May 15

Travel day

Today we left London.

We Ubered to the train station, the driver listening to the Queen address Parliament. I’d watched some of the procession go into Westminster before we left.

On the train, there was a reminder to not forget your hat:

But if you only thought about it in the train’s lavatory, you were out of luck.

We got to Belgium without problem. The biggest difficulty was in the elevator. A friend picked us up at the train station and drove us to her home. This evening we’re relaxing. Tomorrow we start to explore Brussels.

May 15

Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace

If you didn’t read the title, here’s your next clue:

We were at Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. The queen was there. Tomorrow she’s delivering the Queen’s Speech to Parliament.

Here’s something that’s different these days. Quickly the norm, but just a few years ago …

And you know what? Most of them are lousy photographs. (Which is good news for photographers.) The people don’t move. (Which is good news for the police and crowd health, no one needs a paparazzi stampede at the changing of the guard.)

I, of course, move around.

The Queen’s guard are moving off, so I would hustle around and get in front and to the side again. Look how different the last shot and next shot are:

So the next time you’re firing and forgetting from your phone, try to move around a bit. Squat down, stand on your tiptoes. Get different angles. Focus. (It is remarkable how difficult that can be for us snapshot types.)

Here’s some video:

We had tea at Kensington Palace. Once again, we had tea at a palace:

It has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century, and is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.”

So it was OK to ask for seconds then, right?

Hanging out with my buddies Syndey, Angelica and Abby:

May 15

London Tower, Tower Bridge and more

Don’t know about you, but this is the first time I’ve ever been on an empty subway train:

Hanging out with the Beefeater at the Tower of London:

The last time we were here we did not see the armor collection, so we checked out what some of the kings wore once upon a time. Here are a few interesting examples of what the warriors and jousters and horses wore:

That last one belonged to a prince.

We also went into the Tower Bridge. Didn’t know you could do that.

Those two crosspieces over the top are walking bridges. Midway through there are two wide glass panes that you can peer down onto the bridge and the water below. You should see the pictures I took for everyone else from that vantage point.

Our tour also gave us a view of some of the machinery that raises and lowers the bridge:

One more shot of the bridge, as we passed underneath it on a boat cruise:

The London Eye, also from the Thames:

The Palace of Westminster, from the Thames:

Chocolates from the place where we had dinner tonight. Good Indian, bad grammar:

We saw Wicked tonight. This is the curtain:

And the curtain call:

Good show.

May 15

The British Museum

(This is a long post with 15 cool photos and just over a thousand words. The last photo, I assure you, is worth the wait.)

Dressing up, because that’s how you do the big museums.

I wore a polo, because I don’t do big museums properly.

Tiglath-pileser III didn’t mind. He had other things on his mind. This is the capture of Astartu (in modern Jordan). The cuneiform says it was taken by King Tiglath-pileser, shown here in his chariot, under a parasol. The population was leaving under Asssyrian escort. This took place somewhere between 730 and 727 BC. He built the world’s first professional standing army and conquered much of the land they knew about at the time. One of the world’s great military rulers, he frequently appointed eunuchs as puppet governors of newly conquered lands. No dynasty. He shrank the provinces, reducing the power of his officials by reducing the size of the provinces.

This is part of the false door and architrave of Ptahshepses. Usually the Egyptian tomb doors focused on the afterlife, but this one tells how lived in this realm. He grew up at court, married the king’s daughter and lived through the next six pharaohs as a high priest for Ptah, the chief god of Egypt’s capital at Memphis and patron of artisans. He was also the senior priest of Ra in three sun temples. This is during the 5th dynasty, around 2400 BC. The stone was painted red to resemble wood, which was rare. Ptahshepses was also called “barber of the Great House” and the “manicure of the Great House,” great honors because his work required him to touch the pharaoh. It is said he got to kiss his foot, where most people had to kiss the ground because the king was a religious incarnation himself.

The history of decorative tiles dates to Egypt and Ancient Greece and at least to the 13th century BC in the Middle East and Sri Lanka on hugely important projects. They weren’t common, but the Byzantines and the Romans and in places like Tunisia and Iran they really hit their stride. Starting around the 10th century, tiles became more common in Western Europe, but they were still expensive. When the Moors invaded Spain things really picked up for the art form, the art and several of the techniques spread throughout Europe throughout the 16th century.

This is all going to be important in a bit.

But first, more about our friend King Tiglath-pileser III. This relief was in his palace and shows the sheep and goats captured in his campaign against the Arabs. The livestock were being driven back to the Assyrian camp:

Here’s a relief of the king. He’s got his ceremonial robes on, because he, too, wanted to be like Elvis. He’s holding a bow and his assistant behind him has more weapons. The king should be staring at two officials, but that part of the relief no longer exists. (They have drawings.) Tiglath-pileser may have had this in his palace, but it was also used by King Esarhaddon — his great-grandson — a half-century later.

It was hard to be a king. Esarhaddon was killed by his older brothers. Two of Tiglath-pileser’s sons also ruled. Two because of another familial coup.

But, if you were a succesful military campaigner like Tiglath-pileser, you got your share of war treasure. This relief showing a woman and herd of camels are more of the spoils of war he won during his reign.

But this was all in the 745–727 BC era. Let’s go even farther back into Assyrian history.

This is a guardian lion from the temple of Ishtar Sharrat-Niphi. It was 15 tons and is meant to represent the goddess of war. It guarded the entrance to Ishtar’s temple, installed between 865-860 BC. It was re-discovered in the 19th century.

The signage calls it fierce. That it guarded the temple is important.

Do you think it intimidated anyone?

How did the Egyptians do lions? So glad you asked. This is meant to be King Amenhotep III. The pharaohs were often shown as a sphinx, but this full lion image is rather rare. Amenhotep IV called the king a “lion of rulers, wild when he sees his enemies tread his path.” This dates to 1390 BC, but the lion and its companion piece were used by several rulers throughout history.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Rosetta Stone, a decree from Memphis, Egypt, mandated in 196 BC by King Ptolemy V. There are three scripts, three languages, Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script and Ancient Greek. The text is basically the same, and that gave scholars the key to our modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Thought to have been on display in a temple, the stone was eventually used as building material of a fort. From there it was rediscovered in 1799 by a soldier, Pierre-François Bouchard, of the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt. In 1802 it became British property as a spoil of war. Since 2003 the Egyptians have asked to have it returned. So far, they’ve only received a replica. This is the real thing:

The supreme god Amun is portrayed here as a ram. That ram is protecting King Taharqo. Two cobras are symbols of sovereignty. This sphinx and others like it lines a road to the temple of Amun at Kawa. This is from the 25th dynasty, 690-664 BC.

This is supposedly a pair of protective spirits, a great lion or Ugallu/ This is Assyrian, from Nineveh, dating to around 700-692 BC:

Bronze tablets like this one were often placed on temple walls as dedications to gods. This tablet is said to describe an offering made to the Sabean god Almaqah after a successful grain harvest. A Tree of Life is surrounded on either side by sphinxes and date palms. It dates to the 2nd century BC of Yemen:

And, finally, this is a 4th-century AD mosaic floor from a villa in Dorset. It is an important Christian remain from the Roman Empire. This central portion is believed to be the earliest known mosaic of Jesus Christ. The Greek letters X and P (chi and rho) are the usual symbol of early Christianity. The pomegranates are meant to suggest immortality.

In the corners of the larger mosaic are four heads, thought to be Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The mosaic was rediscovered in the 1960s.

May 15

The story of Billiter Street

Once upon a time Adam came over to see us. Being the history major that he was and the genealogy buff that he is, he has traced his ancestors migration to the new world.

He is descended from Richard Mynatt, who came over to the colonies from England in 1749. Mynatt, the son of a sailor, was a 20-year-old cook who signed a four-year agreement of servitude with Thomas Lee. He would go to Virginia and become the head cook of Stratford Hall, the birthplace of Robert E. Lee. (Thomas was his grandfather.)

When Thomas Lee died, Mynatt’s contract was passed to Philip Ludwell Lee. When Mynatt’s servitude was up, he asked for his freedom and the money he was owed. Philip said no, so Mynatt went to court. He became the first indentured servant in America to win his freedom in court.

Philip would serve in the House of Burgesses, but died before the Revolution. Two of his brothers, Richard Henry and Francis Lighthorse, signed the Declaration of Independence. Stands to reason that Mynatt knew them.

Now, Adam has been to Stratford Hall. He’s climbed into the attic space that was where Mynatt lived for four years. Some of his recipes are said to still be on file there.

But that might me about the only thing Mynatt left behind. He moved a few counties to the north when he gained his freedom in 1754. He started a family and later worked as a courier for George Washington, serving two tours of duty, in the Revolutionary War. Richard’s eldest son, William, is also on Revolutionary War rosters.

In 1787 Mynatt sold his Virginia land and moved the family to east Tennessee, where he bought several hundred acres of farmland. He worked as a doorkeeper for the Southwest Territorial House of Representatives

He died in 1823 in Union, Tennessee and is buried there, in a family cemetery. He was 96 or 100 years old, depending on which record you like. He and his wife, Sarah, had 10 children.

Adam has been to the Mynatt cemetery. But he’s never been to where the ancestral roots began. Adam has found the document that showed Mynatt’s immigration and servitude. It lists the road where Richard Mynatt lived in England, in London.

Let’s find it on a map, we said, when he came to visit.

As these things do, one search led to a neighborhood, which led to looking over every street in the area and there it was. Billiter Lane is now Billiter Street. And it was very close to where we were.

So naturally we went for a visit.

It is a small little road, and of course it looks nothing like mid-18th century London.

This is the oldest building on Billiter, and it is from the 1860s. No one Richard Mynatt knew when he left for the colonies would have ever seen this place. Nor would their grandkids. What I’m saying is, it has been some long time since Mynatt left:

It is a small little road. This is a photo taken while standing on one end of the modern Billiter. You can see the other end from here.

It was cool to see where it all started. A young man who left for reasons lost to history, worked hard and turned himself into a free man, a successful land owner in the new world. He worked on the edges of history and raised a family. And now here’s one of his great-great-greats now, wondering where on this street an English sailor raised a future American cook.

And that’s the story of Billiter Street.