St George’s Chapel is the place of worship at Windsor Castle. It is both a Royal Peculiar and the chapel of the Order of the Garter, and is located in the lower ward of Windsor Castle, which is a principal residence of Queen Elizabeth II.
Although famed for being the place of many Royal weddings and the Garter service every June, St George’s Chapel is unfortunately famed also for being the resting place of many deceased Monarchs and Royal Family members. When looking at just who was laid to rest here, I was astounded, and it is within this blog that I wanted to share that information with you.
King Edward IV
Edward was King of England from March 1461 until his death in 1483. Although a brief removal from the Throne in 1471 broke his continuous reign, he was King for over twenty years. As the year 1483 began, so too did the decline in Edward’s health, becoming fatally ill at Easter that year. He died on 9th April 1483, and was succeeded by his uncrowned son, King Edward V.
As the wife of King Edward IV, Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth of England. It was a highly unlikely match, being as Elizabeth’s family were only mid-ranked in terms of aristocracy. After the death of her husband, Elizabeth became Queen Dowager under King Edward V, Dame Elizabeth Grey under King Richard III, and reverted back to Queen Dowager under the reign of King Henry VII. Queen Elizabeth died at Bermondsey Abbey on 8th June 1492, and was moved to Windsor Castle for her funeral. She was laid to rest in the same chantry as her husband.
King Edward VII
Edward was King of the United Kingdom and British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22nd January, 1901 until his death. Edward was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The Edwardian era, which covered Edward’s reign and was named after him coincided with the start of a new century, and saw extensive changes in technology and society. Edward was a heavy smoker, and towards the end of his life, he suffered terribly with bronchitis. On 6th May 1910, the King suffered several heart attacks, but still refused to go to bed. At 11:30pm he lost consciousness and died 15 minutes later. He was buried two weeks later, with his funeral being described as “the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last”.
Alexandra of Denmark
As wife of King Edward VII, Alexandra became Queen Consort of the United Kingdom and Empress of India. It was at the age of sixteen that she was chosen as the future wife of Edward. They married eighteen months later in 1863. When Edward died, Alexandra became known as Queen Mother owing to the fact her son was crowned King George V. Alexandra did not attend her son’s coronation as it was not customary for a crowned queen to attend the coronation of another king or queen. Towards the end of her life, Alexandra’s speech and memory became impaired, and she died on the 20th November, 1925 at Sandringham after suffering a heart attack. She was buried in an elaborate tomb next to her husband at St George’s Chapel.
Jane was the third wife of King Henry VIII. She succeeded Anne Boleyn as Henry’s wife and, consequently, became Queen Consort of England. Through her maternal grandfather, she was a descendant of King Edward III, and was a half second cousin to Anne Boleyn. It was during Jane’s labour with the future King Edward VI that complications arose. The labour lasted for two nights and three days and, after the christening of the baby, it became clear that Jane was seriously ill. Queen Jane died on 24th October, 1537 at Hampton Court Palace, and was buried on 12th November. It is speculated that, out of his six wives, Jane was Henry’s favourite because she gave him a male heir. This is near enough confirmed as Jane is the only wife who Henry is buried next to.
King Henry VIII
Henry was King of England and Ireland from 1509 until his death. Besides his six marriages, Henry is famed for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church, his dissolution of the monasteries, and his own establishment of the Supreme Head of the Church of England. He also oversaw the legal union of England and Wales. Henry’s increasing obesity managed to hasten his death, which occurred on 28th January, 1547 at the Palace of Whitehall. King Henry VIII was interred at the chapel right next to his third and favourite wife Jane Seymour.
King Charles I
Charles was the Monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland from 27th March, 1625 until his death. Charles was the second son of King James I of England (VI of Scotland). After his succession, Charles quarrelled with the Parliament of England, believing in the divine right of kings. From 1642, Charles fought the armies of the English and Scottish parliaments in the English Civil War. It was after Charles’ capture by the forces that execution became imminent. On 30th January, 1649 at around about 2 p.m., Charles lay his head on the block, and was executed with one clean stroke. Charles’s burial at Westminster Abbey was refused, and so he was eventually buried in the Henry VIII vault at St George’s in private on 9th February 1649.
Also buried in the Quire is a stillborn son of Queen Anne who was the last monarch of the House of Stuart. Exact dates are unknown, but it is believed the baby was born in 1698.
THE ROYAL VAULT
There are too many Royals buried in the Royal Vault to talk about them all, so I have chosen some of the more notable ones.
King George III
George was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25th October, 1760 until his death. On the 1st January, 1801 he became King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland after the union of these two countries. His life and reign, which were both longer than any of his predecessors, were marked by a series of military conflicts. Great Britain defeated France in the Seven Years War, however, many of Britain’s American Colonies were lost in the American Revolutionary War. In later life, George’s health rapidly declined; he suffered from dementia, and became completely blind and increasingly deaf. King George III died at 8:38 p.m. on 29th January, 1820, six days after the death of his first son, the Duke of Kent. George was buried just over two weeks later on the 16th February.
King George IV
After the death of his father, King George III, George ascended as King George IV from 29th January, 1820 until his death. From 1811 until his accession, he served as Prince Regent during his father’s final mental illness. George’s extravagant lifestyle contributed to the fashions of the Regency era, and his charm and culture earned him the title of ‘Gentleman of England’. By the late 1820’s, King George IV’s heavy drinking had taken its toll on his health. He suffered from gout, arteriosclerosis and porphyria. George died on 26th June, 1830 at Windsor Castle, and was buried on the 15th July in the same place.
King William IV
As King George IV died with no surviving children, the Throne passed over to his younger brother William, who became King from 26th June, 1830 until his death just under seven years later. King William’s reign saw several reforms from his governments, the poor law was updated, child labour was restricted, slavery abolished over nearly all the British Empire, and the Reform Act of 1832 saw the British electoral system refashioned. In 1837, William became mortally ill, though was determined to survive in order to see his niece, Victoria, come of age so to avoid a Regency. He did survive, barely. William died in the early hours of the 20th June, 1837 at Windsor Castle, the Crown passed to his niece who became Queen Victoria.
As mentioned, there are many Royals buried in the Royal Vault at St George’s Chapel; others include Princess Amelia of the United Kingdom, Princess Charlotte of Wales, Prince Edward Duke of Kent and Strathearn, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, and Francis, Duke of Teck.
NEAR THE WEST DOOR
King George V
George was King of the United Kingdom and British Dominions and Emperor of India from the 6th May, 1910 for over 25 years. He was the son of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, so he was therefore a grandson of Queen Victoria. In 1917, George renamed the Royal House from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the House of Windsor, as a result of anti-German sentiment due to the on-going First World War. His reign saw the rise of socialism, communism, fascism and Irish Republicanism. On the 15th January, 1936, The King took to his bedroom at Sandringham complaining of a cold, by the 20th January, The King was close to death. The King’s doctor hastened his death by giving him a lethal injection of cocaine and morphine. King George V died that evening at 11:55 p.m., and was interred eight days later at the Chapel.
Mary of Teck
As the wife of King George V, Mary was Queen of the United Kingdom and British Dominions and Empress of India. At the age of 24, Mary was betrothed to George’s elder brother Prince Albert Victor; however, Albert soon died of pneumonia. The following year, she became engaged to George. Before George’s accession, she was successively known as Duchess of York, Duchess of Cornwall, and Princess of Wales. When King George V died in 1936, she became Queen Mother, though she did not use that title, and was still styled as Her Majesty Queen Mary. Queen Mary died on 24th March, 1953 from lung cancer at the grand age of 85. Her death occurred some ten weeks before her granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. She is buried beside her husband at St George’s Chapel.
NORTH NAVE AISLE (King George VI Memorial Chapel)
King George VI
King George VI was King of the United Kingdom and British Dominions from 11th December, 1936 until his death just under sixteen years later. George was the last Emperor of India, and first Head of the Commonwealth. As the second son of King George V, he was never expected to inherit the Throne; after the Abdication Crisis of 1936 though, this all changed. George’s reign saw many significant things happen, most notably was the Second World War. It also saw, however, the breakup of the British Empire and its transition into the Commonwealth of Nations, the independence of India, and Ireland formally declaring itself a republic. The stress of war took its toll on the King’s health; he developed lung cancer and arteriosclerosis. On the morning of 6th February, 1952, King George VI was discovered dead in bed at Sandringham House. He had died from a coronary thrombosis, in his sleep, at the extremely young age of 56. His daughter, who was in Kenya at the time, flew back to Britain as Queen Elizabeth II. Initially, George was interred in the Royal Vault at the Chapel, however, he was transferred to the King George VI memorial chapel on 26th March, 1969.
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Margaret was the youngest child of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. She was also the only sibling of Queen Elizabeth II. When Margaret’s father became King in 1936, her life dramatically changed. She became second in line to the Throne, however, being at such a young age, official duties were a long way off for her. Add into the mix the Second World War, and Princess Margaret’s official Royal duties did not begin until way after 1945. Margaret’s later life was marred by illness and disability. She had smoked since the age of 15, and continued to smoke heavily for many years. Margaret suffered many strokes throughout her life, and in January and March 2001, more occurred leaving her with partial vision and left side paralysis. Princess Margaret died in the King Edward VII hospital on the 9th February, 2002 at the age of 71, after suffering a final stroke. Her funeral was held on 15th February, 2002, 50 years exactly after her father’s funeral. Princess Margaret was cremated, and her ashes were placed in the tomb in the Memorial Chapel at Windsor.
Elizabeth Bowes Lyon
As the wife of King George VI, Elizabeth was Queen of the United Kingdom and the last Empress of India. It was during the Second World War that Elizabeth became one of the most loved members of the Royal Family. Her seemingly indomitable spirit provided moral support to the British public, earning her the sobriquet ‘most dangerous woman in Europe’ from Adolf Hitler in recognition of her role as an asset to British interests. When her husband died in 1952, she became known as The Queen Mother, and was the most senior member of the British Royal Family. On 30th March, 2002, Queen Elizabeth died in her sleep at 3:15 p.m., aged 101, with her daughter Queen Elizabeth II at her bedside. She had been suffering from a cold for the last four months of her life. Her death came some six weeks after the death of her youngest daughter Margaret. Elizabeth’s final resting place was of course at St George’s Chapel next to her husband and daughter. Her final request was that her funeral wreath be laid upon the tomb of the Unknown Warrior, a request that was obliged.
St George’s Chapel is also the final resting place of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany and Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence. They are both interred in the Albert Memorial Chapel.
So there we have it… Like me, I am guessing that you are astounded as to how much Royalty have been laid to rest at St George’s Chapel Windsor, however there is another place not so far away from there which boasts even more Royal internments… Can you guess where? Yes, well done. No, watch this space.