The Footsteps of History

On a wall inside the Beauchamp Tower of the Tower of London there are words. It’s called graffiti; it is thoughts of prisoners held captive in the thick stone walls since 1280 when the tower was constructed. A few of the hundreds of words jumped out at me, willing me to take wonder at the story they told.  I sought out one word in particular. I was on a hunt. The other engraving that most impressed me was one I stumbled upon, looking up and expecting to see something great, but being blown away by the actual truth of the statement.

 I wanted to find the engraving “Jane.” Our fantastic tour guide of the London tower, who was actually a Beefeater aka Yeomen Warder, told us a story of this engraving while we sat above tragic Lady Jane Grey’s bones. Jane Grey was nominal queen of England for nine days in 1553. In a very thrilling fight for the throne and religion, Jane and her husband were imprisoned by Mary Tudor. While this might not be completely historically accurate, the way our tour guide told it—Jane faced her death with remarkable dignity, which was surprising for one so young. She was just sixteen. Her husband, as a final declaration of love, engraved her name onto the wall. Subtle, difficult to find unless you search for it, and nothing special, it makes all of the deaths and bones at the tower a little bit more personal. They were people with stories, and intense stories at that. They loved and they lost. Their fights were powerful. And I walked where they must have walked as they pined over the unjust execution of a sixteen year old, as they planned the disappearance of two boy kings, as they stood guard for the queens jewels to feed their family, and as they lived the words that make our history.

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The surprise of the Beauchamp Tower was, for me, an engraving by Richard Blount. Centuries ago he wrote “To whom you tell the secret you give liberty.” In the two days that I have been in London, I have been liberated by thousands of history’s secrets. They may not be secrets in the dictionary definition sense of the word “secrets”, but in many ways they relate to the definition. They were completely unknown to me three days ago. When I found them out, they caught me by surprise and then completely delighted me.

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The charming gardens of beautiful Regents College have whispered to me secrets of wonder; the flowers add bright color to the gray sky, the ducks gracefully float, and the surrounding stone buildings make it all feel like a scene from The Secret Garden.  The Sherlock Holmes Museum whispered secrets to me. The wax figures and ancient books made me question the line between fiction and reality. The Tube plays a game with telling me secrets. Just when I think I have it figured out, I realize that there is a bustling world I have never seen above me and I remember that the Tube is a pretty good keeper of secrets. The Tower of London held many secrets itself. I saw things I had heard about, and millions of more things that made me wonder why I had never heard of it all before.

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These secrets along with the things I sought are together constructing within me something magnificent. As strong as the towers that have stood for centuries, these emotions build a wonder within me. I delight in God’s creation, in His plan, in His providence through history, and  masterpiece of the human mind. Whether it was a sight I expected to see, or something I was pleased to happen upon, I have been thus far absolutely enchanted by London. 

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