Our senses are saturated, our minds filled with information. We’ve only scratched the surface in London but our visit has come to a close. There will be more blogs about our experiences in this ancient yet so modern city. The British Library deserves its own post – we saw a special exhibition entitled Writing Britain (www.bl.uk/writingbritain) and then encountered the incredibly amazing Treasures of the British Library. To use an English term, we were gobsmacked by this priceless collection of books, manuscripts and unique historical documents.
I am thinking again about Westminster Abbey – the remains of so many royals lay within its walls. It’s not commonly known that some were accomplished writers of literature. Queen Elizabeth I wrote many of her own speeches, did poetic translations of the Psalms, translations from Latin and Greek, and some of her own poems. One poem, “On Monsieur’s Departure,” is thought to either have been written about the end of marriage negotiations with a French duke or about a favorite earl. Either way, the poem captures the anguish of a heart broken. Here’s an excerpt:
Some gentler passion slide into my mind/For I am soft and made of melting snow/Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind./Let me or float or sink, be high or low/Or let me live with some more sweet content/Or die and so forget what love ere meant.
She never did marry, shrewd ruler and politician that she was. But one must read this poem of a grieving heart without rose-colored lenses. Elizabeth also wrote a poem about her cousin Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, which was not at all affectionate and dubbed her “the daughter of debate.” (See “The Doubt of Future Foes,” which addresses Mary as a “foe” pursuing the English throne.) Later, Elizabeth imprisoned her cousin Mary for some years – in that handy neighborhood Tower of London – and ultimately had her executed.
In one of those delightfully dark ironies of life, since Elizabeth left no heirs, after her death it was Mary’s son James who ascended the throne. Both Elizabeth and Mary are buried in Westminster Abbey. Death truly is the great equalizer.
Farewell London, thee of drama, intrigue, betrayal and triumph. We are off to the south coast to try and find the grave of my better half’s ancestor.