Irony in the Cathedral
Beneath the storied dome and gilded mosaics of St. Paul's Cathedral, an inscription in gilt letters is embedded in the cathedral floor, bordering the stained-glass windows behind the altar: "To the American Dead of the Second World War From the People of Britain."
A fair distance away from that inscription, but still under the cathedral roof, is the monument to the memory of Charles, Marquis Cornwallis. The inscription on the monument is devoted entirely to Cornwallis' service as Governor-General of Bengal. There is no mention of his service, a world away from both London and Bengal, as commander of His Majesty King George III's forces against the rebels in the Colonies. Cornwallis was so contemptuous of Americans, and so humiliated at his defeat at their hands, that he refused to surrender his sword in person to George Washington. In the parlance of our day, he had his people contact Washington's people.
One imagines the shade of Cornwallis gnashing his teeth at the collaborators Churchill and George VI, whom he must have regarded as being on the same moral plane as Petain and Quisling. (But not Benedict Arnold, a loyal servant of the Crown.) When Tony Blair said, "Sorry about that," regarding the burning of the White House during the War of 1812, Cornwallis (who didn't live to see that war, but still) must have raised his spectral sword to cut the traitor down. And then threw a torch through the window of the Oval Office.
Whatever Cornwallis might have thought about a memorial to the rebels in St. Paul's, we will never know--at least not here, under the roof of Christopher Wren's cathedral, where thousands of worshipful pilgrims come every day to see the great edifice that survived the wrath of Hitler.