St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle is 72 meters (236 feet) long. This makes the term "chapel" slightly misleading as the building looks more like a cathedral.
Prince Philip's body was interred in a private chapel within St. George's Chapel after his death in 2021.
Now Queen Elizabeth's final resting place will be next to him after a private family ceremony on September 19. Windsor Castle was the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, where she lived with the Duke of Edinburgh for decades. St. George's Chapel is the place where many of the royal family have been married, christened or buried.
Harry and Meghan Markle were married there in front of 600 guests and their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, the Queen's great-grandson, was baptized in the castle chapel. Many members of the royal family are also buried there, including King Henry VIII.
In the early 13th century, King Henry III had the first chapel built there. In 1475, King Edward IV decided to build a larger chapel but construction work dragged on for five decades so that the church stood without a roof until 1528. With its light sandstone, large windows and ornate flying buttresses, the chapel is considered one of the most important examples of late Gothic architecture in the world.
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The so-called "perpendicular style," with its strict horizontal and vertical lines, was typical of English cathedrals at the time. The 19th century saw extensive renovation work, and that's when the royal crypt, where Queen Elizabeth II is to be buried, was added.
The queen's knights
The most striking feature inside the church are the magnificently carved oak choir stalls for the knights of the so-called Order of the Garter. Above their seats hang the banners of current members, as well as the coats of arms of more than 700 former members of the order.
"It's an incredibly beautiful church but there's also something oppressive about it because of its medieval feel," said Julia Melchior, an expert on the history of the British royal family. "These heavy stones and this wood paneling, it really breathes the history of the English monarchy."
The knights of the Order of the Garter used St. George's Chapel for their ceremonies. The name of the chapel goes back to the military and national patron, St. George. Since 1833, the knights are also known as the Military Knights of Windsor. Prince Philip was a member of the order. "It is the most prestigious order in the kingdom and one of the most prestigious orders in Europe," Melchior said.
The queen was its grandmaster and appointed knights, mostly members of other royal houses. Now the duty falls to King Charles III. The order meets once a year in the sanctuary of St. George's.
Wedding at St. George's
The chapel seats 800 people but it is intended to host smaller, more intimate events. "It's more private there because onlookers can't quite get up close," Melchior said. "You can't go right up to the front of the chapel because there are castle walls around it."
It's a different situation in Westminster Abbey, in the heart of London, where anyone stepping out of the church would face thousands of people right outside the entrance door. The weddings and funeral ceremonies of monarchs and their direct heirs to the throne almost always take place in Westminster Abbey.
Prince William and Duchess Kate said "I do" there on April 29, 2011, surrounded by 1,900 guests. The wedding of the princes' parents — Prince Charles and Diana — was a real state event and took place at St. Paul's Cathedral. But Charles' second wedding, to Camilla Parker-Bowles, took place without much fuss in at St: George's Chapel.
Final resting place
Almost all of the royal family's funeral services have been held in St. George's Chapel. Even though Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, popularly known as the "Queen Mum," was publicly mourned in London, there was a family funeral service in Windsor Chapel.
Princess Diana, the divorced wife of Prince Charles, was not accorded that honor, with her funeral service taking place in Westminster Abbey. Many members of the royal family are buried in the private Royal Burial Ground cemetery at Frogmore, an estate on the grounds of Windsor Castle, named for the croaking frogs that live in the marshy area.
High-ranking family members including King George VI and his wife — the "Queen Mum" — and their daughter Margaret, the Queen's sister, are buried in St. George's Chapel. In a private family ceremony on September 19, the Queen's coffin will be lowered into the Royal Vault before being interred in the King George VI memorial chapel, located inside St George's Chapel. This will be the final resting place of the remains of the Queen, alongside those of her husband, Prince Philip.
Author Gaby Reucher
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