Picture of Paul Hentzner

Paul Hentzner

places mentioned

Westminster and Whitehall

Next Selection Previous Selection

In the suburb to the west, joined to the city by a continual row of palaces belonging to the chief nobility, of a mile in length, and lying on the side next the Thames, is the small town of Westminster; originally called Thorney, from its thorn bushes, but now Westminster, from its aspect and its monastery. The church is remarkable for the coronation and burial of the Kings of England. Upon this spot is said formerly to have stood a temple of Apollo, which was thrown down by an earthquake in the time of Antoninus Pius; from the ruins of which Sebert, King of the East Saxons, erected another to St. Peter: this was subverted by the Danes, and again renewed by Bishop Dunstan, who gave it to a few monks. Afterwards, King Edward the Confessor built it entirely new, with the tenth of his whole revenue, to be the place of his own burial, and a convent of Benedictine monks; and enriched it with estates dispersed all over England.

In this church the following things are worthy of notice:

In the first choir, the tomb of Anne of Cleves, wife of Henry VIII., without any inscription.

On the opposite side are two stone sepulchres:

(1) Edward, Earl of Lancaster, brother of Edward I.; (2) Ademar of Valence, Earl of Pembroke, son of Ademar of Valence. Joining to these is (3) that of Aveline, Countess of Lancaster.

In the second choir is the chair on which the kings are seated when they are crowned; in it is enclosed a stone, said to be that on which the patriarch Jacob slept when he dreamed he saw a ladder reaching quite up into heaven. Some Latin verses are written upon a tablet hanging near it; the sense of which is:

That if any faith is to be given to ancient chronicles, a stone of great note is enclosed in this chair, being the same on which the patriarch Jacob reposed when he beheld the miraculous descent of angels. Edward I., the Mars and Hector of England, having conquered Scotland, brought it from thence.

The tomb of Richard II. and his wife, of brass, gilt, and these verses written round it:

Perfect and prudent, Richard, by right the Second,
Vanquished by Fortune, lies here now graven in stone,
True of his word, and thereto well renound:
Seemly in person, and like to Homer as one
In worldly prudence, and ever the Church in one
Upheld and favoured, casting the proud to ground,
And all that would his royal state confound.

Without the tomb is this inscription:

Here lies King Richard, who perished by a cruel death, in the year 1369.
To have been happy is additional misery.

Near him is the monument of his queen, daughter of the Emperor Wenceslaus.

On the left hand is the tomb of Edward I., with this inscription:

Here lies Edward I., who humbled the Scots. A.D. 1308. Be true to your engagements.

He reigned forty-six years.

The tomb of Edward III., of copper, gilt, with this epitaph:

Of English kings here lieth the beauteous flower
Of all before past, and myrror to them shall sue:
A merciful king, of peace conservator,
The third Edward, &c.

Besides the tomb are these words:

Edward III., whose fame has reached to heaven. A.D. 1377, Fight for your country.

Here is shown his sword, eight feet in length, which they say he used in the conquest of France.

His queen's epitaph:

Here lies Queen Philippa, wife of Edward III. Learn to live. A.D. 1369.

At a little distance, the tomb of Henry V., with this legend:

Henry, the scourge of France, lies in this tomb. Virtue subdues all things. A.D. 1422.

Near this lies the coffin of Catherine, unburied, and to be opened by anyone that pleases. On the outside is this inscription:

Fair Catherine is at length united to her lord. A.D. 1437. Shun idleness.

The tomb of Henry III., of brass, gilt, with this epitaph:

Henry III., the founder of this cathedral. A.D. 1273. War is delightful to the unexperienced.

It was this Henry who, one hundred and sixty years after Edward the Confessor had built this church, took it down, and raised an entire new one of beautiful architecture, supported by rows of marble columns, and its roof covered with sheets of lead, a work of fifty years before its completion. It has been much enlarged at the west end by the abbots. After the expulsion of the monks, it experienced many changes; first it had a dean and prebendaries; then a bishop, who, having squandered the revenues, resigned it again to a dean. In a little time, the monks with their abbot were reinstated by Queen Mary; but, they being soon ejected again by authority of parliament, it was converted into a cathedral church—nay, into a seminary for the Church—by Queen Elizabeth, who instituted there twelve prebendaries, an equal number of invalid soldiers, and forty scholars; who at a proper time are elected into the universities, and are thence transplanted into the Church and State.

Next to be seen is the tomb of Eleanor, daughter of Alphonso King of Spain, and wife of Edward I., with this inscription:

This Eleanor was consort of Edward I.
A.D. 1298. Learn to die.

The tomb of Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VII.

In the middle of this chapel is the shrine of St. Edward, the last King of the Saxons. It is composed of marble in mosaic: round it runs this inscription in letters of gold:

The venerable king, St. Edward the Confessor,
A heroe adorned with every virtue.
He died on the 5th of January, 1065,
And mounted into Heaven.
Lift up your hearts.

The third choir, of surprising splendour and elegance, was added to the east end by Henry VII. for a burying-place for himself and his posterity. Here is to be seen his magnificent tomb, wrought of brass and marble, with this epitaph:

Here lies Henry VII. of that name, formerly King of England, son of Edmund, Earl of Richmond, who, ascending the throne on the twenty-second day of August, was crowned on the thirtieth of October following at Westminster, in the year of our Lord 1485. He died on the twenty-first of April, in the fifty-third year of his age, after a reign of twenty-two years and eight months wanting a day.

This monument is enclosed with rails of brass, with a long epitaph in Latin verse.

Under the same tomb lies buried Edward VI., King of England, son of Henry VIII. by Jane Seymour. He succeeded to his father when he was but nine years old, and died A.T. 1553, on the 6th of July, in the sixteenth year of his age, and of his reign the seventh, not without suspicion of poison.

Mary was proclaimed queen by the people on the 19th of July, and died in November, 1558, and is buried in some corner of the same choir, without any inscription.

Queen Elizabeth.

Here lies Queen Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV., sister of King Edward V., wife of Henry VII., and the glorious mother of Henry VIII. She died in the Tower of London, on the eleventh of February, A.D. 1502, in the thirty-seventh year of her age.

Between the second and third choirs in the side-chapels, are the tombs of Sebert, King of the East Saxons, who built this church with stone: and of Margaret of Richmond, mother of Henry VII., grandmother of Henry VIII.; she gave this monastery to the monks of Winbourne,3 who preached and taught grammar all England over, and appointed salaries to two professors of divinity, one at Oxford, another at Cambridge, where she founded two colleges to Christ and to John His disciple. She died A.D. 1463, on the third of the calends of July.

And of Margaret, Countess of Lenox, grandmother of James VI., King of Scotland.

William of Valance, half-brother of Henry III.

The Earl of Cornwall, brother of Edward III.

Upon another tomb is an honorary inscription for Frances, Duchess of Suffolk. The sense of it is,

That titles, royal birth, riches, or a large family, are of no avail:
That all are transitory; virtue alone resisting the funeral pile.
That this lady was first married to a duke, then to Stoke, a gentleman;
And lastly, by the grave espoused to CHRIST.

The next is the tomb of Lord Russell, son of the Earl of Bedford, whose lady composed the following Greek and Latin verses, and had them engraved on the marble:—

How was I startled at the cruel feast,
By death's rude hands in horrid manner drest;
Such grief as sure no hapless woman knew,
When thy pale image lay before my view.
Thy father's heir in beauteous form arrayed
Like flowers in spring, and fair, like them to fade;
Leaving behind unhappy wretched me,
And all thy little orphan-progeny:
Alike the beauteous face, the comely air,
The tongue persuasive, and the actions fair,
Decay: so learning too in time shall waste:
But faith, chaste lovely faith, shall ever last.
The once bright glory of his house, the pride
Of all his country, dusty ruins hide:
Mourn, hapless orphans; mourn, once happy wife;
For when he died, died all the joys of life.
Pious and just, amidst a large estate,
He got at once the name of good and great.
He made no flatt'ring parasite his guest,
But asked the good companions to the feast.

Anne, Countess of Oxford, daughter of William Cecil, Baron Burleigh, and Lord Treasurer.

Philippa, daughter and co-heiress of John, Lord Mohun of Dunster, wife of Edward, Duke of York.

Frances, Countess of Sussex, of the ancient family of Sidney.

Thomas Bromley, Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth.

The Earl of Bridgewater,4 Lord Dawbney, Lord Chamberlain to Henry VII., and his lady.

And thus much for Westminster.

There are many other churches in this city, but none so remarkable for the tombs of persons of distinction.

Near to this church is Westminster Hall, where, besides the Sessions of Parliament, which are often held there, are the Courts of Justice; and at stated times are heard their trials in law, or concerning the king's patrimony, or in chancery, which moderates the severity of the common law by equity. Till the time of Henry I. the Prime Court of Justice was movable, and followed the King's Court, but he enacted by the Magna Charta that the common pleas should no longer attend his Court, but be held at some determined place. The present hall was built by King Richard II. in the place of an ancient one which he caused to be taken down. He made it part of his habitation (for at that time the Kings of England determined causes in their own proper person, and from the days of Edward the Confessor had their palace adjoining), till, above sixty years since, upon its being burnt, Henry VIII. removed the royal residence to Whitehall, situated in the neighbourhood, which a little before was the house of Cardinal Wolsey. This palace is truly royal, enclosed on one side by the Thames, on the other by a park, which connects it with St. James's, another royal palace.

In the chamber where the Parliament is usually held, the seats and wainscot are made of wood, the growth of Ireland; said to have that occult quality, that all poisonous animals are driven away by it; and it is affirmed for certain, that in Ireland there are neither serpents, toads, nor any other venomous creature to be found.

Near this place are seen an immense number of swans, who wander up and down the river for some miles, in great security; nobody daring to molest, much less kill any of them, under penalty of a considerable fine.

In Whitehall are the following things worthy of observation:—

  1. The Royal Library, well stored with Greek, Latin, Italian and French books; amongst the rest, a little one in French upon parchment, in the handwriting of the present reigning Queen Elizabeth, thus inscribed:—

To the most high, puissant, and redoubted prince, Henry VIII. of the name, King of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith; Elizabeth, his most humble daughter. Health and obedience.

All these books are bound in velvet in different colours, though chiefly red, with clasps of gold and silver; some have pearls and precious stones set in their bindings.

  1. Two little silver cabinets of exquisite work, in which the Queen keeps her paper, and which she uses for writing boxes.
  2. The Queen's bed, ingeniously composed of woods of different colours, with quilts of silk, velvet, gold, silver, and embroidery.
  3. A little chest ornamented all over with pearls, in which the Queen keeps her bracelets, ear-rings, and other things of extraordinary value.
  4. Christ's Passion, in painted glass.
  5. Portraits: among which are, Queen Elizabeth, at sixteen years old; Henry, Richard, Edward, Kings of England; Rosamond; Lucrece, a Grecian bride, in her nuptial habit; the genealogy of the Kings of England; a picture of King Edward VI., representing at first sight something quite deformed, till by looking through a small hole in the cover which is put over it, you see it in its true proportions; Charles V., Emperor; Charles Emanuel, Duke of Savoy, and Catherine of Spain, his wife; Ferdinand, Duke of Florence, with his daughters; one of Philip, King of Spain, when he came into England and married Mary; Henry VII., Henry VIII., and his mother; besides many more of illustrious men and women; and a picture of the Siege of Malta.
  6. A small hermitage, half hid in a rock, finely carved in wood.
  7. Variety of emblems on paper, cut in the shape of shields, with mottoes, used by the mobility at tilts and tournaments, hung up here for a memorial.
  8. Different instruments of music, upon one of which two persons may perform at the same time.
  9. A piece of clock-work, an Ethiop riding upon a rhinoceros, with four attendants, who all make their obeisance when it strikes the hour; these are all put into motion by winding up the machine.

At the entrance into the park from Whitehall is this inscription:—

The fisherman who has been wounded, learns, though late, to beware;
But the unfortunate Actaeon always presses on.
The chaste virgin naturally pitied:
But the powerful goddess revenged the wrong.
Let Actaeon fall a prey to his dogs,
An example to youth,
A disgrace to those that belong to him!
May Diana live the care of Heaven;
The delight of mortals;
The security of those that belong to her!5

In this park is great plenty of deer.

In a garden joining to this palace there is a JET D'EAU, with a sun-dial, which while strangers are looking at, a quantity of water, forced by a wheel which the gardener turns at a distance, through a number of little pipes, plentifully sprinkles those that are standing round.

3 This is a mistake; her epitaph says stipendia constituit tribus hoc coenobio monachis et doctori grammatices apud Wynbourne.

4 Sir Giles Dawbney; he was not Earl of Bridgewater, not a Lord.

5 This romantic inscription probably alluded to Philip II., who wooed the Queen after her sister's death; and to the destruction of his Armada.

Paul Hentzner, Travels in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (London: Cassell, 1892)

Next Selection Previous Selection