Mediaeval festivals, banquets and battle re-enactments are popular visitor attractions. None more so than at this weekend where the Battle of Tewkesbury will be re-fought 542 years after it first occurred.
For those who have a sketchy memory of those school history classes many moons ago, the battle was the last of the Wars of the Roses and it might have been the bloodiest. So many Lancastrians were killed that the site of the battle is still known as the bloody meadows.
Apart from the 2,000 re-enactors taking centre stage in the battle itself, the festival will have jugglers, stilt-walkers, a falconry exhibition, minstrels, storytellers, dancers, mediaeval skittles and a specially brewed beer for the event. At one end of the site, “Queen Margaret,” the Lancastrian, will hold court and at the other, “King Edward IV” will have his grand Yorkist court and camp. The battles take place at 4pm on Saturday and again at 3pm on Sunday.
Such an elaborate festival might be thought pricey but not this one as it is free to one and all. Yes, you do have to pay for parking if you come by car (come by horse and see if you “park” it for nothing) and you can expect to see people with buckets asking for donations but that’s it. You’ll only have to pay for any food you might buy and drink you quaff. (strange how this mediaeval language takes over after a while)
A little while ago 14,000 people turned up at Linlithgow Palace in Scotland for a jousting weekend. Tewkesbury is bigger and has been around a lot longer which does give you some idea of how popular these events have become. You could accuse re-enactors of being anoraks but that doesn’t apply to the tens of thousands of people these events attract. Italy has similar mediaeval festivals as does France and banquets a la Plantagenet or Elizabethan style are big business in the US.
If you’ve yet to visit a mediaeval festival, try Tewkesbury; its certainly one of the best and its definitely the biggest in not just the UK but the whole of Europe.