It has been an…interesting…week to say the least, but it has taught me some very important lessons. One is that I need to brush up on my French. Two is that it is always helpful to have a basic knowledge of the language of any country you are visiting solo (hence why I may soon be learning Italian). Three, that my dance partner is a truly amazing human being.
Indulge me being sappy for a minute because trust me, he deserves a lot more sappiness than I’m about to lay on. Apart from being one of the funniest people I know (just check out his blog and be prepared to laugh), he is incredibly caring and selfless and understanding. He is there for his friends no matter what, and I cannot thank him enough for being in my life. He is absolutely a wonderful person, and I admire him so much ❤ So grateful to have you as my best friend Dan!
So in small repayment for friendships rendered, I accompanied him to Windsor Castle this last Saturday. He hadn’t been yet to this quintessential medieval castle and kindly requested a field trip for his first History of the British Monarch lesson. History? Sunshine? Spending time with Dan? Didn’t take much convincing, I quickly acquiesced. I’m a sucker for teaching someone about English history! And Dan is such an eager student, continuing to ask questions beyond my instructions to listen to the audio guide, putting up with my frequent and I generally assume annoying interjections of random and obscure and often pointless bonus facts. One day someone will smack me and tell me to be quiet, I’m sure, but until then, you have all been forewarned that I can be a walking English History Encyclopedia on Energizer Bunny Batteries.
Having just been to Windsor Castle with my family a few weeks ago, I chose to ignore the audio guide hanging from my neck like a corded phone (yes I’m old enough to remember corded phones!) and to take advantage of my other senses. Sometimes in historic sites I forget that sight, true and focused sight, can be so powerful, typically favoring sound from audio guides or the little voice inside my head reading aloud signposts in my thirst for more knowledge. But putting away the audio commentary allowed me to just…absorb. And it was during this absorption that I think I was really able to appreciate the State Apartments for the first time for their artistry and architecture, their sumptuous designs both in decor and textiles: the richly painted or carved ceilings and the fading tapestries, the ornately sculpted wood furniture and the engraved suits of armor, the austere white marble busts and the gleaming inlaid porcelain. Everything took on a new dimension in the absence of the continuous running of verbal information. It was such a different, almost richer, experience.
Of course, even that didn’t stop me from being on hand to answer Dan’s every whim question, and answer ones that he hadn’t even bothered to ask yet 😉
I also was able to indulge my inner child. As it was the Saturday of Easter Weekend, the Castle had set out all these little jeweled eggs for the kids to find in the various rooms. I’m sure it was a cute way to occupy the smaller and more restless children while their parents listened to the audio guides in the rooms, but I took it to the “Fun for All Ages” level and joined in the hunt. The Windsor employees, I must say, are no where near as clever at hiding eggs as my dad was. I happily found all the eggs in the Castle, but I think there are still one or two that my dad hid years ago that my brother and I have yet to find. And then there was the one I voluntarily left “hidden” as it was playing couch to a snail and we all know how I feel about insects.
From the State Apartments, we entered St. George’s Chapel, the one part of the Castle I didn’t get to take my parents into as it was closed that day, and also the one part of the Castle that I care most about. Why? Because Henry VIII is interred there. Why else? Because chapels as old as this one have a funny way of concealing gems of history and art. With Dan by my side and time on our side, I was overwhelmed by the architecture of this chapel, something that I am only now beginning to really appreciate. Standing in the back of the chapel, gazing up at the nave, was the second highlight of our trip (first one is coming up), but that may be due mostly to the fact that we were standing on a glorious heated vent and the rest of the chapel was a tad cold.
We paused and sat contemplating the beauty of the choristers for quite some time. St. George’s Chapel is the spiritual house of the Order of the Garter so there were a lot of heraldic emblems and banners all around. I explained to him my incredulity that tourists can be so oblivious as to what they are really seeing, evidenced by nearly everyone rushing through the choristers, exclaiming at the pretty woodwork or the marble altarpiece, and completely neglecting the fact that THEY JUST WALKED OVER THE GRAVE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL MONARCH ENGLAND HAS EVER HAD!!!! In my humble opinion of course. Yes, it is just an innocuous little slab of black marble set into the ground carved with his name and the name of his third wife, Jane Seymour, but still, if you don’t watch where you walk, you will miss these notices of where you should be crying over the memory of these amazing historical people. Not that I cried……….
But the proof of why these chapels are rich sources of nerding out for me and why I consider it paramount to walk through them and examine with care, we stumbled upon the grave of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, more widely known as Henry VIII’s best friend and brother in law, and Henry Cavill on The Tudors.
All in all, another wonderful and historically enriching day in Merry Olde England 🙂