9 Sept 19 – Leicester/Bosworth

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It is here, in Leicester/Bosworth that the various strands of the story come together and  the tapestry is completed. 

After the Battle of Towton, Edward IV ruled peacefully during the Yorkist’s Golden Age.  During this time, his brother Richard is ruling in his name in the North while in London, the Woodville family has become  his most powerful advisors as they are the relatives of his wife, Elizabeth Woodville.  All was fine as long as Edward was alive and Richard stayed up north…although he did have a legal battle with Lord Stanley who by now had married Margaret Beaufort (the widow of Edmond Tudor and mother of Henry Tudor).  But basically Richard is handling the north beautifully and Edward and the Woodvilles are doing just fine at court in the south.  Unfortunately, Edward contracts pneumonia and he dies.  His young son, also named Edward is to become king but since he is a minor, he will need a regent.  Richard is named Regent in Edward IV’s will but he knows that he will be undermined all the way by the Woodville’s and Elizabeth. He returns from the north and put young Edward and his younger brother (also named Richard) in the Tower “for their own safety” and he detains the Woodvilles on some administrative technicality.  

In an attempt to discredit Prince Edward’s claim to the throne, rumors are spread that King Edward had been betrothed to someone else when he married Elizabeth Woodville making that marriage null and void and thereby making the current Prince Edward and his younger brother bastards and illegible to inherit the throne.  There had always been questions about Elizabeth Woodville as she had been a widow when she married Edward and therefore not the young virgin that the population wanted in their queen.  Richard was “forced” to take the crown in order to ensure that a legitimate king sat on the throne of England.

In the meantime, Elizabeth and Margaret Beaufort form an alliance with the other anti-Richard forces and become the pro Henry Tudor faction.  Prior to this, Henry had been so far from the throne and he had been in France and Wales so he had been left alone and never considered a threat to be besmirched or killed.Up until now, Lord Stanley has been a loyal Yorkist but he decides to side with his wife and step son…although he neglects to tell Richard.  Conjecture is that the killing of the princes in the Tower was just too much for Stanley and he became part of the anti Richard forces.  Of course it has never been proven what really did happen to the princes and even today there are historians writing both academic, popular, and fictional papers about what might or might not have happened to them.

I’m not sure of the derivation of the term “palace intrigue,” but I would certainly believe it if you told me it came from the Wars of the Roses…and I’m only giving a brief summary of events leaving out many of the secondary characters and their stories.

All of this is beautifully laid out in the interpretive centers in both the city of Leicester and the Bosworth Fields Battle Site (just south of the city) with charts, family trees, video reenactments, and meticulously recreated artifacts.

In 1485, Richard and Henry met on the Battlefield at Bosworth.  It was clear to Richard that he would easily overtake Henry as he was counting on the large force that Lord Stanley and his brother had brought. He circled around the back of Henry’s lines to confront Henry himself expecting Stanley to join him.  In the end, however, it was Stanley who attacked Richard and knocked him off his horse.  It is then that Shakespeare has Richard roaming the battlefield begging for “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse” so he can continue fighting.  But it is not to be.  Richard is defeated and his body is hacked to pieces.  Stanley takes the crown and presents it to Henry.  With the marriage of Henry to Elizabeth of York and the adoption of the Red (Lancastrian) Rose with a White (Yorkist) Rose insert as his Tudor Rose symbol the Tudor dynasty that gave us Henry VIII and the Elizabethan era is born.

Richard is buried in hallowed ground, but the actual site is lost to history.

In 2012, it is uncovered under a car park in Leicester.

In 2015, the construction of a new chapel in the cathedral in Leicester is complete and the remains are reinterred.

In 2019, after a year of study and two weeks of travel and after finally getting all of the Henrys, Edwards, Edmonds, Richards, Margarets, and Elizabeths straight, it is time to pack up and head off to Heathrow…the Wars of the Roses are over. 

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8 Sept 19 -Conisborough Castle

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We left the Lancastrian stronghold of York and headed south into York country. Yes, you read that correctly.  As with a number of the castles in this area, it was originally built as a wooden Mott and Bailey style after the Norman conquest in 1066 and then the same footprint was rebuilt as using stone in the 12th century and improved in the 13th. Although Conisborough was under York control during the Wars of the Roses, it did not play a major role in the wars and no battles were fought in its vicinity. Because it was also not involved in the later Civil Wars, it was never destroyed by Cromwell so it is a wonderful example of the type of architecture used for the castles we visited yesterday that were mostly in ruins.  We were able to climb to the top of the keep (the equivalent of about 8 stories by todays standards) and see how the household was arranged in a vertical sequence of rooms topped by a roof walk that gives an extraordinary view of the area.  It was one of the few bright sunny days we’ve had on the trip which made the castle seem even more welcoming.  

After exploring the castle grounds, we made our way to Leister, one of the major Yorkist seats of power which we will explore in depth tomorrow.

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7 Sept 19 – York Part 2

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Today we began the story that ended at Towton (see 5 Sept – York Part 1). 

After having the first crumpet I’ve ever eaten, we were off to Pontefract Castle, the ruins of which are pictured above. As most of the castles in the area, Pontefract wast built by the Normans after the invasion in 1066 as a wooden structure that was eventually replaced by stone.  Eventually in 1311 the castle passed by marriage to the estates of the House of Lancaster. Thomas, Earl of Lancaster was beheaded in 1322 outside the castle walls after a sentence placed on him by King Edward II which resulted in the castle going to Henry, Duke of Lancaster and eventually to John of Gaunt, the third sone of King Edward III. When John died it passed to his son Henry Bolingbroke. Richard II banished Henry for some bad behavior which was done in those days, but generally the bad boys were brought home after a few years and given back their land.  Richard’s mistake was that he gave away Henry’s land once John of Gaunt died which roused Henry to return to England to claim his rights.  Henry had lots of support from the nobles…not because they loved him so much, but they were quite worried that if Richard could do this to him, why shouldn’t they expect similar treatment? Those familiar with Shakespeare’s Richard II well know this story.  Eventually Richard was imprisoned at Pontefract where he was either starved to death or he starved himself and in 1399 Henry took the crown for himself and became Henry IV.  

Our next stop was Sandal Castle – another Norman castle that in 1460 was the site of the Battle of Wakefield. This was one of the major battles of the Wars of the Roses.  The opposing forces were an army led by the nobles loyal to the captive Lancastrian King Henry VI and is Queen Margaret of Anjou on one side and the army of Richard, DUke of York, the other claimant to the throne, on the other. For several years before the battle, the Duke of York had become increasingly opposed to the weak King Henry’s court. After Henry became his prisoner, he laid claim to the throne, but lacked sufficient support. Instead, in an agreement known as the Act of Succession, he was made Henry’s heir to the throne, displacing from the succession Henry’s and Margaret’s 7-year-old son Edward. Margaret of Anjou and several prominent nobles were irreconcilably opposed to this accord, and massed their armies in the north. Richard of York marched north to deal with them, but found he was outnumbered. The Duke of York was killed and his army was destroyed. Many of the prominent Yorkist leaders and their family members died in the battle or were captured and executed. The Battle at Towton was an attempt at revenge for all of the killing at Wakefield.  

There is not much to see of the castles, however, as they were involved in the later Civil Wars and Cromwell had them razed after his victory in those wars, but the terrain has not changed much so when you’re there you can feel the battles and understand their progress in a way know book can explain.

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6 Sept 19 – York Minster

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We spent the day at church – The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, commonly known as York Minster.  This magnificent building is the seat of the Archbishop of York which is the  third highest office of the Church of England after the Queen who is Supreme Governor and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Originally the title “minster” was given to Anglo-Saxon missionary teaching churches, but now serves as an honorific title. 

There is evidence of a Christian community in York as early as 314 with evidence of the first church in 627.  The parts we were primarily interested in were the crypts built by Archbishop Thomas in 1080 and then remodeled and expanded by Archbishop Roger in 1150 and the main church that we can now see that was built between 1220 and 1250 in various Gothic styles – and I always thought there was only one Gothic style.  I’ve now learned about Early English, Decorated, and Perpendicular Gothic styles.  Because the church took so long to build, the various types came into and went out of vogue and the architects thought nothing of mixing the styles.  Surprisingly, it works quite well.

We started our day with a tour of the 11th and 12th century crypts.  I had always thought of a crypt as a storage place for coffins and sarcophagi but learned today that they are a ritual room found under a church used for storing important and sacred items.  Generally only the priests and nobles had access to the crypts and therefore they were elaborately built and decorated. Our guide knew every nook and granny of the crypts and explained where they had been remodeled and what had been filled in as the church had been expanded and needed more support.  In 1984 there was a fire in the church and some of the structure fell down to reveal parts of the crypt that had previously been unknown.  As much as possible has been restored and is now available for viewing by small tour groups. As always, I find it amazing to see the centuries converge and to  hear about how decisions are made about what to preserve and what has to go in the interests of the new. 

Our one hour tour lasted 90 minutes and our guide was willing to stay and answer questions even after the others had left.  She showed us some of her favorite stained glass and a mini tour of the Chapter House which was built in 1295 for the administrative functions of the church in the decorated gothic style.  Several years after it was built they decided to build a corridor connecting it to the main church and the way they chose to make the connections were almost comical…but the truth is if she hadn’t pointed them out, I probably would never have noticed which is why getting the insight of a guide is always such a treat.

How’s this for one of the best jobs in the world – The Surveyor of the Fabric?  This is the person who is responsible for checking over the building and deciding which parts need renovations and when.  While we didn’t get to meet that person, we did get to meet the Master Stone Mason while we were on the Stone Mason’s tour.  There are 12 masons and 4 apprentices working full time to repair or replace parts of the minster.  We were shown the “setting out” room where all the measurements and templates are made before any stone is cut or carved.  They use “perches and pole” measurements because that’s what was used for the original and in some cases they use the templates made by the Victorians when they renovated.  There is such continuity among the masons – it’s as if they all knew each other even though they might be working hundreds of years apart.  Each mason has his or her individual mark and so even if they’ve never met, they learn to recognize each other’s mark and respect each other’s work. I wanted a photo of Marty with the Master Mason and so they started chatting and the mason took out a special box to show Marty one of his prized possessions. Several years ago when he was working on renovating a piece of stone, he came across a wedge that had been used in the previous renovation which had been done in 1360.  It’s just a piece of wood – nothing special…except it is the work of a fellow craftsman from 700 years ago and we know nothing about him except that he did excellent work on many of the stones. This piece of wood was preserved because it was covered for all those years.  The modern day mason was treating it with the respect and reverence he wanted to show to a brother craftsman.

We then had the thrill of a lifetime when we were taken up nine stories on a a construction worker’s lift to see the reconstruction that is currently being worked on.  We climbed down the scaffolding one story at a time where we could see exactly what they were working on.  You know those gargoyles that you can hardly see from the ground on buildings like this?  I was there standing right in front of them where I could see every detail and even touch them.  I will never look up at a building the same way again.  It was just thrilling to see the actual workmanship and every little detail.

Our last stop was Evensong.  After all, if you’re going to spend the day in church, you might as well go to a service.  The chanting was haunting in melody but quite understandable as this is the Church of England and the service is in English and much of it was psalms from what they refer to as the Old Testament so the words were quite familiar. In general, this would not be the way I’d choose to spend my time, but it felt like to most appropriate way to end our day…we had been under the church and on top of the church.  Now we felt as if we had really been in the church.

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5 Sept 19 – York Part 1

 

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Most of York’s layout is the result of Roman and Viking construction but right across from our hotel is one feature left from the Normans.  The original mound of Clifford’s Tower was constructed by William the Conqueror.  The original structure was wood and was burned down at least twice, but the current stone structure (pictured above) covers the same footprint.  The Tower is inexorably linked to the story of the Jews of this area, so while we sat at the foot of the tower, John gave us a summary of the Jewish community of York.  In the 1100s, the Jews were invited in to York, as bankers and entrepreneurs were needed to bolster the economy of the city.  The crown and the upper echelons became indebted to the Jews and resented them and their increasing wealth. In 1189 when Richard the Lionheart was crowned, a group of Jewish dignitaries went to the coronation bearing gifts for the new king, but they were set upon by an angry mob who felt they had no place there.  This turned into a full scale pogrom in London.  In York, the capital of the North, there was also animosity against the money lenders and when a Christian child went missing in 1190 what we now know as the blood libel was born. Fearing for their lives, the Jews of the community ran to Clifford’s Tower thinking they would be protected by the sheriff, but as it turns out, he was the one who had orchestrated the mob.  In the end, the entire community was either murdered or committed suicide rather than submit to the mob (historians differ on how the story is told).  In any event, the entire Jewish community was destroyed and the tower was burned to the ground with them still inside. To complete the story, the Jews were expelled from England in 1290 (and of course all debts to them were cancelled) and it was not until 1650 when Cromwell needed the bankers and merchants again that they were invited back. The tower itself is a beautiful structure that provides stunning panoramic views of the city.  It was the Normans who brought the concept of castles and keeps to England and this is a beautiful example.  I took a minute to face toward Jerusalem and say Kaddish for the bones that were buried beneath my feet, but I also could not ignore all the beauty that was around me.

After more walking through York and a visit to two medieval churches, we made our way to Towton Battlefield.  The Battle of Towton was fought in 1461 and is possibly the largest and bloodiest battle every fought on English soil.  The Lancastrian King Henry VI had transferred the right of succession to Richard, Duke of York and his heirs, but Henry’s wife Margaret of Anjou was unwilling to accept an arrangement that would deprive her son of his birthright.England was effectively a country with two kings which was a situation that could only be solved through war. Following the death of his father at the Battle of Wakefield, the 18 year-old Yorkist Edward marched his followers northwards to depose Henry through force.  

Some asides needed here…First, we will be visiting Wakefield on Saturday.  The geography and the weather make doing this in chronological order impractical.  And second…it is important to remember that the city of York was a Lancastrian stronghold and the city of Lancaster played no role in the Wars of the Roses.  I know that sounds nutty… but that’s how it is.`

Most battles during this era were over within an hour or so but this one lasted almost all day with the wind and the sleet making it even more horrible.  In the end, the Yorkists ruled the day and the fleeing Lancastrians were cut down from behind as they fled the battlefield with a death toll that is said to number 28,000.  This was a decisive victory for the Yorkists, but King Henry, his wife Margaret, and their son were able to escape to Scotland and would be back…although it would take them 25 years.  

The terrain has changed little in the past few hundred years and standing out there on a cool and windy day I thought it possible to understand what it might have been like, but then I realized it was almost impossible to imagine how this beautiful and peaceful landscape would have a been transformed by 50,000 men in full armor and all of the noise, bloodshed, and hatred that would have filled the air.

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4 Sept 19 – The National Railway Museum

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The National Railway Museum in York tells the story of British rail transport and its huge impact on British society. It houses the largest collection of locomotives in the world, the oldest surviving railway carriage in the world, and one of the largest collections of train memorabilia in the world.  Marty casually asked one of the volunteer docents his usual museum question…”What’s your favorite thing in this museum?”  And we were off and running learning about the various locomotives…their strengths and weaknesses, the innovations they brought to railroading, and why they eventually went out of service.  He taught us about type, size, and number of wheels (some as big as 8 feet) and the various types of water and coal refill systems for the steam engines.  He even took us through an exhibit that went under a locomotive so we could see the inner workings of the fuel and braking systems.  At some point we had to let him go back to the information booth he was staffing, but what a fun morning he provided for us.  

We lunched in a cafe that was part of a re-creation of a Victorian train station and then we went on the tour of the royal railway cars.  The collection covers the first cars created for Queen Victoria to the one used by Queen Elizabeth in the 1970’s…truly palaces on wheels. The exhibit that touched us the most was the WWI Ambulance Train.  These trains took the wounded from hospital ships that arrived at Southampton to hospitals across the country.  They were up to a third of a mile long and included wards, pharmacies, emergency operating rooms, kitchens and staff accommodation. They were an incredible innovation necessitated by the horrors of that War of Attrition.

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3 Sept 19 – North Yorkshire

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We made our way south from Northumberland into North Yorkshire stopping at two abbeys that were prominent during the time of the Wars of the Roses.  Whitby (pictured above) was the first and had its start as a settlement in the Bronze Age, housed a Roman signal station, and in 651 the first abbey was built.  Since Whitby was on the border of the Roman and Celtic churches, in 664 the Synod of Whitby was held at the abbey and the Celtic church followers agreed to follow the liturgical calendar of the Roman Church leading to the eventual demise of the Celtic church in the area.  In 1078 the Benedictines took it over and in the 14 and 15 centuries there were major additions and remodels and Whitby Abbey became a huge center of activity in the area.  It remained that way through the Wars of the Roses until in 1539, Henry VIII embarked on the Suppression of the Monasteries secularizing anything that was not Church of England.  It was restored by Charles II and in 1897 came back into prominence when Bram Stoker used the abbey as the backdrop for Dracula. Although all that we see today are the ruins, it is still an imposing site that looks like it is growing right out of the North Sea.  What is left of the stone structures are truly magnificent.

We arrived at Kirkham Priory at 4 with all signage indicating that it would close at 6, but alas, for no apparent reason, it was closed.  The site is completely outside with just a low wooden fence keeping us from exploring.  We gave each other a look…and then scurried over the fence.  Yes, really we did.  My only concern was John since he was a licensed guide and could suffer some consequence from this, but he was quite encouraging and seemed more than a bit impressed that we were willing and able to do it.  (Much thanks to Chris Reed for demanding that we do our stretches every day.) The priory was built in 1122 by the Augustinians and remained in use until the Suppression of the Monasteries.  Although not as imposing as Whitby, the gatehouse was quite a treat with an array of heraldry depicted.  The riverside location was as tranquil as Whitby was dramatic.  

To travel between the sites, we took a two hour ride on a steam train… the same train that Harry and his friends took on their way to Hogwarts.  There’s nothing Potteresque to see there but there are some other wonderful geological and historic nuggets along the way.  There is a docent on the train who will answer your questions, but we ended up with one better.  We ended up sitting in a car with only one other occupant who turned out to be a docent who was off duty and “dead heading” back to his car.  He was thrilled that we were interested in the train and more than willing to spend the bulk of the two hours answering our questions and telling us all of his stories.  It was an extra little treat to make our day complete.

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1,2 Sep 19 – Relaxing in Redcar

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Picture the seaside setting in any of the BBC productions of an Agatha Christie story and you’ve got Redcar, a seaside town in the north of England. We feel like we’ve taken a step back in time and landed in the 1950’s and we are definitely in Brexit country.  Folks here are very clear that although he was a bit clumsy about it, Boris Johnson did the right thing about asking the queen to dissolve Parliament and stop talking about “all this Brexit junk.” They’ve been talking for a few years and there’s nothing more to talk about and we leave on October 31 and that’s the end of it.  One shopkeeper said, “I only worry about my own shop and my neighborhood.  I don’t care about all this international trade stuff.”  Of course when asked where he might get the goods he needs, he had no doubt that there would be no problem….and definitely there would never be a hard border with Ireland.  That was all just scare tactics.  We are not into debating – just listening.  News from the big cities, however, says that folks are really angry that Boris got the queen involved in his political shenanigans and there have been protests in front of Downing (now referred to as Clowning) Street and some are calling for a vote of no confidence.  Boris says that even if there is such a vote he is not required to resign and he doesn’t plan to.  This really would get the queen involved since he serves at her behest.  Things are getting quite heated.  But in our little seaside town, life goes on unhindered, and we took the opportunity to relax from the frenzy of preparing for the trip and our first few days of touring.

Our room overlooks the North Sea and in addition to watching the changes in the tide which are much more dramatic than anything we’ve ever seen, we can see the Teeside Wind Farm which is quite interesting to watch over the course of a day with changes in wind speed and direction. Although it is windier and cooler than we’d like, we’ve managed to take a nice walk or two on the beach, and catch up on our reading, writing, and relaxing before heading out to York and the remainder of our trip. 

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31 Aug 19 – The Borderland Castles

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We said goodby to Edinburgh and were off to the north of England.  As with any border area, the Anglo-Scottish border is a place where cultures merged and battled for centuries. Even today as you drive through it is impossible to tell if you are in Scotland or England (for a while at least and then the architecture becomes distinctly English). The first border was established in the early 10th century but then didn’t hold and was reaffirmed by the Treaty of York in 1237 which remains the border today with some small exceptions.  One of those Berwick-upon-Tweed was not fully annexed into England until 1746.  It is the northernmost town in today’s England and changed hands about 15 times during the border wars.  Today you can see remnants of both Scottish and English medieval architecture and the Elizabethan walls that were built to keep out the marauding Scots.  For centuries the border region was lawless territory suffering from repeated raids in both directions.  This did not bode well for the inhabitants but makes for great sightseeing several centuries later.

During the drive John continued the narrative he had started yesterday taking us through Edward I and II of England and folks like William Wallace and Robert Bruce (grandson of “the” Bruce) and the back and forth negotiations and skirmishes that were a regular occurrence between these two countries.  When he got to Edward III we made him stop for awhile – feeling that all of this had been prologue and with Edward III we start the “real” story (or at least the story we’re interested in this trip).  After all it is because of their claim to the throne through Edward III that his descendants engage in what becomes the Wars of the Roses.

The site of Bamburgh Castle dates back to the Celtic Iron Age and legend has it that it was the home of Sir Lancelot in King Arthur’s time.  Our interest dates to 1463 when the Lancastrians had possession and it served as their major base of operations in Northumberland.  It was that year that Edward Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, switched sides and gave over control of all of the Northumberland castles to the Yorkists.  I have never understood how anyone switches sides in the middle of a war, but it seems to happen all the time.  In 1464, the tides had changed and Edward thought the Lancastrians would win so he switched back (I am not making this up) and decided to take back his castles.  The garrisons who were stationed there were loyal to Edward so they were quite willing to go back and become Lancastrian once again. The siege of Bamburgh Castle took place in June-July of 1464 and was first occasion when an English castle was defeated by gunpowder artillery. Thus ended what we now know of as the first phase of the Wars of the Roses with Edward IV (a Yorkist) on the throne. After a year of reading, it was amazing for us to be at the site of what was then thought to be the battle that ended the war.

The first stone buildings appeared on the site of what is now known as Warkworth Castle in 1139.  In 1157, it became an official castle and in 1332, the crown gave it to the Percy family. The Percys supported the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses, and the second earl and his successor were killed at the battles of St. Albans in 1455 and Towton in 1461 respectively.  Edward IV issued an attainder against the family and their property was confiscated. In 1464, as a result of suppressing Lancastrian rebellions in the north for the previous three years, the title of Earl of Northumberland was given to The 1st Marquess of Montagu, a Yorkist, and with it, the castle. The castle formed the backdrop for several scenes in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2.

Bamburgh had major renovations in the Victorian era and Warkworth did not making Bamburgh more of a tourist site, but for us Warkworth was much more exciting as we were able to amble about the ruins and climb around the keep and the walls having much of the castle to ourselves.  Pictured above is just one of the many inner courtyards we walked through with the windy weather adding to the authenticity of the adventure.

 

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30 Aug 19 – Touring in Edinburgh

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For those of us who might think of Scotland as just a province of England with bagpipes and kilts, it is time to get over that.  The more I learn, the more I wonder how they’ve stayed together for over 300 years. John Sadler – a dapper military historian, author, and BBC consultant who will be our guide during much of our trip took us on a walking tour of Old Town Edinburgh and taught us a bit of Scottish history.  The Scots looked more to Europe – mostly the French, Dutch, and Spanish – as their cultural allies than they ever did to the English.  Scottish noble children were sent to France to be educated and they came home with French, and therefore anti-English, ideas. (One wishes they’d kept the French ideas about cuisine.) As we walked around town, John pointed out many of the architectural features that clearly came from Europe and made the area look uniquely Scottish and not at all English. He also described many of the border skirmishes and how the cross cultural effects of those impacted Edinburgh. In 1603, after centuries of fighting in the border towns, Elizabeth I of England died leaving no heirs except for James VI of Scotland and so he became James I of England as well. The Scots took this as quite a victory until 1707 when they were going broke and were saved by England in return for signing the Act of Union which united the two Parliaments and created the United Kingdom.  The Scots insisted, however, on keeping their own legal, educational, and religious systems which they proudly do to this day. Although Wales and Northern Ireland are connected to the UK in the same way legally, they have none of these same provisions and really are like provinces of England.  We were surprised to see that some of our money was even issued from the Bank of Scotland.  Although it is legal tender in England, we are told that in the south of England they might balk at taking it.  My brain was as tired as my feet after this walk…and that was just the morning,

In the afternoon we walked over to the National Museum of Scotland which is a huge museum covering all aspects of Scottish life.  We only concentrated on the history section which added illustration to the stories John had been telling us in the morning.  The history and timeline bears little resemblance to that of England and again it is startling to me that they have stayed united.  Even the Enlightenment and the Reformation came to Scotland in different times and in different ways than they came to England.  One little artifact really caught my eye – the clarsach (pictured above).  It is part of the oldest surviving tradition of Scottish music and was an important instrument in the pre-Christian Gaelic culture. The workmanship is extraordinarily beautiful and I’m told the sound is just as sweet.

Our last stop of the day was Mary King’s Close – an historic alleyway located under buildings on the Royal Mile.  It is named for Mary King who was a merchant burgess who resided on the close in the 17th century. It was one of many of these narrow streets with tenement houses on either side stretching up to 8 stories high.  It was partially demolished and buried due to the building of the Royal Exchange in the 18th century, but a few of the stories are now open to the public and the tour teaches about the lives of the people who lived there.  It has much the same feel as the NY Tenement museum and John says that other than the myths of the haunting, the history and the artifacts are quite accurate. Of course you can never recreate the sounds and the smalls of that kind of crowded living.  We had a fascinating time, but didn’t mind going back to our 21century upscale hotel.

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