Skip to main content

In the Quire (where service is sung), seats are reserved for the monarch and the monarch’s spouse. On the elbow (arm rest) of the spouse’s seat there’s an ornate carving of a goblin-like man “mooning,” with wonderfully well-polished buttocks.WPA Pool/WPA Pool/Getty Images

On May 19, all eyes will be on St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get hitched. The chapel – not really a chapel but a vast Gothic church with room for 800 people – dates from 1475 and is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Britain. Ten former monarchs are buried here, including Henry VIII, Charles I, Edward VII and George V – but perhaps all is not quite as decorous as it seems. Scratch below the surface and there are some surprising secrets to reveal.

Royal wedding reading list: What you should know before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day

Ten former monarchs are buried here at St. George's, including Henry VIII, Charles I, Edward VII and George V.WPA Pool

  1. In the Quire (where service is sung), seats are reserved for the monarch and the monarch’s spouse. On the elbow (arm rest) of the spouse’s seat there’s an ornate carving of a goblin-like man “mooning,” with wonderfully well-polished buttocks.
  2. Further in to the Quire, the stalls lift up to reveal intricately oak-carved misericords (basically medieval shelves for one’s bottom) that date from 1478-85. The designs range from biblical to humorous (a pig playing the bagpipes) to downright vulgar. The carving of a monk’s excrement morphing into a demon is understandably not on the official tour.
  3. There’s a fine example of 15th-century “CCTV” found in an ornate piece of stonework in the ceiling of the south Quire – a hidden window in a secret room built by a devout and rather miserly Henry VI, who liked to keep an eye on the alms boxes just below.
  4. Henry VIII isn’t actually buried directly underneath his ledger stone, nor in a grand royal tomb as he planned. Instead, he lies further back in a small crypt in a broken coffin, which legend says exploded because of a build-up of methane gas.
  5. No wonder, then, that poor Henry VIII is purported to wander the cloisters of the chapel, dragging his gout-ridden leg and groaning in pain. He may be on his way to meet his former queen Anne Boleyn, who is also said to haunt a room overlooking the Dean’s Cloister.
  6. Outside, the chapel is encircled by grotesques – weird and wonderful stone figures –with a couple that may cause wedding guests to blink – a mouse with a human ear grafted onto its back; and a fish with a human head à la The Shape of Water – recently commissioned to replace eroding medieval originals.
  7. And should Meghan Markle have second thoughts, there is a handy sally port (secret trap door) just behind St. George’s Chapel, which leads to a tunnel wide and high enough to flee through on horseback.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct