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King John’s effigy on his tomb in Worcester Cathedral Quire – The oldest royal effigy in England


Worcester Cathedral is one of very few places outside Westminster Abbey and Windsor, to house the tomb of an English monarch since the Norman Conquest. It was the specific request of King John to be buried at Worcester, a place for which he had great affection, as stipulated in his will written shortly before his death in October 1216. The cathedral still holds the original copy of his will.

Not only does Worcester Cathedral have the rare honour of housing a British monarch, but King John is also - literally - one of the cathedral’s most prominent features. For 800 years, the tomb of John has been situated before the high altar in what could not be a more central position.

To mark this significant anniversary, the cathedral is holding a service of commemoration at 4 pm on Sunday 16 October, the Sunday nearest the date of John’s death, to which all members of the public are warmly invited.

The service will be attended by the High Sheriff, Sir Nicholas Lechmere, and Her Majesty’s judges, as well as the lord lieutenant for Worcestershire, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Holcroft, and will include a number of special features: Professor Stephen Church of the University of East Anglia, whose most recent authoritative book on King John was published last year, will give an introductory address; the cathedral choir will sing a specially-commissioned piece by the talented young composer Piers Kennedy; the bishop of Worcester will deliver a sermon; and there will be an opportunity to lay flowers near John’s tomb, as a symbol of the dependence of all humanity on mercy and grace.

The Very Reverend Dr Peter Atkinson, dean of Worcester, said “This will be a historic occasion, not in order to glorify John, who was not a very glorious man. We shall, however, give him the remembrance due to his office as King of England; and we shall pray for the repose of his soul, which is the last duty we can give to any human soul, good or bad. And then, beginning next Tuesday, the Cathedral will ring with the words of Shakespeare in daily performances of his play King John, bringing those far off times to life.”

All members of the public are warmly welcome to attend the service at 4pm on Sunday 16th October.