What. A. Day. I feel like I have been saying that a lot! For those of you who know, I am a HUGE Tudorphile. Love everything about the Tudors, especially Henry VIII. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that my boyfriend, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, portrayed him wonderfully in the Showtime series. (I always have to remember that the REAL Henry was nowhere near as handsome as JRM. Even when they tried to make JRM the old, fat Henry, he was still so cute!)
But I digress, we began the day with some Starbucks…and it’s just not the same as at home. I have yet to have the correct spice level in my chai (either here or in Paris). We then made our way to the Tower of London. We had 30 minutes to kill before the next Yeoman Warder (aka Beefeater) tour began, so we made a beeline for the Crown Jewels. They are quite spectacular. Of course, you cannot take pictures, but I adore Queen Elizabeth’s crown. It has pearl earrings dangling from the top that once belonged to Elizabeth I (Tudor reference!).
After the Crown Jewels, we started the hour-long Beefeater tour. Our Beefeater was Jimmy and he was marvelous. Absolutely marvelous. Apparently, in order to become a Yeoman Warder, one must have 22 years of service in the military and have essentially an impeccable record. But he was so animated and just a thoroughly engaging tour guide, I thought there had to have been auditions. I think we just lucked out! He gave us great information about the Tower’s history. As he put it, 900 years in one hour. A lot of it I already knew, what with my obsession with the Tudors and Henry VIII’s obsession with torture and executions, but it was interesting to hear stuff that I didn’t know before. The history is just magnificent to think about. I was so excited to see the Traitor’s Gate. To think of all the people who entered the Tower through this gate and never left.
After the tour, we explored on our own. It was a lot of fun and we got to see so much. It took almost two hours and we started by going around the outer wall and moving inward. There were even representations of the torture devices, i.e. the Rack, the Scavenger’s Daughter, and Manacles, to name a few. I can’t believe that human beings did that to one another. I realize they were “traitors” and all, but as Jimmy said, the Rack makes a short person a tall person. And in the process, dislocates every single joint in your body. So unimaginable.
It was fascinating to see the Tower Green, where the private executions occurred (Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Jane Boleyn (i.e. Lady Rochford and Catherine Howard’s lady-in-waiting), etc.). We walked over to Tower Hill, where the public executions occurred, but it appeared to be under construction. Further research has led me to believe that we were actually on the Tower Hill without really realizing it! Whoops.
After the Tower, we went on a Thames boat tour. It was 30 minutes to Westminster and it was a great time. The commentary was fabulous and we got to see all the sights and buildings from the river. We got off at Westminster and toured the Abbey. It was incredible. We could not take photos (again), so we each bought a 6p book about it. There was so much to take in. It was impossible to see it all. We both loved seeing where Kate and Wills got married! But the predominant theme of the Abbey is burials. They are everywhere. And they just stick them in any which way.
I got a bit emotional at times. I hadn’t expected that. But seeing Mary I and Elizabeth I’s burials did me in. I know she was Bloody Mary and all, but I can’t help but love her. She remained resolute in her faith in the face of banishment and the removal of her titles by her father once he fell into his affair with Anne Boleyn. She had to live through the pillaging of the monasteries and the executions of Catholics (most significantly Sir, now Saint, Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers) during the formation of the Church of England. So it’s really not surprising that she went on to become Bloody Mary and do the same to the Protestants once she ascended the throne. But at the same time, Elizabeth was true to her roots and her mother’s beliefs. And, as a converted Protestant, I obviously have to think the Reformation was a good thing. When I read this inscription at their burial site (Elizabeth is buried directly on top of Mary), I lost it: “Near the tomb of Mary and Elizabeth remember before God all those who divided at the reformation by different convictions laid down their lives for Christ and conscience sake.”
After the Abbey we were able to get some rest before dinner. Just sitting around the hotel for about an hour was lovely with all the sightseeing we’ve been doing. We then set off in search of fish and chips. I was craving just simple, typical fish and chips. Unfortunately, we’re in kind of a fancy neighborhood, so our concierge directed us to a gastropub. Um, no thanks, got any takeaway? But we successfully located a pub with fish and chips! It was wonderful, but I know I will be having it again! And I even tried a new cider: Aspell. An English cider. It was good!
We then set out for the other side of the river and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. We had tickets to Macbeth and it was wonderful!! It is an open air theater (though we had a roof over our heads…just the people in the “Yard” would get wet if it rained!) done in the original Shakespearean-style. It was so good! It helps that Macbeth is one of my favorites. I played it twice in high school (in classes, not actually for an audience!). In 9th grade Theater class my two BFFs and I were the three witches, so I was particularly looking forward to seeing how they did “Double, double, toil, and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” It was really neat because although it is a bare-bones set, they had smoke coming out of the floorboards in front of them. The actors were great and Lady Macbeth stole the show! My senior year of high school I took Shakespeare and as we read Macbeth each day (on the stage in the auditorium), I kept having to be Lady Macbeth. Finally, one day, I demanded that I be allowed to play Macbeth. I got my way. But Lady Macbeth is a great character! “Out, damned spot, out I say!”
What a day, mostly filled with Tudor history. And Jaime got me a present: a Henry VIII Christmas ornament for my new non-matching tree I will be getting this year! So fun!! Until tomorrow…(which will also involve Tudor sight-seeing!)