January 18, 1486 – the wedding day of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. This London History Bulletin tells the tale.
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London Walks here with your daily London fix.
Story time. History time.
It’s January 18th, 1486 and it’s wedding bells. Westminster Abbey wedding bells. Royal wedding bells.
The groom is 29. The bride is 20.
The groom is King Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs. The bride is Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of King Edward IV. Is it a love match? Who’s to say? It’s certainly a shrewd, politic match. Henry’s only been king since October when he and his forces defeated and killed Elizabeth’s Uncle Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. It’s hoped that the marriage will shore up Henry’s claim to the throne – and call time on the Wars of the Roses – the series of civil wars fought over control of the English throne from 1455 to 1487. Wars fought between two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. Henry Tudor is a Lancastrian. Their symbol is the red rose. Elizabeth, his bride, is a Yorkist. Their symbol is a white rose.
That wedding was a very long time ago – as an American a pole star for me is 1492, the year Columbus sailed the ocean blue. A voyage that would have world-changing consequences. So naturally, I’m thinking, this wedding was six years before Columbus’ voyage. The bride and groom – and everybody else in the Abbey that day – indeed everybody else in Europe – was clueless about what lay over the ocean, clueless about what wasn’t so very far in the future of that generation, that first generation to know about the so-called new world. Not “new land” but “new world” – the weight of that noun gets it right.
And evidence of that wedding is with us every day at Westminster. I’ve been known to direct the gaze of my Old Westminster walkers to the Tudor roses that can be seen festooning the exterior of the Houses of Parliament and the Abbey. The Tudor rose is a white rose – the rose of the House of York – superimposed upon a red rose, the rose of the House of Lancaster. It’s a brilliant floral – and indeed floreat –– symbol, the white rose and red rose united, showing that those two formerly warring royal Houses are now united. United by that wedding. The Wars of the Roses are over. Henry and his 15th-century propagandists were very clever – they also drove the point home in other ways. Most notably, the vehicular arrangements on that wedding day. In the wedding procession, Yorkists and Lancastrians were each obliged to share a horse with a person from the rival House. Yorkists and Lancastrians, riding together, sharing the same horse, on the wedding day. No question but that also got the message across. To put it in native American terms, the hatchet was buried.
You’ve been listening to the London History Bulletin for January 18th. Emanating from www.walks.com – home of London Walks, London’s signature walking tour company. London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the-right-size walking tour company. And as long as we’re at it, London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.
And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative.
That’s the key to everything. It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.
It’s not rocket science: you get what you pay for. And just as surely, you also get what you don’t pay for.
Back in 1968 when we got started we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question: Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world? You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world you do whatever you have to do to attract and keep the best guides in London – you want them guiding for you, not for somebody else. Bears repeating: the way we’re structured – a guides’ cooperative – is the key to the whole thing. It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following, a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.
It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely – to front our walks with accomplished, in many cases distinguished professionals: barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, archaeologists, historians, criminal defence lawyers, Royal Shakespeare Company actors, a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the Guide of the Year Award)… well, you get the idea. As that travel writer famously put it, “if this were a golf tournament, every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”
And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar and the familiar new.
And on that agreeable note…come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks. See ya tomorrow.