Beautiful Day

Saturday, May 26, 2012

In Which I Have a Little Fascination with England

There are some noteworthy events this year that have a British association.  First, the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking and second, Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee as the reigning monarch.  Titanic studies are always fascinating to me.   The most exquisite dress I own is the Titanic one I made.  I just enjoy the Edwardian era, in general.  But I find that my knowledge of English and European history is rather lacking.  I was never made to memorize lists of kings and queens.  Not that I think it is entirely necessary...but I DO think it is essential to understand such history in terms of how it has been God's story woven over time.  I have learned a great deal about how the Reformation and the Scottish Covenanters influenced the foundations of this country!  So I am taking the opportunity afforded from these commemmorations to have a bit of a British focus here at home.

I have never been to England, though I have been to a few other European countries.  Some day I am still hopeful to get to England, particularly the countryside.  I dream of spending some time in Beatrix Potter's Lake District, or Jane Austen's Chawton and Bath.  It would be necessary to see Pemberly of course, and perhaps Emma's Box Hill.  I'd like to stroll through Oxford University.  I really think I could have fit in well with the scholarly life of Oxford.  That would have meant a whole lot of different things in my life, so no, I wouldn't change a thing!  God knew better (MUCH better!).  Now I think I'd add Highclere Castle to the list of sights.  Don't know where that is?  Maybe you will by the end of this post.  I'd like to see places of the great British hymn writers and at least say I've been to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the great London Museum, but honestly London would wear on me really fast.  I don't enjoy big cities for too long.  I much prefer quiet places with room to think, dream and smell the roses!  The English gardens would be calling my name!  (Along with a quiet bench or tree swing, quaintly situated within such gardens).  The country estates would be where I lingered.  Reminds me of my affection for the Biltmore Estate......oh, how I LOVED that place (and miss it dearly)!

So, on my nightstand (or any level surface in my house near a place to read) are a few titles to spur my appreciation for England:

Elizabeth, the Queen is quite a big biography for me to read.  It may or may not be important to you that this is not an "authorized" biography.  As I understand the life of the monarchy, it seems that an "official" biographer is chosen upon the death of a monarch.  Nevertheless, the author has done a great deal of research and interviews countless associates of Queen Elizabeth II.  I find her story interesting because she is of my grandparents generation and so it helps me relate to the events of their lives in history.  I have known next to nothing about her.  I couldn't even keep straight how each of the royal family was related to each other.  And I don't really have one of those huge fascinations with the royal family, other than the beautiful regalia that surrounds things like royal weddings or events.  I find I have a great appreciation for the burden of the role she was born into.  And great sympathy, for I would not yearn for such a role as hers.  I think it must have been incredibly difficult for her to raise a family while having to please the country and fulfill her role.  Many times I felt this lump in my throat.  For example, when she would often have to leave Prince Charles and Princess Anne and would even be away from them at Christmas.  I also cannot help but be reminded that she possibly came into this role at such an early age because her uncle abdicated the throne--a reminder of the consequences when men do not fulfill their role as leaders.  All this to say, I think she is quite an interesting person to understand more about.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon is a book I found on a historical "Downton Abbey" reading list.  Now I must say, I am amazed to find that "Downton Abbey" has such a huge following!  At one of my local libraries, I would be number 9 in the queue to read this title!  Fortunately I have another library I can use where I was number 1 in the queue.  First, my little note about "Downton Abbey."  I do not wholeheartedly endorse it!  There are character issues, integrity issues, and occasional scenes to call into question.  In fact, after the first season I was convinced it was a soap-opera-period-drama.  The story was compelling and the mix of characters very interesting--some to like and some to very much dislike!  I wasn't going to see any more of it.  But a trusted friend started the first episode of Season 2 and had good things to say about the changes since Season 1.  So I decided to try it out and was pleasantly surprised.  Still, there's issues and still there's integrity flaws, but the character development particularly in Lady Mary drew me in.  And, of course, the whole "Mary and Matthew" romance.  Though I really grew to like Lavinia too.  That, and the added element of World War I--one of my favorite time periods in history to study.

This book tells the story of one of the women behind Highclere Castle--the wife of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon.  Yes, there it is!  Highclere Castle is the setting for "Downton Abbey."  And there are remarkable similarities in the main story.  She was like Lady Cora in some respects.  And the castle WAS used as a convalescent hospital in World War I.  Intriguing history.

And then there's this title:

Tender Warrior and I started watching this series together as our little "date nights" once a week when the children are in bed.  Again, it was suggested by my dear same trusted friend.  I really LOVE this series.  It's not without a few faults (especially in Season 1), but the script writer is amazing!  We appreciate how the theme is woven through several characters throughout the whole episode.  The cast of characters is fascinating and somehow this series manages to make you feel very much a part of each one's life and story.  I also like the small village life and the countryside (there it is again).  So I am most eager to read "Lark Rise to Candleford" but I just know I will likely not finish it before it has to go back to the library.  One thing about the library and holds--sometimes they come all at once!!

And, what would be England without tea!  Tea, wonderful tea!  I just love these ones for special occasions.

I admit...sometimes I buy them just for the pretty tins!  Like this one, for the Titanic anniversary.

I heard about the Royal Wedding Tea last year in my Victoria magazine.    A white tea with almonds, coconut, vanilla and pink rosebuds!  What could be more lovely?  It does taste a bit...royal :)

And, I just noticed they created this one!  They must have done it after I placed my order....sigh.

Is this quite enough about England?  Oh well, I am enjoying taking a stroll through history and an imaginary jaunt through the countryside.  It is always fun to learn alongside my children.  Life is never dull when there is so much to learn!  We are reading some books together on England this next month as well.  Here's one that is really interesting in time for Memorial Day weekend:

This book is a very well done visual journey through World War I.  We attend a local Memorial Day remembrance every year and they always read "In Flanders Field"--a famous poem from World War I. Now, I finally have some real perspective on where that came from!  And trench warfare sounds absolutely, positively horrible!  It makes me appreciate the sacrifices of soldiers EVEN more!

May this weekend inspire you to know more of God's story in history and the heritage that has come from it all....whatever your particular historical inspiration might be!  And do take some time to remember why it is called "Memorial Day."


  1. Lady Almina sounds like a perfectly FASCINATING read! Marking that down . . .

    I, too, have a biography sitting on my desk about the queen! It's kind of fun to know you do also. (It's not the same one.) We'll have to compare notes.

  2. I love this post! I do love England, at least through the books I've read, Austen, Lewis, Tolkein....I have followed the Royal family a bit - a great, great grandmother of mine worked at Buckingham Palace as a seamstress to ladies in waiting...Queen Elizabeth's grandfather did not abdicate but his oldest son, the Queen's uncle - then her father being next in line became King...

    We have enjoyed Lark Rise and Downton though like you have had some issues with the characters and the morality. I do like the way Lady Mary grew - I didn't like she or Lady Edith in season one...

    I will have to check out the Diamond Jubilee tea...thanks for mentioning it!


  3. Deanna,

    Thanks for your lovely comments and for correcting me. I still can't keep all of the royal family straight! But I sure am learning a lot and have a much greater appreciation for Queen Elizabeth.



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