It was the calm before the storm, a cabbie told me. I was in London some weeks before the start of the Olympics. All would be chaos soon, he said; his eyes in the rear vision mirror were quizzical, reflecting alarm and greed in equal measure.
But my mind was churning with the history of the 14th century. I only had a few days for exploration and the Museum of London seemed an excellent place to start. Not long after he married Lady Elizabeth de Burgh, Robert the Bruce escaped one dark night before King Edward could imprison him. ‘Sisters of The Bruce’ tells the story.
The couple were staying at the Bruce manor at Tottenham. A sharp knock sounded at the studded, oak door. Before Robert stood the aide of one of his friends: his task, to alert of impending danger. Robert heeded the warning for the coins bearing the head of a king and a pair of silver spurs told their own story. Quickly, he roused his men. With his bride at his side, he rode in haste from the city demanding to be let through in the king’s name at one of the city gates. At that time, London was enclosed by a large wall. Somewhere near the centre was the infamous Tower, home to the king and his imprisoned enemies, many of them from Wales and Scotland.
The story of Robert’s escape is told in my novel. I have been to London many times, but had never come across the London wall before until now. Beside the Museum, there are substantial ruins of the wall and a portion of one of the old gates. I was transfixed, imagining Robert at that very gate, blustering his way through the guards’ sleepy discomposure to escape into the night.
Here, in London, history lies a mere blood-beat away.