Friday, 30 September 2011

Henry II & his good friend Thomas. Dover Castle:Pt 2

It is a rare treat, indeed, to be greeted by the king himself when visiting Dover Castle. This summer, Henry II was in residence and on the day we arrived at court he seemed in a jovial mood. He sat on his throne and received guests and gifts.

It wasn't until we adjourned to the shrine of Thomas Becket, the king's private chapel located to the east of his personal chambers, that Henry became thoughtful, sad, angry, and in the end, resigned.

You see, Thomas and Henry were friends once. Henry II made Thomas his Lord Chancellor, with the duty of enforcing the king's sources of revenue, from both landowners and the church. Henry's son, Henry the Younger even lived in Becket's household as a youth, as it was common for noble children to be fostered outside their home.

The problem came when the Archbishop of Canterbury died. The church and the king were often at odds. In an attempt to solve this problem, Henry II appointed Thomas as the Archbishop. Since Thomas had always served him faithfully, Henry thought the problem settled.

What Henry did not expect, was Becket's sudden devotion to the church. Whether Thomas had a true revelation, or simply let the position go to his head, the king wasn't happy - and the conversation as we conversed in the chapel turned quite colourful!

Thomas excommunicated several of the king's knights, and chaos erupted. At one point, Henry II complained to four of his closest knights. Saying either:

"Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" or "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?"

Henry couldn't remember exactly what he said, but either way, his knights interpreted his frustration as a royal command.

The knights went straightway to Canterbury Cathedral. There they found Thomas on his way to vespers. At the entrance to the crypt they killed him.

King Henry II bemoaned the fallout from that single act. It would become the defining moment in his entire reign.

We felt it best to leave the king to his ramblings and went to find a meal.

Cheers! x

Monday, 12 September 2011

A castle made to last: Dover Castle: Part 1

Dover is my all time favourite castle. I'm partial to the big, heavy ones built not for show but for defence (or defense, if you're American).

Once part of a Saxon fortified settlement, the grounds were first converted by William the Conqueror. Later, Henry II built the great medieval fortress that stands today.

Standing tall above the White Cliffs of Dover, the castle has guarded British shores for centuries and has been successfully updated for every European war that threatened Great Britain.

We visit the castle at least once a year. Dover Castle is maintained by English Heritage. Since we're members, entrance is free. We love our English Heritage membership. Definitely good value for money.

During the summer, the castle hosted a Knight's Joust, and weekends found Henry II, his servants and court in attendance. Jolly fun to hear the cook and his wife arguing in the kitchens!

I'll be sharing more photos later in the month, so be sure to check back.


Monday, 5 September 2011

What the heck is a Hop Festival?

The Faversham Hop Festival is an annual event celebrating the long-gone days when families would come down from London (and other places, too) to harvest the hop in the fields and make money before the hard winter months. In the evenings, they would play music, dance and tell stories outside their makeshift camps.

The modern festival (1990) is a fun way to remember those early hop-pickers through song and dance. The music, dancing, and parade are free entertainment.

There are also live performances in most of the pubs in town. My hubby (sadly no pix of him) had fun singing 6 of his new songs at the singaround at the Bull on Tanner Street.

Music, dancing, craft booths, food vendors, and beer. Yes, the hops are used to make beer.

Even though we don't drink alcohol, hubby and I are happy to support the festival as it is really more about families and having a fun day out.

It's also good for the local Faversham small businesses.