Today was a very full day with lots of walking and lots of sight-seeing. To begin with, we went to Westminster Abbey, which ties with the Tower of London as my favorite place to see in London.
Westminster Abbey is stunningly beautiful in architecture and style. Although most famously known as the church for royal weddings (i.e. William and Kate) and funerals (i.e. Diana, Princess of Wales), and a shrine for the tombs of many famous kings, queens, writer's poets, and the Unknown Soldier, etc., it is also still a working church, offering masses daily and executing a prayer overhead every hour, on the hour. Yet, it houses scores of tourists every day, and although I could have spent a lot more time in the Abbey, I had to "go with the flow" of the tourist lines and felt a bit hurried past things of great interest to me. That said, however, we did the audio tour, followed our map, and I, for one, had an amazing visit.
Although a huge tourist draw, I still found Westminster to be serene, mournful and celestial. I was most moved at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the tombs of Elizabeth I, Mary I and Mary Queen of Scots, having read biography after biography about these women for many years. But, before I delve into my thoughts about their resting places, allow m to backtrack.
As you probably know, I write novels for hobby and very little profit (LOL!). In my novel, "A Lonely Sky" the hero, Sam, takes the heroine, Julia on a tour of Westminster Abbey. It's in the folding chair area near the cloisters where they nearly kiss (they don't.) Sam was based on the actor Jeremy Irons (in his younger years of course). Imagine my surprise to put on my headphones for the walking audio tour, and the narroator is none other than Jeremy Irons! Cosmic, eeirie, karma, whatever. Then to actually see the place my characters once sat..okay, maybe only a writer understands this part, but it gave me the chills. Anyhow if you want to read it for yourself, my novel is on sale at Amazon.com (This is the first edition and I want to go back and do some editing on it, but it's still a lovely, sad love story...shameless plug, I know!)
Besides writing for hobby, I am an avid reader, mostly of anything to do with English History, the Tudor era, being my favorite. So, I am quite knowledgeable regarding the lifetimes of Henry VIII, all his wives, lovers, relatives and his children, Elizabeth I, Mary I, Edward (and his bastard children as well) and their cousin Mary Queen of Scots. So, to walk through Westminster and stand beside the tombs of EI, MI and MQS was awe-inspiring. They finally felt like real figures in history and not just people I'd only read about in books.
Now, if you'll forgive me, I have another aside for you. When you enter the small room off one of the larger chapels, you find the tombs of Elizabeth I and Mary I who were sisters. Mary reigned first, for five years, and then her successor was her younger sister, Elizabeth. During the course of their lives (and Mary was many years older than Elizabeth) they were at odds with each other for various reasons, in fact, Mary had Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower for a spell! Elizabeth was the child of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, the woman who caused Henry VIII to divorce Mary's mother, Katherine of Aragon, and declare Mary a bastard (Henry would later do the same to Elizabeth when he wanted to marry Jane Seymour, but in the end, he reinstated both his daughters back into his will.) Mary and Elizabeth were different religions as well, and it was with great reluctance that, upon her death, Mary acknowledged Elizabeth as her true successor. (The pics below were computer picture. No pictures were allowed to be taken inside the Abbey).
|Mary I gets a head effigy in the Abbey Museum|
|Mary Queen of Scots Effigy|
So, knowing this background, imagine my surprise and curiosity when I entered their chapel and discover only an effigy to Elizabeth, but Mary is also buried with her in the tomb. I need to do further reading as to how this all came about, because I'm sure neither sister would have wished to be buried with the other, and Mary would have had a FIT that she has no effigy of her own, yet is buried under Elizabeth's! I felt a bit indignant for her myself!
But the blog is getting long, so let's move on. Suffice to say Mary, Queen of Scots had her own tomb and didn't have to share, and I felt equally in awe to stand beside it.
Other places of note at Westminster are:
The Grave of the Unknown Soldier
The High Alter where Diana's coffin rested during her funeral service.
St. Margaret's Chapel, which is built alongside the Abbey. Sir Walter Raleigh is buried there, and you'll also find a beautiful stained glass window that Henry VIII had built for his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, who he then later divored in favor of Anne Boleyn who he later had behead in favor of Jane Seymour.
I'll end this blog here, but the day continued and that will be in the next blog. Enjoy the pictures!
|St. Margaret's Church (Abbey is on the right)|
Next up: Touring the city, Buckingham Palace and St. James Park!