Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Red roses for a king, from the Queen who followed him

He was the king whose actions led to a Conquest seen as the turning point in royal power in England. She is the woman who wears the Crown that was claimed in Conquest and which has wielded power ever since. On a cold October day in London, Elizabeth II left red roses at the tomb of Edward the Confessor, one more chapter in the royal story that links them both and all played out in a building associated with the Monarchy for centuries.

The longest reigning Monarch in British history was at Westminster Abbey to mark the 750th anniversary of its rebuilding. Of course, there has been a church on this spot far longer. It was Edward who turned the Abbey there into a major religious building with links to royalty. When his weak rule led to a fight over his throne, the man who conquered his kingdom arrived at the Abbey to be crowned. It became a symbol of royal power. But by the 13th century, Henry III decided it needed improving. A newer, bigger Abbey was built there on his orders and it was this construction that Elizabeth II came to celebrate.

The woman who rules the realm squandered by Edward and conquered by William led commemorations for all that the Abbey has contributed to life, royal and otherwise. Elizabeth II heard the Dean of Westminster celebrate how the church is ''standing firmly for faith at the heart of our nation and Commonwealth'', a reflection of how royal power has changed in the centuries.

The Queen was also surrounded by physical reminders of the Abbey's past including a fragment of the shroud of Edward the Confessor and an Anglo-Saxon charter recording the restoration of land at Westminster to the Benedictine Order in the 10th century.

And as she left, the Queen left a reminder of her own. The red roses were placed for her at the Altar of the Shrine of Edward the Confessor, a personal tribute from one Monarch to another in a place that unites them and all who have held that role forever.


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