London – St. Margaret’s Church

St. Margaret’s Church, open till four except on a Saturday, is interesting not only for its architectural beauty, but for its many associations, and since 1916 it has had a deepened interest for the British Dominions beyond the Seas, as it was then created their parish church.

Pepys, who simply refuses to be left out of anything, was married here to his pretty wife, of whom he was so proud that she need not have been jealous of Mrs. Knipp.

In the chancel lies Sir Walter Raleigh, buried in St. Margaret’s after his execution in front of Westminster Palace in 1618, Admiral Blake lies in the churchyard, and there is a fine window in his honour on the north side.

The celebrated east window has had a career that is not without its comic side. It was originally sent over to England by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain as a betrothal gift to Prince Arthur, the eldest son of Henry VII, with whom they had arranged the marriage of their daughter Catherine.

Before the window arrived the bridegroom had died, and Henry VIII., who married the bride, did not want a window with a portrait of Prince Arthur and Catherine. He sent it to Waltham Abbey, and from that time its history is a moving one.

At the dissolution of the monasteries, the last abbot sent the window to New Hall in Essex, later bought by the Villiers family, who buried it. At the Restoration General Monk set it up again till its next owner took it down, and had the window packed away in a case till he found a purchaser for fifteen guineas. In 1758 the churchwardens of St. Margaret’s bought back the window for four hundred guineas, but its troubles were not ended.

The Dean and Chapter of Westminster thought the window a superstitious image, and it was only after a lawsuit lasting seven years that the churchwardens were allowed to keep their window.

As usual, I have not told of half the beauty and interest of this fifteenth-century parish church, only of enough, I hope, to make a reader go and discover the rest for himself, but let him take thought to go before four o’clock and not on a Saturday.