Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Ireland

I’m finally back from a long weekend trip to Ireland, and I basically have no free time whatsoever! I had such an amazing time, Ireland really is such a beautiful country with some of the best people in the world. The Irish know how to live life to the fullest and are always up for a good time.

I caught an early flight from East Midlands Airport to Dublin, managing to catch all my buses but unfortunately forgot my watch, my number one travel essential. I was scared that the trip would be doomed without it, but I managed. I was welcomed into Dublin with blue skies without a cloud in sight. A miracle. I met up with one of my best friends, Kiersten, who is studying in Galway for the semester, and it was so awesome hanging out with her! I hadn’t seen her since August, before she left for school and I left for England, so it was so great just catching up with her and sharing stories. We took advantage of the nice weather and wandered around Grafton St. and St. Stephen’s Green, until I couldn’t wait any longer:

The Old Jameson Distillery.

Heaven
The Jameson Distillery was one of the few things that I’ve wanted to do for years (since my first trip to Ireland, where I fell in love with whiskey) and finally getting to go was a dream come true! Definitely one of the highlights of my Ireland trip and of my year abroad in general. The tour is pretty informative, a guide walks you through several different rooms, each one explaining a different aspect of the whiskey distilling process. I’ve been to the main three now: Scotch whisky (most are distilled twice), Welsh whisky (Penderyn is distilled once), and finally Irish whiskey (triple distilled). Obviously, I have all types of American whiskey to conquer next! Thanks to much prior advice, I made sure to raise my hand when the guide asked for volunteers—and I was the first one chosen, since my “hand shot up like a fucking bolt!”

I got to do the special whiskey tasting at the end, which included a little sample of Scotch whisky, Jameson, and American whiskey (Jack Daniels). All were delicious, of course, and I got a certificate with my name printed on it! Everyone got a free Jameson drink, which was, of course, perfect. Kiersten dutifully took my picture for me everywhere in the distillery and didn’t seem embarrassed or ashamed to be seen in public with me! Best friend status right there. Next stop: gift shop! Nothing stopped me from blowing my money and I am quite satisfied with all my purchases, which included a real flask and a shirt, among others.

It's official!
Kiersten and I outside the distillery
 Kiersten and I walked to Phoenix Park and saw the obelisk, dedicated to the Duke of Wellington, I believe. It was such a beautiful day and so nice to be outside! That night we went for a pint at one of my favorite pubs in Dublin, The Celt, and listened to traditional Irish music. They played Galway Girl, which I know is super annoying and overplayed, but it’s one of my favorites.

Thursday morning we caught a bus to Galway and Kiersten showed me her town! It is so quaint and cute, really gave me that small-town feel. We saw the main drag and I finally saw Galway Bay! We walked for a super long time along Galway Harbor to Salthill, before we decided that we were tired and bored with walking and went back. That night Kiersten took me out to some of her favorite pubs and bars, and it was such a fun night! Seriously, Irish people know how to party like no other. It was also “Rag Week” at the uni in Galway, which isn’t officially sponsored by the uni anymore and I’m not really sure what it is, except that everyone drinks and parties even harder than usual. Regardless, it was super awesome! We went to a pub and listened to more trad music, and then went to a bar that was packed, but a lot of fun. Kiersten and I said bye before she got in her taxi home, and I wish I could have had more time with her! It’ll be fun being back and Luther next year and getting to hang out with her all the time.

Galway Bay
  Friday was a pretty relaxed day, I was tired from going out the night before so I kept it simple. I hit up St. Nicholas’ Church (circa 1320) and Galway Cathedral (a disappointment from circa 1957), as well as the museum. I got a great deal on kebabs and went to bed early to try to catch up on sleep. It was not meant to be, because that night I lived out what I think is my worst hostel experience to date: at 4:00am a guy threw up in his bed, and then (since our room had an en-suite bathroom), stumbled to the toilet where everyone in the room got to listen to him puke for the next 20 minutes. #soberandunamused

I left early Saturday morning to catch my bus to Cork. I dumped my stuff and had a nice time wandering around the city centre, checking out the English Market and the main sights before catching a train to Cobh for a quick half-day trip. Cobh has a beautiful 19th century cathedral, St. Colman’s Cathedral, which was my first stop. It’s up at the very top of a hill overlooking the town and the harbor. Cobh was also the final stop of the Titanic on her maiden voyage, so I saw the original pier that the Titanic passengers walked on! The museum (in the original White Star Line ticket office building) was too expensive and I didn’t feel like spending the money. But Cobh is a beautiful little town, right on the water. And seriously, the water is so gorgeous and unlike water I’ve seen anywhere else.

St. Colman's Cathedral in Cobh
Saturday night I met up with Hayley, who is a friend of a friend who’s studying in Cork for the semester. She’s super awesome, and I’ll be living with her next year so it’ll be lots of fun! We went to a pub and listened to trad music (literally I’ll never get bored with it) and listening to Shouting Guy and Shouting Guy’s Friend do their thang.

Sunday I walked and saw Shandon in Cork, which is a tower you can go up and ring the bells. However, the tower was closed so I couldn’t go up. It gave a nice view of the city though! I headed to Blarney via bus 215 and headed to Blarney Castle. The grounds around the castle are so beautiful! The castle reminded me a lot of Pembroke Castle, lots of towers, steep winding stone stairs, random rooms you can peek in, everything. The view at the top was also super great, and I’m happy to say I finally kissed the Blarney Stone! And since Winston Churchill kissed the Blarney Stone, and I kissed the Blarney Stone, that basically means I kissed Winston Churchill, right?!

Blarney Castle
Kissing the Blarney Stone!

 I spent a lot of time wandering around the Blarney Castle grounds, walking by the river and around the lake, exploring the caves, and wandering through this rock close with a bunch of famous rocks. It rained for a little bit, but for the rest of my rambling the weather was pretty nice! I got the bus back to Cork after I was castled out, and saw St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral (which unfortunately was closed, assholes). I trekked for a long ass time uphill to see the Cork City Gaol, which was cool and interesting—they had a lot of information about the individual prisoners that were held there, which I thought was a cool personal side of it. After that I got food and killed some time at the bar below my hostel before I left for the bus station (to get the bus to the airport). My last meal in Ireland: McDonalds double cheeseburger, candy, and a Bulmers. Keepin’ it classy.

I got back to the flat in Notts pretty late, but it was so worth it! I seriously had an amazing trip, I only wish it was longer and that I could have done more and seen more in Ireland. It really is a country I want to explore more, and I feel very at home there. The people are wonderful and I will never get sick of Irish traditional music and someone singing Galway Girl. If only I had more money and more time and less school! It’s been pretty busy for me getting back, I have a ton of homework to do for Polish, I need to read for my history essay, and in general I just have so much stuff to catch up on. I pretty much only have tomorrow, since Thursday I’m going on a day trip to Durham (my name is Maja Proescholdt and I will go anywhere for a good cathedral) and then Friday morning we have a flat trip to Hadrian’s Wall and York. And then next Wednesday I’m headed to Holland for another long weekend! So I’ll be pretty busy, but I’ll try to keep up to date with everything!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Today I'm Grateful Because...

So basically I’ve had a bunch of amazing things happen for me in the last month, and I really don’t know what to say about it all. Rarely in my life do I have times where everything seems to be going right, or things just click. So I wanted to show my appreciation and emphasize all the good things in my life, because next week or the week after things will probably get shitty. Okay so here is a list of all the things I’m thankful for:

-England. Seriously, some days I wake up and I feel like I’m dreaming. I can’t honestly believe that I get to live here and run around the country seeing cathedrals and getting lost in castles and walking where all my people walked. It really is a dream come true, to be able to be with my people and have my heart and body and soul all in the same place.
-I have an amazing family. Shout out to my parents, who are (hopefully) still reading my blog! My family rocks. My parents have constantly offered me encouragement and support to go for my dreams, and helped me stay on track and not give up even when things look rough. Since I’ve been in England, I’ve received encouragement from various other family members, aunts and uncles and cousins, who have all in their own way let me know they’re thinking about me. It means a lot.
-I have an amazing sister. Seriously have you met my sister? She’s fucking awesome. I love her. Basically the only reason I want to go home is so that I can text her random shit every day. With the time difference it’s really hard for me to make Skype dates with people at home, but she will consistently Skype me during her breakfast time so that we have time to catch up. She rocks my world. The end.
-I have some seriously great friends. There are my good acquaintances who tell me they’re excited for me this year, and friends who will “like” my stuff on Facebook, but this one is all about the few people who know exactly how much this means to me. They’ve been listening to me talk about these places and my people for years. They understand just how important it is when I meet my hero and go see one of my people’s graves. They get it. This one’s for them, you know who you are.
-My Joy research has been credited and published in several different newspapers. I still don’t really know how to put everything that’s happened into words, it’s just so surreal. But both The Siberian Times and a Slovakian newspaper have mentioned me by name and validated the hard work I’ve done. It means so much to be recognized by international newspapers, but I’m just as proud of that as I am to be acknowledged in an article for Chips, Luther’s newspaper—all my friends and professors at school who know me and support me can see the success of this story. Front page in Chips, holla! Research like this, and having a story I care about so much published around the world, is what I hope to do with my life. Here’s to an early start!
-I have amazing flatmates who have supported me through all of it. Walking into a room with my computer and trying to announce to my flatmates that people across the world recognized my research could end up pretty anti-climactic. They are the ones who were with me when it all happened. As soon as we found out about The Siberian Times, my friend Sarah immediately pitched the idea to Chips and offered to write the article for them. Knowing that these wonderful people are proud of me means so much. Whether it’s the toasts (of shots or beer or cider) after reading the Slovakian article, or silently passing me the Kleenex box at breakfast when I found out that my Chips article was front page, they’ve been by my side.
-I have amazing flatmates in general. But actually. Here’s to the never-ending baking parties in the kitchen where we eat more cookie dough than we use to actually make cookies, the flat sing-a-longs to any of Riskay’s many quality songs, the morning jam sessions at breakfast to Yung Humma’s “Lemme Smang It,” new articles on the Wall of F/SHame, random dance parties on a Thursday night, no one talking to me in the morning before I finish my of bowl of Honey Nut Cornflakes, perfectly timed movie quote references, good times in The Smoke Yard, finally having me walking through the kitchen in a towel for my shower beer become the norm, building forts (“porn forts”) in the living room, and all the “Hi” and “How was it?!” when I walk in the door after a trip. We’re crazy and I love it. Imma miss it next year.
-I opened a UK bank account three weeks ago and finally have money in my account. The long saga of Paypal is finally done and over: it took three weeks to transfer money from my US bank account, via my US Paypal account to my UK Paypal account, and to my UK bank account. I finally caved and opened a bank account here in England since I was sick of getting fucked over by fees. Transferring money via Paypal significantly decreased my “international processing fees,” but took literally FOR-FUCKING-EVER. After finally calling them (note: the automated message system does not recognize “are you fucking kidding me?!” as an appropriate response), I got my money transferred. My first purchase with my Barclays card: 20-can case of beer from Tesco, supposed to be £15 but rang up as £13.65. It’s a sign. The approving nod from my bus driver as I got off with my case under my arm says it all.
-Living in a city that knows how to have a good time. Nottingham likes to party. Any night of the week, there is a plethora of clubs and bars and pubs you can go to and have a great time. If you don’t like clubbing, don’t come here. You’ll be bored. Going out in Notts is always so much fun! People start early and go hard, and if you like to go out you will literally never be bored. Ocean is my favorite, I will miss it so much next year. Also, HOLLA to having the UK’s best bus system! The longest I have to wait during the day to get to the city centre is about 6 minutes. It would take me about an hour to walk to campus, but with the bus I can do it in 25. I especially love the night bus, which saves me £7.50 on cab fare when I go out on the weekends. All about dat yung N77!
-I have amazing opportunities to travel in Europe. Round trip airfare to Riga, Latvia for £48? Check. Ryanair is letting me go see one of my best friends in Ireland for £19.99 one-way from East Midlands Airport. There simply aren’t these kinds of options in the U.S. for two main reasons: 1) The U.S. is fucking huge. 2) The U.S. relies on cars, not public transportation. I frequently get scoffed at by Europeans because I’ve never been to New York City, which is so “American.” After I explain to them that airfare would cost $400 or I’d have to drive for 30 hours (one-way), they tend to shut up. Europe is incredibly accessible in a way the U.S. just isn’t. I’m trying to take as much advantage of it as I can!
-I have a healthy body that does amazing things for me. I’m finally starting to push myself to do harder and longer runs. I’ve been feeling pretty pathetic, since I was running the Lake Street-Ford Parkway loop (6 miles) fairly regularly this summer, and my longest  run in Notts was just about 4 miles. But I’m done being a pansy and I’m running longer and harder and up more hills and not being scared! I’m so appreciative of the fact that I’m healthy and my body can handle tough challenges. These challenges also include yoga, which I’ve been doing regularly (mainly with a few of my flatmates) and which frequently kicks my ass. Frog and wheel, this one’s for you. It takes a really long time to love your body. But seriously. Treat your body right and treat yourself right. Love your body, and it will love you.
-I got my housing figured out for senior year and I got what I wanted. Aka I won’t be homeless senior year! It’s been really stressful trying to plan out housing for next year, since I’m not actually at Luther on campus to get things straight. Baker’s been the dream since freshman year, and I am so excited to live in an apartment and not be forced to go the caf! Depending on availability and if the 6 of us get a 6-person apartment, I might even have my own room. Which would be ballin. I’m planning on throwing a kegger for myself, which will take place around pants-off-o’clock. No one else is invited. It will be glorious.
-I passed all my classes at uni last semester. Grades were released a few days ago, and I did far better than I could have hoped in my Polish and Russian Culture classes! In the UK system, a 70 is an A, and anything above that is super good. Just gonna say it… got a 92 in Polish and a 70 in Russian Culture. I can’t believe I did so well in my Russian Culture exam, considering that I had 23 hours to study for it after getting back from a month’s worth of travel over winter break! The celebrations started Thursday and will continue forever. Also, assuming that the Russian Culture class will transfer okay, I’m officially finished with my Russian Studies minor!
-I finally finished all six seasons of Dawson’s Creek. The journey that has taken me eight months is finally complete… Not only did the good theme song come on for the last episode/series finale, but what can I say: Team Pacey forever. Not even Netflix deleting the last three seasons (coincidentally timed with me starting Season 5, aka when I actually needed to watch the last seasons…) or having the bad theme song at the beginning of every episode could deter me. Again, Team Pacey for life. Any Team Dawson fans out there… sucks to suck. What a wonderful show! So glad I finally watched it!

Honestly, life is just amazing right now. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and look at what is happening. The only thing that is wrong right now is that I just finished my last jar of Skippy peanut butter. So if anyone from home wants to send me another jar, that’d be cool. Otherwise, life is so beautiful! Go live it!

Ice Cube- It Was A Good Day

Didn’t even have to use my AK, I had to say it was a good day.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Update on Joy's Story

Wow, literally so much has happened! I thought I’d give everyone who isn’t friends with me on Facebook an update on all the exciting stuff that’s been going on in the past few days. It really is incredible! And I thought the article in The Siberian Times was it…

Last night, I found out that a newspaper in Slovakia picked up my research on Joy and mentioned me in an article on January 31! I’m working on getting the article translated into English, since unfortunately I don’t speak Slovak. I can understand the main points, since I know both Russian and Polish, but I’d really like a full translation! According to google translate, I was referred to as an “amateur historian” and an “enthusiastic lover of history.” I can’t believe it!!! It really is amazing, that this story can travel to so many places. Here is a link to the article in Slovak:


Not only did a newspaper in Slovakia mention me, but my good friend and flatmate here in Nottingham, Sarah, also wrote an article about my research for Chips, Luther’s newspaper. Her article was published yesterday, and not only was it fantastic because she is so talented and brilliant, but I also made the front page!!! I’m still waiting for my own physical copy to get here to Notts, but I’ve already asked my friends at Luther to keep a few extra copies for me anyway. My friends took a picture of my front page status and sent it to me! Can I get a what what?!?!?

Shout out to my lovely friends Anna and Katie (pictured!) for sending me this pic of my front page article!

Here is the link to the article:


And a link to see the whole newspaper aka my article is on the front page!!!


I really am at a loss for words to describe how all this feels. I am so thrilled and truly honored to be mentioned and have all my hard work credited in major publications! However, the real reason I’m this happy is because of the publicity this story is receiving. This story is traveling all over the world, and I am genuinely honored to have been a key figure in its journey. I care SO much about this story, and it is so important to me both personally and as a historian. The saga of the Romanovs is one that is known throughout the world—it is a story that is entrenched in grief and tragedy. I, too, feel the pain of this heartbreak. I am so passionate about Russian history, about the Romanovs, and about this little dog named Joy, that the end result truly does matter to me. I care. I really, really, care.

And knowing that Joy lived, that is a story that I want everyone to know. I want everyone who picks up a book about the Romanovs, like I did, and who cried over this tragedy, like I did, and who felt their loss, like I did, to know this story. To appreciate this small silver lining in an otherwise awful and depressing tale. I want people to know. People need to know, people need to know about Joy.

Thank you so much to everyone who has listened to me talk about this story for years, who has supported me in my research, and who have publicized this story I care so much about to the whole world.

RIP Joy, you are not forgotten.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Alison Weir!!!

Dreams come true part two… I am so incredibly honored and truly grateful to finally have the opportunity to meet my favorite British historian and author, role model, and hero Alison Weir last night!!! I journeyed to a library in some suburb of Leicester to hear Alison Weir give a talk on her new biography, Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen. I am embarrassed to say that I haven’t read the book, but considering that it came out right after I got to England, and I’m crazy insane busy as a student already, and it costs £20, I feel a little less bad.

I took a train from Notts to Leicester, and then took a city bus (first city bus ride in Leicester!) to the Oadby Library. I wanted to make sure I had enough time, just in case something went wrong—what if I missed my train? What if the next train was delayed? What if I got the wrong bus? What if I got lost? What if I had to walk from the train station? What if I couldn’t find the library? What if any possible occurrence happened that might make me even the slightest bit late? Typical questions that have the same outcome: me being obscenely early for all trains/buses.

So the end result: I started waiting outside the library at 5:35pm for an event that started at 7:00. Look at all the fucks I give.

During my long wait outside in the cold, I made besties with the bookseller, who arrived early and tried to let the library people let me in early so that I didn’t have to wait out in the cold (they didn’t.). Finally around 6:20 I was joined by about 5 other people, and so the library people finally let us in. I was proudly the first person through the doors, and got a front-row seat. Fuck da police!!! Front-row seat!!!

I was literally so excited I could barely sit still. And then I turned around and I saw Alison Weir talking with the librarians!!! She was there!!!!!! When she came up to the front and sat down, she said hi to me (and other people who were in the front row but whatever she talked to me) and then the bookseller/librarian pointed me out as the girl who had been queuing outside in the cold since before 6, and so I took my chance and went up and talked to her!!!

Oh my god, we literally had a legit conversation and I can’t even believe it happened and all my dreams came true. I told her how much I love all her books (I’ve read all of them except Katherine Swynford and the new one), how she made me love England, and that she’s the reason I’m here now. She was so nice, she thanked me and told me I was so kind. She asked me where I’m from (she has not been to Minnesota!) and asked what I’m studying (history), and what time period. When I said the Tudors, she just looked at me and gave me this face as if to say “yes, you’re in the right place.” I told her that Princes in the Tower was my favorite of her books, and all of a sudden she started talking to me about this letter and how they think someone added in the “body” part later and I had no idea what she was talking about (obviously, since I haven’t read Elizabeth of York), but she was still talking to me. Alison Weir!!! Talking to ME!!! As if I were her peer and equal!!! WHAT?!??!?! Oh my god, I literally can’t stop smiling even as I’m typing this.

Anyway, I felt that I should let her actually do her talk and not just crowd her like a crazy obsessed fan (which I am), so yeah basically we had a real conversation and I talked to her. I can’t believe it.

Her talk was excellent—she, OBVIOUSLY, knows her stuff (she said she first started research Elizabeth of York in the 1970s) and I just felt like I learned so much. I can’t wait to read the book, so much research has gone into it, and as she told me when we chatted, she does talk a lot about the Princes, since “their fate is pivotal to what happened to Elizabeth.” Elizabeth of York is such an interesting character in history, and I can’t wait to find out more about her. Summing her up in one word, Erasmus called her “brilliant.” Also, there were red and white roses on her table, which I don’t think was coincidence :)

After the talk she fielded questions, including the highly contentious one of where Richard III should be buried—she said, “I’m in Leicester now, I know!” but ultimately asked the audience where they thought Richard would want to be buried. He had founded chantries in both York, Middleham, and his family is buried in Fotheringhay. It’s such a divisive debate, so it’ll be interesting to see where he ends up. I’m hoping for Leicester, not because I really think that it’s the best place for him, but just because Leicester is closest to Nottingham and I selfishly want them to hurry the fuck up and bury him so that I can go see his grave before I leave!

I was one of the first people to get my book signed—when my family came over winter break, I specifically requested that they bring me my own copy of Princes in the Tower (Savers, $2.99) so that when I met her, I could have her sign that copy. Not only did she sign my book (it’s an older edition, and when I gave it to her she said, “haven’t seen one of these in a while!”) but I also got a picture with her!!! 
 
With my hero Alison Weir, dreams do come true!!! :)

After that, I didn’t want to be too much of a stalker so I headed to the bus stop, got the next bus, took the next train back to Notts, took the bus home, and just exploded with happiness when I got home.

I can’t believe it all happened!!!!!! This woman has been probably the most influential person in my life for the past 7 years. Freshman year of high school I did two projects on various Tudor related people for my World History class, and then I read Alison Weir’s Six Wives of Henry VIII. It took off after that and I never looked back, I read every book I could get my hands on and I’m still constantly left with a pile of books to read. She has consistently been my favorite author, “my girl,” and I am constantly amazed every time I read one of her books. Her writing has made history accessible to me, her research is mind-blowing and never ceases to amaze me, and I can’t believe that I finally got to meet her. She introduced me to my people, and I’ve fallen so deeply in love with all of them. I can’t imagine my life without them.

In the last week, I have been lucky enough to live out all my dreams at the Katherine of Aragon Festival, and then to meet and talk with my hero Alison Weir. Dreams do come true. I am the luckiest girl in the whole world, and so truly blessed.
 
To sum up everything for me this last week, here is Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote from his Nobel Peace Prize Lecture in 1964, which always reminds me of being in England and of my people:

"Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meaning can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart."



Sunday, 2 February 2014

Katherine of Aragon Festival!!!

I spent most of this last weekend at the Katherine of Aragon Festival, which takes place every year in the last weekend of January in Peterborough. Katherine is buried in Peterborough Cathedral, and I have been waiting basically my whole life to go to the festival. Okay maybe not my whole life, but 5 years ago I found out they did a Katherine of Aragon Festival to celebrate her burial, and I decided I would go. My conviction has not wavered since that moment. And it exceeded all my dreams a million times over!

It’s a funny thing, when all your dreams come true… I’m not entirely sure that it all happened and that it was real. And you know how important this was to me because I woke up pre-7:00am on a day I don’t have class not once, but twice to get to Peterborough! Luckily Peterborough is only about an hour away from Notts by train, and a direct line so I didn’t have to change. For some reason, I seemed to have forgotten just how beautiful of a cathedral Peterborough is. I don't know if it's just because I've seen so many stunning cathedrals, but I walked into the square and wow. It really is something else. I couldn't even believe my eyes.

Friday morning I got up at an ungodly hour and headed straight to the cathedral for the Commemorative Service at 10:30. It was a wonderful service, there were lots of schoolchildren there which was annoying, but they sang some nice songs (including Pastime with Good Company, a song composed and written by Henry VIII) and were behaved for the most part. It was amazing to sit there, in this magnificent cathedral, with my girl right on the other side of the nave, and listen to the Dean of Peterborough talk about how awesome Katherine was. It really was something extraordinary. Not only was I there, but there were so many people who will now know what an amazing woman Katherine was! A costumed Katherine also read her last letter, and I sat there and cried and listened to it and I knew that everyone else there was listening to these amazing words. Since maybe not everyone has her last letter memorized, here is the last letter she wrote, on January 7th 1536, to Henry VIII:

My most dear lord, king and husband,
The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I owe you forceth me, my case being such, to commend myself to you, and to put you in remembrance with a few words of the health and safeguard of your soul which you ought to prefer before all worldly matters, and before the care and pampering of your body, for the which you have cast me into many calamities and yourself into many troubles. For my part, I pardon you everything, and I wish to devoutly pray God that He will pardon you also. For the rest, I commend unto you our daughter Mary, beseeching you to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat you also, on behalf of my maids, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all my other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things.
Katharine the Quene

Even up until her final days, until the day she died, Katherine continued to sign her name as “Katherine the Queen.” Despite the fact that she was shamed, banished, and divorced, she still believed in herself. What a badass. BADASS!!! My god, I love her. Katherine died several hours later, on January 7th 1536, and was buried in Peterborough Cathedral on January 29.

Dreams really do come true! :)
Inside the cathedral
The service was so beautiful, attended by several dignitaries (including the Mayor of Peterborough, and a representative of the Spanish Ambassador to the UK, as well as a descendent of Lord Huntingdon, who oversaw her funeral procession to Peterborough), and afterwards I went to her grave. They had laid a wreath, with a sash of the Spanish colors, and there were pomegranates, her symbol, on her grave as well. I cried and some very nice lady took my picture.


I had a super long time to kill after the service before the next service, and so after I poked around the Peterborough Museum, I headed to the library. I sat for 4.5 hours and read most of Philippa Gregory’s newest book, The White Princess, which I hadn’t had time to read before I left for England. It was so relaxing and so awesome.

I headed back to the cathedral for Vespers at 5:30pm. It was unreal, being in this huge, beautiful, magnificent cathedral at night, sitting in the quire. The choir was quite good, but my favorite part of this Vespers service was what the Dean of Peterborough said about Katherine in his introduction to the service: “Katherine was noble in her humility, and loving in her loyalty.” It was perfect.

Peterborough Cathedral at night

Day 2 was another early day! I headed straight to the cathedral with some flowers I bought in the market square, and I had the great honor of finally laying flowers on the grave of this amazing woman. I was essentially the only person in the cathedral too, which was a wonderful experience. I headed to the museum and went on Tudor Walk around Peterborough, given by the lovely Dot in her Tudor costume. I learned so much about the old Tudor buildings, as well as local history about Peterborough, and quite a bit of information about the cathedral. It was a bit chilly and very windy, but I would weather any storm for the Katherine of Aragon festival!

Katherine's grave with my flowers :)
Our lovely tour guide, Dot, trying to work her iPad

I headed to the library and finished Philippa Gregory’s book, 520 pages in a grand total of 5.5 hours. It was a very good read! The next event was the Tudor Authors Talk in the library, which I really enjoyed. Elizabeth Fremantle and Valora Bennett have both written historical fiction novels based in the Tudor court, and they opened their presentation with a slide that read: “Katherine of Aragon: Queen of Peterborough’s Heart.”

They had a great discussion about the religion aspect of the Tudor period, as well as what it was like for women and gave a fantastic insight into Katherine’s life, particularly as the daughter of Isabella of Castile, a queen in her own right and definitely a strong ruler. My favorite part (besides when they were talking about Anne of Cleves, and they said after her divorce from Henry, “she got rich and liked to drink.”) was when they quoted another of my favorite quotes about Katherine. This one is from one of her greatest enemies, Thomas Cromwell:

“If not for her sex, she could have surpassed all the heroes of history.”

Well said, Thomas Cromwell. Well said.

I could literally look at this cathedral every day forever and never get sick of it
After the author event, my festival weekend was pretty much over. I went back to the cathedral one last time, then headed to the train station to go back to Notts. It really is an amazing feeling, when your heart and your body and your soul are all in one place at the same time. It is a feeling I think I get frequently since I’ve been here in England, but there are times when I notice more than others. Standing in Peterborough Cathedral, at the grave of my favorite and most-beloved person in all history, surrounded by people who care about her too, it’s something I’ll never forget. The respect and love and admiration I have for this woman is simply to great to put into words. Words can’t do it justice. But she knew I was there, and I knew that she knew. 
 
It truly was a dream come true.

RIP Katherine of Aragon, your strength, conviction, and faith will never be forgotten.