I am still not used to getting into the car on the driver’s side. I get tense while going around a traffic circle the wrong way. I scream inwardly at the approach of every oncoming car, because we are so obviously on the wrong side of the road.
But hey, they’ve done it this way for a long time without killing too many innocent Canadians, and so I’ve decided to accept it as charmingly eccentric. And by the way, that’s a very handy term for a lot of other things in the UK, too. Stay tuned.
Sarah took Barry and me to Buckden, a small town nearby Huntingdon, with a couple of very nice and historic pubs (cut and paste and use that phrase for almost any spot in the area) and some chic shops.
It’s also the home of Buckden Towers, now a Christian retreat centre, but known as Buckden Palace back when the Bishops of London owned it. The bishops have been entertaining royalty here since the 1200’s.
Its security features – moat, walls, towers – made it an ideal place for Henry VIII to put away his first wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon. She lived here from July 1533 to May 1534 while Henry was pondering over “The King’s Great Matter.” That’s royal code for “figuring out the best way to annul my marriage and get busy with Anne Boleyn.”
Henry eventually transferred Katherine to another castle nearby, where she died, apparently of cancer, in 1536. Henry refused to allow her to see her daughter Mary in her last days, which must have broken both their hearts.
I wonder if Henry ever thought of that when he returned to Buckden Palace in 1541 with his (fifth) wife Catherine Howard. It was on that summer tour that Catherine Howard was accused of adultery, which led to her beheading the following year. And wife number six.
We met a woman from France who had just arrived two days ago for an Easter retreat, and she invited us to see a chapel that is not normally open to the public. We followed her through the large and airy sanctuary through a door behind the altar into an interior mid-sized chapel, and from there we followed her through another rear door into an obviously very old, dark and intimate stone chapel with walls at least a foot thick, partially underground, and with a low timbered ceiling shaped like a shallow bowl. Unfortunately she could tell us nothing more about it, except that she had been there for a service recently, and that she liked the stained glass.
We liked it too. I even enjoyed (most of) the ride home, with thatched roofs and daffodils in full riot along the side of the road. There are so many, they must be growing wild. Easter in England is a magical time.