Warwick Castle Easter Weekend (L&M) - Michael Snijders

For years it has been a hidden desire to experience to how it really would be to live like a knight. Over the years I spent quite some time visiting castles, even seeing the occasional re-enactment event, reading about the middle ages. Once my son got to the age of three, he too showed a strong interest in knights and castles, so we continued our trek along Europe’s castles. Until one day, July 2013, on the very last day of our holiday, we ran into an event at Richmond Castle. Our original plan, a quick look, a good lunch and an easy trip back to the ferry, turned into a  long day talking to re-enactors and enjoying their display, a later lunch, and a race back to the ferry. We all had a blast, mainly thanks to Tim Eagling of the Suffolk Free Company, we spent a great part of the day talking to our family. On the way home we realized, this is what we wanted to do as well. Yet the question remained, where do we start? 

A few months later Tim started a Facebook group aimed at improving late 15th century re-enactment, and that turned out to be exactly what I needed to move forward. I met many friendly and helpful people (Bertus Brokamp, Arne Koets, Alex Kay, amongst many others) who were more than happy to talk to a highly energetic, curious and only slightly informed Dutch guy. In other words, me. I started reading, and talking, and talking and reading. Tim invited me to join his group at Bosworth, provided I had my own “soft kit”, i.e. appropriate clothes and accessories. Thrilled and also in a mild panic, I talked to even more people, until I ran into Alex Kay, a member of (amongst others) The Sir John Paston’s Household. And that is wear my dreams (and my son’s dreams) started turning into reality. Alex invited us to join the Pastons at Warwick Castle over the Easter weekend. He was kind enough to lend us clothes, even going as far as to sew a coat for my son. In the mean time, I managed to get hold of shoes, a sallet (a tight fitting visored helmet), an eating knife and some crockery.

Come Easter, and a very excited father and his son made the journey to Warwick. We arrived very late (pas ten pm), to be greeted by Alex, in his medieval outfit. We quickly dropped of all the stuff into our tent, and went to sleep, Easter 2014. We woke up to find ourselves still at Easter, but then in the 1470s. Looking out of the tent we saw a big medieval encampment, in a corner of which the Pastons were located. In the background reared Warwick Castle. Smoke from the campfires drifted through the air and we were greeted by our captain (Ian), a veteran archer, and the smell of bacon. We quickly slipped into the proper clothing, which was warmer and more comfortable than we had expected. Then we were off to the drill grounds, my son Yorick proudly wearing the banner, Ian and I with our well used glaives. And before I realized what was going on, I found myself marching and drilling group manoeuvres with a bunch of fellow soldiers. None of them which I knew, but all seeing me as one of theirs. The rest of the day we spent talking to people, learning, doing guard duties (i.e. pose a lot for the public) and generally just being a medieval person in the late 15th century. 

The 2nd day of our stay, I was allowed to experience how it felt to wear a full harness, thanks to Alex. We spent 45 minutes getting me into it, which actually is not as bad as it seems, because there is a lot of gear that needed to be put on, adjusted and fine-tuned, none o which was tailored for me. Despite our physical differences , Alex is about 2 inches shorter than I am, wearing the harness was a lot more  comfortable and manoeuvrable than I’d expected. Pat made some amazing images of the whole process. The best part, however, was not wearing a full harness, but was my son helping me fit into the armour. It shows how much of a family experience this passion can be. My son had a wonderful time. He did what any kid would do. Try out all the weapons and armour he could lay his hands on, figuring out what it would mean to be a seven year old boy back in the 15th century. So yes, he will get a bow, just like all English kids his age did. He also made a new friend, Lewis. Despite being four years older, and speaking only a few words of English, he found a way to communicate and play with his new friend.

In short, re-enactment is not just a hobby, it is both a passion, and a family experience. We had a glorious time back in the 15th century, and we are yearning to go back!