Arundel Castle re-enactment days
Get along to one of the action-packed battle days at Arundel Castle
“Will we see someone having their eye gouged out?!”
“I don’t want to actually see anyone being killed.”
…the preoccupations of two under-ten boys anticipating a trip to a Medieval siege reenactment at Arundel Castle.
Naturally, the only thing that got really gouged were the contents of our picnic with a fork but there was plenty of careful mock fighting to keep them happy. We saw sword play, archery, canon fire and threatened beheadings before we’d even set foot into the castle itself.
If you fancy a bit of that yourself, or rather you know a child who would, fear not, Arundel has several more re-enactment events coming up over the summer.
‘Our’ battle – depicted the clash between Richard II and Henry Tudor who was supported by French forces. I realised later I remembered this not from my junior school history lessons but from Shakespeare – in whose version at least Richard really had it coming.
Everyone was in heavy armour – probably more glad of the overcast weather than we were, the only modern addition being a man with a microphone who had us cheering and booing along a split in the middle of the audience for the English and the French sides (the latter actually won in real life). He added to the fun by commentating like it was a sporting match – “here come the French archers’ arrows… cover your ears – the cannons are about to fire…” The boys enjoyed the swaggering play offs between individuals and I loved the neatly arching arrows.
When ‘half time’, or the battle equivalent, was called we went to explore the castle. Quite unbelievably, having quizzed my mum, I discovered that though I grew up not that far away in Surrey, I’d never been here before with my family or on a school trip. What staggered me most as a newbie was the height of the place, with knockout views from the battlements that were once strategic, now, just plain lovely. There were also lots of winding stairs and passages to explore.
The original castle was founded in 1067 and it’s now one of the longest inhabited country houses in England. The older part of the castle included a Norman keep. It has some mannequins reconstructing events and information about how people lived and defended the place (I won’t repeat what naughtiness my youngest nephew considered in order to perhaps be shown to the dungeons.) The newer part of the castle is still occupied and surprisingly homely for somewhere so grand. I really coveted the bathrooms and the cosy library.
There’s a fair bit to look at, so we didn’t get time to see all the gardens or chapel or to wander properly into the battle encampments between action. It’s worth planning an early start and late return if you’ve never been before and have children old enough to get a lot out of it. Though the boys fought long and hard for their right to own a wooden sword and shield set apiece, I thought the castle wasn’t as commercialised as some family attractions and you’re welcome to have your own picnic in the grounds.
The boys remembered the time for the final stage of the battle enactment, checked several times that they weren’t going to miss it and were ready to get in place on the grass. When we got home they were quick to make an reenactment of their own with a plastic sword and a light sabre and thankfully no eye gouging.
Here are some of the upcoming battle-related events:
International Jousting & Medieval Tournament Week Tues 25 July – Sun 30 July
History Days – 1 Aug and 8 Aug
Medieval Tournament – Sat 19 – Sun 20 Aug
History in Action (multi-period event) – Sat 26 – Mon 28 Aug
Pirates & Smugglers – Sun 17 Sept
Norman Knights in the Keep – Wed 25 – Thurs 26 Oct.
There are also more laid-back occassions like Shakespeare performances in the garden For full details see arundelcastle.org/whats-on/events