Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nice castle, not-so-nice family

Elizabeth in front of Dover Castle. Again, it was cold.

The Bluths of Arrested Development have nothing on history's most dysfunctional family: Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and their sons, including King Richard the Lionhearted and King John.

Henry II had Dover Castle built in The 1100s, and the British Heritage Society has restored the castle to Henry II-era styles.

That includes almost nursery-like color schemes on the furniture and wall hangings. As one of the docents told us, those bright hues of blue, teal, gold and red signified their wealth. They often had to have gem stones crushed to get those paint colors.

Elizabeth with one of the chairs furnishing Dover Castle. Both the size and the color scheme were noteworthy.
And the chairs were oversized to underscore that wealth and because rich nobles of the time wore extremely bulky clothing.

All that traveled with King Henry as he traveled his kingdom from southern France through England to southern Wales and Eastern Ireland. As Elizabeth said: "It really makes me feel better about what I packed. At least I didn't bring a chair."

We saw the chapel and the Medieval latrine, which was essentially a three-story drop for the waste that had to be shoveled out by some poor chap.

The dysfunctional part comes after Henry's sons, including Richard and John, team up at various times to challenge and revolt against him. Eventually, Henry bites it.

Dover Castle is then used by various kings through the era of Charles I. By the early 1700s, the castle is used by the British as a prison for French noblemen captured at sea during the War of the Spanish Succession. Many of those prisoners etched graffiti on the castle walls with their names and doodles.

In addition, the Dover Castle site includes a chapel dating to 1000 and a Roman lighthouse circa 120 A.D.

The scariest part of the Castle was the real- life experience of trying to flee from an invading army -- in this case a brigade of screaming school kids.

The invasion forces assemble outside the castle gate.

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