMINSTER ABBEY
A MAUSOLEUM OF BRITISH STATESMEN IN THE NORTH TRANSEPT OF WESTMINSTER ABBEY >>>>
THE POETS' CORNER AT WESTMINSTER. A PLACE OF TRIBUTE TO THE GREAT IN LITERATURE
THE POETS' CORNER AT WESTMINSTER. A PLACE OF TRIBUTE TO THE GREAT IN LITERATURE >>>>
EDWARD IV AT WINDSOR
EDWARD IV AT WINDSOR >>>>
THE BRUCE MEMORIAL BRASS BENEATH THE PULPIT IN THE NEW CHURCH, DUNFERMLINE
THE BRUCE MEMORIAL BRASS BENEATH THE PULPIT IN THE NEW CHURCH, DUNFERMLINE >>>>
THE IMPOSING GRAVE OF NELSON
THE IMPOSING GRAVE OF NELSON >>>>
THE IRON DUKE AT S. PAUL'S
THE IRON DUKE AT S. PAUL'S >>>>
WILLIAM OF WYKEHAM AT WINCHESTER
WILLIAM OF WYKEHAM AT WINCHESTER >>>>
THE GRAVE OF LORD LEIGHTON, S. PAUL'S
THE GRAVE OF LORD LEIGHTON, S. PAUL'S >>>>
A SHRINE OF VENERATION AND MIRACLES: S. EDWARD THE CONFESSOR IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY
A SHRINE OF VENERATION AND MIRACLES: S. EDWARD THE CONFESSOR IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY >>>>
THE HUGHENDEN RESTING-PLACE OF LORD BEACONSFIELD
THE HUGHENDEN RESTING-PLACE OF LORD BEACONSFIELD >>>>

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