The day started out cloudy as we headed down to Big Ben. I had a meeting in one of the buildings by Westminster Palace and quickly discovered that the umbrella I brought was the smartest thing I packed. All the pairs of shorts I brought were the stupidest.
After my meeting we went to the Crypt at St. Martins-in-the-Field to eat granola food in a cute little cafe. The cafe evidently has problems with purse snatchings and every table comes with a warning on the table and a place under the table for you to hang up your purse.
I’ve been dying to check out the church because this is where Charles II was christened and also the church where Nell Gwyn is buried. For those of you who aren’t familiar with British history Charles II was born in the mid-1600s. He is the grandson of James I and great grandson of Mary Queen of Scots. He was exiled at a young age when his father Charles I was beheaded by Oliver Cromwell at Whitehall Palace (his ghost is said to still wander around). On his 30th birthday Charles came back to England with 10,000 Scots and retook the throne. He promptly had Cromwell executed, ripped apart by four horses (drawn and quartered) and then had his head displayed on a spike in Trafalgar Square (there is now a monument on that spot).
Charles didn’t have an easy time during his rule (who really did). In the first 10 years London was beset by plague and destroyed by fire. To escape the hardships he turned to women and this is where Nell Gwyn comes in. Nell was affectionately known as the Royal Whore and was a subject of one of my papers at Acadia. She was an interesting woman who was thought to be ahead of her time. She started out selling oranges at the theatre as a poor child and later became a comedy actor known for her wit and for being well liked by the British people. An example of her wit came once when crowds booed Nell’s carriage, thinking she was one of the king’s other mistresses. She promptly leaned out of the window and yelled: “I am the Protestant whore!,” and everyone cheered.
She had two children with the King and her home still stands just off Trafalgar Square (next to Charles II’s old residence) on Church Street. There’s supposed to be a tunnel connecting the two.
We searched the crypt for Nell’s grave but couldn’t find it. We did however find a creepy little statue of a man in a white hat that reminded me a lot of Baron Samedi from the James Bond movie Live and Let Die. He had a real evil smile and a creepy aura about him. Another thing we found was a massive gravestone rubbing center. Avid rubbing fanatics come here from all over the world to rub. There was a room full of them working away at bronze replicas of grave stones.