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Westminster Abbey, United Kingdom Royalty's Church of Choice for 1,000 Years
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, center left in orange, arrive to attend the ninth Inauguration of the General Synod at Westminster Abbey, London Nov. 23, 2010. Prince William and Kate Middleton will marry April 29 in Westminster Abbey, the historic London church where Princess Diana's funeral was held. Royal officials said Tuesday that the couple chose the venue for its beauty, intimacy and historic royal connections. AP Photo/Dan Kitwood.
LONDON (AP).- Westminster Abbey has been at the religious heart of the English — and later British — monarchy for some 1,000 years, regularly hosting coronations and funerals. Unusually, the church is a "royal peculiar," which means it belongs directly to the sovereign. Weddings at the abbey have been more irregular, although Prince William's grandmother Queen Elizabeth II and his great grandmother were both married there.

Here is a brief history of the storied church, which is officially known as the Collegiate Church of St. Peter, Westminster.

—Around 960: St. Dunstan, the bishop of London, sets up a religious community on Thorney Island, a swampy area on the banks of the River Thames.

—1066: William the Conqueror is crowned king in the abbey on Christmas Day.

—1245: Henry III decides to build a new abbey on the site, one modeled on the imposing gothic cathedrals of Europe. He would become one of 17 monarchs buried there.

—1300: Edward I orders the construction of the abbey's coronation chair — used in every coronation since the 14th century.

—1838: Queen Victoria, Britain's longest-reigning monarch, is crowned in a five-hour ceremony.

—1919: Princess Patricia of Connaught, Victoria's granddaughter, marries Alexander Ramsay at the abbey — the first royal wedding held there in more than six hundred years.

—1953: Queen Elizabeth II is crowned in the first televised coronation. She had married Prince Philip of Greece at the church six years earlier.

—1997: Princess Diana's funeral service is held at Westminster Abbey, a ceremony watched by millions.

—2010: Buckingham Palace announces plans for Prince William to marry Kate Middleton at the abbey on April 29, 2011.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Westminster Abbey | Elizabeth II | British Monarchy |

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