Tag Archives: Westminster Abbey

A Short History Lesson

Mary Stuart, Mary I of Scotland, acceded the throne a week after her birth following the death of her father, King James V of Scotland. Betrothed to the Dauphin of France she spent most of her childhood in France and was educated at the French Court while Scotland was ruled by regents.

In 1558, Mary I of England died, and King Henry VIII’s daughter Elizabeth who was considered illegitimate assumed the throne. The French King, Henry II, encouraged Mary Stuart (aged 16) to claim the royal arms of England as the descendant of King Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret Tudor.

Mary left France in 1560 when her recently crowned husband Francis II died within a year of his accession. She  returned to Scotland where she married her cousin Lord Darnley in 1565. Their son became King James VI of Scotland and King James I of England.

In an attempt to wrest control from Scotland’s nobles, she made many enemies, and when Darnley was murdered in 1567 the Earl of Bothwell forced her into marriage. She was imprisoned in Loch Leven castle and forced to abdicate in favour of her son. She escaped captivity and fled to England to the protection of her cousin Queen Elizabeth who considered her a threat to the English throne. She was confined within the interior of England for eighteen and a half years during which time she planned a rebellion and plotted to assassinate Elizabeth.

On 8 February 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle, Mary Queen of Scots (44 years old), willing to die for her religion, refused to renounce the Catholic faith. She was tried and found guilty of treason. Her execution did not pass easily and the executioner had to fell three strokes with the ax before she was beheaded.

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A death mask to preserve the face of Queen Mary of Scots was created immediately after the beheading.

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For a detailed recount of the execution, see http://the-ringing-isle.blogspot.com/2013/02/on-this-day-execution-of-mary-queen-of.html

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Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, was born in 1542 and was executed in 1587. Her body was embalmed and interred in Peterborough Cathedral despite her wish to be buried in France. A modern plaque along with the Royal and national flags of Scotland are located on the opposite side of the aisle to the original burial place.

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In October 11th 1612 I her body was exhumed on the order of her son, King James VI of Scotland and James I of England, and re-interred in a marble tomb in the south aisle of the Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

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A white marble effigy sculpted by William and Cornelius Cure lies beneath an elaborate canopy. A crowned Scottish lion stands at her feet.

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The figurine wears a close-fitting coif, a laced ruff, and a long mantle fastened by a brooch. .

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Translation of the Latin inscriptions on her tomb:
To God, the best and greatest. To her good memory, and in eternal hope. MARY STUART, QUEEN OF SCOTS, Dowager Queen of France, daughter of James V of Scotland, sole heir and great granddaughter of Henry VII, King of England, through his elder daughter Margaret, (who was joined in marriage to James IV of Scotland): great-great-granddaughter of Edward IV, King of England through his eldest daughter of Elizabeth [of York]: wife of Francis II, King of France sure and certain heiress to the crown of England while she lived: mother of James, most puissant sovereign of Great Britain. She was sprung from royal and most ancient stock, linked on both paternal and maternal side with the greatest princes of Europe, abundantly endowed with most excellent gifts and adornments both of soul and body; yet, such are the manifold changes of human fortune, that, after she had been detained in custody for more or less twenty years, and had courageously and vigorously, (but vainly), fought against the obloquies of her foes, the mistrust of the faint-hearted, and the crafty devices of her mortal enemies, she was at last struck down by the axe (an unheard-of precedent, outrageous to royalty) and, despising the world, conquering death (the executioner being wearied), commending to Christ her Saviour the salvation of her soul; to James he son the hope of a kingdom and posterity, and to all who witnessed her unhappy murder an ensample of endurance, she piously, patiently and courageously submitted her royal neck to the accursed axe, and exchanged the fate of a transitory life for the eternity of an heavenly kingdom, on 8 February, year of Christ 1587, in the 46th year of her age.

If splendour of birth, if rare beauty of form, a mind innocent of vice, an unbesmirched honour, the power of an invincible spirit, a brilliance of intelligence, a hope (springing from piety) of divine consolation, if probity of character, endurance of harsh restraint, if majesty, pure goodness, and a bounteous hand: if all these were able to avoid the pallor-inducing, fulminating thunderbolts of fortune (which seek out mountains and holy places) she would not have died untimely, according to her fated destiny, nor would her effigy be made sorrowful with mourning genii [winged cherubs].

Mistress of Scotland by law, of France by marriage, of England by expectation, thus blest, by a three-fold right, with a three-fold crown; happy, ah, only too happy, had she routed the tumult of war, and, even at a late hour, won over the neighbouring forces. But she perished that she might possess the land: now she triumphs by death, that her stock might thereafter burgeon with fresh fruits. Conquered, she was unconquerable, nor could the dungeon detain her; slain, yet deathless, imprisoned, yet not a prisoner. Thus does the pruned vine groan with a greater abundance of grapes, and the cut jewel gleams with a brilliant splendour. So seeds, lying hidden through many days, gradually spring up from the fruitful earth. With blood did Jehovah ratify his covenant with his people, with blood did our fathers propitiate the divine powers; with blood were sprinkled those household gods who anger was assuaged; with blood has the land been stained which lately had yielded. Forbear, O God, it is enough: put an end to these unutterable woes. May the day of [their own] death swoop upon the death-dealers. May it be forbidden to slaughter monarchs, that henceforward the land of Britain may never more flow with purple blood. May this precedent of the violent murder of the anointed Queen come to naught; may the instigator and perpetrator rush headlong to destruction. Should she, after her own death, be vindicated by all the well-disposed, then executioners, tortures, gaols and gallows, all would cease. The Queen accomplished that journey which the heavenly powers allotted. God bestowed happy times, hard times. She gave birth, fate being propitious, to the excellent James, whom Pallas [Athena], the Muses, Diana, and the Fates revere. Great in marriage, greater still in lineage, greatest of all in her progeny, here lies buried the daughter, bride and mother of kings. God grant that her sons, and all who are descended from her, may hereafter behold the cloudless days of eternity. Mourning, I wrote this H.N [Henry, Earl of Northampton].

Christ suffered also for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.
1.Pet[er].2.21.

Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.
1.Pet.2.22 [actually verse 23]

 

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Their Name Liveth Forever More

Military Stones are uniformly plain and simple with little decoration which is in complete opposition to the purpose of honoring a life freely given to uphold the ideals of others.
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He answered his country’s call

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is an organization whose principal function is to mark, record and maintain the graves and places of commemoration of military service members who died in the two World Wars. The principles of CWGC are:

  • Each of the dead should be commemorated by name on the headstone or memorial.
  • Headstones and memorials should be permanent
  • There should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed

Cemeteries with over 1,000 burials have a Stone of Remembrance to commemorate those of all faiths and no faith. The Cross of Sacrifice is placed in any cemetery with over 40 graves. Most CWGC cemeteries have a bronze registry box which contains a registry of burials and a plan of the cemetery. The box also contains a visitors’ book.

His duty done

Graves in CWGC cemeteries are arranged in straight rows marked by uniform headstones, rectangular in shape with a slightly arched top. Headstones with cut corners identify military personnel who served in the war but did not die in conflict. The original headstone dimensions were 76 cm. tall, 38 cm. wide and 7.6 cm. thick. This solid shape and the use of marble or granite are essential in maintaining a permanent memorial.

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Each headstone is inscribed with the national emblem or regimental badge.
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To honor the award of the Commonwealth’s highest military decoration, the religious denomination (cross, etc.) is replaced with the Victoria Cross emblem.

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The rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty is inscribed using standard uppercase lettering without punctuation. A more personal dedication may be chosen by relatives.

Oh for a glimpse of the grave where you’re laid only to lay a flower at your head.

Christian headstones are inscribed with a cross, and Jewish headstones display the Star of David.

Burials of military personnel prior to 1918 are identified with symbols. Artillery, such as cannons or a rifle, on a gravestone usually represents military service.  A flag is often found on veterans’ graves signifying patriotism.
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A soldier on a horse is also representative of a soldier’s grave. If the horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If only one leg is raised, he died as a result of wounds; and if the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person probably died of natural causes.
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And when he gets to Heaven,
To Saint Peter he will tell:
‘Just another soldier reporting, Sir.
I’ve served my time in Hell.’

Unknown Warrior’s Tomb, Westminster Abbey, London
A few feet inside the main entrance, at the far western end of the nave, is a black marble tombstone permanently surrounded by a border of greenery and poppies. It is the only gravestone in the Abbey that may not be walked upon, and contains the remains of an unidentified soldier of the first world war.

The remains of the unknown soldier were laid to rest in a solemn national ceremony on Armistice Day (November 11), 1920, in a service attended by King George V and his family. The following year, the US government announced that it was awarding its highest military decoration – the Congressional Medal of Honor – to the man whose remains are buried here. That medal may be seen today in a frame hanging on a pillar a little way from the tomb.
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Engraved with brass from melted down wartime ammunition, the full text of its inscription reads:
Beneath this stone rests the body
of a British warrior
unknown by name or rank
brought from France to lie among
the most illustrious of the land
and buried here on Armistice Day
11 Nov 1920, in the presence of
His Majesty King George V
his ministers of state
the chiefs of his forces
and a vast concourse of the nation.
Thus are commemorated the many
multitudes who during the Great
War of 1914 – 1918 gave the most that
Man can give life itself
For God
for King and country
for loved ones home and Empire
for the sacred cause of justice and
the freedom of the world
They buried him among the kings
because he
had done good toward God and
toward
His house