Tomb Of Henry III.
Tomb Of Edward III.
The Tomb Of Queen Elizabeth.
Surrounded by these royal tombs, stands one of the most interesting relics of antiquity to be found in any land. It is the celebrated Stone of Destiny on which the kings of Scotland had been crowned for centuries before it came into the possession of the English. Legend declares that it was the pillow on which the Hebrew patriarch, Jacob, laid his head when he beheld the vision of the celestial ladder; tradition, also, affirms that, before its advent into Scotland, it rested upon the Sacred Hill of Tara and formed the coronation seat of Irish kings; thence it was taken to the island of Iona, and it is possible that on this block of old red sandstone lay the head of St. Columba as he breathed his last upon that sacred isle. But it is certain that King Edward I. of England, in 1297, brought this coronation stone from Scotland and placed it in Westminster Abbey, ordering that it should be encased in a chair of oak. This was done, and it thrills one to remember, as he looks on this memorial of the past, that to all the previous associations connected with it has been added this: that in the chair enclosing it all of England's sovereigns have been crowned for the last six hundred years.
The Coronation Chair.
In recent years the burials in the Abbey have been marked with far less ostentatious monuments than formerly. Some who repose here have no monuments; but in the pavement, on the marble slabs that hide their precious dust, we merely-read their names. It is noticeable, too, that lengthy epitaphs are now usually omitted. Whether this is always a gain depends upon the taste of the composer. Thus, the inscription on the tomb of the poet Gay is utterly unsuited to the solemn features of the Abbey:
The Jenny Lind Tablet.
"Life is a jest, and all things show it; I thought so once, but now 1 know it".
While, on the other hand, one of the most beautiful and appropriate epitaphs I have ever read adorns the monument to the Arctic explorer, Sir John Franklin, who perished in the frozen North. Its concluding words are these: "This monument was erected by his widow, who, after long waiting and sending many in search of him, herself departed to seek and find him in the realms of light." It is only after a visit to Westminster that we can thoroughly appreciate the words of Dean Stanley, uttered just before his death: "As far as I understood what the duties of my office were supposed to be, in spite of every incompetence, I am yet humbly trustful that I have sustained before the mind of the nation the extraordinary value of the Abbey as a religious, national, and liberal institution." Extraordinary, indeed, seems the value of this edifice as we walk thoughtfully along what is known as the Aisle of Statesmen, and look upon the busts or statues of such men as Robert Peel, Lord Palmerston, William Pitt, Grattan, Canning, Fox, and Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield; and it must be inspiring to an Englishman to tread this storied pavement and realize what a heritage of undying glory has come down to him under their guidance in the slow, steady progress of the parliamentary principle. Now that the dust of the arena has cleared, the impartial critic sees that all those forensic gladiators, though at times mistaken, profited sooner or later by the lessons of experience; and, while considering first the glory of their own country, yet, in their recognition of that country's duties toward humanity, used their commanding oratory and constructive statesmanship for the development of a loftier standard of ideals and the diffusion of a higher civilization.
Sir John Franklin's Monument.
The National Treasury.