(Reuters) - Here are some facts about London’s Westminster Abbey where the marriage ceremony of Prince William and his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton will take place on April 29, 2011.
-- The Abbey became a popular venue for royal weddings when Princess Patricia of Connaught chose it for her marriage to the Honourable Alexander Ramsay in 1919.
-- It was the first time for 650 years that the Abbey had been used for a royal wedding.
-- Although St. Paul’s Cathedral was the venue for the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, Westminster Abbey was the venue for the funeral service of Diana in September 1997 just days after she was killed in a car crash in Paris.
-- In April 2002, the Queen Mother’s funeral service took place at Westminster Abbey. She died on March 30 at the age of 101.
-- Around 960 A.D Dunstan, Bishop of London, established a group of Benedictine monks on “Thorney Island,” an isolated marshy area of land on the banks of the River Thames.
-- Edward the Confessor built a new church on the site, which was consecrated in 1065. Edward died a few days after the consecration, was buried in the Abbey and later made a saint.
-- Henry III pulled down the whole church in 1245 (except the nave) and replaced it with the present Abbey in the pointed Gothic style of the period.
-- Since William the Conqueror every English sovereign has been crowned in the Abbey with the exception of Edward V and every British sovereign since the union of the English and Scottish Crowns in 1603, with the exception of Edward VIII.
-- Edward V was deposed and probably murdered by his uncle Richard III. Edward VIII abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Many kings and queens are buried near the shrine of Edward the Confessor or in Henry VII’s chapel.
-- The last sovereign to be buried in the Abbey was George II (died 1760); since then they have been buried at Windsor Castle.
-- The Abbey is crowded with the tombs and memorials of famous British subjects, including Isaac Newton, David Livingstone, and Ernest Rutherford.
-- Part of the south transept is known as Poets’ Corner and includes the tombs of Geoffrey Chaucer, Ben Jonson (who was buried upright), John Dryden, Robert Browning, and many others.
-- The north transept has memorials to British statesmen. The grave of the “Unknown Warrior,” whose remains were brought from Flanders, Belgium in 1920, is in the center of the nave near the west door.
Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit: