“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” Danny Kaye
CHATSWORTH: At the urging of our camp neighbors we decided to pay a visit to the remarkable home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth. Chatsworth has been owned by the same family for 16 generations! As we approached the grounds, we drove along fields with thousands of sheep that were grazing on the luscious grasses. Whereas on the Continent we saw mostly cattle, in England it was definitely sheep country.
The exterior of Chatsworth appeared palatial in every way, including extensive gardens with a huge gravity-fed waterfall.
The first few rooms we entered were way over the top in frilly opulence and, in our opinion, therefore not exactly beautiful.
However, when the history of the house began to evolve as we continued on the tour, the more stately truly regal rooms that were covered in tapestries and contained royal thrones, literally designed for a hoped-for a visit by the King of England, gradually captured our fascination.
There was a lovely lady’s bedroom
We walked through several guest bedrooms, one of which contained a bed that had been slept in by Queen Victoria on a visit to Chatsworth.
The stately dining room had the table set just as it was when Queen Victoria had visited.
As always, it wasn’t just the extravagant splendor of a stately mansion that was the biggest thrill. Instead, it was the history that had played out around the rich and famous occupants over several centuries at Chatsworth that provided an added thrill.
FOUNTAINS ABBEY: In 1132 thirteen Cistercian monks (symbolic of Jesus plus the 12 disciples) founded Fountains Abbey, which became one of the richest monasteries in all of Europe. Four hundred years later King Henry VIII, who was embroiled in a hopeless dispute with the current Pope, separated from the Roman Catholic Church and created his own church, the present-day Church of England (Anglican Church). The crux of the dispute between the Pope and the King was the Pope’s refusal to grant Henry a divorce from Wife #1, Catherine of Aragon, so he could marry Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII decided to seize all the wealth accumulated by the Catholic monasteries, then destroyed the monastery buildings, and this is what happened at Fountains Abbey. A sufficient skeleton of the church and the monastery living quarters has survived to make this a breathtaking landscape.
The nave of the cathedral is now a plot of grass with skeletal remains of walls that held windows that once lined the aisles.
We encountered a similar scene in the large room that used to function as the dining hall of the monks.
Even the storage rooms that held supplies for the abbey had wonderful vaulting.
For me, Fountains Abbey had it all—spectacular remnants of a grand monastery from a time in history when monasteries were great seats of power and wealth, plus the Tudor connection, resulting in its destruction under Henry VIII. How fortunate for us that this important historical ruin in such a pastoral setting is preserved as a World Heritage Site under the care of the National Trust.
“Of all losses, time is the most irrecuperable for it can never be redeemed.” King Henry VIII