Saturday, January 08, 2005

Inside the Middle Temple

LONDON, January 8--Our sightseeing began with lunch in the Middle Temple, one of the four Inns of Court that make up the London bar--scene of Rumpole of the Bailey and Dicken's novels like Barnaby Rudge. After lunching with two British barristers (without wigs, disappointed that we weren't potential clients I suspect), thanks to some American legal friends, we trekked over to the Temple Church, located in the Inner Temple--where the Paschal Lamb turns into the Crusader's Horse. Buried within were Crusader Knights Templar. They rented out their headquarters to lawyers centuries ago to make some money to support themselves. The crusaders are gone, the lawyers remain. Half of the signatures on the American Declaration of Independence were by Middle Temple members, including John Hancock. So there is a historical link between Crusaders, English law, and the existence of America. Bin Laden's anti-American rhetoric about Crusaders and Jews has some sort of historical roots, that all of Bush's pro-Muslim chatter can't erase. After the Nazi Blitz (Hitler was allied with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, of course), the American Bar Association paid to reconstruct the Middle Temple hall from the splinters remaining. The photos on the wall show a pile of rubble at the end of WW II. Incredibly, it looks like the original today. Will be buying Piers Paul Read's book on the the Knights Templar, spotted at Waterstone's...

Also worth noting, Alistair Cooke's "Letters from America" collection is number two on Waterstone's bestseller list. Even after his death, it seems Alistair Cooke still can put out a best-seller. I interviewed Cooke for my book on Masterpiece Theatre, and he really was a remarkable storyteller and sophisticated in every way. I hope the book gets some play in the USA.