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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
St George's: Chapel of kings
St George's Chapel, Windsor
The Queen Mother's final journey ends with her interment in a simple tomb at St George's Chapel, Windsor. BBC News Online looks at the eventful 500-year history of this most regal of ecclesiastical buildings.

The Queen's Free Chapel of St George within Her Castle of Windsor, to give it its official title, is so steeped in history that it is difficult to know where to begin to describe it.

Exterior of St George's Chapel
The chapel dates back to 1475
First and foremost, with its broad windows and elaborately-carved fan-vaulted ceilings, the chapel is one of the finest examples of that uniquely English architectural style, "perpendicular" Gothic.

It is "free" inasmuch as it is not overseen by an archbishop or bishop. It is, instead a "Royal Peculiar": the Dean of Windsor is its chaplain and he is responsible only to the sovereign.

Beyond this, it is the spiritual home of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Britain's senior order of chivalry, founded in 1348 by Edward III.

The Queen and the Princess Royal in their Garter robes
The Garter Service takes place at the chapel each June
The Knights of the Garter, whose numbers include Baroness Thatcher, conqueror of Everest Sir Edmund Hillary and the Emperor of Japan, meet there each June and process through the castle precincts before holding their annual service in the chapel.

Each knight, of which there are 25, has his or her individual stall in the choir, decorated with their helmet, sword and banner.

After death, these are removed and all that remains is a brass stall plate. The chapel boasts 750 of these plates, the earliest dating back to about 1390.

Windsor Castle, one of the oldest and largest fortresses in the world, was originally a wooden building, completed around 1070 as an operational military stronghold.

Prince Edward marries Sophie Rhys-Jones in June 1999
It was the scene for the Wessex's wedding in 1999
The chapel itself was commissioned by Edward IV in 1475 and he became the first monarch to be buried there in 1483. The building work was completed in 1528, when Henry VIII's plan to complete the chapel's vaulting was concluded.

St George's is the final resting place of 10 sovereigns, including Charles I, George III and IV and all three 20th century kings. Queens Alexandra and Mary, consorts of Edward VII and George V respectively, lie there as does Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII.

More recently the chapel has witnessed happier occasions, most notably the wedding of the Earl and Countess of Wessex in June 1999.

But it is also a working church, usually open to the public, who are free to attend the weekday and Sunday services.

The tomb of George VI
The Queen Mother will lie in a side chapel beside her beloved husband
In contrast to the splendour of the rest of the building, the George VI Memorial Chapel, where the Queen Mother together with the ashes of Princess Margaret has been interred next to the late king, is an understated place, with a simple marble slab covering the tomb.

It is here, next to her beloved husband Bertie, that the remarkable century-long story of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, last Empress of India, draws to its close.


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