*disclaimer* If you’re expecting a coherent blog post, look away now…
Half a lifetime ago, I lived in an airy, light-filled Victorian flat near Battersea Bridge. It was built on the site of Sir Thomas More’s orchard. The tree outside my bedroom window was the last remaining mulberry tree planted by More, a huge gnarled, many branched tree, heavy with sweet fragrant mulberries which exploded staining pink juice when I picked them every summer. I don’t know if the tree is still standing, but I feel immensely privileged to have eaten Thomas More’s mulberries.
Our parish church, when we lived in that flat, was a not particularly attractive, red brick, mid-twentieth century building. The building belies the history. There’s been a church on the site for as long as there have been Christians in England. It was flattened during WWII, the Bishop of London decided not to rebuild it as London is heavy with churches, but the parishioners wouldn’t countenance that, and rebuilt it themselves. The outside of the church isn’t pretty, but the inside is rather lovely, filled with the tombstones and pieces of broken masonry. My favourite fact about the church is that Anne Boleyn marries Henry VIII there. I’m not sure why they were married in a church on Sir Thomas More’s land, maybe they were sticking two fingers up to him.
A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Epiphany service in the chapel at the Tower of London, the chapel where both Anne Boleyn and Thomas More are buried. Also at the service was the Lord Mayor of London, wearing full regalia. Around her neck was Sir Thomas More’s chain of office, the actual one that he wore in his portrait by Hans Holbein. It’s the only time of the year that it’s allowed to leave Mansion House, to visit the site of More’s tomb. I was close enough to her to touch it. I didn’t obviously, but I could have. Isn’t that more than a little bit amazing?