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In Search of Sir Francis Drake
by Kathryn Gillett, Elizabethan England on Britannia
Ten Miles North-East of Cirencester
We stopped at an old coach house for a cup of tea in yet another ancient village called Northleach. After our thankfully hot cups of tea, we walked over to Northleach's beautiful church. The doors were open, and we quietly entered the sanctuary. As with so many British churches, this was a historical monument in and of itself - complete with a history-rich brochure that let all comers know that "it was the wealth of the wool merchants in the 15th century which paid for the magnificent church that exists today." Reading this, I was sure this statement would explain most of the ancient buildings surviving in the Cotswolds today.
As I drifted my way through the tranquil interior, I came upon a chapel and glanced at a non-descript carving in the wall. It was a silent messenger that had made the same announcement for hundreds of years: This chapel was built to commemorate the marriage of Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York. I stood there, as the 15th century story flooded my conscious mind. Glorious outcomes of this union were hoped for, but the realities could not have been imagined at the time. With Henry VII's marriage to Elizabeth, the white and red roses of Lancaster and York became the white-and-red Tudor rose - and the civil war that would later be called the Wars of the Roses was soon to end. The couples son, Henry VIII, would change this nation's religion, and their granddaughter, Elizabeth I would alter its place in history forever. And here I was, over 500 years later, standing in a little chapel that was built from the hopes of a civil-war-torn nation to celebrate an event that would ultimately change world history. Yet only those looking in the shadowed corners will ever discover this sacred place's connection to that profound event. I lingered a while longer· and left as quietly as I had come.
Photograph of Northleach Church by Lawrence Ross.
Next Stop: Stow-on-the-Wold
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