A Christmastide Outing
Lively anticipation was to the full as our journey through winding roads and tidy storybook villages of Berkshire and Derbyshire brought us to Waddeston Manor, one time weekend retreat for the extremely well-to-do Rothschild’s. The ascent up the modest hill where the manor house sat did not prepare me for the grandiose home, nor for the extensive countryside view.
Built in the French Chateau style, it looked more like something Louis XIV may have lived in. Statuary sprinkled the garden walk alongside the fountains that lead to the grand entrance. Once inside the imposing doorway, the opulence of the place left me daunted. Waddeston Manor contains not only a grandiose interior of marble, carved work, and period furniture, it holds the largest impressionist and nineteenth century art collection outside the Louvre Art Museum of Paris.
In fact, the structure was built to house the Rothschild’s extensive art collection. Well, not just house it but show it off. Waddeston was a weekend get-away from London to entertain guests and genuinely impress them. It certainly impressed us, in buckets.
The fact that it was decorated for Christmas only enhanced. The overall theme was Italy, a favorite playground of the Rothschild family. Each opened room displayed a fifteen foot evergreen tree festooned for Christmas and the aspect of Italy it represented. There was a Christmas banquet room with table set for a holiday meal, a room that represented Mount Vesuvius covered with red lights and crimson satin, and even a three room tableau of the story of Pinocchio. No evergreen was in the games room with the pool table, but it held two living palms, ceiling-high, wrapped in small white lights. Very “Capri”.
Everything about the place called out look at me.
This, I thought, is where one would expect a King to be born. Yes, the King for whom we celebrate Christmas. This grandeur would surely suit His stature as Lord of all.
But He didn’t choose a dwelling such as this as a birthplace. Once outside, I looked across the green leas of the countryside, and the contrast struck my very heart. The Mighty God became flesh, not in a mansion, but in the humble surrounds of a stable. He chose, in the dark of night, a small, rough barn to house the greatest Work of Art. In a sense, I suppose the simple dwelling made the glory of the Christ Child that much more profound.
It became very clear to me on this visit to an amazing manor home that even in its opulence; it was only a shadow of the true beauty of a tiny desert shelter, heralded by a star and angels: birthplace to the Lord of all creation.
Candle for a Corpse: A Berdie Elliott Advent Mystery
Blurb: Who would guess that a simple Advent wreath would light the way to solving a Christmastide mystery in a small English village? When Berdie Elliott-the local vicar’s wife and former investigative reporter-gets the scent, she unwraps far more than Christmas presents when a vicarage Advent gathering goes awry and murder rocks the village. Despite lively newcomers, secret identities, a clandestine wedding, and dissenting constable, Berdie ties up the whole mystery with a bright Christmas bow. Tea and biscuits, anyone?
Excerpt: Berdie removed the three weekly advent candles from the holders. She laid them down across the hearth, bottoms facing her. She nosed closer to them and squinted. “These candles have designs carved in the bottom.”
Lillie looked at them. “Odd.”
“They’re trying to tell us something.” Berdie spoke her thoughts.
“I wonder where the fourth candle is.” Lillie looked across the floor.
“Ah, yes, the fourth candle. I dare say it’s in the bedroom.”
The helper looked perplexed. “What’s it doing in the bedroom?”
“When we answer that, my dear, we shall have the key to unlock this mystery.”