UK TOUR DAY THREE (LONDON): One spring day in 1916, Billy Bishop woke up here, in this building on Bryanston Square in Central London, where I left a dream for him this evening. Today, it's a prep school, but back in the days of the First World War it was a private home that had been turned into a temporary military hospital. The whole thing was spearheaded by one of the most famous aristocrats in England: Lady Carnarvon (the secret, illegitimate, but still-very-wealthy daughter of a Rothschild). And so, this wasn't exactly your typical military hospital. It was much more like something out of Downton Abbey. Patients were fed with fresh food from the gardens. The beds were made up with fine linen. There were butlers and footmen to serve breakfast in bed and bring the men the newspaper. In fact, the hospital helped to inspire Downton Abbey: the television show is filmed at Lady Carnarvon's country home, where she originally opened the hospital before moving it here.
"I saw your name on the hospital register," she explained. "And I was sure that someone named William Bishop from Canada must be the son of my friend Will Bishop. And when I looked at you, I was sure of it."
And she was actually right. At some point, while on a trip Ottawa, she'd been a guest at a reception held by the Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. For some reason, Bishop's father — who was a relatively ordinary lawyer — was also there. He made enough of an impression that years later Lady St. Helier still remembered him fondly. And when she visited Lady Carnarvon's hospital, the Bishop name stood out.
|52 Portland Place|
Whenever he was away from the front lines back in London, he was staying at Lady St. Helier's, drinking and dancing with the most famous and powerful people in England. By the time he got another leave to visit Canada during the autumn of 1917, he was an international celebrity in his own right.
And back home in Toronto, he was wining and dining with the richest people in Canada, too. In another odd coincidence, Bishop's fiancee was the grand-daughter of our country's most famous department store mogul: Timothy Eaton. Back before the war, the Eaton family hadn't approved of the match. But now, things were different. Billy Bishop and Margaret Burden were married at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church on St. Clair West. By then, Bishop was so famous that a crowd of fans showed up at the church to cheer the newly weds on.
|A dream for Billy Bishop outside the former hospital|
|A dream for Billy Bishop outside 52 Portland Place|