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Arts and Culture, History, Transportation and Traveling, United Kingdom

To the Castles: On Myth, Monarchy, and Majesty

In my first month, I have seen three castles.

How cool is that?

One overlooked the charming village of Doune. Another crowned the bustling town of Stirling. The final one soared above the grand city of Edinburgh.  By the end of each trip, my legs and lower back burned and grumbled from the steep hills and countless stairs. Was it worth it?

Of course.

I’ve seen palacios and palazzos before, in Spain and Italy. I’ve even visited the Iolani Palace, residence of Hawaiian kings, in Honolulu.

But there’s still something wondrous about a castle. Even now that I’ve outgrown (mostly) my Disney princess phase. Even now that I can clearheadedly critique the materialistic and regressive “princess phenomenon” in contemporary culture.

Perhaps it’s because, as an American who never grew up with a royal institution, I have an unrealized desire for majesty. Certainly, there was enough of that to spare when I beheld the Crown Jewels of Scotland or the Stone of Scone for the first time.

The egalitarian in me noted the expense of keeping jewels that can pay for a social program or two. The monarchist, the one who loves a good, grand symbol, hushed that voice.

Because don’t a lot of people quietly yearn to see that kind of grandeur, even for just a moment? Isn’t that why all our eyes were trained on the Royal Wedding? Don’t we all sometimes just want the fairy tale, the illusion that it is possible to have Camelot in this day and age?

In my Order and Nature in Renaissance Writing class, we’ve been examining notions of order and control, divine right, in the Renaissance period through such cultural markers as masques, gardens, horseback-riding, dancing, etc. When it comes down to it, the castle is merely a symbol of power, of control, which is perhaps especially comforting to me and so many others in this uncertain time, in which economies flounder and revolution is in the air.

The castles I saw were each radically different, from the lonely harshness of Doune to the colorful vibrancy of Stirling to the glorious might of Edinburgh.

Yet, all were arresting, all were majestic, all were magical, each and every one.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail was shot here. I even got to run around with coconuts!

Stirling Castle was the childhood home of Mary, Queen of Scots, and was supposed to be the seat of the King of Scotland.

Me in front of grand Edinburgh Castle. It was like a city within a city!

About Anna Cabe

I'm your average over-stressed Asian-American overachiever, your typical moderately talented wannabe writer, your everyday nerd with subpar social skills. I'm pretty boring really.


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My comments do not represent the views, positions, or opinions of the Fulbright Program, any of its partner institutions, or the United States Department of State.

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February 2012
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