Grave Matters

Happy Tuesday, everyone! If you have some online time on your hands today, come and visit me at the eHarlequin forums. I’ll be talking about the “Muses” all week this week (book 2 of the trilogy, To Deceive a Duke, will be on the shelves in May, and next Tuesday I’ll be here talking about it and giving a copy away!). And I found out that, due to a snafu, the ebook of Countess of Scandal will finally be out on April 30. Yay!

Now, last week I blogged about Handel’s Messiah and its big premier in Dublin. This week marks another anniversary for Handel–the date he was interred at Westminster Abbey in 1759. I have one great enjoyment in life that strangely enough I have found non-history geeks and non-history readers think is a bit odd. I enjoy wandering around old cemeteries. I like reading the epitaphs and imagining how the people lived, I like deciphering antique symbols, and I even like visiting the resting places of historic figures I admire. I guess I think that by some kind of osmosis I can communicate with them (though that has never happened, and would scare the bezeesus out of me if it did)! There is no better cemetery for a history buff than Westminster Abbey. It’s full of the great, near-great, famous, and people who just somehow had the pull to get themselves big tombs there when they died but no one knows them now. There are royals galore, scientists, artists of all sorts, politicans, all sorts.

On the Splendors of the Regency tour Diane and I went on a few years ago, we got to go to the Abbey (not as part of the tour, just as something to keep us busy when we first got there). Despite a torrential rainstorm as we tried to leave and my jet-lagged daze, it was an amazing experience just to wander around and find people I “knew” as well as look at the sites I remembered from royal wedding and coronation videos. I stood on top of the marker where Cromwell once was (before Charles II dug him up and hanged him), and cried at the elaborate tomb of Elizabeth I. Here are just a few of the luminaries you can see there:

Samuel Johnson, d. 1784 (who happens to be right next to Ben Jonson, d. 1637, and actor David Garrick, d. 1779)

Henry Purcell (d. 1695) and his wife Francisca

Poets’ Corner, where you can find everyone from Chaucer to Olivier, and memorials to many who are buried elsewhere like Shakespeare and Eliot (it’s quite crowded there)

Explorer David Livingstone (d. 1873)

Henry VII and his queen Elizabeth of York (in, appropriately, the Henry VII Chapel)

Also in the Henry VII Chapel, his granddaughter Elizabeth I (and Mary I, too, but only Elizabeth gets an effigy)

Eleanor of Castile, d. 1290 (I just think this effigy is so beautiful)

Edward the Confessor, d. 1066

Charles Darwin, d. 1882

Anne of Cleves, the only wife of Henry VIII to be buried at Westminster (d. 1557)

Frances Brandon Grey, Duchess of Suffolk, mother of the unfortunate Jane Grey (her youngest daughter Mary is buried with her)

Playwright Aphra Behn (d. 1689). Proof that wit can never be defense against mortality.


Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII

She is right next to her great-granddaughter Mary, Queen of Scots, who has one of the biggest tombs in the place (put up by her son when he became James I)

And Elizabeth, Duchess of Northumberland, a famous hostess of her day who died in 1776–I think it’s so gorgeous!

This is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg to the sites found in the Abbey. Have you been there? What are some of your favorites? And if you share my historical hobby, what are some great historical cemeteries you’ve visited?

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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