Friday, September 25, 2015

A Little Piece of History

Have I mentioned my love of all things British?

I never miss an episode of Downton Abbey, my favorite books (Pride and Prejudice, The Pursuit of Love, anything by D. E. Stevenson) are set in England, and London is my absolute favorite city in the world.

I come by this love honestly—my grandmother, a genealogist, has been feeding it since I was a little girl. She has traced her father's family not just back to the 1600s, when our English ancestor first arrived in Virginia, but back to the Norman Conquest when a fellow called Guillaume de Pesche (I think that translates to William the Fish) landed in England with William the Conqueror.

(I love how geneologists always seem to be able to find important people in their ancestry. My grandmother claims we are connected with everyone from Charlemagne to Pocahontas.)

Anyway, Grandma has traveled to Long Melford, our ancestral village in southeast England, twice. (Use of the word pilgrimage to describe these trips is not inappropriate.) It is the type of place you picture when you are reading Anthony Trollope: a manor house, a parish church, and a main street of buildings dating back to the Middle Ages and Elizabethan times. People have lived in Melford since the Neolithic Era; the Romans built a road through it, Saxon artifacts have been found nearby, Queen Elizabeth I visited the manor, and in World War II American airmen flying B24s and B17s were billeted there. (And with that we have now officially hit each and every one of my sweet spots in British history....)

On one of her trips, Grandma bought the small piece of fabric in the picture above. According to her, it is a snippet from the curtain hanging at the altar in Westminster Abbey during Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. When the curtain started to show its age, it was divided among parish churches throughout England. The church in Long Melford cut their piece into 6-inch swatches and sold them to raise funds (and American tourists like Grandma snapped them right up).

I'm starting to feel like I'm describing a holy relic:  "Yes, this is a lock of hair from Saint Ursula!"   Who knows—maybe the fabric has spent more time in Marks and Spencer than it has in Westminster. I don't want to know if it has.

I'm just happy to have a little piece of England on the wall.

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