Recently, I went to see the musical ‘Hamilton’ in the theatre here in London. I so enjoyed the evening, the pace of the story and the songs although my favourite character was undoubtedly the utterly flamboyant King George III, who may have lost the war but who, I thought, stole the show.
Historically, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson considered Alexander Hamilton both unprincipled and rather nouveau and there his reputation stuck. Despite Hamilton’s tremendous intellect and scholarly contributions he was labelled and dismissed as a centralizer, even accused of advocating a monarchy. This musical has reinterpreted his role as that of a dynamic, visionary architect of the US constitution and a key founding father who died in a duel at a relatively young age.
He was educated in part at King’s College, New York which was founded by Royal Charter in 1754 by George III’s father. It has since had a slight name change and is now Columbia University. There are quite a few King’s Colleges one way and another. For example this was also the earlier name for Toronto University and there remain two or three in Australia as well as quite a few in the UK including Aberdeen, Newcastle, Cambridge and London. King’s College in London has a number of guises, one of which is as a university and the other is an excellent teaching and research hospital.
King’s College Hospital is one of the largest and busiest in London but it is also a research-intensive, leading teaching hospital in the heart of the city with a number of world-class specialties such as liver transplants.
It was established in 1829 by King George IV who was as flamboyant in real life as the kingly portrayal of his father on stage. King’s College became the founding college of the University of London and has collected a number of centres of excellence under its umbrella, including the world’s first nursing school; the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery.
On June 13th we are holding an event here at the Castle in support of the hospital, just really to say thank you to the amazing surgeons, nurses and support teams who work there. I knew so little about the world of transplants – it was something I read about in a newspaper – but then of course it became a desperate challenge for my family. My tiny niece, just six months old, was seriously ill and her only chance to live was a liver transplant. Few of us sign up to be donors and this was a salutary lesson to do so.
At 7pm one evening my sister Georgie called to say they were heading in to King’s College – there was a donor and, six years ago to the date of our event, the surgeons operated through the night to save her baby’s life. I do not think it is ever possible to know how to adequately thank the other family who, in their darkest hour, gave permission for their 24 year old to be a donor, or the surgeons, those gifted human beings, who operated on such a tiny body. Life is not always straightforward but the bonus gift of living another day makes every day a good one.
Another girlfriend, Angela, will also be joining us. Earlier this year, the King’s College team saved her life: she has children and grandchildren and an awful lot of courage.
To help raise some funds, amongst other things I thought I would offer a very limited number of tours of the Castle to those who are coming to the Downton Abbey concert later in June along with some VIP tickets. The asking price is a donation to King’s College and perhaps I will simply pick out the five most generous couples.
To end, maybe I can just appropriate some of Hamilton’s wife Eliza’s words:
“Look at where you are,
Look at where you stand.
The fact that you are alive is a miracle.
Just stay alive, that would be enough.”