Duck – the Knights are coming!

Fans of Doctor Who and Merlin (BBC) always get that dreamy-eyed expression on their faces when I tell them I live in Cardiff.

Might as well start telling everyone a little about my days out and about in the city…I had planned to bring this blog up-to-date on Thursday with this entry, but got rather side-tracked by my love for Fast Girls film.

Last Sunday I visited the “Joust” event at Castell Caerdydd or Cardiff Castle as it is referred to in English. The castle we see today is rather different from the Roman fort built in 55 AD by the invading Roman army. The castle was eventually rebuilt in medieval times (1091) by the Normans and the Norman keep and parts of the medieval walled fortifications can still be seen today.

In the late 18th century the 1st Marquis of Bute started to renovate the castle in a gothic revival style and in 1868 the Victorian obsession with all things gothic transformed the castle into a home for the Bute family of the 3rd Marquis and a “modern” mansion together with a chunky clock tower was added to the romantic setting in the heart of the city.

The Joust! Spectacle is an annual event held at Cardiff Castle by the intrepid and amazing Knights of Royal England, who provide jousting and medieval entertainment on a grand scale. I hope some of my pictures will give you an idea of how amazing the event and the setting are.

No matter how much of a feminist I thought myself to be, there’s nothing like a knight in full armour galloping past at 30 miles per hour on a fiery horse to make a girl’s heart thump a little faster.

Apart from the jousting tournament, which is a real contest with an end of year winner being decided out of 80 annual tournaments being held, there were numerous other entertainments and shows. From dancing ladies who played some ancient instruments to kids being taught how to fight with a sword or strike a coin, from a hog roast being offered to hungry spectators to a blacksmith explaining his art of making weapons like swords or new shoes for a horse.

The horses were, naturally, the real stars of the show. Here they are before the joust, getting ready to carry their riders to their glory…or doom. There are two shows per day, so quite tiring for horse and rider as well as for the page boys and knights who fight on foot to show us their skills with a staff and sword.

The show is light-hearted enough to appeal to little guests, but I loved the plastic severed heads, all gruesome and “bloody”, which the knights handed out to children, who chucked them up into the air with no sign of distress but great glee.

I once saw a similar event being staged at Hatfield House, Queen Elizabeth I old home. It was a great day, but Cardiff was even better in many ways, because there was far more space for horse and rider to really get up some speed during the jousting competition.

The way in which the knights finally charged out of the tournament arena will stay with me for a long time. The smell of freshly torn out grass, when the horses charged by, the hog roast scent, the giggles of kids laughing at the clumsy knights, the horses’ whinnying and the flags flapping in the wind are all details committed to the writer’s mind for future use.

The Minnesänger Walter von der Vogelweide has a lot to answer for, since I had to learn his verses by heart while I was still at school. The words were so lovely; I got seduced into thinking castles were all about handsome knights and even lovelier maidens.

No wonder the following of the BBC’s Merlin series is so large; a day out at the jousting event reminded me how we romanticise the medieval area, when the reality was all about mud, guts, torture, disease and hunger for most people. We don’t get to see much of that with the BBC’s Merlin, King Arthur and his servant-come-queen Guinnivere, but at least we get to see some handsome knights on horses and can pretend the Middle Ages were all about handsome men and their daring adventures.

Not that any of that romance and fluttering of hearts would ever have a chance to come across in the truly awful Snow White and the Huntsman movie, which I foolishly went to see this week. It tried sooooo hard to be epic and failed so very miserably at delivering.

Apart from the amazing stunt riders chasing through the woods, there was really nothing great in a script that relied totally on special effects to pull the lame carthorse out of the mire.

Kristen whats-her-face can’t act for toffee and that huntsman bloke, whose name I’ve already forgotten, was about as miscast as I would have been playing Cher’s part in Mermaids. My advice, go to your local library and borrow the Brothers’ Grimm version in book format. Much better script and you can look at my pictures of the “real knights” in this blog, then close your eyes and imagine yourself transported back in time to Snow White’s world.

(copyright for all photographs Maria Thermann; source of animation:


7 thoughts on “Duck – the Knights are coming!

    • No, it’s not with Joseph Fiennes and thankfully it is nothing like TV’s Camelot either. It’s a really good family viewing show with amazing productions that are Hollywood standard with regard to special effects. The young cast are amazing. It’s got veteran actors Richard Wilson in it as well as Anthony Head (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame). And of course the gorgeous Pierrefonds Castle in France! You’ll enjoy it, I’m sure.

  1. Great photos and post. I truly adore horses – they just do it for me. I particularly like the bit about how we are fed medieval history and the reality of it – at The Laboratory – we know about these things. It’s like the Royal Family really, I have nothing against them whatsoever but it makes me laugh so much when people think the Royal family are so high and mighty – they are where they are because, going right back in time, their ancestors were the best fighters and the most devious people – it’s the same with most of the very old money in England.

  2. Hi,
    Great photos, certainly looks like a heap of fun, I love the photo of the guy on the white horse, what a stunning looking horse, very beautiful.

    • Yes, it was a wonderful day and the white horse was very spirited – a bit of a handful really, which is why the oldest and most experienced knight had to ride it, I guess. When they first entered the tournament arena, there was an audible gasp escaping everybody’s lips, the horses and riders looked so splendid in their multi-coloured outfits. The audience looked positively drab compared to them – except for the kids, of course, who’d made the effort to dress up!

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