Reviewed by Lynn Short
We (my husband, myself, our 11 year old granddaughter and our 8 year old grandson) went to Arundel Castle for the final day of the Jousting and Medieval Tournament Week on 31st July. We could see the castle as we drove in to Arundel and it looked magnificent in the morning sunlight.
Once we had parked we walked a few hundred yards to the Castle entrance where there was group of musicians – playing medieval instruments – and dancers, including small children, all dressed in medieval costume. Some flag bearers were standing there who were encouraging visitors as they arrived to cheer for the various teams during the tournament. One of them explained to the children that in the medieval period the whole of what we know as Scandinavia was ruled by Norway and encouraged them to cheer for Norway. Then 3 horses came to the entrance, one ridden by a lady in a very fine dress and the others by knights in armour. My grandson was handed a sword to hold and after that an axe and shield to hold and a helmet was placed on his head – he thought that was great fun. All this before we had even gone in to the Castle grounds!
Once inside we found ourselves in a medieval encampment of tents where there were displays of medieval crafts among them were pottery, straw weaving, wood carving, loom weaving and jewellery. There were also birds of prey and a blacksmith. These were all very interesting, I particularly liked the blacksmith who was using a double bellows which is something I had never seen before.
As the first joust was not due to take place until 11.15 we decided to visit the Castle Keep first. This meant climbing up very many stone staircases with the final ones getting progressively narrower and steeper! From the very top there is a magnificent view all around and we could even see the sea in the far distance. This is the oldest part of the castle and we all found it very interesting. We then hurried back to the Tilt Yard for the first round of jousting. Most of the spectators sat on the grass or stood, but a few people had brought fold up chairs.
Three Ladies of the Joust came on to tilt-yard on horseback and they explained that the tournament had been going on all week and we were about to see the first of the semi-finals between England and Norway. They introduced the Marshall of the Field, for the first time in the history of the tournament this was a lady, and she explained the rules and the etiquette of the Joust. There were 2 knights on each team. One knight from each team competed against each other, they rode down either side of the tilt-rail (a fence down the centre of the jousting area) carrying a lance which would break on impact – the Marshall of the Field would measure the amount that was broken off and award points accordingly. At each end of the tilt yard there was a scorer who stood on a mounting block so that they were at the same height as the riders and could look along the line of the lance to see where and how they hit their opponent. Points were awarded according to where they struck and whether it was a legal hit or otherwise. The lances were very long and were handed to each knight by their attendants immediately prior to each joust. The knights were fully armoured and the horses wore the colours of their country or knight. Points were also awarded for horsemanship.
These jousts were not “scripted” and the combatants were competing seriously against each other. The knights were really from the countries that they represented. Norway beat England in this joust. The next semi-final was due to take place at 1.15 so we took that opportunity to go to the Castle Restaurant for some lunch.
We returned for the second semi-final which was between France and Poland. For the first time ever at the Arundel Joust there was a female competitor on the French team. As before the proceedings were explained by the Ladies of the Joust and the Marshall of the Field. This time Poland beat France.
The final was not due to take place until 3.30 so we went back in to the Castle to visit the main castle rooms. These were very interesting and included displays of armour and firearms and a magnificently laid dinner table. We then went to see the Foot Tournament which was taking place in another area of the grounds. Here the representatives of the different countries were fighting each other with a variety of hand weapons. It looked very fearsome and unfortunately I do not know whether these fights were choreographed or not. It was very impressive.
We returned to the tilt-yard for the final which was between Norway and Poland. The procedure was explained as before and the eventual winners were Norway. This brought the day’s events to a close and we made our way wearily back to the car. This had been a very enjoyable and interesting experience for us all and I would certainly recommend a visit for next year’s tournament. As it was such a full and busy day we did not get an opportunity to really visit the gardens and I would have liked a longer time in the castle rooms themselves, so a return visit is a must.
There is a large car park in Mill Road, opposite the Castle, which is pay and display; however we were early enough to find a space along the roadside which was free of charge and only a little bit further to walk to the entrance of the Castle. There are other car parks in the town.
For information on opening times and admission prices visit www.arundelcastle.org.
Arundel Castle & Gardens, Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 9AB | 01903 882173