Tomb of the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)

Explore St Paul's Cathedral - Virtual Tour

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Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, was laid to rest in St Paul's in a great ceremony on the eighteenth of November 1852.

It was one of the most spectacular public events in London in the nineteenth century.

The body of the dead military commander left his London home, Apsley House, in a vast procession which slowly passed through the streets of London, until arriving at the West End of St Paul's.

There the body was received by the Bishop and the Dean, with clergy and choir, at the West Door, and conducted to the central area under the Dome.

The pall was borne by eight of the most distinguished general officers who had survived the wars of their great commander. Henry H. Milman was Dean of St Paul's at this time, and it was at his suggestion that a state funeral should be held under the Dome, rather than in the Quire.

Special lighting was placed in the Dome, incorporating gas jets placed beneath the Whispering Gallery. Preparation time was desperately short, and, as the Dean himself tells us, it was all a bit of a scramble.

"The interior was to have been entirely dark, except for artificial light... But daylight was, from haste, but imperfectly excluded, and the solemn effect... was somewhat marred. On the morning of the funeral hundreds of workmen had to be dismissed from the Cathedral."
- Dean Milman

Tiers of temporary seating were constructed, to accommodate a congregation of 13,000, which crowded every available space.

Both Houses of Parliament attended in full, and a huge contingent of foreign and British dignitaries and civic authorities.

The service was the office of burial as found in the Prayer Book, accompanied by the music of Purcell and Croft.

The huge congregation was asked to repeat the Lord's Prayer - a sound which Dean Milman said was in the Biblical phrase 'like the roar of many waters'.

Then came the moment for the Duke's coffin to be lowered, through a hole specially made in the floor of the Cathedral, to the Crypt. This print shows it descending precariously towards the black sarcophagus of a previous arrival at the Cathedral: Admiral Nelson. In the Dean's words: "the gradual disappearance of the coffin, as it slowly sank into the vault below, was a sight which will hardly pass from the memory of those who witnessed it."

The Duke's body lies inside a massive sarcophagus of Cornish porphyry with gilt letters, which rests on a block of unpolished Peterhead granite, carved to show four sleeping lions. This was completed six years later, in 1858 by F.C. Penrose, who was also responsible for the four massive candlesticks which stand at its four corners, and the mosaic floor.