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Medieval Festival at Leeds Castle, Maidstone, August 23 to 31 2014

By KentOnline reporter

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.

Leeds Castle

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.

The knights in combat at Leeds Castle

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.

Living history re-enactments at Leeds

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.

Fun and games at the Medieval Festival

Medieval Festival details

The festival runs from Saturday, August 23 to Sunday, August 31. Annual Leeds Castle tickets are valid for the Medieval Festival. Annual tickets cost £24 for adults; £21 for seniors and visitors with disabilities (carer goes free); £16 for children (under fours free). Annual tickets are valid for 12 months so you can pay once and visit all year round. Day tickets are also available to buy on the day of your visit or in advance online. Adults cost £19, concessions £16 and children £11.

Grand Tournament - August 30-31 - tickets are £24 per adult, £21 per concessions, £16 per child. Annual tickets to Leeds Castle are not valid for the tournament.

Leeds Castle is just off Junction 8 of the M20, seven miles east of Maidstone. For more details call 01622 765400 or visit themedievalfestival.leeds-castle.com

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