Season: 2011

The Royal Road--March 4--London

Posted on Oct 4th, 2012 in Artists & Company

March 4, 2011 | Author: John Tufts

JohnTuftsAbbeyWell, our minds have nearly caught up to our bodies. I know this because we made it to Westminster Abbey, the day we intended to go, at the time we intended to go, and it was actually open.

We stood in line, paid our 16 pounds, picked up our self-guided audio-telephones, but before even touching the play button, we were struck by looming spires, gold-gilded arches, choir lofts, colorful flags, and stained glass. We had jokingly named today, “The Day of the Ghost Hunt,” but walking into Westminster Abbey, we didn’t encounter one ghost but hundreds. Kings, queens, princes, princesses, royal advisors, friends of royalty, soldiers, poets–there are so many memorialized tombs and shrines in the Abbey, we were literally walking on them.

The tour itself was pretty fun. Listening to Jeremy Irons, our pre-recorded tour guide. Made the whole morning feel like a treasure hunt. And in a way we were hunting for something–Henry V’s tomb. We found it, but no thanks to Jeremy Irons. Henry’s tomb isn’t even part of the recorded tour. He’s actually a bit hidden compared to some of the other kings. His medieval tomb and effigy sit right behind the chapel of Edward the Confessor, and just across from the Ladies’ Chapel, where many queens of England, including Elizabeth I and her half-sister Mary, are interred.

Henry-V-effigy-modern-head-72-Westminster-Abbey-copyright-photoWe’d seen some pretty incredible shrines this morning. Some kings had entire rooms dedicated them, but Hal’s tomb, was kind of tucked away, and though its bronze effigy is gorgeously made, it seemed almost modest compared to everything else we’d seen. We were told that if we’d come a year ago the tomb would have been hidden behind the famous Coronation Chair, and it would have been even less noticeable. Fortunately for us, the Coronation Chair exhibit was being redone, so we had a great view of the thing we came here to see.

Since not even Jeremy Irons had anything to say about the tomb, we asked one of the cloaked figures in charge of keeping cameras and chewing gum off the premises. He directed us to the Abbey Library for more information. We made our way out of the Abbey, into the cloisters, found a little wooden door, and rang the buzzer. A very kind woman, Christine, buzzed us in, and we entered a two-story room filled shelves upon shelves of ancient books. We climbed a spiral staircase to her office, and there Christine gave us answers to all of our questions, including the translation of the Latin engraving on Henry’s tomb. (If you want to know what it was you’ll just have to watch our next Episode, “Ghost Hunt” which will be up in a couple of days).

Henry-V-funeral-saddle-72-Westminster-Abbey-copyright-photoChristine also told us to stop in the Abbey Museum where we could stand face to face with a shield, sword, helmet, and saddle of Henry V. As we stared at the objects, thoughts of, “He wore this,” “He touched this,” “He sat on this,” filled our minds, and suddenly we found our ghost. He was right there in the dents of his shield, woven into the fabric of his saddle; it felt as though, if we could have reached inside the glass case to lift the visor on the helmet, his eyes would be there staring back at us.