Tewkesbury 2015 - An article by Carressa Janssen

Photos with kind permission by Patrick Garrington Photography

The extraordinary event of Tewkesbury

On 10th of July 2015… No, wait, let me start at the beginning. About a year ago, Michael Snijders mentioned something about sword fighting during athletics training. As I pretty much live on historical fictional and non-fictional stories and the subject of conversation was not a common one, it caught my interest. Apparently, some guy called Arne Koets was about to give medieval sword fighting lessons at Michael’s place. I didn’t really know what to expect, but always curious for new experiences I took the sword in my hand. Perhaps needless to say I couldn’t escape the re-enactment enthusiasm since. The Arne Koets, lucky me running into him as the first knight I meet in my life ever, drew me into the medieval world easily with his passionate tales about jousting tournaments and falconry. And then there was Michael who, well, you will understand if you know him, made sure I stayed there. There was no way out, so I bought a dress, a veil and wimple (thinking it to be a bit girlish and romantic), shoes were made, and, of course, I read books about women in medieval times, finding out that it probably was more fun to be a man in those days than a woman (and that a veil and wimple were meant for married women. Oops.). Then the time was there to experience it myself…

On 10th of July 2015 Michael and I went on our pilgrimage to Tewkesbury. Slowly, but steady, we crawled back in time, until finally we arrived in the year 1471 (more or less). I was welcomed warmly by the Paston’s household. I met John Paston The Elder (Alex Kay), John Paston The Younger (Michael Anderson), the valiant knights Edmund Simons, Patrick Garrington, Steve Cole, Noel Liemann and Ciaran Povey, then there were Graham and Sara Povey, Sara George, and later on the lovely Emily and cunning James Garrington. Yes, a clever, funny and sociable group of people who I felt at home with right away. I couldn’t wait to start the event. How strange, but how comfortable it felt to finally wear my medieval clothing the next morning. To discover it actually is more fun to be a man instead of a woman, at least, at Tewkesbury. The guys strode to the musters to prepare for battle, the women stayed behind in the camp. But it didn’t matter, I had a lot to learn. Sara Povey showed me a medieval cookery book (how about a lesson medieval English spelling?). She explained that there were some strange, but also nice dishes prepared back then, and we were about to prepare one of those for lunch. I loved it. After lunch there was a little time to take a stroll over the market. Amongst others, one of the best armourers, wood workers and jewelry makers had a stall there. I could have spent the rest of the day nosing about medieval goods and curiosities, but I wouldn’t want to miss out on the main happening of the event: the battle of Tewkesbury.

Back in the camp, the men were putting on their armour. When they all were ready, off they went, in procession to the battle field. Fighting for king Edward, it was their job to defeat the Lancastrians. And so they did, gloriously, I would say. The cannons were firing, the Lancastrians attacked, the fight began. In the middle of all the hacking, stabbing, punching and smashing (I can’t remember Arne telling anything about jumping on your enemy with your sword horizontally held in both hands) a few proper poleax and sword fight moves could be observed, of which some were carried out by the fierce Paston knights. Also the bowmen joined in the fight. It was not easy to get the Lancastrians down, but eventually, they didn’t stand a chance. A final blow, and fallen Lancastrian knights were scattered over the field. On king Edward’s side there were some victims too, however, not the Pastons. Their ensign had been held up strongly all throughout the battle. Proudly they marched back to camp. Time for a drink! We enjoyed some unauthentic beer in authentic mugs, went for an unauthentic meal in an unauthentic pub and visited the unauthentic beer tent on the festival terrain. I couldn’t resist doing a bit of unauthentic dancing, which was very well possible when wearing a medieval dress. At Tewkesbury the social aspect appeared to be a little bit more important than authenticity… but as a re-enactment beginner, that didn’t matter to me. I had a nice taste of the medieval feel today that I was still enjoying the next morning.

Next day at lunch time, an interesting scene evolved. Since they loved each other so much, and, well, because that was how it supposed to be, John Paston The Elder and John Paston The Younger had lunch together at the same table. And of course, they had to be served. By male servants (who ever decided that servants should be women?). However, Edmund Simons, master of etiquette, was fashionably late, causing the whole household to be stressed out, as it was in those days, because no one could start their lunch and prepare for the upcoming battle before the brothers Paston had eaten. In the end, everything turned out fine. Edmund taught the servants how to bow, and to bow, and to bow, and to bow… The rest of the household could enjoy their food and everyone was ready on time for the fight. This time, I joined the battle as a water carrier, providing the men with refreshing water before, during, and after their efforts. That was a bit more exciting.. despite wearing Michael Snijders’s helmet (pretty heavy, this thing) I chose to stay at the back of the field, not wanting to get in the way of anything pointy. After another glorious victory the Paston knights celebrated their successful stay at Tewkesbury by taking some pictures with a futuristic device, called IPhone, to not only show their enemy, but also the world how brave they had fought and how great a group they were. Then, the adventure came to an end… tents needed to be broken down and packed, and Michael and I returned to our Limburgian home land.

Including a stopover in Portsmouth we slowly, but steady, crawled forward in time, until finally we arrived in the year 2015. Exhausted, I crashed down on my 21st century bed. With a smile I remembered the good times, and I thought there and then, the Pastons and I, yes, we would meet again. 

Caressa Janssen