Monday, June 4, 2012

The Christening in the Tower

A few weekends ago, my husband Chris and I were invited to the christening of his colleague’s daughter. Unremarkable enough but for the location--the chapel within the Tower of London! The history-geek side of me was quite excited. It’s the type of place that simply doesn’t exist in America, a nation which, in comparison to the United Kingdom, is still waiting for the paint to dry. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend a private event there, and couldn’t wait to take lots of pictures. We planned to arrive an hour early to have extra time to explore.

Construction on the Tower of London was begun by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, in the 1080s, almost a thousand years ago. The existence of a church within its walls is first mentioned in Tower documents dating all the way back to the 12th century, while the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where the christening would take place, was begun in 1512 and celebrates its 500th anniversary this year. The U.S. has some old churches, but nothing on this scale or with such historical significance. It is the burial place of three Queens of England–Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Jane Grey–as well as two Saints of the Roman Catholic Church, Thomas Moore and John Fisher. The names were fresh in my mind--I'd watched the entire series of The Tudors back-to-back a few months earlier, while waiting for my UK Settlement Visa to be approved.
 
Our trip didn't go quite as planned. The drive from our small town of Longcot to London was going so smoothly we took a nice long coffee break before approaching the outskirts of the city–where we then hit relentless traffic. A journey that should have taken an hour and a half wound up taking three, and we completely missed the christening! Not to mention it was spitting down rain; the Tower was still crowded with tourists, who now brandished pointy-spiked umbrellas. Endless lines of dripping plastic ponchos snaked through the courtyards. Hardly an ideal setting for sight-seeing or picture-snapping. The day was not a total loss, however. There was a lovely reception in the Fusilier’s Museum, and we commiserated with other guests who had also fallen victim to city traffic.
It was a reminder that, while part of living abroad is getting to experience new things, some things are just the same--like traffic, and rain. And even though I didn’t get to linger by Anne Boleyn’s graveside, I still got the experience of attending a private event in the Tower. Can't complain!

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