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The first historic Abbey was built by King Edward the Confessor around 1045-1050. Its construction originated in King Edward's failure to keep a vow to go on a pilgrimage. It was consecrated on December 28, 1065. The Palace of Westminster became a powerful force in the centuries after the Norman Conquest. Henry III ordered the rebuilding of the Abbey in the Gothic style, to honour Edward the Confessor and as a regal setting for Henry's own tomb. The work continued over 200 years and was finished by the architect Henry Yevele. The Abbey was seized by Henry VIII and closed in 1540. It did not become a cathedral until 1550, its royal connections saved it from the destruction wrought on most other English abbeys. On the 29th of April 2011 Prince William and Catherine Middleton were wed in the Westminster Abbey

The expression "robbing Peter to pay Paul" may arise from this period when money meant for the Abbey, which was dedicated to St Peter, was diverted to the treasury of St Paul's Cathedral. Since the coronations in 1066 of both King Harold and William the Conqueror, all English monarchs have been crowned in the Abbey. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the traditional cleric in the coronation ceremony. St Edward's Chair, the throne on which British sovereigns are seated at the moment of coronation, is housed within the Abbey; from 1296 to 1996 the chair also housed the Stone of Scone upon which the kings of Scotland are crowned, but pending another coronation the Stone is now kept in Scotland.

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