There is something in London that seems to attract power like a magnet.
London was first built as Londinium by the Romans in around 50 AD. It was the first place they could bridge the River Thames in the south east, to allow them access to the rest of the country. Being at the intersection of an east-west river and a north-south road it quickly became an important place of trade, a bustling market town. So it was built as a place of trade, and also possibly as a military base from which to conquer the rest of Britain.
The capital at that time, and the first capital of Roman Britannia, was Colchester. But by the end of the first century Londinium had grown so much (despite being burned to the ground in 60 AD) that it became the capital of Roman Britannia, and remained so until the Romans left in 410 AD. The Romans later split Britannia into two provinces, Britannia Inferior in the north and Britannia Superior in the south (creating a bitter north-south divide that continues to this day). York was capital of Britannia Inferior, but Londinium remained as capital of Britannia Superior and as over-capital for the whole of Britannia. So despite London having been built as a place of trade, within 40 years it had attracted power to itself, and remained capital for another 320 years.
During the Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods of 410 AD – 1066 AD London was less populated, and became a border town that was at various times occupied by the Kingdoms of Middlesex, Essex, Mercia and Wessex, and then later threatened by the Vikings.
By Norman times, the City of London had again become a settled town, and a place of trade. The nearest thing England had to a capital at this point was Winchester, historic capital of the Kingdom of Wessex. But something else had happened too. Edward the Confessor, last Anglo-Saxon king of England, had built a huge stone church down the river at Westminster, and also built a royal palace next door to keep an eye on it. By later centuries, this palace had superseded Winchester as the main royal residence, and so Westminster became the capital city of England. Once again, a city built for a different purpose (this time for worship) had attracted power to it like a magnet.
Ever since then, the City of Westminster has been capital of England, and then of Great Britain. And the twin cities of London and Westminster have since combined to be the capital city we all love and know today.
What is it in London that attracts power so strongly? Despite being built for other purposes, it has twice attracted power to itself, and has only seen that power relinquished through war and invasion. Even today, London attracts people who in turn are attracted to power. There is a steady stream of newcomers who flock to the city in order to “make it”, to become wealthy, famous, successful and powerful.
Let’s pray for a spirit of humility to pervade all areas of London life, so that power held here is exercised responsibly, and for the benefit of people everywhere.
Mark Williamson also blogs regularly at One Rock International, a training organisation resourcing missionary leaders across the globe. He’s passionate about good films, good food, getting into deep conversations, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.