Has been the setting for the coronation of English monarchs since 1066, when William the Conqueror was crowned in the new church of Edward the Confessor, perhaps to underline continuity; from Henry III to George II sixteen monarchs were buried there. The present abbey was begun by Henry III in 1245 and was much influenced by contemporary French styles: it is the highest of great English medieval churches and therefore seems narrow. The body of Edward the Confessor was moved there in 1269.
The abbey's close connection with the monarchy saved it from the fate of most other abbeys at the Reformation. Though it suffered from the iconoclasts of the 1640s, its prestige helped it during the Commonwealth: Cromwell was given an elaborate funeral in the abbey, only to be disinterred in January 1661. Wren began the work of restoring the fabric of the abbey after years of neglect but not until 1745 were the western towers completed, to the design of Nicholas Hawksmoor. Among the host of memorials, the most moving is that which commemorates the dead of the Great War, a brass to a ‘British warrior, unknown by name or rank’.