Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Churchill Series - May 14, 2009

(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Today we end the “Walk in Churchill’s Steps” series we began Monday.

We're now walking up Whitehall from Downing Street toward the Palace of Westminster, the official name for what is really a group of buildings most often called simply “Parliament.”

An easy few minutes walk takes us to the grass covered square across from Parliament. The square's called - you guessed it - Parliament Square.

We’ll stand on the sidewalk at the southwest corner of the Square. Churchill often stood in that spot waiting for the light to change before crossing the street.

As we look across the street what we see is little changed from Churchill’s time. The part of Parliament closest to us - a one-story building - is Westminster Hall, completed in 1097. Sir Thomas More was tried there. And there in 1982 President Reagan delivered what's come to be known as The Westminister Speech, one of the greatest speeches delivered by any 20th cantury President.

Across the centuries Britain's royalty have lain in state in Westminster Hall. In his latter years Churchill knew he would be given a state funeral and lie there as well.

Now turn to you’re right and look at Westminster Abbey. On June 18, 1886 Churchill, then age 11, stood in the crowd outside the Abbey to watch Queen Victoria and a Golden Jubilee procession arrive at the Abbey for a Thanksgiving Service.

St. Margaret’s Church is also in your view. If a visitor in the 1930’s had stopped to ask Churchill, “What’s that smaller church beside the Abbey?” Churchill could've told him a great deal about it. It’s the parish church of Parliament; and the place where he and Clementine were married in September, 1908.

Churchill might have asked the visitor where he was from. If the visitor had said, “North Carolina,” Churchill would likely have told him Sir Walter Raleigh is buried beneath St. Margaret’s alter.

We’ll end our “walk” still standing on Parliament Square's southwest corner.

When you first arrived there, you noticed a Churchill statue (photo here) just a few feet from the corner. The statue's sparked some controversy. There are those who say it shows an old, brooding Churchill.

But I like it very much. To me Churchill looks resolute, defiant and indomitable, just as he was when he led the fight for Britain and civilization.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about the statue and our series of “walks.”