A Bang-Up Time at Westminster Abbey

What an experience it was. As I sat in my seat at Westminster Abbey, I almost pinched myself. I can’t believe I’m sitting here. I knew I’d probably be sitting there for awhile, so I tried to drink it all in and memorize every detail…the soaring architecture, the sculptures, the paintings.  Was that Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, sitting next to me? No, turns out it was a young advertising exec from north of London that looked very much like her—but she was friendly, and we struck up a conversation. I wondered where my husband was sitting and wondered if we would be able to find each other when this was all over…we’d gotten separated when I took too long staring at Elizabeth…

No, I didn’t get to attend the latest Royal Wedding, but watching the news and seeing them inside Westminster Abbey reminded me of the last (and only) time I was there. Yes, right there, sitting in the spot where…hmmm, was it the place where Elton John sat on Friday or Posh Spice? Not sure.  Maybe they felt my leftover vibes.  If they did, they were a bit frightened vibes.  You see, I was once required to sit for awhile inside Westminster Abbey due to a bomb threat.

In the summer of 1993, Andy and I, married one year and not yet parents (by the way, today is our 19th anniversary), decided to take a trip to England to visit my sister, who’s lived there since the late 80’s with her husband and son.  We’d spent a few days in my sister’s town of Chester and were wrapping up our trip with a whirlwind three days in London, trying to pack in as much as we could see, in case we were never fortunate enough to be able to return.  If I remember correctly, on our last day there, we’d visited The Tower of London, Parliament, the Churchill War Rooms, snapped a photo of Big Ben and finished up the afternoon by walking to Westminster Abbey.  I’d studied up on British history on the plane ride over and was fascinated with all the people who were buried inside there—yep, did you know that Kate and William’s guests also included hundreds of famous dead people?  Just about every historic church in England is also a sort of “mausoleum”, and Westminster Abbey is no exception.  Sir Isaac Newton is inside there, and so is Charles Dickens.  George Frederic Handel’s final resting place was Westminster Abbey and Queen Elizabeth I’s tomb (along with her sister, Mary) is in a far corner. It was there I lingered awhile, marveling at its black and gold artistry and remembering facts about the Red Queen, a daughter of Henry VIII. It was almost closing time, and Andy, who was ready to leave, said, “I’ll meet you outside the front doors in 15 minutes.”  After 15 minutes, I was still in the Elizabeth corner and realized I needed to practically bolt out of there in order to make my way across the broad expanse of marble floor and out the door in order to not be too late.  But as I approached the doors, I was told, like masses of other people, that we could not leave, that a possible bomb had been found outside, and that the doors would be closed until further notice. Yikes! Where was Andy? And how were we ever going to make it to our next stop on time, a planned pub tour south of the Thames? So it was that I began my “sit-a-thon” with the Fergie look-alike (unfortunately, they didn’t let us spend our time looking around the Abbey some more). Since this occurred before the age of cell phones, I definitely had something to sit there and worry about, in terms of finding Andy when it was all over. Was he even outside, and would he be moved several blocks away? (Yes, in fact, to both questions.)  Would those of us inside be let out the doors where he and I were originally going to meet? (No, in fact, we weren’t— after what I remember to be about an hour, we were ushered out a different set of doors, not exactly close to the other ones.)  What if the bomb went off anyway? (It didn’t, but if it had, I reasoned, it would be a grand place to die, with some pretty famous company to boot). 

Upon exiting, I headed to our planned meet-up spot and after waiting a few minutes, finally spotted my husband.  We left Westminster Abbey, happy to have found each other and that our “adventure” there was over—similar to William and Kate’s sentiments a few days ago! Only they left in a horse-drawn carriage for an 8-tiered cake at the palace, and we left on foot for a “shandy” (ahem, that would be beer mixed with 7-Up) at The George Inn.

3 thoughts on “A Bang-Up Time at Westminster Abbey”

  1. Happy Anniversary!! How did we manage before cell phones? We have been enjoying the wedding spectacle as seen on T.V. Gracie would love to be incarnated as Royalty in the next lifetime. Me too!

    Sharon Howard

  2. Happy Anniversary. I know I was pretty self-involved in 1993, but how did I not hear about this story? Potential bomb threat? Wow.

    Great story. Great writing as usual.

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