A church with special status
In reality, Westminster Abbey is neither an abbey nor a cathedral. It is called Abbey because it was originally a monastic church of the Benedictines, and the Abbot of Westminster was an influential figure in the House of Lords. After Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539, the church was granted cathedral status - this saved the building from demolition. The Catholic Mary I gave the building back to the Benedictines, who promptly had to vacate the field after her death by orders of her Protestant successor, Elizabeth I. The Benedictines were forced to abandon the building. She gave the church the status of Royal Peculiar, with which it is directly subordinate to the monarchy and not to a bishop. Until today this special status has been preserved.