Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Westminster Abbey family connections! Alas, No Royal Wedding!

One trip to Westminster Abbey, and two family memories!

William Bill, DD, Dean of Westminster Abbey
engraving 1822 by Robert Grave
after a drawing by G. P. Harding.
Westminster Abbey will be the church where Prince William and Kate Middleton celebrate their wedding. It’s a leading tourist destination, and the site of many formal British celebrations, royal and civil. It has been an Abbey since about the year 600, with various buildings in same location. It was the coronation site for many kings, and many members of the royal family are buried there, as well as historical figures, poets and authors.

A member of my family tree became Dean of Westminster Abbey in 1550.  William Bill,  D. D.,  (Doctor of Divinity) died on 15 July 1561 and is buried in the chapel of St. Benedict inside the cloisters of Westminister complex. When we visited Westminster Abbey in 1997, we saw his tomb, decorated with a brass plaque. The inscription says: "Bill was himself a good man and a lover of virtue; he taught the learned and was himself learned. He was careful of his office and a teacher of probity. He accomplished many things well by speaking little. The country has lost a prudent and the Queen a faithful servant, and the poor man laments at his father's passing. And their Head has left three colleges mournful, a Head such as I deem they will not have again for a long time. Either I loved him too much while he lived, or he was a great loss to his country when he died.”

Brass Rubbing
of William Bill's tomb plaque
My cousin has a rubbing of this brass, hanging in his house in California.  Crayon and charcoal rubbings used to be popular tourist attractions at Westminster Abbey.  Now it is banned, but for a while they had a place where you could rub some replica brasses.  Most of the Deans buried there, and famous historical figures have brass or stove memorials inside Westminster Abbey or the cloister.  The last famous person to be buried at Westminster was Sir Laurence Olivier in 1991.  There is a complete list of the Abbots and Deans of Westminster at this link:

At the same time we were at Westminster, we were staying at the Girl Scout/Girl Guides house in London, Pax Lodge. It was also Thinking Day, 22 February 1997, which was the joint birthday of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, the founders of Scouting. Every year there is a big celebration for Thinking Day at Westminster Abbey, and we were lucky enough to get tickets in the VIP section since we were visiting from abroad. While I was watching the ceremony I was thinking of the marriage of Lady Diana and Prince Charles. This year everyone will be thinking of Prince William and his Kate.  It was a wonderful ceremony, full of pomp and music, attended by hundreds of Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, VIPs and even members of the royal family who had been scouts,  from all over the UK and all around the globe.  It was fun to see so many uniforms.  My daughter, exhausted from jet lag, promptly fell asleep and missed the whole thing!

At each Thinking Day service at Westminster, a wreath is laid on the memorial of
Sir Robert Baden-Powell and his wife, Olave Baden-Powell.

signed by Betty Clay, daughter of Baden-Powell

Yours truly back at Pax Lodge
 with Mrs. Betty Clay
who signed my invitation to
The Thinking Day and
Founder's Service at Westminster Abbey

This was our view of the main altar, by the West Entrance
This is where the Queen will be sitting for her grandson's wedding
and where Kate will make her entrance to marry her prince.  Same view!
For more information:

History of William Bill at the Westminster website

Wikipedia article about William Bill

Girl Guides UK Thinking Day page for 2011

A video from YouTube of the international team of young women from Pax Lodge visiting Westminster Abbey for World Thinking Day service 2010

My Blog Post about Thinking Day and our visit to Pax Lodge, when I met Betty Clay (daughter of Lord Robert Baden-Powell)

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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