Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dover Castle: Soon to be visited by King Henry II

Dover Castle is undergoing a makeover for summer 2009. Well, at least the Great Tower is! As from August 2009 King Henry II’s medieval royal court will come to life in the imposing central keep of Dover Castle.

Using a combination of film technology, characters in costume and a faithful recreation of the royal court Dover Castle will be transported back to the twelfth century - a turbulent era of England’s history, where visitors will be able to meet the King himself as he wanders the hallways.

A Frenchman, Henry ascended to the throne of England in 1154 when he succeeded King Stephen, cousin of his mother Matilda, daughter of Henry I. At the time of taking the throne England was in a state of turmoil and Henry decided to assert order. Appointing Thomas Becket as his chancellor the pair began to reform England’s failing judicial system by establishing courts and prisons, and thereby asserting royal control over the assizes.

It was a fascinating time in the development of the royals and included Henry’s attempt to take control of the church in 1164 which led to a heated dispute with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the King’s former chancellor Thomas Beckett. Unfortunately for the latter it ended in his premature death as he was murdered by four of the king’s knights in Canterbury Cathedral in December 1170.

However, in addition to a narrated elaboration of the aforementioned events, the sounds, sights and even smells of that century that will be accurately portrayed in the Great Tower. Indeed, so good is the publicity surrounding this event that Dover hotels are hoping their advance bookings will rocket once the opening date for such a fascinating portrayal of 12th century royal shenanigans is finally revealed.

Of course, as the gateway to Europe Dover also benefits from having thousands of ferry travellers passing through the port each day. Perhaps some will be tempted to stay overnight in the port to add a visit to Dover Castle to their itinerary before or after completing their cross-channel trip to France.

Certainly the kids are guaranteed to be entertained as the plans for the Great Tower also include an accurate portrayal by a suitably costumed actor of the King’s court jester known as Roland the Farter! In addition, the King’s feuding sons will also be in attendance, including Prince John, who will no doubt provide the adults with a sinister representation of the grasping would-be king. It all sounds like intriguing fun!