THE Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived at Westminster Abbey today for a service to celebrate the 750th anniversary of Britain’s iconic church.
It marks 750 years since Edward the Confessor’s original church was rebuilt under the reign of King Henry III.
Some of the abbey’s most beloved treasures have gone on show today.
Two precious 13th century manuscripts from Henry III’s reign (1216 – 1272) reveal the king’s wishes about where he should be buried and his struggles with money.
In a royal charter dated 1246, Henry made clear he wanted to be buried alongside Edward the Confessor (1042 – 1066), to whom he was devoted.
His orders for his burial did much to establish the Abbey as the final resting place of kings and queens of England for centuries to come.
Meanwhile King Edgar’s grant of land in 960 enabling the establishment of the very first Benedictine monastery where the abbey now stands was placed on the altar.
The 14th-century Litlyngton Missal was opened alongside it.
The Very Rev Dr John Hall, the dean of Westminster, said: “I don’t think there is anywhere in this country that has precisely this link with our nation’s history.”
It survived Henry VIII’s dissolution by becoming a cathedral. Mary I re-established it as a monastery.
With two exceptions, every English and, subsequently, British monarch has been crowned at the abbey since William the Conqueror in 1066.
It was badly damaged on May 10, 1941, during the heaviest raid of the Blitz – after which Winston Churchill said it “must be saved at all costs”.
The lantern roof was rebuilt after the war, interior stonework was cleaned in the 1960s and a major restoration of the abbey took place between 1995 and 1998.
It has been broadcast around the world for occasions such as the coronation of Elizabeth II, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and the funeral of Princess Diana.