We went to Winchester Cathedral this afternoon, and stayed to participate in a very elegant evensong service. The cathedral is the burial place of Jane Austen, of course, and her tombstone is interesting for its utter lack of any reference to her writing. Instead, it lauds her Christian virtues, her fine mind, and etc., and expresses hope that she’s found acceptance with her Redeemer. Only later, with her growing literary fame, was a memorial added to the wall beside her grave (financed by her nephew, with money he had earned by writing her biography) that praised her for her books.
Winchester Cathedral is also the final resting place — in a sense, since the box in which their bones rest is actually out for conservation at the moment — for such early English kings as Canute (Knut, Danish born; died AD 1035) and William Rufus or William II (d. AD 1100), the son and successor of William the Conquerer.
Canute, by the way, has been much maligned. The story is often told of his going down to the seashore and, by virtue of his kingly rank, foolishly commanding the surf to cease pounding upon his land. It’s an illustration of arrogance and vanity. But this badly misrepresents the king, as is shown here. Canute was, by many accounts, one of the best of the very early monarchs of what would become England.
Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, son of the great anti-slavery crusader William Wilberforce, is also buried in Winchester Cathedral. He was said by many to be the foremost orator of his day, although Benjamin Disraeli apparently didn’t much care for him, calling him (among other things) “Soapy Sam,” and his best remembered outing now is his famous debate with T. H. Huxley, “Darwin’s bulldog,” about evolution in 1860.
After evensong, we drove to Highclere Castle, which some of you may recognize. (Which of you will recognize it first? And what will that say about you?) The house was closed by the time we reached it, and, anyway, tickets for visiting inside are long since sold out for the summer. So we walked around the grounds. In real life, Highclere is the hereditary seat of the Earl and Countess Carnarvon. Some of you will recognize that name, too. As well you should: It was the fifth Earl Carnarvon who sponsored Howard Carter’s search for the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings. They opened the tomb in 1922. In April of the following year, Lord Carnarvon died in Cairo from an infected mosquito bite, and, thus, launched the myth of “the pharaoh’s curse.” (So tell me honestly: Is that why you recognized the photo above?)
From Highclere, we drove to Oxford, where I spoke about “Faith and Scholarship” with a small group of LDS students and singles in the chapel of Jesus College. It was pleasant. For me, at least.
Speaking of Benjamin Disraeli, by the way: After the gathering at Jesus College, we refueled our car at the Beaconsfield service area off of the motorway. It’s the second summer in a row that we’ve gassed up where Disraeli (aka Lord Beaconsfield) used to gas up.
Perhaps there’s significance in that.
Perhaps, on the other hand, there isn’t.
Posted from London, England