Archive for category Kenilworth Castle
The Companye have returned from our annual April event at the splendid Kenilworth Castle. Staged by Historic England (previously English Heritage) we celebrated the festival of St George – patron Saint of England.
Kenilworth Castle is located in the town of the same name in Warwickshire, England. Constructed from Norman through to Tudor times, the castle has been described by architectural historian Anthony Emery as “the finest surviving example of a semi-royal palace of the later middle ages, significant for its scale, form and quality of workmanship”. It is certainly an impressive place to spend the weekend!
The castle was built over several centuries. Founded in the 1120s around a powerful Norman great tower, the castle was significantly enlarged by King John at the beginning of the 13th century. Huge water defences were created by damming the local streams, and the resulting fortifications proved able to withstand assaults by land and water in 1266. John of Gaunt spent lavishly in the late 14th century, turning the medieval castle into a palace fortress designed in the latest perpendicular style.
Many castles, especially royal castles were left to decay in the 15th century; Kenilworth, however, continued to be used as a centre of choice, forming a late medieval “palace fortress”.
Henry IV, John of Gaunt’s son, returned Kenilworth to royal ownership when he took the throne in 1399 and made extensive use of the castle. In 1403, after the Battle of Shrewsbury, Sir James Harrington was knighted and it is highly probable that it was at this very castle.
Henry V also used Kenilworth extensively, but preferred to stay in the Pleasance, the mock castle he had built on the other side of the Great Mere. According to the contemporary chronicler John Strecche, who lived at the neighbouring Kenilworth Priory, the French openly mocked Henry in 1414 by sending him a gift of tennis balls at Kenilworth. The French aim was to imply a lack of martial prowess; according to Strecche, the gift spurred Henry’s decision to fight the Agincourt campaign. The account was used by Shakespeare as the basis for a scene in his play Henry V.
English castles, including Kenilworth, did not play a decisive role during the Wars of the Roses (1455–85), which were fought primarily in the form of pitched battles between the rival factions of the Lancastrians and the Yorkists.
With the mental collapse of King Henry VI, Queen Margaret used the Duchy of Lancaster lands in the Midlands, including Kenilworth, as one of her key bases of military support.Margaret removed Henry from London in 1456 for his own safety and until 1461, Henry’s court divided almost all its time among Kenilworth, Leicester and Tutbury Castle (where we were the previous month) for the purposes of protection. Kenilworth remained an important Lancastrian stronghold for the rest of the war, often acting as a military balance to the nearby castle of Warwick. With the victory of Henry VII at Bosworth, Kenilworth again received royal attention; Henry visited frequently and had a tennis court constructed at the castle for his use.His son, Henry VIII, decided that Kenilworth should be maintained as a royal castle.
The Festival of St George is a firm favourite with English Heritage members and members flock from all over the country, and well as a large local turnout. As well as the Harrington Companye, the event featured performances by Mark Vance as St George, a rather humorous (and pungent) Dragon, as well as music by Myal Piper, and activities from Griffin Historical.
As well as our award winning living history encampment, we undertook two arena displays each day.
In the morning, we staged a display of archery from the fifteenth century. The public were entertained with speed shoots, a display of accuracy and really got into cheering our archers on. This culminated with a Companye specialty – the Reduced Harrington Companye portrayal of the Battle of Agincourt.
Thousands of French knights met their deaths at the hands of our skilled archers, the stench of garlic was truly horrendous.
In the afternoon, we staged a display of fifteenth century combat. Starting with a close up view of how a man shall be armed in harnesse, we then showcased the various weapon types from the period. Dagger, Sword, Longsword, Spear, Poleaxe were all showcased to the cheering crowds – who soon caught on and cheered.
Finally, it was time for a group melee – the Circles of Honour, and Treachery.
Last year, Master Stan has used this to great effect – hiding in an castle alcove until the end and ambushing the winner – this year he wasn’t allowed to run off an hide but he gave an excellent account of himself in the first round.
Back at camp, there were two undisputed stars of the show. The new forge, which had been debuted at Tutbury had a keen following and Alec the smith didn’t get a rest from the public all day. This meant that neither did Sam, who did pretty much the full days shift on bellows duty. Well done Sam, proof that Child Labour is alive and well 😉
Meanwhile, Adrian our ever popular Hospitaller and his medical instruments were of great interest to the public. Little did he know it, but it was going to be a special weekend for him – but more on that later!
In other news, we were delighted to meet Evie, the newest member of our Companye. She was really popular with our members as this next photo shows. Evie was especially popular with Sarah, and Rosie was lucky she handed her back..
For the Companye though, the highlight of the weekend actually came after the public had left on the Saturday evening. Little did Adrian realise when he woke that day, what we had in store for him.
The Companye operates a recognition system for our members. The Order of The White Lion was created for those members who truly go above and beyond in terms of the accuracy of their portrayal, their knowledge of the period, and their conduct on and off the battlefield. On April 23rd, we awarded this to Adrian.
Why Kenilworth? Because as mentioned, according to historians it is highly probable that Sir James Harrington received his knighthood in the Great Hall there in 1403. Hence, we would recreate this ceremony for our first inductee…
A number of trusted members of the Companye were in on the act, but it was a great surprise to most. As evening fell, Adrian was taken to a place of Solitude to reflect on what the Companye meant to him. Traditionally we needed a full 24 hour vigil, but with the public arriving the following day this was tricky!
He was then collected by his Aide de camp carrying his sword and his esquire carrying his tournament helm, and brought to the Great Hall of Henry IV, which was now lit up by candlelight and torchlight.
As Adrian entered the chamber, our musicians played and sang The Agincourt Carol, fitting given the Great Halls’s connection to the Agincourt Campaign – for it was here that Henry V received the gift of tennis balls from the Dauphin.
Adrian was then paraded to Sir William, where he received the Colee stroke – the last blow he would receive unanswered. There is some disagreement among historians on the actual ceremony and in what time period certain methods could have been used. It could have been an embrace or a slight blow on the neck or cheek. It had been decided to use the accolade of a sword, after studying this Early 15th Century image.
Words such as Advances Chevalier au nom de Dieu were possibly spoken at this point. Given the move to English in English Court by this point it was decided to accolade him in the name of Saint Michael and St George, the patrons of Soldiers and England respectively.
Following this, Sir Adrian was now awarded the White Lion Livery of Wolfage Manor, and recognised by all.
The award ceremony was not yet complete for we also took the opportunity to recognise Sam C., and the Martindale clan and award them their livery Knot after their probation period.
Lastly, Sir William supplied some mead for all, and we toasted those ancient walls – for they must have witnessed many such scenes.
For those interested, the full video is here below:
The ceremony was complete and the Companye took advantage of the Spring evening to enjoy ourselves – part of the wow factor of this wonderful hobby is the privilege of staying at such wonderful historic sites. We think Adrian was quite happy with his accolade as he was full of the joys of Spring the following morning..
Sunday saw a repeat of our displays and even more public. A little over 2500 public visited the site over the weekend, and many were repeat visitors who love what we do – and we love entertaining them. Kenilworth always draws an appreciative crowd and Sunday was no exception.
Finally just as the event drew to a close, a bout of inclement weather meant the public hurriedly left – leaving Myal Piper playing to an empty field.
Now, the Companye is many things, but one thing we are most certainly not is unappreciative. So, quick as a flash we ran up the hill and proceeded to show our appreciation through the ahem, medium of Interpretive Dance.
Not to be outdone, we treated the Pipers to a full rendition of “Father Harrington” – complete with actions. We believe as fully trained musicians they appreciated our efforts, though running off screaming was admittedly a strange way of showing it.
And so the event came to an end. A special one for us all, and one to cherish for a lifetime. We will return there again this year, in June – but for now it was time to take the Companye on Campaign once more to Hedingham Castle…
The Companye has returned from a glorious weekend celebrating the feast of St George at Kenilworth Castle.
The Castle is a particular favourite of the Harrington’s – we regarding it as our ‘home’ castle and have a great relationship with the custodians and the public alike.
We were joined in our endeavours by Mark Vance’s excellent team who were entertaining the crowds with the story of St George and the Dragon. It was also a delight to bump into Kay and Tony Rouse who were showing Medieval Toys and Games.
As per usual, we were encamped on the green adjacent to the Earl of Warwick’s stables. There was a busy throng of members of the public throughout each day, the venue is popular with people both local and from further afield.
As well as our award winning living history,we undertook two arena displays. The first was a demonstration of archery from the fifteenth century. Tests of accuracy and speed were shown to the assembled throng, before the Reduced
Shakespeare Harrington Companye staged a recreation of the Battle of Agincourt. Thousands (kind of..) of French knights (missing the odd horse, well all of them actually) strode manfully up the hill to face to onslaught of hundreds of English archers (well, we exaggerate a bit, it’s twelve inches don’t you know!). As each shaft crashed home the french army came to a halt, before being polished off in the mud by grubby English archers with daggers. The Horror.
In short, the crowd loved it – so much we had to do it a second time for them. Great Fun.
In the afternoon, the we displayed Arms and Armour from the Fifteenth Century. Two different styles of harness were shown and discussed, various weapon types were introduced, before combat circles were joined.
The unabashed highlight of the show was the final combat circle on Sunday. At the start of the round, totally unscripted and totally unnoticed by everyone, Stan snuck into the ante room of the castle wall at the edge of the arena. One by one, the combatants were eliminated, until only Howard – our grizzled veteran from the wars in France – remained. As Howard roared his triumph and turned to take the applause of the crowd, Stan dashed from hiding and opened him up with a dagger. No one was more surprised than Howard, the crowd showed its appreciation for such a winning stratagem and we guess that’s what happens when you train the Companye to fight in the woodlands and use the terrain to one’s advantage. Fair play Stan.
Following on from the combat display it was the turn of the kids from the public. Grown men were reduced to quivering wrecks against the “little darlings” of Kenilworth, who had obviously been drinking far far too much energy drinks and Haribo…
Overall, it was a fantastic event and one of our absolute favourites on our calendar. Despite weather warnings it had been a sunny weekend and no one really wanted to leave on Sunday night – modern life is hard to return to after great events like these.
One final thing – the event clashes with the local Horsefair in Kenilworth, and each year on our return home we pass the ground were it is held and see the state the occupants leave the place in. We pride ourselves on leaving no trace (we are a pioneer companye after all!) and you can see this for yourselves below – if only others in this beautiful country of ours treated it with similar respect..
Kenilworth Castle is a favourite site for the Companye – not only is it one of the best castles left in the entire country, we get to camp in the inner Bailey and its a magical experience.
As per last year, the July event was centered around English Heritage’s four man elite jousting team – with the Harrington Companye providing other displays.
As well as our award winning living history encampment, English Heritage were so impressed with our arena display back in April that they explicitly asked us to re-stage it – and it was given as much billing on the day as the Jousting superstars.
Each display consisted of a whistle stop action packed tour of medieval weapons and armour – barely giving the audience and participants pause for breath.
We started by showcasing the fearsome longbow. Well, I say showcasing – during one shoot off every single archer (some of them national champions!) managed to miss the target! Much hilarity ensued, and of course the men at arms were sympathetic to their plight.
After the missile firepower, we took a quick look at the armour of the period – from the expensive full harness of a Knight, down to the basic linen protection of a retained man at arms. Having shown the public what to expect, we then proceeded to some competitive circles of Honour, and treachery.
Following this, we brought both sides of the display together, the men at arms advancing under arrow shot towards a body of archers – in order to see what they could do.
Now, the moral of this story is that if you are foolish enough to do this sort of thing, then you should probably wear some codling protection. Even better advice, is that if you can’t find your cricket box, lending your maille skirt to someone else is an even more ill advised affair.
So, for you edification and delight – we present Lord Harrington getting shot in an interesting place. Apparently, he was not hit in the testicles, as by a lucky chance his John Thomas got in the way. Most lucky!
Lastly, the kids were invited in to have a go at hand to hand combat with our men at arms. This was a vicious affair, with the men at arms dropping quicker than a Brazilian in a penalty area! Having worn the kids out they left happy for the day and we had some thanks from some grateful parents.
After hours activity was a more chilled affair than in previous years, but songs were sung, and combat recounted. Watching the sun set quietly over the battlements of such a historic site and having it all to yourself is part of why we do this amazing hobby.
Thanks to the English Heritage events team – the Kenilworth crowd are always great and pleased to see us.
Roll on next year!
With thanks to Matt Crosby for the photos.
This weekend sees the Companye return to the Splendid Kenilworth Castle. Don’t miss us!
As well as our usual living history camp, we will be undertaking the displays below (in bold).
Timings for Saturday and Sunday
10:30am Medieval Music with Blast from the Past (Elizabethan Garden)
11:00am Weapons and Armour of the Fifteenth Century (Castle Arena)
11:30am Meet the Fool (in front of Falconry Arena)
11:30am Arming the Knights (Knights Encampment)
12:00pm Medieval Falconry Display (Falconry Arena)
12:30pm The Grand Medieval Joust (Joust Arena)
1:00pm Children’s Battle (Castle Arena)
1-00 pm Harrington Camp Food served on Saturday – Camp closed during this time
1:30pm Meet the Fool (in front of Falconry Arena)
2:00pm Medieval Music with Blast from the Past (Elizabethan Garden)
2:30pm The Arming of the Knights (Knights Encampment)
2:30pm Meet the Fool (in front of Falconry Arena)
3:00pm Medieval Falconry Display (Falconry Arena)
3:30pm The Grand Medieval Joust (Joust Arena)
4:00pm Weapons and Armour of the Fifteenth Century (Castle Arena)