In spite of all the naysayers, I am rather looking forward to watching the wedding of William and Kate. It's living history. The relevance of the royalty has changed over the past few decades. Now they are more of an industry for Great Britain, than anything else. Tourism is the 6th major revenue generator for England, generating about £76 billion a year for the Brits, (that is about $104 billion in U.S. dollars). London is the most visited city in the world, ahead of Bangkok, Thailand and Paris, France. The main attraction in England? The royalty.
One of the most interesting places in London is Westminster Abbey, the church where the wedding ceremony will take place. Westminster Abbey was built in 1050 and has been the coronation church since 1066. It feels very much like a tomb in many places, because it is the final resting place of 17 monarchs.
I was amazed to see the two old enemies, Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth the 1st buried together. When Queen Elizabeth died, Mary Queen of Scots’s son James 1st became the King of England. He built a double monument where his mother and Queen Elizabeth 1st share the same tomb. I spent a long time looking at their effigies, aware that I was in the presence of such rich history. It was ironic that Queen Elizabeth the 1st had Mary Queen of Scots beheaded, and now they are spending eternity together, just a few feet apart from each other. The Latin inscription on the tomb reads, "Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of one resurrection."
Of particular interest to me was Saint Edward's Chair (the Coronation Chair, built in 1296) which is accessible to everyone. It is carved from oak and its appearance is of aged and bare wood. On it is carved the initials and other graffiti from tourists and choir boys in the Abbey. I had imagined the site of the coronation of monarchs throughout the centuries to look much different. I was tempted to add my initials, but decided against it. In the movie, "The King's Speech", Lionel Logue sat in Saint Edward's Chair, and King George VI was almost apoplectic.
King George VI: "T-that... that is Saint Edward's chair."
Lionel Logue: "People have carved their names on it."
King George VI: "L-listen to me... listen to me!"
Lionel Logue: "Why should I waste my time listening to you?"
King George VI: "Because I have a voice!"
Lionel Logue: "Yes, you do."
There is so much history in that old church, and now it will be the scene of history again. An ordinary young woman whose family worked in the coal mines of England will become a princess and a possibly one day a queen. She will become part of the history of Westminster Abbey. I wonder what the old Tudor Queen would think of a future king marrying a commoner. If folks listen closely, perhaps they may hear a ghostly voice echoing throughout the Abbey, "Off with her head...!", as Queen Elizabeth the 1st spins in her grave. I think it's a wonderful story, one that Shakespeare would enjoy.
When William and Kate are married, the bells of Westminster Abbey will ring out for three hours. And in true 21st Century fashion, if you miss any of it, you can follow Westminster Abbey on Twitter.