The Abbey seats only 2000 people.

Charles & Diana's wedding in 1981 was held at St Paul's which seats almost twice the number - for that reason.

At the Queen's Coronation in 1953, the Abbey seating was extended by adding tiers to accommodate 8,000 people. Presumably it is not possible to do that while meeting modern health & safety standards. It also delayed the Coronation, which was held 16 months after the Queen's accession.

Given that the leaders of all European nations, all crowned heads of Europe, President Biden, the government leaders of all Commonwealth countries, apart from other international leaders, Members of Parliament, as well as family, palace staff etc. will want to attend, I am amazed they are not using St Paul's.

Does anyone have any thoughts as to why that might be?

  • 6
    My first guess when it comes to matters relating to a royal house would be "tradition". Wikipedia only mentions the place of burial for the preceeding Kings George V. and George VI. but not the place of the funeral service. So anyone more knowledgable might share where previous funeral services were held.
    – Dohn Joe
    Sep 12, 2022 at 8:14
  • Can we consider questions on the queen on topic for the politics SE when she is not a political figure?
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 12, 2022 at 20:32
  • 13
    @NeilMeyer How are you defining a "political figure"?
    – WS2
    Sep 12, 2022 at 21:44
  • @DohnJoe - Same. The entire reason the monarchy still exists is tradition. If they don't follow that, they have nothing.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 14, 2022 at 15:26
  • 2
    @NeilMeyer - Isn't this literally a State Funeral?
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 14, 2022 at 15:27

4 Answers 4


There isn’t any reason in law - it’s up to the highest-ranking peer in the realm, the Duke of Norfolk, to organise the Queen’s funeral as part of his duties as Earl Marshal. Presumably, then, it’s being held in Westminster Abbey in accordance with the wishes of the Queen. The Dean of Westminster also noted the following, which seems to explain the choice further:

The church in which she was married and in which her coronation took place, the Abbey was witness to promises that defined the life of our faithful and devoted Queen. In deep gratitude and in deep sorrow we will give thanks to God for the service she gave to God, nation and Commonwealth. We pray now, and in the days ahead, for our new King and for his family. God save the King.

It was also reported in 2008 that the Queen had wanted Prince Philip to agree to a funeral at the Abbey, but that he had refused and opted for a more private affair at Windsor.

In addition to being the location in which she married Philip in 1947, and was crowned in 1953, it also held the funeral of her mother in 2002, as well as a thanksgiving service for the life of her husband after his funeral at Windsor in 2021.

  • 6
    I did also wonder if there were police considerations. Some say the funeral will involve the biggest event-security operation ever arranged in Britain, with millions on the streets, and Biden plus scores of other world leaders present. Perhaps taking in St Paul's, on the other side of London, may have complicated too far the policing operation.
    – WS2
    Sep 12, 2022 at 7:46
  • 6
    It's an interesting question about the policing. Although the police may not want to discuss the topic of policing in too much detail, for security reasons. Westminster Abbey is near Parliament, which has a lot of police facilities including anti-terrorism and armed officers. St Paul's is in the City of London police's area rather than the Metropolitan police. Although as the OP says, big events have been held at St Paul's and in the City of London (the square mile around St Paul's).
    – Stuart F
    Sep 12, 2022 at 8:50
  • 1
    @StuartF Royalty and Diplomatic Protection is the preserve of the Metropolitan Police, wherever in the UK it is needed. This probably originated from budgetary considerations (only one force needs to be compensated for this significant effort, which is concentrated in London) but the Met is the largest UK force and now the most experienced in this field. Sep 12, 2022 at 15:29
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    @GaryCarlyleCook There are certainly special considerations for a monarch visiting/entering the City of London. "Officially" they have to wait at the boundary (which is marked on all major entrance roads to The City, with the dragon and shield), where they are met by the Lord Mayor of London, and escorted in. I don't know the background to this though.
    – le Pusscat
    Sep 12, 2022 at 16:26
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    @lePusscat The place at which the monarch halts and awaits escort into the City is Temple Bar, which is where the Strand becomes Fleet Street. This Wki article tells you all about the history dating back to the 13th century
    – WS2
    Sep 12, 2022 at 21:55

In the short term, the reason that the late Queen's funeral is being held at Westminster Abbey is that the plan says it will be.

Sam Knight's excellent article in the The Guardian, which has been right on every detail to date, assumes without further explanation that the funeral would be held at the Abbey. Planning for this ceremony has been undertaken for over half a century and the location must surely have been one of the first decisions taken, because so much depends upon it. Rewriting almost the entire plan at short notice, with many of the key figures being grief-stricken and busy at other events, would be an extremely risky decision.

Of course, that raises the long-term question of why Westminster Abbey is the place in the plan. That is answered by CDJB's post, and Stuart F's important comment to it about policing.

I would add a couple of minor points to their overview. Firstly, the coffin will lie in state at Westminster Hall, so moving it the 200 metres or so to the Abbey is surely less complicated than moving it through the West End to St Paul's, on a day when security resources are already stretched to the limit. Secondly, there is an ecclesiastical difference between St Paul's and Westminster Abbey. St Paul's is the cathedral of London and primarily exists to serve the spiritual needs of that city. Westminster Abbey is a Royal Peculiar - it stands outside the parish system and is part of no diocese. So it has come to specialize in hosting events of national significance. If you're going to close a church building for ten days without notice, it's probably less disruptive to close the Abbey than a diocesan cathedral, as many of the senior cathedral staff are double-hatted and also have diocesan responsibilities. I doubt that either of these points were conclusive though.

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    I think geography is the big issue. I feel certain that the ecclesiatical ones could have been overcome, as they were for the Charles & Diana wedding. But it must simplify the policing to contain the VIP presence within a short radius of Westminster Hall.
    – WS2
    Sep 13, 2022 at 14:24

There is no legal reason why the late Queen's funeral has to be at Westminster Abbey (formally it is actually the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster).

It is purely tradition but one unlike any seen anywhere else.

Since 1066 every English and later British monarch has been crowned at Westminster Abbey. It has gone on for so long that it is unthinkable for it to be otherwise. To be crowned elsewhere would potentially raise questions as to whether one was really the monarch.

Virtually every monarch between 1066 and the late 18th century was buried at the Abbey. There are some notable exceptions such as those that were deposed. Since the late 18th century such funerals have been held at the Abbey but many monarchs have chosen to be interred elsewhere. St Georges Chapel is the current preference of the House of Windsor.

To be afforded a funeral at the Abbey is considered the greatest honour that the state can bestow. This will be why the late Queen tried so hard to persuade her husband to agree to such a funeral. Changing the location so that more people can be accommodated doesn't really come into it.

I note that some people have suggested that it is because the late Queen wished it so, that this is what the plan says and that the Earl Marshall has made the choice. In fact it is because the new King as head of state has decided that it will be so. It is actually he that signs off on every stage of the arrangements and he has decided to abide by the late Queens wishes.

  • +1 but the answer would benefit from one or two citations e.g. that King Charles had "decided to abide by the late Queen's wishes". I have deleted the sentence in my question which says that funerals of monarchs are normally held at Windsor - as this is obviously an error.
    – WS2
    Sep 15, 2022 at 7:31

It may have something to do with the complicated relationship between the Royal Family and the City of London, where St Pauls is located. A long story short is that the City of London has a strange quasi-independence and privilege above other parts of the UK, especially with regards to the Crown - the City actually predates the monarchy and the United Kingdom, and has never been formally under the Crown's control.

The symbolism of a major royal event in the part of the country which is ceremonially independent from the Crown is probably seen as distinctly inappropriate. The monarch can't even enter the City without permission and a special ceremony from the Lord Mayor of London (not to be confused with the Mayor of London!).

(I do find it confusing that Charles & Diana were married there but perhaps because he was a prince it was less of an issue?)

More information here:

https://www.ft.com/content/7c8f24fa-3aa5-11e4-bd08-00144feabdc0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrObZ_HZZUc

  • Well there's a piece of oddball trivia to file away in the recesses of my head (The monarch can't even enter the City without permission and a special ceremony from the Lord Mayor of London)
    – Flydog57
    Sep 14, 2022 at 16:05
  • TIL that the Lord Mayor of London ≠ the Mayor of London, TY!
    – davidbak
    Sep 14, 2022 at 16:58

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