Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Up at 7AM. It is sunny!!!!
We were out of the hotel at 8:30AM to take another tour – or so we thought. The guy who sold me the tour wrote the wrong date on the ticket – this tour does not run on Wednesdays, it runs on Thursdays. Oh well, mistakes happen and besides, it’s sunny today!!!!!
My oldest brother, Steven, asked me to do some research for him. Years ago, someone on my Dad’s side of the family found a family crest – three gold wheels (one large, two small) on a red background. The family story goes that some distant relative was a knight to the British Royal Family. The story also goes on to say that a relative of this distant relative was a mistress of Henry VIII. Other than this crest, we have no proof of anything. My brother heard that records are kept at Westminster Abbey and he asked me to check it out. Since our morning was now free, we went to Westminster Abbey.
Ah –what a magnificent place! As my DH took the audio tour, I started asking around about the shields of knights. I was told they are all on display in the Henry VII Lady Chapel. I spoke to a nice older gentlemen in a green robe about the shields. He looked up “Roet”, or “Roets”, or “Roetz” in a thick book. Na-da. Apparently there are many different orders of knights (military and civilian) and this abbey only concerned itself with the Order of the Bath. Ok, I am done with that — sorry, Bro.
I continued on the audio tour myself and stepped into the Chapel of Queen Elizabeth I (the one of which all the latest movies are about). What a cramped and visually busy chapel! At the center is an altar-like structure — the crypt of Queen Elizabeth I. Her likeness in white marble gleams in the sun through the stained glass windows. As I looked around the crypt, I noticed a plaster shield mounted high on the top molding on the east end (foot) of the crypt — three gold wheels (one large, two small) on a red background! Oh, my God! I quickly found another older gentleman in a green robe and inquired about this shield. He paged through yet another book but could not tell me anything about it. He suggested I go to the abbey library and ask the historian. I was so excited that I found my DH and dragged him into Cousin Elizabeth’s chapel and showed him my family’s shield mounted on of the crypt (second from the left) of the greatest British Monarch in history! He was not impressed. I went to the library alone.
I pressed the buzzer on the door of the Westminster Library, across from the Cloisters (an serene patch of a green garden used for meditations by the monks). I told the buzzer “I have a question about one of the shields on the crypt of Queen Elizabeth I”. He buzzed me in. This library is long, narrow, and a bit musty and packed with books. A young gentleman called to me from a higher floor and I climbed the winding wooden staircase – it was like a scene out of a Harry Potter movie, I tell you! In this office I met Tony. I described the shield to him and he pulled down and paged through yet another book, but this one was thicker. There — in black and white, the book confirmed “three Catherine Wheels Or – Roet”. Wowee!
In a few minutes, he was able to tell me that this shield belonged to Sir Gilles de Roet, a knight of Hainault. His daughter (Philippa) was a “lady-in-waiting” from 1357-1359 to Queen Philippa of Hainault who was the mistress (and later the wife) of Edward III. Ok, so my family rumors were a few kings off the mark but it is still exciting to me all the same!
Why the shield (one of dozens) would be placed on crpyt of Queen Elizabeth I is unknown. Normally, these shields reflect family relationships. However, they have also been known to reflect business and personal affiliations as well. A quick look on the internet finds that Sir Gillies de Roet was a protector to Queen Philippa and assisted in her marriage arrangements to the King Edward III. His young daughter Philippa may have been a distant niece or cousin to Queen Philippa but there is no proof of that. In any case, the Roet family was tight enough with the Tutors to warrant the honor of their family shield on Queen Elizabeth I’s crypt.
I lit a candle for my Mother in the abbey next to the tomb of the Unknown Warrior before we left.
After Westminster Abbey, we went for lunch at Jamie’s Kitchen (11 Upper St. Martin’s near Leicester Square) – the restaurant of the Food Network celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver. This place had a modern and upbeat vibe. Everyone working there seemed to be under the age of 25. The food was excellent – I ordered the spicy Pasta Puttanesca, my DH ordered the fresh Tuna Fusilli.
Next, we took the tube to Russell Square to visit the famous British Museum, home of the Rosetta Stone. They also had an interesting exhibit on horses in history that I really liked.
London has a very active theater scene and we saw “The Phantom of the Opera” – one of my DH’s favorite shows. I know I use the word “wonderful” a lot, but this show really was.
After, we went out for Chinese food at Mr. Kong (Fried Tofu with Vegetables and Chow Fun) — so far, we have never had a bad meal.
We made it back to the hotel at midnight. Watched “Britain’s Got Talent.” Fell to sleep.