Arctic connections to Westminster Abbey

London church contains memorials to early Arctic explorers



When Prince William and Kate Middleton married today in Westminster Abbey, they were in good company. That’s because London’s famous medieval abbey has many historical ties to Canada.

Westminster Abbey is both a national church and a national tomb.

“We have just over 3,000 people actually buried in the abbey and cloisters,” says Christine Reynolds, the abbey’s assistant keeper of muniments (records).

Slightly more than 600 of these departed souls have memorials. Other monuments and tablets recall people buried elsewhere.

Among the who’s who in the abbey:

* Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), who disappeared in 1845 trying to discover Northwest Passage through Canada’s arctic. The monument in the St. John Chapel owes much to his widow who led a 12-year effort to discover his fate. His epitaph, penned by Tennyson, reads: “Not here: The white north has thy bones; and thou, heroic sailor-soul, art passing on thine happier voyage now toward no earthly pole;” and,

* Sir Francis Leopold McClintock (1818-1907), commemorated in the same chapel. He established Franklin’s fate in 1859 after discovering some remains of Franklin’s expedition near King William Island and earned the name “Arctic Fox.” Mc-Clintock was also famous for adopting Inuit dog sleds to get across the ice, which opened up polar exploration beyond the range of ships.

More Canadian connections can be found on the abbey’s website.

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