A fantastic way to understand history is to see it recreated. We were lucky enough to be able to see the Medieval Jousting at Dover Castle arranged by English Heritage (EH). Before witnessing the exciting horsemanship and death defying combat, we explored the Castle's central tower. Built by Henry II, it has been lovingly reconstructed by EH with displays of furniture, food preparation and clothing to bring the Medieval period to life. No expense was spared to recreate Henry II's bed with real silk, fur and gold leaf.
Due to the event being on, English Heritage had arranged various re-enactments and displays in the King's Tower. To see just how fit you had to be to be a knight, a chainmail suit and headdress had been made out of iron, just as it would have been in the Middle Ages. I struggled to lift even the headdress it was so heavy! Having the construction method explained and displayed was fascinating and gives one a real respect for those craftsmen who toiled so long to make this chainmail. No wonder it was only the very rich who could afford it - it must have taken weeks to make just one - and iron was hugely expensive. There were displays of fire breathing and a group of 'wandering minstrels' played medieval music. Children ran around dressed as knights whilst grown ups watched EH volunteers/actors dressed as serfs and gentlefolk from the 1200s. We listened to a debate on the Magna Carta in the King's Hall including public participation. Fun for all the family.
After exploring the basement to the roof terrace of the King's Tower it was time for the Joust to being. Who would think that so much excitement could be generated by such a short gallop. The crack of the lances hitting the shield or body of the opponent could be heard well away from the Tilt Yard. The four 'knights' in full armour with horses decked out as in medieval times was a spectacular sight. The judges and other helpers looked fantastic in their costumes. They must have been boiling in their velvet on such a hot day!
All in all, a wonderful day out. If you love living history, why not request that an event like this is built into your tour or travel itinerary in the UK.