Here’s David, inspired by the World Cup…
“So what is the connection between England’s first World Cup 2010 match (Saturday, June 12th for anyone who’s just now come out of a 15-year-long coma) and Karen’s Old Westminster Walk 8.5 hours before kick-off?
Well you might ask.
Because not only is there a connection – there’s rather more of a connection than you’d dare think. A dine-out-on-the-tale connection.
Let’s start with the trees – the Red Cross of St. George. Which there ain’t going to be any getting away from over the next couple of weeks. Car antennae flags, window flags, caped crusaders, flag scarves, shirt flags, face (and chest) flags, bunting, Fleet Street ‘colours’, hoardings, etc. etc. etc. Deep dyed in St. George we’re all going to be.
Won’t be able to see the wood for the trees.
Or will we? Well, with London Walks – with Karen on her Old Westminster Walk on World Cup Day One – we will be able to.
In short, here’s the connection.*
Westminster is of course Edward the Confessor territory. To put it very bluntly: No Edward the Confessor, No Westminster Abbey. Let alone no Westminster – and everything** that follows from that.
And what do you know, Edward the Confessor – canonized in 1166 – was the patron saint of England until the Hundred Years War. And why did Edward the C. get demoted? Turns out that Edward III was in dire financial straits (empty coffers and full coffins, lots of them – that’s what long wars will do for you, as we’re of course learning all over again).
And that’s the cue for – you guessed it – they who are always with us: bankers. In this case, Genoese bankers. Edward III owed them big time. And who was the Genoese bankers’ patron saint? .’Fraid so. The very same – our very own (except he wasn’t ours, not in the least) – St. George. And, well, one thing led to another. Not sure which side it was that made the offer that couldn’t be refused. But however it came about it was a done deal. And it’s six hundred and some years later by our sainted George here we are.
Well not quite. Karen’s got one more bit very tasty Westminster seasoning for this dish. It’s this: another one of the highlights of her walk is a good look at one of our venerable, storied old public schools: Westminster. And – this should almost go without saying – Westminster School’s list of ‘old boys’ reads like a roll call of the famous. That roll includes our greatest historian: Edward Gibbon. And, sure enough, EG took a view – indeed, took the measure – of St. George. In short, England’s greatest historian described ‘England’s’ patron saint as a dishonest bacon contractor, loathed by Christian and pagan alike.
*And this – the leaping imagination, the calibre of the information, the wide reading and depth of knowledge it draws on – is a perfect illustration of why There’s No Comparison. There’s a world of difference between a concert pianist and a beginner. Ditto between an award-winning London Walks guide and the knock-offs and commercial fraudsters.
**It’s of course almost impossible to understate the importance of the consequences of Edward the Confessor’s decision to move the court from London to Thorney Island, where Westminster Abbey was ‘going up’. Though that’s another story, another post.”
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