I just love a dramatic breakthrough. And a month before my recent trip to the UK, the Quest for the Lost Lord Keeper had a couple of them – so it seemed high time to throw a “coming out” party for the Quest!
The timing was perfect. I was already committed to the talks in Jersey, and so it was easy to expand things a bit in Westminster. But what about here at home in Colorado? Someone mentioned the perfect place, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it first!
The Cherokee Castle was originally a beautiful estate home built in the style of a 1400’s Scottish Castle, which sits perched on the crest of a rocky bluff in Douglas County facing the Rocky Mountains. But the castle also stands at the center of a foundation established to preserve the thousands of acres of land rendered increasingly more beautiful by its contrast to the growth of metropolitan Denver which spills around it. The Cherokee Castle is complete with a tower, parapets, gargoyles, stone spiral staircases, and a great hall.
But its the walls that grab me. The walls are singular combination of art gallery and museum with a significant focus in middle English history. That collection includes (among many others) a large, excellent portrait of King Charles II, and a gorgeous patent from King Charles II that includes a fully intact (second) seal.
Could there be a more perfect place to debut the Quest for the man who was King Charles II’s attorney from early childhood, and his Lord Keeper of the Great Seal during his reign in exile? It also seemed that this would be an unusual opportunity for the Cherokee Castle to host an event so directly relevant to the art and artifacts on display there…
When I first met with Jane and John to discuss the possibility, the striking synergy of venue and topic didn’t take long to manifest itself into a plan for an event. There seemed just time enough to pull it off – the week after I returned from the UK. After all, I wasn’t going to sit on my big news too long! With a verbal sketch of the event in our minds, we set about making it happen. And last weekend, it came off wonderfully!
I enjoy the adage that if you’re going to go to Prom, you should definitely dance! So, I decided to do this one right. I had gotten permission to create a scale replica of the “Trial of Strafford” painting using the photograph of the painting I had used for my analysis work. So, I got a 1/3 scale replica of that painting arranged so the attendees of the talk could get a real sense of the painting (that’s the biggest size I could safely transport). I decided to put my 1657 copy of “Lane’s Reports” on display, and also the 8-volume set of 1840’s “Lives of the Lord Chancellors” I had shipped over from a used bookstore in London several years ago. The day before, Mary, my family and I spent a good bit of time putting final touches on everything. It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun, too.
We arrived several hours early – to leave plenty of time to get everything right. Dustin and I worked out the perfect solutions for spot lighting the book, the replica painting and also the patent and seal of King Charles II on the wall at the other end of the great hall. They had just the tables we needed, and very nice, comfortable chairs all set up for the guests. Unlike the talks in Jersey and London, we had significant supporting pieces to set up this time, and took a fair amount of time.
While we were working the setup, guests began arriving, and the volunteer staff began taking them in groups on tours of the castle. In a pleasant mercy, the bar was up and working, so I got to sip my way through a Corona while we worked!
And finally, it was done! It was fabulous – everything had laid out well, and the special pieces we had prepared simply popped! With some time to spare, we had the chance to take a few pictures and to chat with the guests who had finished their tours as the crowd gathered for the talk.
The Main Event
There was a nice breeze coming through the side doors, and you couldn’t have asked for a more comfortable and interesting setting. Jane welcomed the guests, made a few announcements, and then it was my turn.
I didn’t have to remember to say thanks for the warm crowd that had given up a beautiful Sunday afternoon to share in this milestone of the Quest. I couldn’t have started without expressing the gratitude I felt first.
Things went smoothly, with only a couple of glitches. I am in my nature a wanderer when I give a talk – and I managed to evoke a several squeals of feedback when I wandered too close to the speaker. I suppose every cloud has its silver lining, though, so I’m going to claim it was insurance against anyone getting too comfortable after lunch!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to escape my ancient vulnerability when speaking – talking too fast. I don’t use cue cards, but next time I’m going to put a sign on the floor staring up at me that reads, “slow down”! I suppose its an artifact of the same excitement about the Quest that made it all happen, and I’m grateful to report that the guests seemed to generally give me a pass on it!
The simple fact is, the talk was very special, and everyone seemed to enjoy it very much. This was no lightweight presentation, and the audience seemed very much up to it! Sue Gallagher, the owner of the bookstore I bought the book from three years ago was there, and I had the pleasure of introducing her. I got a big laugh about the Romans “surveying” England in 53 CE. The unveiling of the Trial of Strafford replica brought a wonderful round of applause. As did the unveiling of the recently discovered photograph of the Lost Portrait of Sir Richard Lane. The audience seemed quite appreciative of the story of the analysis I presented at Westminster, and of how it was received.
The Quest has been a lot of work, but it has also a been a privilege. The chance to share it with this audience was also a privilege. Of course, the Quest for the Lost Lord Keeper is not over. In the words of another of my short list of favorite Englishmen:
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning“. – Winston Churchill
The Obligatory After-Party!
It took us awhile to clear out after the talk. There were questions to answer, and pictures to take. And I had thanks to give to the folks from the Cherokee Castle (including their fabulous volunteers)! But with the gentlest of eventual prodding, we finished packing everything up and said our goodbyes to the Cherokee Castle.
Anytime you get family and good friends together, you simply have to go find somewhere you can string several tables together, share a meal and tell stories (or in my case, pay bribes to keep stories from being told)!
Our victim (I mean “host”) was the Buckskin Saloon in Sedalia. They have fries that must take at least a few hours off your life expectancy, but they are so worth it! It was wonderful to sit and talk with good friends and family I haven’t seen in a while. There were nephews who are steadily encroaching on my long-held title as the tallest person in our family. There were friends of the family we’ve known and loved most of my life. New friends, too. And the siblings I absolutely treasure.
And with me also were also Mary and my Mom, who have each shared a research trip to the UK with me. They are the only ones here in Colorado who also know my growing circle of friends in England and Jersey…