One of our highlights of this summer was a trip to Castle Hedingham to watch their annual jousting tournament. The jousting event was put on by The Knights of Royal England. In short, it was an amazing event. There were two jousting displays, which also included some sword fighting and a stunt which involved the young “Bob” (think Blackadder) being dragged around the circuit in a leather sack by a knight riding a horse. Around the Castle Hedingham grounds there were also actors in medieval character, bird displays as well as many food stalls and a drinks tent. The castle was also open to the public but was too busy to take the family in.
The first jousting display commenced at 12.30pm and we were introduced to the knights by none other than King Henry VIII himself. He provided the commentary throughout the show, which lasted for around an hour. The second show was 2.30pm, which gave us time to have a picnic lunch while the Knights rested their weary feet. The start of each show involved some audience participation, as children were called up to march around the jousting arena. There was of course plenty of comedy thrown in to the show too.
The skill and fitness of the knights was exceptional really. They rode their horses (Andalusians and Lusitanos) extremely well, galloping at high speed along the short stretch of grass that made the jousting stage. While the actual jousts were obviously staged (we soon spotted the pattern of the knight dropping his lance in the first bout and then shattering it on his opponents shield on the next – well, not everyone spotted this, some spectators were amazed at how they managed to shatter the lances!
In addition to the jousts the knights also caught hoops on their lances, first catching a stationary hoop and then one that was thrown up in the air – if you have watched A Knights Tale you will know how this is performed – otherwise see the photo below. This requires a lot of skill, and the knights managed to catch most of them.
The armour and swords used by the knights were all proper, heavy pieces. Obviously the swords were blunted, but still required skill and strength to wield.
Overall this was a great family event. It had a relaxed atmosphere, was not overcrowded. Everyone managed to get a good spot to watch the show, most families brought along picnic mats, some even brought camping chairs for extra comfort. We drank fine coffee and ate a selection of pies and cakes from the stalls too, as well as our own picnic. This was the last of 3 jousting weekends at Castle Hedingham in 2012. No doubt next year there will be a few more, so keep an eye on the events calendar and get yourself along to the next one.