Cockerels, Kings, and Christmas Crackers

Christmas came early at my house.  

As those of you who stop in regularly know, I’m a serious Anglophile.  I love English history–at least, certain periods of it. Many of our cultural ideals and our laws evolved from English ones, and if you want a dynasty with a lot of flash and dash, it’s hard to beat the Plantagenets, who ruled England for more than 300 years. (And yes, I’m counting the Angevins as part of that line).  Of course, they were also big on greed, brutality, and power, but it was the Middle Ages, after all.

Anyway, we’d hoped to go to England last year and again this spring.  Both times, life happened to make that impossible.  I still monitor airfares, though, trying to stay abreast of possibilities.

In early November, I wandered into the kitchen and informed the dh that airfare to London was still low (comparatively).  For better or worse, after all, should include wistful airfare monitoring, imho.

“You should go,” he said, frowning at the pot he was scrubbing.

If only.  “We can’t afford it,” I reminded him.

“Not we,” he corrected.  “You.”  He put down the pot and looked at me, and I realized he was serious.

“But–to go without you and the boy, it’s not fair.”

“Yes, it is.  England has meaning for you in a way it doesn’t for him or me.  You have that series set in London you want to do research for, and I know how you’ve been watching all this Richard III news.  Book a ticket.”  

When I just gaped at him, he added, “Seriously.  Book it now, before fares go up again.”

So I stepped off a plane at London Heathrow before dawn on December 7, mere minutes before a communications snafu virtually closed the airport.  Talk about lucky timing!

Westm_Hall_Entrance_Dec2013I dropped my bags at my hotel and headed out to do the first thing on my list.  All my adult life, I’ve wanted to see Westminster Hall, site of coronation banquets and famous trials  and the largest surviving remnant of the medieval palace of Westminster.  If I had a bucket list, that room would be on it.  The courtyard entrance is shown at right.

But the Hall was closed to visitors for a long time.  People could arrange to see it via their MPs or ambassadors, but I figured that wasn’t the kind of thing where you’d get to pick your time.  More likely, they would tell you when you could go, and I couldn’t impose that restriction on a family vacation.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that there are now tours of the Houses of Parliament every Saturday AND that the tours begin and end in Westminster Hall.  Finally, I would get to see it!  I was pumped.

Halfway there on the Tube, I realized I had forgotten to dig my camera out of my carryon.  

Gak!   Being able to take photos in the Hall was very important to me, but I didn’t want to turn around and go back.  It was still early, so I decided to see what the line was like at Westminster Abbey, where cameras don’t matter because you can’t take photos.  I hate going through there when it’s crowded.  The history geek in me wants to stop and think about what I’m seeing, and when it’s busy, doing that puts you in other people’s way and them in yours.

Westm_Abbey_Dec8_2013The area around Westminster was hugely crowded already, but there were only 30-40 people in line for the Abbey, and the doors weren’t open yet.  I joined the queue and got to be in the first group admitted. That was worth a happy dance, but I refrained lest the watchful vergers think I was a looneytune and have me ejected.

I truly love the Abbey.  A millennium of history pervades the air inside its walls.  Being able to see the things I care about and not have to jostle to do it was a delight.  

The RAF chapel, with its Battle of Britain window, is beautiful.  Directly below the window to the left, carefully covered in plexiglass, is a hole in the stone wall that was caused by a bomb during the Blitz.  Sunlight shines in through it.  That seems so fitting to me, that they preserved this remnant of the damage below a window dedicated to those who fought against it.

In the RAF Chapel is a floor tile marking the burial place of Oliver Cromwell prior to Charles II’s having the body exhumed, hanged, drawn, and quartered.  I’m actually a fan of Charles II, but really–was that necessary?

I’m not big fan of Henry VII, largely because he had an extremely shaky claim to the throne and tarred the reputation of Richard III, but he did a great deal to centralize power (possibly because he knew he had a not-really-legitimate blood right to his crown and wanted to cut the risk of nobles rebelling), laying the foundation for the modern nation state, and his Lady Chapel is beautiful.  Henry is interred there with his queen, Elizabeth of York (both of whose funeral effigies are displayed in the Abbey museum), and an urn bearing the supposed bones of her brothers, Edward V and Richard Duke of York (aka “The Princes in the Tower).”   

The forensic examination of those bones in the 1930s did not exactly proceed along strict lines of scientific inquiry.  But that’s a post for another day.  The “princes” and their fates could also be a blog all by themselves, but I won’t go there now and will simply say instead that I think the weight of the historical record goes in favor of Richard III’s claim to the throne and against the slur that he ordered his nephews murdered.  Otherwise I wouldn’t be such an advocate for his cause.

I also gave a nod to Elizabeth I, Henry V, the coronation chair and the sword of Edward I, paused by the memorial tablet for Queen Anne Neville (Richard III’s consort) placed on the side of the high altar by the Richard III Society, and wandered in Poet’s Corner and the cloisters as well as the museum, the chapter house (where early Parliaments met and where you walk over medieval floor tiles protected by a runner), and the pyx chamber.  

There’s a Victorian stained glass window by the chapter house dedicated to the memory of James Russell Lowell, a Massachusetts native and former U. S. ambassador to the Court of St. James.  It shows the Pilgrims and the founding of Boston, Massachusetts.  One of the vergers told me to look for it, so I did.  I’d never noticed it before.  The Abbey’s medieval stained glass is mostly gone, unfortunately.

Then I booked my Houses of Parliament tour for the next Saturday, vowing to remember the camera, and headed off to meet my friend Rob, whom I’ve known since my early days in Legion of Super-Heroes fandom.  Being a sucker for  Christmas decorations, I wanted to see the big tree in Trafalgar Square.  Rob advised against it, though.

“Not today,” he said.  “Ukrainians are protesting in the square, and there’s a remembrance book for Nelson Mandela.  Tomorrow would be better.”

Given my intense dislike of crowds, this seemed like sound advice.  So off we headed to Charing Cross Road and Foyle’s bookstore instead.  I discovered Osprey Publishing’s series of military histories and guidebooks at Foyle’s on my first visit to London with the dh.  According to the Osprey website, there were new releases, including one on one of my American Revolution heroes, Francis Marion, aka The Swamp Fox.

9781782000853-th2Buying a book in London about an American who fought the British didn’t seem as fitting as buying something more Britain-friendly.  I found one on warships of the Anglo-Dutch Wars, a great asset for one of my naval officer heroes, but I couldn’t find the new one on the longbow by Mike Loades, whom you may have seen discussing ancient weapons on the History Channel.  I asked a clerk, who found it immediately.  Had it been a snake, as my mom would’ve said, it would’ve bitten me.  I’d been standing right in front of it!  So I got that, too.  And a book for the boy and one for the dh for Christmas.

In Foyle’s, I noticed that Richard III has become something of a cottage industry.  There were many, many new books about him as well as updated editions of older books.  I mostly had what I cared about already, though, and so was able to exercise sales resistance.  After so many years of collecting books about medieval England in general and this king in particular, I have to ask myself whether any new one is worth not only the cost but the hassle of getting it home and then the task of finding space for it.  Still, it’s nice to see his life and reign getting the reexamination so many of us feel is long overdue.

I should add here that I know many people who go to the UK buy woolens and/or tweeds or Wedgewood Jasperware or china or some such.  That’s all fine, but I mostly buy books.  You can find books on English history there that just aren’t available here.  And I buy books pretty much wherever we go, which has mostly been the US.  I’m always interested in history.

Ghoul_Hinge_Dec7_2013I was astonished to see this carved into the hinge in the unisex restroom at Foyle’s.  It seemed to have been put there just for me and my mages. (You may need to click on the photo to actually read it, but it says “Ghoul.”  Really. *g*)

We met other Legion fans (Hass, Jules, and Will) for dinner at an Italian restaurant in St. Martins Lane near Trafalgar Square.  By the time dinner was over, I was on my last legs.  The night on the plane was catching up with me.  I was even too tired to write in the journal I’d bought for the trip.  Little did I know I was going to be too busy and/or too tired to keep up my travel journal habit.  It’s a good thing I sent emails home and to the Lair regularly. 

The next day, I met Rob, Hass, and another Legion fan, Gary, for brunch.  Rob and I made a quick trip back to Foyle’s afterward since I’d decided I could swing one more Osprey book.  I found the one I wanted, and when we went to pay, the same clerk from the night before checked us out.  “Would you like a loyalty card, madam?” he asked me. “You were in here last night as well.”

I was amazed he remembered me, as busy as they were, and I said so.

He smiled.  “We don’t get many American women browsing Osprey,” he allowed.  And I guess they don’t.  But I love those books!

Blue_Cockerel_Dec2013Then we set out to see some of my favorite London sights and take photos for my series set there.  We did see the big tree in Trafalgar Square.  To my surprise, we also saw a giant, blue cockerel.  Of course I had to photograph it, and the GR has not stopped complaining since he saw the photo.  I think he’s envious.  There’s an article about it here.

WWII_Women_Dec2013We walked down Whitehall to Parliament Square and across Westminster Bridge.  I took the photo of the Abbey shown above on that walk, with the setting sun full on its face.

Rob was very patient with “Hang on a second so I can take a picture of that,” which he must have heard several dozen times in the course of the afternoon.  The monument pictured here, to the service of women in World War II, is relatively new.  I like it.

After a brief trip back to the hotel, I went to Covent Garden to join Rob and other friends for dinner.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize there were two exits from that tube station.  The one that was blocked off would’ve led me where I wanted to go.  The other got me lost.

BowSt1_Dec14_2013I did wonder why the street names weren’t matching the ones on my map, which I had memorized.  I saw the intriguing sign pictured at right but, knowing I was running late and not yet realizing I was lost, decided to take a photo later.  

I ended up having to grab a cab to find the restaurant, and I didn’t get back to take this photo for a week.  I would’ve photographed the whole doorway, but a guy was sitting on the steps.  Since I couldn’t tell whether he was homeless, having a personal crisis, or just waiting for someone, engaging with him by asking if he’d move for my photo did not seem wise.  Or polite, really.


 Anyway, we had a great dinner at Porter’s restaurant. One of the nice things about fandom is that even if you haven’t seen each other in a long time, you still have plenty to talk about.  Here we all are, me, Jules, Rob, Hass, Jules, and Will, courtesy of our waiter.  They’re a terrific group, and I wish I could see them more often.


On Monday, Anna Sugden came into London to meet me.  We walked down Oxford Street, where Selfridge’s had the gorgeous gingerbread London window shown above.  Yes, gingerbread.  That’s all gingerbread.  After another photo session, I went back to Cambridge with her for a few days.

Saffron_Walden_Dec10_2013Anna and her hubby, Doc Cambridge, showed me the town of Saffron Walden, which I never would’ve thought to visit on my own.  It’s a charming mix of architectural styles from medieval to Victorian.  My hosts also were very patient with frequent photography breaks.  Here’s a photo they took of me by one of the medieval buildings.  People really were much shorter back then!

The next day, Anna and I took a day trip to York.  When we got off the train at 11:30, we had just about three hours of useable daylight left for photography.  Anna knows the old part of the city well, and she’d mapped out a course that let us take photos, see things that closed early, like the Richard III Museum in Monk Bar, and then see things that closed later.

York_MicklegateB_Dec2013Richard III, as we’ll discuss again later, was truly beloved in York, where he was also well known because of his years heading the Council of the North for Edward IV.  Then Duke of Gloucester, he administered all of England north of the Trent River on his brother’s behalf from 1472 to 1483.    Shown at left is Micklegate Bar, the main entry into York from the South.  Any king coming up from London would likely have entered the city through this gate.

York_KingsArms_NN_Dec2013Here’s a photo Anna took of me at the Kings Arms pub, on King’s Staith, York.  Notice how close the pub is to the river.  The seating area outside it is nice in good weather, but the whole area has been known to flood.

Notice, too, who is on the sign.  Since you may not be as familiar as I am with the National Portrait Gallery portrait of Richard III (who is lumped in with the Tudors in the NPG, adding insult to injury, but that, too, is a blog for another time), I’ll just point out that’s who this is.

York_Column_Dec2013From the time we got off the train until we sat down in the Yorkshire Museum, which has a small but nice Richard III exhibit and a gorgeous Dark Ages helmet on display, at 3:45, we didn’t stop moving.  But we covered a lot of ground and had a great time.  Pictured at left is a Roman column that made us think of Joanie.  It’s just to the right of York Minster, but set pretty far back, as you face the entrance.  The Romans called the city Eboracum.

The following day, Doc Cambridge took us around the colleges of Cambridge University, including the “backs,” which border a long road.  Oxford doesn’t have an area like that.  The town and the colleges are all mixed in together in Oxford.  The Cambridge colleges seem to be more compactly placed with less between them.  We saw Kings College Chapel (toward which Richard III contributed money), but it was closed, possibly for the filming of the annual “Carols from Kings” TV program.  

A&N+CambridgeHere’s Doc Cambridge’s photo of Anna and me at the backs, with Kings College Chapel behind us.  It was a great thrill to see such beautiful old buildings and places I’ve heard about for so long.

We had dinner with Doc Cambridge’s amazing father, a charming World War II veteran who lives in the same village where their family has been for centuries.  He told us wonderful stories about his years in the RAF.

My last day in Cambridge, we went to Leicester and Bosworth Field to see the new Richard III exhibits.  After the Battle of Bosworth Field in August 1485, King Richard’s body was displayed in Leicester Cathedral for several days.  The Greyfriars monks ultimately took custody of the remains and buried them in the choir of their church.  Their friary was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and various legends sprang up about King Richard’s remains being lost.

Some people, however, doubted the body had ever been moved from its resting place in the Greyfriars church.  In 2009, plans for an excavation began.  In 2012, a skeleton was discovered exactly where the annals said King Richard III’s tomb would have been, in the Greyfriars choir, now under a modern car park. DNA testing subsequently confirmed that this was the king’s skeleton.

RIII_Stone_LCath_Dec2013There’s now a huge controversy about whether the remains should be reburied in Leicester Cathedral (in keeping with the exhumation license) or in York, a city the king was known to have loved and where the inhabitants grieved over his death enough to kill the Earl of Northumberland, who commanded the royal army’s reserves at Bosworth and reportedly did not answer the king’s summons during the battle.   A group of Plantagenet descendants is lobbying heavily for York.

Meanwhile, Leicester has a lovely exhibit about Richard III in the Guildhall, next to the cathedral, and is planning a garden between the cathedral and the now famous car park.  They’re obviously making a big investment.

I would be more sympathetic to Leicester if their proposed tomb design looked remotely like anything a medieval king would choose for himself.  As you see if you click that link, it’s a big slab of marble with a slanted top that has a honking big cross deeply incised in it.  That’s it.  They plan to set this on top of a white rose that won’t look like  a white rose because, hey, big slab of marble blocking the middle of it, and put the king’s motto, Loyaultie me lie (loyalty binds me), and others around the border.

Members of the Richard III Society and interested others had pledged tens of thousands of pounds toward the cost of a tomb.  One look at that design, and many cancelled their pledges.  I would have, too.  It’s starkly modern, nothing like anything any medieval king would choose. Such a man would probably consider something so plain an insult.  And I can’t help wondering whether dislike of the tomb design influences those lobbying for York.

Leic_Gldhall_Dec2013Anyway, we visited the cathedral, which has had a memorial stone for Richard III (shown above right) in place for many years, and the Guildhall exhibit (left, with the corner of the cathedral on the far left of the shot).  We tried to visit the car park, but it’s closed to visitors.  The city is constructing a new museum for the Richard III exhibits on the site.

“She came all the way from North Carolina,” Doc Cambridge told the young security guard, gesturing to me.  

The guard shook his head.  “Can’t do it.”

“What if I just peeked between those barricades?” I suggested.

Another headshake.  Another “can’t do it.”  Oh, well.  We did get a sort of view from another angle, and we wouldn’t want to get anyone in trouble.

We also visited the Guildhall exhibit, where Anna took this picture of me.


Having exhausted the Richard III potential of Leicester for the time being, we headed west along King Richard’s Road to a less happy location, Bosworth Field.  I’d been there before, quite some years ago, and there wasn’t much of a museum.  I’d tromped the battle lines then, in nice May weather, and had no desire to do it on a gloomy December day.

We expected to walk to the top of Ambion Hill, thought to have been the king’s position during the battle, maybe photograph the royal standard if it was flying, have lunch in the tithe barn restaurant, which has the framework of an ancient barn inside it, and take a quick look around the few exhibits.

RIII_BosTitheBn_Dec2013The tithe barn restaurant is attractively decorated with Wars of the Roses themes.  The flowers on the doors, red roses with white centers, are Tudor roses.  You may know the Tudor rose was the device Henry VII used after his marriage to Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV.  It signified the union of the warring houses of York and Lancaster.

We felt optimistic about the food when we noticed a group obviously having a holiday gathering there.  Why would you do that unless the food was pretty good?  It did turn out to be good.  And I say “obviously” a holiday gathering because most of them were wearing paper crowns, the kind that come out of Christmas crackers.

A Christmas cracker, if you’re not familiar with them, is a short paper tube with flared ends.  When you pull it apart, it makes a loud, popping sound.  Inside is a small gift of some kind along with a folded paper crown.  (When I was boarding my flight home, the security personnel asked if I had any Christmas crackers in my carryon.  Apparently they were worried about people scaring the bejabbers out of their fellow passengers and the flight crew with popping noises.)

I saw several groups of people in London restaurants wearing those paper crowns.  They must’ve had a great time with the crackers.  I wonder why those have never caught on here?

RIII_AmbHill_Dec2013Anyway, returning to the subject at hand, Bosworth Field has had an influx of funds since I was last there.  The museum now is not only beautiful but extensive, with numerous interactive exhibits.  The royal standard was not flying atop Ambion Hill, alas, probably due to the threatening weather.  Where the flagpole once stood alone, though, there’s now a lovely little plaza with seats dedicated to Richard III, Henry VII, and two others important to the battle’s outcome.

Pictured above is the sundial that forms the plaza’s center, with the seat for Richard III (note the white rose) in the background.

On Saturday, Anna and Doc Cambridge put me on an early train back to London for my Houses of Parliament tour.  The tour lines form by language preference in Westminster Hall.  They then move into a central lobby to actually begin the tour.  I was surprised to see a statue of Richard III, looking normal–no hunchback, no withered arm, no sneer–opposite one of Henry V on an interior doorway.  I wouldn’t have thought such a maligned king as RIII would be given any place there, much less such a conspicuous one, in the late 1800s, when that building was erected.  That was well before there was much of a movement to have his reputation reconsidered.

The Houses of Parliament tour was more interesting than I expected, especially given my fixation on the Hall.  When the tour ends, no one kicks you out.  You’re welcome to stay in the Hall, take photos, go to the cafe, whatever, as long as you like.  You just can’t go back into the main building.

The Hall was all I hoped it would be, with its beautiful hammerbeam roof of 13th century oak.  My camera didn’t do as well in that vast, dim space as my phone, but I have trouble holding the phone steady.  So the first photo below is taken with the camera, and the next, brighter but slightly out of focus, with the phone.


 Note the tour lines forming by the wall and the statues in the window niches above.


 This gives you a better idea of the vastness of this chamber.  Hammerbeam roofs were incredibly expensive to construct, but they eliminated the need for supporting pillars that divided the space.

Westm_StMary_NN_Dec2013All that remains of St. Stephen’s chapel from the medieval palace is the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft, which was below St. Stephen’s.  The royal family worshipped in St. Stephen’s and the court in St. Mary’s.  I care, of course, because Richard Duke of Gloucester is said to have married Lady Anne Neville, daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (aka “The Kingmaker”), in St. Stephen’s chapel.  The chapel is closed to visitors, but my guide kindly took this photo of me outside it (I doubt the iron railing was there 500 years ago).

I stopped on my way out to talk to another guide, mainly to babble about how cool it was to see this place at last, and she asked what my interests were.  When I told her they were medieval England and Richard III, she asked, “Did you see the little picture of Richard III inside?”

Disappointed, I allowed as how I had not.

“I’ll show you,” she said, and called someone over to tend the tour queue so she could “walk this lady back inside.”  I could hardly believe my good luck.  

Just off the Commons lobby, where people wait to enter the gallery and observe debates or the prime minister’s question time, is a small archway that contains two pictures.  Side by side are King Edward IV and King Richard III, with their royal coats of arms.  Ironically, they’re set above a very big painting of Sir Thomas More, the Tudor adherent who did almost as much to blacken Richard III’s reputation as Shakespeare did. But that hardly mattered when I saw those two royal brothers depicted side by side.

I would’ve taken a photo, but that isn’t permitted except in Westminster Hall.  So I’ve done my best to engrave that picture in my memory.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Showing a docent that you truly care about what you’re seeing, that you’re not just ticking off an item on a list, can yield amazing benefits.  

I had dinner with my friends from fandom.  They were collating Apa 247, which is dedicated to the Legion of Super-Heroes (of course).  My arrival was well timed because they’d just finished the actual work and were preparing to order pizza.  It was great to spend one last evening with them.

Mus_of_London_Dec2013On Sunday, I went through the Museum of London, which I love.  They let you take photos as long as you don’t use a flash, so I took lots.  It’s hard to pick a favorite, though, so here’s a photo of the museum entrance.

I finished there with just enough time to get to the National Portrait Gallery so I could pay homage to the portrait of Richard III and see the special exhibition there, “The Elizabethans,” which was wonderful.  I was amazed by the detail in the portraiture.

After that, it was time to head to the airport.  I’d booked a room there so I didn’t have to scramble for my morning flight home.  Before I left, though, I headed into Trafalgar Square for one last look.  You can see down Whitehall to the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament (I’m told only the actual bell is Big Ben), but my camera just couldn’t capture that.  So here’s a picture of the big tree, a gift from the people of Norway, next to Nelson’s column.

TrafSq_Dec14_2013As I walked into the square, I heard a bagpipe playing a familiar tune.  I frowned.  That couldn’t be the theme from Star Wars, not on a bagpipe.  But it was.  It was a fitting farewell to London. I had a wonderful time and thank all my friends who helped make that so.

Still, it’s good to be home again, especially at Christmas.  I made it back the day before the boy turned up for his break.  We’ve had a lovely Christmas, very relaxed despite the somewhat hectic run-up to it, and I hope the 25th was the same for you, whether or not you celebrate the day.

Is there anything in history, your own country’s or another’s, that particularly interests you?  Do you like to travel, or are you happier being mostly at home?  Would you buy books on a trip, or would you rather have something else–and if so, what?

One commenter today will receive a Kindle download of Sentinel, my forthcoming novella, when it’s released.

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  • Barb says:

    Is he back ??

  • Jane says:

    Hello Nancy,
    I remember reading about Richard III’s remains being discovered in a parking lot. I’ve always been interested in ancient Egypt, its culture and the political intrigue. I do like to travel and wish I could afford to do it more often. I’m hoping to visit the Valley of the Kings. I don’t usually buy books on a trip. I normally buy souvenirs from museums or shops.

    • Hi, Jane–

      I think ancient Egypt is fascinating, too. The Egyptians were so advanced in some ways and not in others. I hope you get that trip to the Valley of Kings.

      I buy souvenirs, too, especially guidebooks, just not as many of them.

  • Patty L. says:

    What a wonderful journal of your trip. Thank you for sharing with us. I love to travel.

  • Amy Conley says:

    OMG Nancy, you make me want to visit England now more than ever. I LOVE history from mid-evil times to the present really. Mostly into British and American history since they are so intertwined. I love traveling but so far it has mostly been in the US. Although there are several places I’ve been which over-whelm me when I think about their actual history. I can’t wait to be on that plane headed to England and one day I WILL make it.

    • Amy, thanks. I also think British and American history are intertwined. The Highland clearances, for example, spurred many Scots to head for North America. I became interested in English history in second grade–coincidentally the same year I discovered Superman–and have been intrigued by it ever since. I hope you get that trip to England!

      • Amy Conley says:

        Nancy, after I posted this I thought, “Oh crap, I should have added the part about the Scots coming to America, many through Canada also, since that’s where many of my hubby’s family came from. And also my affair with England began probably before I was born since I remember my great-grandparents and their British accent and many of their customs. I’m also into geneology and since more than half came from England, it makes me want to go even more.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Amy, I had the same reaction! I WANNA GO!!!

  • Helen says:

    Wow Nancy what a great story so interesting I have not travelled that much and I too love English history although no where near like you do but I do enjoy seeing a lot of the old buildings maybe one of these days I will get there. And yes on the few trips I have I have been known to buy some books

    Have fun

  • Barb says:

    Hi Nancy

    What a wonderful trip …. DH and I are off to England in a few months…. We actually come from there and have been in Australia for over 30 years and this will be only the third time we have been back … We base ourselves at DH’s brother and he lives in an old village between Coventry and Warwick …. So there are plenty of old places to visit … We also have relatives and friends all over the place that we visit so we need a rest when we get back lol

  • Dianna aka Hrdwrkdmom says:

    Not much of a traveler, but I am interested in English history. To my way of thinking English history is American history. I would definitely buy books. I would like to visit Scotland and Ireland as well.

  • Maureen says:

    It sounds like wonderful trip. What a great present from your family. We live near where Washington crossed the Delaware so it is interesting to imagine the area during the Revolutionary War.

    • Maureen, thank you. I’ve always loved the story of Washington crossing the Delaware and would love to see that area one day. The dh and I went to Boston early in our marriage, and I got to see Lexington, Concord, Plimoth Plantation, and the USS Constitution, all places I’d long wanted to visit.

  • Shannon says:

    I used to love to travel and did quite a bit with my job, adding two or three days on to every trip. Travel in the UK is easiest because a) they speak the same language and b) I know the history. In Egypt and the Arabian peninsula, I had to search out the information.

    When I travel, I buy the tacky tourist spoons for my collection, take lots of photos, buy postcards of sites because the pictures are better, and of course buy books. I’m always torn by spending hours in a bookstore or being out seeing and doing.

    My favorite trip was London, Brighton, Folkestone, and Dover.

    The War of the Roses, that some author calls the Cousins’ War, is fascinating in that power shifted back and forth over decades. I try to imagine living in a time of war, changing rulers, and uncertainty. I envy you being able to really research Richard III.

    • Shannon, how lucky you were to have a job that let you add some travel into it. I agree that travel in the UK is comparatively easy. The language is more or less the same, as you say, and the customs are similar enough that I don’t feel I’ll accidentally give mortal offense.

      I buy postcards and guidebooks for the good pictures, too, and for the information.

      As you say, the Wars of the Roses were certainly wars between cousins. I’ve heard that applied to the American Revolution, too. It must have been very confusing and anxiety-inducing for people to live with the uncertainty of power changing hands so often.

      I’ve been interested in Richard III for going on 30 years, since I read Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time while laid up with the flu. I did most of that research here, and the internet makes getting books from elsewhere easier, though still expensive. I got several that were useful through the Richard III Society when I was a member. The original, or “parent’ society is, and the US group is The US branch used to maintain a library members could borrow from. My membership lapsed some years back, and I keep forgetting to renew it, so I don’t know whether they still do.

      The parent society site has links to branches in other countries on this page:

  • Heathercm2001 says:

    Oh it sounds like you had a wonderful trip! I really wish I could travel more. I have never been anywhere other than the US and Canada. While I have seen quite a few places here, I really want to go to Europe, especially Ireland and Scotland.

    Thank you for such a great recollection of your trip! I would imagine that it is an amazing feeling, standing in a place with so much history. I can’t even imagine being in a place that has been around for so many years! I love to do museums and things, but to actually stand where kings have crossed hundreds of years ago….wow!

    I’m very intrigued by the story of those princes, so hopefully we’ll eventually hear about them. I really appreciate all the research writers put into their work because I enjoy learning about things indirectly. The little surprise nuggets of information are always catching my attention, and I love stumbling upon them.

    And very interesting story on the blue cockerel. It would seem it is causing quite the controversy over there, but I think it looks pretty cool. Welcome back!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Heather, I’m with you about the curiousity around the princes. I thought I had read somewhere that they were going to re-do the DNA tests and see if they could use more advanced tech to get the answers. We’ll see….

      • Jeanne, they can’t get permission to reopen the urn or to open other royal tombs to do DNA testing. It’s too bad. Of course, even if those are the bodies of EIV’s sons, that proves nothing about who had them killed.

    • Thank you, Heather. I’d like to see Ireland and Scotland, too. My mother was Scots-irish.

      I agree that it’s an amazing feeling to stand where historical figures have walked. That’s one reason I’ve so longed to see Westminster Hall, though Westminster Abbey generates the same feeling, at least when it’s quiet enough to allow for actual contemplation.

      The Richard III Society a few years back reported on an effort to have the urn in Westminster Abbey opened and the bones subjected to modern forensic and DNA examination. The body of the boys’ mother, Elizabeth Woodville, is interred at Windsor Castle with Edward IV, so maternal DNA would be readily available. But Westminster Abbey is a “royal peculiar” and the palace said something like “frequent” opening of royal tombs was not appropriate. Sooner or later, those tests will be done.

      Or someone will test the bones of Perkin Warbeck (who claimed to be Richard of York and had the support of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, the sister of EIV and RIII) and those of the Flemish merchant and his wife who were supposedly his parents and see whether they match. One thing I miss about being in the Richard III Society is that I don’t hear about things like that anymore.

      One theory has it that RIII had the boys taken out of the country secretly or smuggled them out of London to an obscure location. Audrey Williamson in The Mystery of the Princes examines this theory in detail. Her book won the Gold Dagger from the British Crime Writers association.

      Another book that deals extensively with this issue is Bertram Fields’ Royal Blood. Fields is an attorney, most recently in the news for representing Tom Cruise in his tabloid settlement. His book reads like a lawyer’s closing argument, and that’s essentially what it is. Unfortunately the book lacks footnotes. These were originally available from the publisher, which declined to include them lest they scare away readers of popular history (gak!). I wish I’d ordered them.

      One of the newest and most interesting books on the entire controversy is John Ashdown-Hill’s Eleanor The Secret Queen, a look at Lady Eleanor Talbot, whose alleged clandestine (meaning not in church, no cloak-and-dagger implications) marriage to Edward IV rendered his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville bigamous and their children illegitimate. I think this is available from Amazon US.

      I did a presentation on the marriage of Edward IV to the Richard III Society American Branch Annual General Meeting some years back. I found much of the research for that in a law library. Someday I’m going to write up my notes and put it on my website.

      If you (or anyone else) want a more extensive list of books on Richard III and the controversy surrounding him, including the fate of his nephews, email me via my website, and I’ll send you a list.

  • Kaelee says:

    Nancy ~ I read about 2/3rds of this and I’ll come back and read the rest sometime as it’s so interesting. I’ve got to go make salad and topping for my second cheesecake. Then off to my sister’s for Boxing Day.

    What a lovely early Christmas present your husband gave you.

  • may says:

    I love travelling! But the best thing is coming back home… (especially after the laundry is all done and everything is unpacked!)

  • Deb says:

    Nancy, what an AWESOME post today! I love history and thoroughly enjoyed reading about your trip. England is a place I’d like to visit some day as well. What a thrill of a lifetime for you! Thank you so much for sharing today.

    I am interested in the Revolutionary War era in U.S. history. The dawn of a new country and all, maybe. In English history, I am interested in the middle ages and used to read many romances set in that time period, but have now moved on to Regency era in my reading.

    Thank you again. I am so happy for you to have had such an experience.

    • Deb says:

      I have only been overseas once and that was to Denmark. I enjoyed staying with relatives and visiting the farm and town where my grandfather was born and lived until he moved to Iowa when he was 21.

      • Deb, I did something wrong so this didn’t nest, and it turned out to be way down there. So I’m just pasting it in here:

        –The dh is part Swedish, which is one reason he wants to go to Scandinavia.

        I have yet to see Sleepy Hollow, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. And it sounds intriguing.

        Yeah, I can just see you giving the boy those lists! Someday, he’ll be glad. :-)–

        My grandfather on my father’s side was from Devonshire, and I sometimes wonder whether that spurs my interest? He emigrated around age 8, though, and I never knew him.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh! Deb! How cool that you got to go to Denmark and see all that fun family history!

      I’m trying to untangle where my DH’s Swedish Grandmother is from – I know there will be relatives galore there! – and give him and our boys the gift of seeing that “homeland” some day. :>

      I’m also in love with the Revolution here in the US, and am enjoying Fox TV’s Sleepy Hollow for all the Rev War references. Of course, I’m also driving my son nuts with lists of Rev War ancestors. He’s studying the Rev War in school right now. I keep giving him names from both my side and his father’s more famous Adams side. Grins.

    • Deb, thanks. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

      I also love the American Revolution period, and I miss the days when historical romance included a wider range of settings. An easy drive from us is Kings Mountain National Military Park, site of a Colonial victory and part of the route to Yorktown. I love going there, especially in the fall. We’ve also been to Cowpens and Yorktown (too huge to see in the time we had), but we still need to visit Guildford Courthouse.

      How cool that you went to Denmark. I’ve never been to Scandinavia but would love to see it. I’ve been intrigued by fjords ever since learning about them in third grade.

    • The dh is part Swedish, which is one reason he wants to go to Scandinavia.

      I have yet to see Sleepy Hollow, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. And it sounds intriguing.

      Yeah, I can just see you giving the boy those lists! Someday, he’ll be glad. 🙂

      • Jeanne Adams says:

        One can only hope, Nancy! He does seem somewhat intrigued by the whole Adams-in-the-Revolution bit. :> President John Adams is a collateral line, but all the directs fought too, so… Grins.

        I didn’t realize your DH was part Swedish too! How cool!

      • Deb says:

        My mother is Swedish, but, sadly, we really don’t know much about her side of the family. However, she was able to visit the little house where her grandmother grew up, and her cousin visited her this summer for a day or two while here in the U.S. I don’t know about the Swedes, but the Danes changed their names after every generation, so records can be hard to distinguish. However, my great-grandfather said, “Enough is enough. We are remaining Nielsens.” Or, something like that. 😉 Supposedly, my original family name was supposed to be Johansen, son of Johan. Nielsen, son of Niels, and so on.

  • Quantum says:

    Loved reading about your history tour Nancy.

    Living in England myself, My wife and I get much pleasure from visiting historic houses and gardens around the country. Most recently we were at Sudely Castle in Worcestershire, home to Catherine Parr and Thomas Seymour for a while. Beautiful costume museum with replicas of Parr’s dresses. The Tudors followed the Plantaganets of course, and are just as interesting to my mind. Visiting these old houses can really bring the history to life!

    Interesting that you visited Westminster Abbey.The Abbey owned land throughout the country in the early days and maintains patronage of certain parish churches to this day; like Mathon church in Worcestershire. Occasionally these churches get invited to special events at the abbey when they are treated to a meal and can have a leisurely tour without the hustle and bustle. I went to one of these a few years back ….. most impressive!

    Are you planning to exploit this research to write a novel set in the middle ages?

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh, Quantum, how COOL about the Catherine Parr exhibit! Must put that on my list….

    • Quantum, thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      The Katherine Parr exhibit sounds great. I’ve never been to Sudeley but would love to see it.

      Thanks for the interesting tidbit about Westminster Abbey. I had no idea. Those private gatherings sound wonderful!

      I totally agree about visiting houses. Seeing a glove in a house is a reminder that someone once made it and used it, that it isn’t something always destined to sit in a glass case.

      My favorite Tudor is Elizabeth I, so when I had to choose between seeing the Cheapside Hoard at the Museum of London or The Elizabethans at the NPG, the choice was easy. That was one amazing woman.

      I also find it interesting that society and religion (in part because of HVIII’s quest for a son) were in flux during the Tudor period. Turmoil and change always make for good reading, however difficult they were to live through at the time!

      Actually, I have a historical romance series set during the Wars of the Roses. It just hasn’t been seen by the world yet. I’ve occasionally thought of writing historical fiction, but I’m not sure I’d want to do the level of digging necessary to do that well.

      Anne Easter Smith is on my list of people to read, as she supposedly has done it quite well. And I loved Isolde Martyn’s English medievals (she won a RITA for her debut novel), which are set during the Wars of the Roses. They’re historical romance but meticulous in their history.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Thanks so much for the delightful and interesting tour of your trip to the UK. Fascinating stuff, and it makes me want even more to make the trip myself.

    I enjoyed our trip to Scotland and would love to return there some day; there’s so much to see and so little time. But we DID see all the golf courses, Dr. Big’s major incentive!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Jo, I’m hoping to go to Scotland next year….you’ll have to tell me what you most enjoyed seeing!!

    • Jo, I’m glad you liked it. If you’re into golf, I can’t imagine a better place to play it than the land where it originated. I’ve been to the Royal and Ancient Golf Course in Scotland (when I was in college), and they even had a putt-putt course, without all the lanes and dividers we’re accustomed to for miniature golf here.

      I’d love to travel more in Scotland and would like to know what you most enjoyed. As you say, there’s never enough time to see it all. I could’ve stayed in England a month and not seen everything I wanted to.

  • catslady says:

    What a great history lesson!! When my husband and I were first married we traveled when we could. We waited 15 years before having children (which ended most of our travels lol). We did get to London but only for a couple of days but I loved all the history and we squeezed in as much as we could. If money permitted, I would travel all the time. Each and every place is a new experience and I’ve enjoyed them all!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Catslady, I had to grin about the kids stopping travel. I know some folks just pick the kids up and go, but I’ve never been able to do that. Ha! I’m just not that even-tempered. SNORK!!

      Now that our kids are getting a bit older though, we’re going to try and travel some. Hoping for Scotland next year!

    • Catslady, thanks! We suspended major travel until the boy was old enough to deal with it, and even then we cut back. He’s a good traveler, but buying three of everything instead of two adds up. I’m glad you enjoyed your London visit!

  • Diana Huffer says:

    Wow! I’m soooo jealous! What a great trip! Thanks for sharing it in detail… 🙂

    I have always had an affinity for ancient Egyptian history. I think I was a priestess of Isis in another life… 😉 I have such vivid dreams about rituals, etc., during this time.

    I also have vivid dreams about life in medieval times! Maybe, in another life…?

    I would love to travel but since I am unable, I travel through books and blogs like yours.

    Yea, when I was traveling a lot for work, I always buy books! Love to visit little hole-in-the-wall books stores — they usually have the most unique items! I also will buy keychains or magnets showing the places I’ve been. I traveled a lot to DC and visited all the landmarks… The Wall was a very intense experience!

    Thanks again for the great history lesson! 🙂

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Hey Diana! *waving from DC* The wall is a terrifically moving experience, isn’t it? DId you see the Korean memorial? That one haunts me.

      I loved this travelogue of Nancy’s…I SO wanted to be there! :>

      • Deb says:

        I loved visiting D.C. a few summers ago. Jeanne, the Korean War Memorial is haunting; that’s a good word choice. My dad never saw action during the Korean War (thanks to a bad case of bronchitis and being in the hospital when his platoon was shipped out….every single man was killed.) The Lincoln Memorial and Arlington are almost reverent in their part of our history.

      • Diana Huffer says:

        The last time I was in DC was in ’94 so I didn’t get to see this one. The Wall experience is almost too difficult to describe. I’ve never been to a monument where, the closer you get to it, the quieter it gets. I don’t care if there are hundreds or thousands of people milling about, the area around it is so silent. I get a chill just remembering it. If any of you get the opportunity to go, do it… You won’t forget it… ever! 🙂

      • When I was in DC, the wall was very crowded. Joining a line and shuffling past didn’t appeal. But I agree with you that the Korean War memorial is very moving!

    • Diana, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I like magnets, too, just by the way, and they’re comparatively easy to bring back.

      That’s interesting about your dreams. As to prior lives, who knows? But I’ve always found Egypt interesting, too.

      Sometimes little hole-in-the-wall bookstores are the very best! You can find out-of-print gems there sometimes. The dh and I always seek out bookstores when we travel. In a little bookshop in New Hampshire I found a series of eyewitness reports on WWII in the Pacific that were the perfect gift for my dad.

      • Diana Huffer says:

        I have so many magnets that I ran out of refrigerator space! ~LOL~ I’m trying to find a way to display them — considering getting some of that magnetic paint and doing on wall in my library/craft room. 🙂

        I once found this amazing edition of Shakespeare works that has incredible illustrations! It weighs over 10 pounds so I shipped it home. 🙂

        Not sure about the dreams either — I think maybe I just watch too many shows on NATGEO, etc. 😉

  • Nancy, what a fun and educational walk through England! Someday I might get to go there. Sigh. Someday.

  • bn100 says:

    buy stuff that looks interesting when traveling

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    I hate to admit I am not much of a traveller, however I love reading about the American Revolution and the Old West. When I do travel if there is a bookstore nearby, I will be there.

  • Nancy, I am completely envious of your trip. I so want to get to England. I loved the travel log. Next time call me and I’ll go with you!

  • Has nesting gone on the blink for everyone, or just for me? How frustrating!

  • EC Spurlock says:

    What a fabulous trip, Nancy! Glad you had such fun and got so much great information and research! I have always wanted to visit the temples in Greece, as Ancient Greece has been my focus since elementary school, but have never had the money and it’s often been too dangerous. DH has always wanted to go to England and Scotland to research his genealogy from that side of the pond. So we would probably bring back lots of photos and rubbings of ancestor’s graves.

    • EC, I think ancient Greece would be a great subject to study. I had to take three concentrations as a history major, and I chosen Ancient, US, and British. The Greeks, like the Egyptians were so advanced in some ways and yet not in others.

      I hope you get to Greece! I also tend to shy away from visiting places that seem dangerous. The dh and I used to have some friends who seemed to pick places where people were shooting at each other to have their vacations. Myanmar, anyone? We never understood that.

      I’ve never done a brass or tombstone rubbing, but I think I would like to have one of an ancestor’s grave.

      The dh and I tracked down the little village in Devonshire where my grandfather was born. The church cemetery was full of Northcotts, but I didn’t know how any of them were related to me.

  • EC Spurlock says:

    Nesting is clearly not working at all, since my comment just jumped to a spot above several others!

  • Cassondra says:

    Nancy I’m so pleased you had a great time in England. It sounds like you got to see almost everything you meant to on this trip. That’s always a mark of a successful journey. Even more fun that you go to spend some of your time with Anna!

    • Thanks, Cassondra! I never see everything I want to see–I could fill a month and not see it all–but I saw everything that was important this trip. Spending time with Anna and Doc Cambridge was a highlight. It was so good of them and my London friends to accompany me on various expeditions.

  • Becke Turner says:

    What a wonderful gift from dh-a true sign of his devotion to you. Fascinating trip.

    What historical event interests me? I find most things interesting. The real stunner is mankind never seems to get it. We repeat similar mistakes over and over. The things we do for greed and love, I suppose.

    I love to travel. Instead of books I bought art created by local artists. However, I had to stop because I ran out of wall space.


    • Becke, thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the blog. I had a great time writing it.

      You just described the cyclical theory of history, the tendency of events to repeat. You’d think we would learn sometime.

      I used to buy a fair amount of artwork at Dragon*Con, but I had to stop because I also ran out of room. Now I only buy things that are small, and not many of them.

  • Just stopping by after returning from my Mom’s late this evening and what do I find but an enviable trip to England! I am pea green with envy. What a wonderful trip you had !!

    Like you, I am an Anglophile, and I am determined to return to England for an extensive research trip one of these days. The UK is my dream destination any day of the week !!

  • I found an interesting Smithsonian documentary about the Leicester excavation and Richard III on YouTube’s Smithsonian Channel, but when I pasted in the URL, it embedded the video. Since that runs an hour, it’s better to watch it on YouTube, it’s called “The King’s Skeleton: Richard III Revealed” (Full Episode)