A few years ago, I ran across a very interesting diagram showing the placement of royal vaults in Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Actually, I was fascinated to the point that when I went to Windsor last year, I spoke to one of the guides who gave me an in-depth “lecture” about the ins and outs of the Royal Vaults. We discussed all the monuments/vaults which are above ground like Edward VII/ Queen Alexandra and King George V/Queen Mary. She then proceeded to discuss the number of coffins which were in the great vaults below St. George’s Chapel which had been re-interred at Frogmore in the Royal burial grounds. That left the family of George III and Queen Charlotte in the vaults below. She told me that Queen Mary had viewed the vaults and found them in deplorable condition and set about putting them in good order–in typical Queen Mary style: preserving all things royal. It affected her so significantly that she was determined that she and the King would never “go down there.” So, she is entombed with King George V above ground in a lovely marble memorial. I was ready for the discussion because I had found the diagrams and sketches of the vaults prior to my “charming” visit with the guide. Let me show you those diagrams.
THE BURIAL LOCATIONS IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY, HENRY VII CHAPEL: (I am surprised the daughter of Cromwell remained in the Royal Vaults; in fact, I am surprised Cromwell placed it there!)
A small drawing of the vaults St. George’s Chapel with the large red coffin of George III in the far end:
I can assure you, Henry VIII never expected to be thrown in a small floor vault rather than a great Renaissance memorial tomb. We all know the story of how the King’s body decomposed very quickly and was then rushed to Windsor where it was entombed with great relief. The black marble intended for Henry VIII’s tomb eventually was used for the tomb of Lord Nelson in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Poor Henry got the basement floor! I can understand why Charles I was hurriedly buried without markings in the floor of St George’s Chapel to avoid its expected bad treatment by the Cromwellians. In later years, members of the royal family were temporarily put into the Royal Vaults while their final resting places were being created–Prince Albert, for example. Also, Princess Beatrice, longest living daughter of Queen Victoria, died when World War II was raging in 1944. Her coffin was temporarily placed in the vault in St George’s Chapel in the presence of the Royal Family and after the war in 1945 moved to St. Mildred’s Church, Whippingham, Isle of Wight, to be placed in a joint tomb with her husband. There is a theme here: GET IT ORGANIZED BEFORE DEPARTURE DAY OR YOU MIGHT GET YOUR BONES CHUCK UNDER THE FLOOR WITH HENRY VIII.
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918