The word key can be used in many different contexts. For instance, to name but a few: a key to open a box or door; a key position; keyword; key to a problem. In addition, piano keys, key to success. And so on. Keys come in all sizes, from tiny ones for opening boxes to the key to the gate of a castle.
Two stories concerning keys
Following are two stories which, moreover, have the key as the most important word.
The key to the castle
In May 1568 Mary, Queen of Scots escaped gloomy stone Lochleven castle. Here she’d been kept prisoner for eleven months. One of the sons of her captors, George Douglas, fell in love with her. Another member of the family, a cousin, Willie or ‘Wee Douglas’, was also bewitched by the Queen. George and Willie smuggled her letters ashore to her supporters. She began to consider escaping. Moreover, George had the idea that she disguise herself as a servant. The most important detail was that Willie had to get hold of the key to the main gate. This he managed to do during a drunken revelry and unlocked the gate. Subsequently, Mary donned her disguise and made her way out. Whereupon Willie locked the gate behind him and threw the key into the mouth of a cannon. Thus Mary escaped and her supporters were waiting to welcome her on the further shore. However she was later recaptured, accused of treason and beheaded in 1587, aged 44.
The key to the Enigma
Around 400 years later, German engineer Scherbius invented the Enigma cipher machine. This occurred towards the end of the First World War. Nazi Germany started using the machine before and during the Second World War. While several different models existed, the German military models were the most complicated. British codebreakers were installed in a large house in Milton Keynes, UK. The mansion housed the British Government Code and Cypher School. Indeed, it was here that a team was stationed, including Alan Turing. In fact, it took them two years to find the key to the German code. In addition, developing the first digital electronic computer. Most importantly, secrecy became vitally important. Firstly, the Germans couldn’t know that their cypher had been decoded. Secondly, enabling the British to follow their messages. It has been estimated that the discovery shortened the war by at least two years. Alan Turing can be said to be the founder of computer science.
During the 1950s homosexuality was a criminal offence. There was talk of changing the law. Inadvertently Turing must have confided in someone about his leanings. In fact, he was arrested in 1952 after his relationship with a young man became known. He was condemned to two years in jail or had the choice of a series of oestrogen injections. To avoid going to prison, he opted for the second solution. Furthermore, in 1954 he committed suicide by cyanide poisoning, although a half-eaten apple near his corpse might have been the cause. No inquest was held and he was hastily cremated at Woking Crematorium in the UK.
Some time later the law was changed. He was granted a posthumous pardon by the Queen in 2013.