This writer admits to being an Anglophile and it began as a kid from stories read about King Arthur and Robin Hood. Later in high school I loved English Literature and in college took courses on English History and Shakespeare.
My fascination with our “mother country” is pretty much shared as millions of Americans recently were glued to TV watching the Coronation of Charles III. While Americans may not fully understand the idea of a parliamentary democracy and the devotion of a people toward Elizabeth II and now her son Charles, we have a way of establishing royalty in this country as well.
Here in America, it is more toward film and TV stars, sports stars and other celebrities. Even to charismatic political figures like John F. Kennedy and his “Camelot” and Ronald Reagan and his “City On A Hill.”
Through working with the late actress Deanna Lund and her support group, my wife and I made some of our dreams come true, gaining many young friends from the United Kingdom. The first of several trips permitted us to be guests in lovely English homes. Our friends there asked us in the very beginning to advise them what we wanted to see on a tour of their country, which essentially was everything–and we were well provided for.
As a history and government teacher for four decades I knew full well that our greatest democracy in the world gained much from England. It began with the Magna Carta in 1215 A.D., when kings had to recognize the sovereign rights of the people, and eventually the first Bill of Rights ever put together in England 1689, which would later lead to our own Constitution. It was this background that made us demand on our independence in 1776 as we felt Americans were entitled to the same rights of every Englishman.
So our first tourist trip was the beautiful historic London which we could not get enough of and we learned how much we had to unlearn. The Tower of London was a major draw and we had pictured a real tower. No, it is a well laid-out palace from which the earliest kings and queens ruled the land. It was rather ghostly, as it was here that many noted personages were imprisoned and you expected at any second Mary Queen of Scots would pop out of a room to greet you.
And if you were into historic homes and museums, there were more than one to visit, especially the underground Winston Churchill bunker and war rooms used during World War II. There, you felt like you were transported back to the 1940s, with recorded sounds to add to the visualization. At one point you hear someone clumping down some steps whistling and is admonished, “Hush, don’t you know there is a war on?” And you see Churchill’s bedroom and feel like his wife Clementine, whom he nicknamed “Cat”, had just fluffed the pillows for a nap. You feel strongly how this man was to many the greatest statesman of the 20th Century.
One special place to us Sherlock Holmes fans was 221 B Baker Street, which was completely rebuilt and set up to look like the home and office created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. You are invited to tea with a lookalike Watson by housekeeper Martha Hudson. Nearby to the Holmes residence is great fun, the famous Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum where you get to mingle with famous folks in wax from all over the world ranging from James Bond’s “M”, aka Judi Dench, to Christopher Reeve as Superman. This writer had the fun of standing on the balcony with Elizabeth II and Prince Philip (pictured right) and could hardly suppress a tear of joy because as a freshman in high school I had a crush on then-Princess Elizabeth.
And of course there is so much to see outside of London. We especially enjoyed Glastonbury, where Joseph of Arimathea was said to have owned a mine and after the resurrection of Jesus Christ hid the famous Holy Grail in a pool with running waters. There is even a belief that Joseph was related to Mary and brought our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as a young man on a tour there.
We also visited an overgrown fortress on a hill believed to have been the location of Camelot (where you might have to suppress the urge to sing “Camelot” like Richard Burton). Not too far from there is the haunting Stone Henge and like many places in the UK, it makes you feel as if you are in the original era it was erected. The many ravens that encircle that location may remind you of the lost souls said to be seeking release; their cries seem to be saying, “Stranger, beware our fate, give your worship to God.”
As lovers of the works of Williams Shakespeare, we had to go to Stratford-Upon-Avon to visit where the young Shakespeare grew up and was inspired to become a writer. His home as a youth, like many old English homes, was well built and very warm and friendly. I was prevented from taking pictures as the guide explained that they could not risk a thief breaking in and using the pictures as a guide. (This was amusing to us, as a gift shop next to the home sold postcards with pictures of every room. Made this writer wonder if English thieves were so tight that they would not buy postcards.)
In all of our trips we have enjoyed the wry sense of humor that seems to be common among the English people. My wife Carolyn and I will always remember our leaving England our first time at Heathrow. We had to have our carry-on luggage checked by uniformed Bobbies and right before we were to be checked, Carolyn said to me, “My bag is stuffed–I need to put my hair rollers in yours.” When it came time for mine to be checked, I felt a need to explain to the tall officer (who resembled a young John Cleese of Monty Python fame) why hair rollers were in my bag. He replied, “That’s what they all say, sir.”
Yes, as the famous wartime English entertainer Vera Lynn was famous for singing, “There’ll Always Be An England.”