26-Apr-1882: Charles Darwin buried in Westminster Abbey

Darwin’s funeral

The funeral ceremony of Charles Darwin at Westminster Abbey, 26 April 1882.
Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

On 26th April 1882, Charles Darwin was buried in Westminster Abbey. How this honour came about is described by his son Francis Darwin in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin:

THE FUNERAL IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY

On the Friday succeeding my father’s death, the following letter, signed by twenty members of Parliament, was addressed to Dr. Bradley, Dean of Westminster:—

HOUSE OF COMMONS, April 21, 1882.

Very Rev. Sir,

We hope you will not think we are taking a liberty if we venture to suggest that it would be acceptable to a very large number of our fellow-countrymen of all classes and opinions that our illustrious countryman, Mr. Darwin, should be buried in Westminster Abbey.

We remain, your obedient servants,

JOHN LUBBOCK, NEVIL STOREY MASKELYNE, A.J. MUNDELLA, G.O. TREVELYAN, LYON PLAYFAIR, CHARLES W. DILKE, DAVID WEDDERBURN, ARTHUR RUSSEL, HORACE DAVEY, BENJAMIN ARMITAGE, RICHARD B. MARTIN, FRANCIS W. BUXTON, E.L. STANLEY, HENRY BROADHURST, JOHN BARRAN, F.J. CHEETHAM, H.S. HOLLAND, H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN, CHARLES BRUCE, RICHARD FORT.

The Dean was abroad at the time, and telegraphed his cordial acquiescence.

The family had desired that my father should be buried at Down: with regard to their wishes, Sir John Lubbock wrote:—

HOUSE OF COMMONS, April 25, 1882.

My dear Darwin,

I quite sympathise with your feeling, and personally I should greatly have preferred that your father should have rested in Down amongst us all. It is, I am sure, quite understood that the initiative was not taken by you. Still, from a national point of view, it is clearly right that he should be buried in the Abbey. I esteem it a great privilege to be allowed to accompany my dear master to the grave.

Believe me, yours most sincerely,

JOHN LUBBOCK. W.E. DARWIN, ESQ.

The family gave up their first-formed plans, and the funeral took place in Westminster Abbey on April 26th. The pall-bearers were:—

SIR JOHN LUBBOCK,
MR. HUXLEY,
MR. JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL (American Minister),
MR. A.R. WALLACE,
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE,
CANON FARRAR,
SIR J.D. HOOKER,
MR. W.M. SPOTTISWOODE (President of the Royal Society),
THE EARL OF DERBY,
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL.

The funeral was attended by the representatives of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, and by those of the Universities, and learned Societies, as well as by large numbers of personal friends and distinguished men.

The grave is in the North aisle of the Nave close to the angle of the choir-screen, and a few feet from the grave of Sir Isaac Newton. The stone bears the inscription—

CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN
BORN 12 FEBRUARY 1809
DIED 19 APRIL 1882

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks
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