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Henry VIII could be forgiven for thinking not much had changed if he popped in to Leeds Castle this bank holiday.
Nearly 500 years after his last visit, he would see archers, knights, jousting and even a wench or two.
It would be hard to imagine a more suitable setting than the magnificent backdrop of Henry’s favourite castle for the medieval extravaganza taking place in the grounds over the holiday period.
Asked about Henry VIII, most people might describe him as the overweight and ruthless Tudor king who was in serious need of a marriage guidance counsellor.
But England’s most famous monarch also presided over one of the richest and most turbulent periods in our history.
Some of that history will be brought to life in the grounds of the castle with a nine-day Medieval Festival from Saturday, August 23, to Sunday, August 31.
The castle is running the festival in partnership with the Royal Armouries, home to the national collection of arms and armour.
Visitors will be able to experience life as it was in the Middle Ages, with a daily programme of activities including longbow tournaments,authentic displays of jousting, infantry skirmishing, a medieval village and market, minstrels, talks and various activities for children.
Have-a-go archery and crossbow sessions will be available for visitors who fancy they’ve got the skills to hit the bull’s-eye.
There will also be twice-daily falconry shows and living history re-enactment camps to give visitors a taste of the sights and sounds of this colourful era.
Rats were a big problem in the Middle Ages. For an added taste of authenticity, a medieval rat catcher will be on hand to demonstrate how rodents were disposed of in Tudor days.
On Wednesday, August 27, experts will be giving talks about the arms and armour of the period.
Dr Thom Richardson, deputy master and former keeper of armour and Karen Watts, senior curator of armour and art at the Royal Armouries, will provide in-depth background into the armour displayed at Leeds Castle this summer and the specialist kit used in jousting tournaments.
Dr Richardson’s talk, Arms and Armour, is at 11am and 2pm and Karen Watts’ talk, The Tournament, is at 3pm. All are in the Maiden’s Tower.
The festival will culminate in a thrilling grand tournament – authentic jousts and a real life unplanned mêlée – on Saturday, August 30, and Sunday, August 31. Visitors will see the squires arm the knights in full plate armour, before watching four knightly warriors compete in this special ticketed event.
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