Westminster Abbey
Suz Pathmanathan

Who's buried in Westminster Abbey?

Westminster Abbey exterior with red London bus in foreground

Although Westminster Abbey may be better associated with royal weddings and coronations, the country's most iconic cathedral is also the final resting place of thousands of influential people, from monarchs and consorts to poets, scientists and politicians.

Whether your interest is in the architecture, the history or culture that shaped the world we know today, you'll gain a true sense of history when you visit some of the most famous Westminster Abbey tombs: 

  • Edward the Confessor
  • Anne of Cleves
  • Elizabeth I
  • Sir Isaac Newton
  • Jane Austen
  • Martin Luther King, Jr

With The London Pass®, you can explore Westminster Abbey and more big-name landmarks, local hotspots and epic tours, all on one pass, all for one price. Not only that, but you'll enjoy savings of up to 50%, compared to buying individual attraction tickets. 
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Edward the Confessor

Edward the Confessor was responsible for the building of Westminster Abbey during his reign from 1042-1066. After a turbulent childhood when England was the target of Viking raids and invasions, Edward spent 25 years in exile, until he was received as one of the first Anglo-Saxon kings. He was the first Anglo-Saxon — and only king of England — to be canonized, in 1161.

From Edward the Confessor until George II, most kings and queens had a Westminster Abbey burial.

Edward V

Despite being named King of England upon his father's death, 12-year-old Edward V wasn't crowned, and only reigned for 86 days before his uncle Richard III seized the throne and sent him and his brother to the Tower of London. They would forever be remembered as "The Princes in the Tower" after disappearing in 1483. Their fate remains unknown but it is widely believed that they were murdered on the orders of Richard II.

In 1674, children's bones were discovered in a stairway of the Tower and King Charles II placed them in Westminster Abbey, however, it's never been proven the bones belonged to the princes.

Anne of Cleves

The fourth of Henry VIII's six wives, Anne of Cleves and Henry were only married for six months before the marriage was annulled. Originally from Dusseldorf in Germany, she was brought over to England for their wedding in 1540 - but Henry wasn't taken with her. After the annulment, she was referred to as 'the King's beloved sister', and ended up outliving all of Henry VIII's other wives, dying in 1557. She is the only wife of Henry VIII to be buried in the Abbey.

Elizabeth I

Portrait of Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I

One of the most famous Westminster Abbey burials, Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Her reign, known as the Elizabethan era, is famous for a golden age of poetry, drama and music,  with playwrights such as Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe leading the creative charge, as well as exploration and colonizing the 'New World' of the Americas and Caribbean, with explorers such as Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh navigating the seas. She never married or had children, and died after 44 years on the throne in 1603. She shares her grave with half-sister Mary I.

Where is her father Henry VIII buried?

Henry VIII, the famously controversial English king, is buried in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. He was responsible for sweeping religious and political changes during his tenure. He is buried next to his third wife Jane Seymour, who gave him a son, Edward VI. Their burial spot is quite detailed and regal, making clear how instrumental a role he played in English history. Discover more historical facts About Henry VIII

Sir Isaac Newton

Considered one of the most influential scientists of all time, Sir Isaac Newton was a physicist and mathematician known for his work on the laws of motion, gravitation, classical mechanics, calculus, planetary motion, optics and more. Among other accolades, he was made President of the Royal Society and was knighted by Queen Anne in 1705 and died in his sleep in 1727.

Sir Charles Barry

You'd be excused for not knowing Sir Charles Barry's name, but you already know his work. An English architect in the 19th century, Barry is most well known for his work rebuilding the Palace of Westminster, more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament. You'll also see his work not too far away in Trafalgar Square, and at Highclere Castle (a few miles outside of London in Newbury), which famously served as the location of TV show Downton Abbey. He is one of the lesser-known figures found when the Westminster Abbey Tombs were opened.

Houses of Parliament reflected in the River Thames, London
The Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster

Charles Darwin

A naturalist and geologist, Darwin is probably best known for his contribution to the science of evolution and publication of 'On the Origin of Species', where he introduced the process of natural selection. He's buried in the north aisle of the nave of Westminster Abbey.

David Livingstone

Best known for his exploration of Africa and infamous meeting with Henry Morton Stanley, which gave the world the phrase 'Dr. Livingstone, I presume?', David Livingstone was a Scottish explorer, missionary, and one of Victorian Britain's most prolific individuals. Coming from a working-class background, he not only discovered the sources of the River Nile, but he also crusaded for the abolition of slavery. He died in 1873 in Zambia, which is where his heart is buried, and his ashes were buried in the Abbey in 1874.

Aphra Behn

You may never have heard of her, but Aphra was a British playwright, poet and translator during the 17th century. Virginia Woolf once wrote 'All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn... in Westminster Abbey... it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds'.

She was one of the first English women to earn a living from writing, and became a role model by breaking cultural barriers. She was even employed by Charles II as a spy! 

Behn is buried in the East Cloister, not far from the steps into the Abbey.

The Unknown Warrior

The burial of an unidentified British soldier killed during the First World War is the first example of a tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He represents the thousands of individuals who died during the war. Six bodies were exhumed from various battlefields and were placed in unmarked coffins, before one was selected for burial in Westminster Abbey. Although there are many graves on the floors of the church, this is the only one you're not allowed to walk on.

Who's buried in the Poet's Corner?

Located in and around the Abbey's eastern aisle, in the south transept, the Poets' Corner is a special section of Westminster Abbey dedicated to poets, playwrights, and writers. You'll see such illustrious names as William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Geoffrey Chaucer, T.S. Eliot, and more.

Charles Dickens

One of the most famous English writers, with classic books such as 'A Christmas Carol', 'David Copperfield', 'Oliver Twist' and many more, Charles Dickens is synonymous with the Victorian era. During his lifetime, he wrote novels and novellas, short stories and articles; he also gave lectures and campaigned for education and children's rights. He's buried in the Poet's Corner.

Geoffrey Chaucer

A scientist as well as writer and poet, the father of English literature died in 1400 and was the first poet to be buried in what's now referred to as Poets' Corner. Anyone who studied English literature will be familiar with his use of Middle English in works such as 'The Book of The Duchess', 'The Legend of Good Women', and most famously 'The Canterbury Tales'.

Dr. Samuel Johnson

Best known for his 'A Dictionary of the English Language', published in 1755, Dr. Samuel Johnson was one of the most influential writers of the 18th century. His book was viewed as the predominant British dictionary until the introduction of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later. He's buried just in front of Shakespeare's memorial.

Rudyard Kipling

Another literary icon buried in Poet's Corner is 'Jungle Book' author Rudyard Kipling, whose ashes were buried there after his passing in 1936. Born in 1860s colonial India, writer and poet Kipling was one of the main innovators of short stories. His children's books are classics to this day, with well-known titles such as 'Just So Stories for Little Children' and 'Kim'.

Sir Laurence Olivier

Perhaps one of the world's most legendary actors, Laurence Olivier dominated the world of acting the mid-20th century and played over 50 cinema roles.

During his lifetime, he appeared in over 50 movies, and received a knighthood, a life peerage (becoming a baron), the Order of Merit, and four Academy Awards. The National Theatre's largest auditorium was named in his honor and he is commemorated every year in the Laurence Olivier Awards.

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