ENGLAND....LAND OF KINGS AND QUEENS
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A FOGGY DAY....IN LONDON TOWN
It was five in the morning, and our first glimpse of dawn was from a perspective of 35,000 feet.  We saw a slice of red squeezing through the clouds, then a glimpse of blue water below, and then finally, the green of our land target: England. We landed at Gatwick amidst heavy fog with visibility of about 200 yards.  POOF!  We were in the land of Kings and Queens.
SUNRISE AT 35,000 FEET
LANDING AT GATWICK IN THE FOG
WESTMINSTER AND BIG BEN FROM THE RIVER THAMES
Old King Cole was a merry old soul,
   And a merry old soul was he
He called for his pipe, he called for his bowl
   And he called for his fiddlers three.


Few nations in history can lay greater claim to territorial conquests and cultural accumulations than can Great Britain, and even now, in the 21st century, it continues to expand its influence around the world. 

Housed first on a small part of a small island, off the coast of a relatively small collection of dukedoms and provinces (western Europe), the English ultimately came to hold properties in India, Hong Kong, South Africa, Egypt, Canada, United States, Western North America, Caribbean Islands, and Australia.  It was no exaggeration to say that the sun never set upon the English Empire throughout the 19th century. And today the sun never sets on the English Commonwealth.
WELLINGTON, ST. PAUL CATHEDRAL
"APHRODITE, " IN BRITISH MUSEUM
(FROM ROME)
EGYPTIAN OBELISK, 14 TONS, ONE PIECE (FROM EGYPT)
PHAROH SPHINX, BRITISH MUSEUM ( FROM EGYPT)
If one visits the British National Museum, one can find a cornucopia of imported cultural signatures from various parts of the world where England spent Imperial Time.  There, for example are the friezes that Lord Elgin pulled off of the Parthenon and brought home to England.  There is THE Rosetta Stone which allowed scholars to translate the Egyptian language.  There is the sculpture piece, “Aphrodite” brought from Rome and centered in a special room devoted to Roman/Greek sculpture.  There are mummies enough to suit every taste, along with the Coptic jars that are usually not talked about much (they contained the soft tissue organs removed from the body before treatment and wrapping).
LORD ELGIN'S LOOT FROM THE PARTHENON, BRITISH MUSEUM
THE ROSETTA STONE
BRITISH MUSEUM
This is a marvelous gathering place to review England’s past and to touch the physical evidence of its influence throughout the world. 

Yet, no brief visit to this museum or even the nation, indeed no lifetime of research into its history can easily summarize the reasons for this success.  But one thread of the fabric woven through a thousand years is the ability of the English to fit a monarchy into the emergence of representative government.

While the Kings and Queens of England have sometimes moved in new bloodline directions, sometime reaching out to distant relatives to replace dynasties worn down with time, it is nonetheless true that the mystique of blood conveyances have kept the “Throne” in the hands of continuity for almost 1,000 years.  Only the Catholic Church can offer a longer lineage. 

So, it does seem useful to concentrate on the careers of two English Kings as a way of illustrating the dynamics of personality, province and perspicacity of a nation that has traveled from absolute monarchy through the “time of Cromwell,” on to the political party system it supports today. 
Kings have rejected Catholicism in favor of the Church of England; they have confronted nobility, survived Civil War, acquiesced finally in the advent of parliamentary government, and after several hundred years spent attempting to control France, they moved on from their Anglo-Saxon spit of territory to an empire that literally spanned the globe.

If Kings are not fully responsible, they are certainly a major ingredient in this concoction of power, wealth and influence.  Knowing something about them, their inclinations, actions and failures, provides a continuity that allows a visitor, or a reader to feel both a physical and a mythical connection to the English past.

And for all of the jibber-jabber about the “Royals” and the current scandals that visit Buckingham Palace, history helps us to understand that in many, many respects, the Crown is as full of integrity and as solidly rooted in England today as it was in the time of William I.  When asked about that on a day when they are in a reflective mood, most Brits will agree, and in this age, a majority confers validity.
KING HENRY (TUDOR) VII
KING HENRY VIII
QUEEN ELIZABETH I
QUEEN ELIZABETH II
QUEEN VICTORIA
KING RICHARD III
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
ALL THE QUEEN'S HORSES AND ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN


Of course, since one is talking about power of an unusual sort, no English kingship is likely to be without controversy.  Every monarch has a story to tell and every story contributes to the larger blanket which England has draped over world affairs. 
So this story is essentially about three men: William I, The Conqueror, (1066-1087), the man who last successfully invaded England from across the English channel in 1066 A.D. (
Click Here For Reflection on this Accomplishment). 

Another Kingly presence is that of Edward III (1327-1377), a man whose long hold on the throne encompassed some of the major events of English history: The Hundred Years War, The Black Death, and the Origins of the Royal Order of the Garter,

In every story with mainline heroes, there has to be someone in the shadows; one who never occupies center stage but whose supporting role is essential to the main plot.  Our story has a man like that:

Sir John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III, co-regent to Richard II, father of Henry IV, and grandfather of Henry V.  Moreover, he is the link to the crown that allowed Henry Tudor to lay claim and win it, thus inaugurating the most successful line of kings in the history of the nation.

These two Kings, and John of Gaunt, are selected also because Linda traces her genealogical lines through her father, Henry (Mutt) Hannon, directly to all three of them.  That is to say, if they had not lived, she would not have lived, nor would she be living still, nor would I have married her, nor would I be sitting here writing about them.
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR
KING EDWARD III
So, keeping that in mind, let me tell you some stories about our travel to London in early December 2003.  We were there to look around the old neighborhood and see some of the stomping grounds of Linda’s “ancestors.”  This trip was something like revisiting Taft, but with a little more history and a little more polish. (Click Here to Visit Taft)

William, Duke of Normandy, although born illegitimate, achieved a claim to the English throne.  In 1066, with his hardy little army assembled in the province of Normandy (France), he sailed across the English Channel, defeating King Harold at Hastings, and altering the flow of western, indeed, of world history.

One might argue that William’s national political progeny (England and the United States) are still in the process of coalescing and integrating the results of his victory.  The stage is now world-wide; the technology is beyond anything William might have comprehended; but the purpose of protecting one culture and affecting another is still with us.  And the time-line from his success in 1066 can easily be traced to the English-American accords of 2003-2004.
 
Immediately following his success on the battlefield, William did something almost all English kings have done:

a. He had himself crowned sovereign in Westminster Abby, thus legitimizing his position.
b. He prepared to defend his victory, building a tower of defense near London overlooking the Thames (pronounced Tems) River and a castle at Windsor, a high point of land overlooking London.
c. Finally, he set about getting an accounting of all properties, livestock, holdings, wealth and persons in his little kingdom.
SIR JOHN OF GAUNT
FROM THE THAMES, THE WHITE TOWER
The King was in the counting house,
Counting out his money.
The Queen was in the parlor,
Eating bread and honey.


If he were going to be ruler, he needed to know over what he was ruling. And part of “knowing” was the ability to tax the population and fund his government.  Fittingly, William’s collection of data (now stored in the Public Records Office, London) has been called the Doomsday Book. Today, in America, we call a “Doomsday Book,” the IRS. 

William’s defense position at Windsor Castle was a “work in progress” for seven hundred years, and its latest reconstruction following the fires there in 1992 has simply reaffirmed its importance in the life of the Queen and of  the nation. 

On the Thames, William began what is now part of a general site covering about 13 acres that is referred to as “The Towers.”
(Click here for Additional Details on the Tower).

Within months after the Battle at Hastings, at the site of the White Tower, William constructed a mud and log fortress, with a moat and a defensive wall. In 1078 a more permanent fortress was constructed and stands yet for 21st century tourists to wander through. 

Today, the moat is filled with earth.   But kept within the walls of The Towers, in the Waterloo Block are the Crown Jewels.  These priceless pieces of treasure (not even Lloyds of London would insure them) have accumulated over almost 1,000 years.  Some are crowns worn by Kings and Queens as symbols of their reign.  Some are jewelry worn by current royalty for special occasions.  And one piece in particular carries a special place in the ritual of power passage.  It is a crown used once by each monarch at the time of their investment in Westminster Abby.

Fittingly, given the original aims of immediately defending William and his heirs from the rabble of London and the mischief of political enemies, the White Tower bristles with examples of the military tools of the trade used during the Medieval Period. Here one can see and ALMOST touch armor, firearms, lances, mortars and blunder busts. If your hand gets too close to some of the objects such as pistols, which are displayed without barriers, a special alert sounds:   BRRRT!   BRRRT!  BRRRT! It is startling to the tourist who has offended.  I know!

At various locations one can see the original fireplace indentations, admire the chapel, and touch the stone walls.  The White Tower is 3 stories tall, and in one of its four “corner towers” there is a special story to be told.
LINDA AT FOOT OF STEPS INTO WHITE TOWER
ROYAL CROWN OF ELIZABETH II
EARLY 16TH CENTURY KNIGHT
MORTARS, WHITE TOWER
PISTOL CIRCLE IN WHITE TOWER
15 FOOT LANCE, WHITE TOWER
CHAPEL IN THE WHITE TOWER

The maid was in the garden, hanging out the clothes.
     Along there came a blackbird and snipped off her nose.


Once upon a time, within this tower, the Royal Astronomer gazed at the skies to read the signs and discover its secrets.  As the years passed, large numbers of ravens were attracted to the site, scavenging food and the like; they became so numerous that the Royal Astronomer said that he could not do his work.

He took his problem to the King who at first decreed that all ravens should be killed.  But, his Royal Astrologer reported to the king that this would be bad luck, so he decided to keep 12 of the black birds on the grounds.  To this day, there are 12, each with one wing clipped so that they cannot leave.  For evening protection, they are penned within cages.

On the third floor of the White Tower are the living quarters that housed kings, their courts and their wives. For multiple decades, it was seen and used only as a residence and fortress.  But, by the time of Henry VIII, a large complex of towers and apartments covering 13 acres had become a confinement for political prisoners.  Lady Jane Gray, Sir Walter Raleigh and even Elizabeth herself spent time in “the Tower”.  Each was taken there by boat, entering through “Traitors Gate”. 

Elizabeth is one of the very few to ever leave the Tower alive, in part because she trod so carefully through the minefield of religious warfare in England.   She had to maneuver between the Catholicism of her half-sister and Queen, Mary Tudor, and the general nobility view that Henry VIII’s Anglican Church, should remain the only Church of England.
TWO OF TWELVE RAVENS
RAVEN'S CAGES
On the left: from the Thames, the entrance to Traitor's Gate, and the gate itself on the right.


On one occasion, to mollify her sister, she wrote:

‘Twas Christ the Word that spake it,
     The same took bread and baked it,
And as the Word did make it,
     So I believe and take it.


But others were not so clever or well regarded.  Over the last four years of her reign, Mary burned 288 Protestants at the stake, and Elizabeth only narrowly escaped losing her head. 

Sir Walter Raleigh was at one time, a major force in the politics and military activities of the Crown. Much admired by Queen Elizabeth I, perhaps for his courtesy, certainly for his military skills, he became a close confidant. The cloak he presumably spread for the Queen to walk across a muddy puddle, was represented on his coat of arms.  

He constructed a massive ship, the “Ark Royal,” which led English vessels against the Spanish Armada.  Pressed for money, the crown could not buy it, so he donated it to the country.  A similar though smaller vessel is moored today alongside the Thames.  It is a replica of the Golden Hind, used by Sir Francis Drake to sail around the world, 1577-1580.  

Despite his skill and generosity, Raleigh landed in the Tower for having an affair with one of the Queen’s Maids of Honor (no doubt to her dishonor).  Elizabeth I felt jilted by her admirer, perhaps lover.  In time, Raleigh was released by Elizabeth, only to be taken later by James I and executed at Whitehall at the request of the Spanish Ambassador who was weary of Raleigh’s poaching on Spanish shipping.  As was the custom of the day, Raleigh’s head was presented to his widow, who kept it for the remaining 29 years of her life.  He is buried in St. Margaret’s Church, adjoining Westminster Abbey. 

On the green of the grounds of the Towers is the site of execution for a few well known figures, including Ann Boleyn, Henry’s second wife. She along with other victims of the King’s justice is buried within the Chapel of St. Peter which is also set within the Tower Walls.  Those executed in the city of London itself were also brought to the Chapel to be buried. 

These executions, held on “Tower Hill” were outside the grounds of the Tower itself.  Guides estimate that there are 1500 “bodies” resting in the Chapel of St. Peter.  Interestingly enough, William “The Conqueror” is not buried in England, but rather back in his home Normandy, in St. Stephens Abby, Caen, France

For the rest, most English Kings and Queens are buried in Westminster Abby.  Three notable ones, however, found resting places elsewhere.  Henry VIII rests in a common grave site with Charles I in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.  Henry of course is remembered (d. 1547) both for his many wives and for dissolving the English tie to the Catholic Church and creating the Church of England.  Charles I was king when the Civil War broke out in the 1640s. 

Eventually, Charles was beheaded and because of the rush and panic of the moment, his friends “popped him in, head and all,” atop Henry VIII.  Consider the press of time.  No one was going to try to bury Charles I in Westminster Abby; and more importantly, many of his followers feared they might have to pay the same price.  The trick was to get Charles placed and then "leave the building." So there they are:  Charles and Henry together, even today. 

There is only one other instance of two monarchs being buried in the same tomb:  Half-sisters (Bloody) Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I are placed together in Westminster Abby.   Oh yes!  George III, the last King of America is buried, in his own grave, St. George’s Chapel.
"Bloody" Mary Tudor, who, in the name of Catholicism, burned 288 Protestants at the stake.
REPLICA OF GOLDEN HIND
Berthed on site along River Thames.
SIR WALTER RALEIGH
CHARLES I, WITH HEAD, IN ARMOR
Christmas Tree is Site of Execution of Ann Boleyn, whose body was buried, along with 1500 others, in the Chapel of St. Peter.  To make sure that her death was quick, she imported her own executioner from France.
CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT INEFFICIENT EXECUTIONS
CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE STORY OF OUR TRIP TO  LONDON, DEC. 2003
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