C. M. Rubin at Christ Church College, Oxford
FINDING WONDERLAND by C.M. Rubin
In 1525, Thomas Wolsey, Lord Chancellor of England founded Cardinal College. In 1532, King Henry VIII of England re-founded the college as King Henry VIII’s College. In 1546 after King Henry broke away from the Church of Rome the college was again refounded as Christ Church College as part of a re-organization of the Church of England. Over the centuries, Christ Church college at Oxford University has become the most famous school in England, and today it is considered one of the most famous schools in the world.
When you visit Christ Church college, you never forget the experience. You sense the greatness, the history, and the legacy of a magnificent institution that has produced 13 British prime ministers as part of its astonishing list of alumni. Perhaps that is why numerous academic institutions all over the world have distinctive features of the college’s architecture (including the University of Chicago and Cornell University, which both have reproductions of Christ Church’s dining hall). Perhaps that is why Christ Church Cathedral and the city of Christchurch, New Zealand are named after it. Perhaps that is why J.K. Rowling requested her Harry Potter film series be shot there. The historic locations used at the College included the setting for Hogwart’s staircase, where schoolchildren are greeted upon their arrival, the Great Hall, which became Hogwart’s dining room, and Oxford’s Bodleian Library, which provided the setting for Hogwart’s infirmary. Perhaps that is why Christ Church has served as a setting for parts of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, and more recently, the adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights (known in the US as The Golden Compass). I don’t know for sure, but I will tell you this.
For me, as a relative of the original Alice in Wonderland, my fascination is inspired by the fact that Christ Church College was used by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) as the setting for his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland andThrough the Looking Glass books, considered the greatest children’s books of all time. The Christ Church College math professor, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), became good friends with the children of Christ Church Dean, Henry Liddell, in the 1850’s and 60’s. He was especially close to Alice Liddell, the Dean’s fourth child, who became Carroll’s inspiration for his heroine, Alice in Wonderland. Carroll used Alice Liddell’s familiar surroundings as the setting for the story, which he wrote for her in 1864. The Great Hall (Hogwart’s dining room), where Carroll ate his meals, holds many Wonderland secrets. It is believed that the real “rabbit hole” is the door that the Dean used to get to the senior common room. Henry Liddell himself is thought to be Carroll’s inspiration for the White Rabbit.
My daughter Gabriella spent time in Oxford as guest of the current Dean of Christ Church while she was researching our book, The Real Alice in Wonderland, and discovered how large a part the college played in the creation of the Alice in Wonderland books. We returned a year later and experienced Christ Church together as mother and daughter, gaining new insights and exchanging different perspectives about the college’s significance in the stories. Our book is the story behind the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It takes readers through Christ Church College and many other Oxford locations, including Alice’s garden at Christ Church, the original Cheshire Cat tree, the river banks where Carroll was urged to create his story by Alice, and the Oxford museums where curious people may view the many Wonderland treasures still held there today. Visiting Christ Church is an experience I always find stimulating, both intellectually and spiritually. As I walk in the footsteps of its rich surroundings and history, I dream about the fantastical stories told me as a child. It feels as if I am finding Wonderland, and in the process, finding myself all over again.
Look Inside The Real Alice Book
The Real Alice Valentine’s Trailer
Gabriella Rubin at Christ Church College
Christ Church College