St. George’s Chapel is the site of the Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Harry’s brother, Prince William, did not get married there. William and Kate chose the much larger Westminster Abbey.
That has a lot of people wondering about the history of St. George’s Chapel. “St. George’s Chapel is a place of worship for The Queen and the Royal Family as well as a church serving the local community,” the Royal Family says, adding that the chapel was “built by kings, shaped by the history of the Royal Family.” Indeed, the bodies of Kings and Queens are buried there.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. King Henry VIII Completed the Chapel’s Construction
St. George’s Chapel was started and completed by different kings. However, one of England’s most famous Kings in history – Henry VIII – finished it.
“The construction of the Chapel was begun in 1475 by Edward IV and completed by Henry VIII in 1528,” according to the Royal Family. Indeed, Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, once watched services through a window at the chapel. “Founding of the College of St George and the Order of the Garter by King Edward III” occurred earlier, in the 1300s, a history of St. George’s says.
“Over the years, the interior of the Chapel has developed to commemorate key figures in Royal history and the history of the Chapel: the octagonal Bray Chapel is named after Sir Reginald Bray, friend of Henry VIII and benefactor of the Chapel; the simple tomb of Henry VI was once the focus of pilgrimages, and one of the oriel windows of Edward IV’s Chantry Chapel (below) was enlarged and reconstructed by Henry VIII so that Catherine of Aragon could watch the Order of the Garter services from it,” says the Royal Family.
2. The Chapel Is an Example of ‘Perpendicular Gothic’ Style
What is the architectural style of the chapel?
“The architecture represents one of the finest examples of ‘Perpendicular Gothic’ style in the country,” says the Royal Family. Brittanica.com explains that perpendicular gothic is the “phase of late Gothic architecture in England roughly parallel in time to the French Flamboyant style. The style, concerned with creating rich visual effects through decoration, was characterized by a predominance of vertical lines in stone window tracery, enlargement of windows to great proportions, and conversion of the interior stories into a single unified vertical expanse.”
There are older examples of it, though, with the oldest in England being the choir of Gloucester Cathedral, which dates to the 1300s, according to Brittanica.
3. Many Royal Weddings Have Taken Place at St. George’s Chapel
Starting with the reign of Queen Victoria, royal weddings frequently have taken place at the chapel. “The most recent Royal weddings include those of Peter Philips (son of the Princess Royal) and Autumn Phillips in 2008, and The Earl and Countess of Wessex in 1999,” the Royal Family reveals.
You can see a timeline with a history of the Royal Weddings held at St. George’s Chapel here. After Prince Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles, a service of Prayer and Dedication was held at St George’s Chapel. Several of Queen Victoria’s children chose St. George’s Chapel for their weddings.
4. Ten Sovereigns Are Buried at the Chapel
The chapel is also a burial ground, carrying the crypts of monarchs, including the father of Queen Elizabeth II. “Ten former Sovereigns are buried in St. George’s Chapel. Five are in two burial vaults beneath the choir; the other five are in tombs in the Chapel, including The Queen’s father, the late King on the George VI memorial Chapel,” the Royal Family says.
The Queen Mother is among those interred at St. George’s Chapel. You can see a list of the royals buried there here. The ashes of Princess Margaret, the current Queen’s sister, are also in the royal vault. Prince Philip’s mother is there too.
5. St. George’s Is the Chapel of the Order of the Garter
The chapel holds a special place in the Royal Family’s life. “St George’s is the Chapel of the Order of the Garter. In June there is usually a special service attended by The Queen and the other Knights and Ladies of the Order, who include other members of the Royal Family,” explains the Royal Family.
“On each side of the choir are the beautifully carved stalls of the Knights and Ladies of the Garter, constructed between 1478 and 1495. Above the stalls are the helmets, crests and banners of the present Knights and Ladies.”