Medieval Glamping at Sudeley Castle

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After last year’s success at Sudeley castle , the Black Knight Historical team were invited once more – and that meant we were hired to entertain the visitors. The theme changed however – whereas last year we were inside the castle, doing 17th century stuff ( lace making, apothecary/early science), this time it was all about Richard III.

Which meant Lucas was one of the Richard’s cronies, Ratcliffe, and I was his wife Agnes. Which meant – posh stuff, posh tent, poshness galore, even more so since Eleanor (as Cecille Neville, Duchess of York, mother to the king) was to reside in our tent too.

And all of which meant that I needed to update my wardrobe. I had one posh frock but needed another one, plus a new kirtle, posher than the woollen ones I already had.

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Because one posh frock is never enough…

And as it happened I just managed to grab some lovely silks at the last market. They were supposed to go towards stock items, but I just couldn’t resist… not only that, I simply couldn’t afford much mid-season ( we had spent a bit on updating the tent’s interior), so I simply had to make do with whatever I had in my silk stash.

So, for a late 15th century I decided on a kirtle in this style, from the Marie of Burgundy portrait – especially since the silk  I had, from Watts&CO, was almost exactly the same ..

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I did not have time for the trim, belt and a new henin, but since it wasn’t meant to be an exact copy, the rest of the details could wait their turn ( I wonder how long will that be..). The rest however worked well.

The style is almost a transition gown, when the flat fronted kirtle started improving in cut and began to fit nicely, slowly transitioning into the kirtles of the early Tudor style.

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Working on the back of the bodice, attaching lining

Mine is lined with  brown silk ( gold/orange for the sleeves), and the bodice section is strengthened with one layer of fine linen canvas – more than enough to keep one’s assets in place; Indeed I quickly discovered that it was giving me much more of a cleavage than I had reckoned for! At the event, for modesty’s sake, I covered the bosom with a placard or a linen neckerchief, but the frock will need to be adjusted so that  the neckline will go up a bit. Heaving bosoms are not exactly the way to go in high medieval fashion… (more on silhouettes across the ages here)

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The sleeves are funky. I laced up mine with lovely points made by Lucy the Tudor; the dress fastens at the back with a longer lace too.

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 The kirtle worked wonderfully – I wore it on its own ( that is with a chemise, hose, headgear, etc) when inside the tent. The tent represented my household so it was still proper to be on a slightly more relaxed footing, without the overgown. I was at home, weaving, while my important and recently-made-very-wealthy husband was discussing important business with the king. And the queen mother just happened to pay a visit…

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So a great compromise, posh enough to be seen indoors – and, for one day at least, it was a blessing since it was incredibly hot!  3 layers is not much, but  it just wasn’t too nice to be sweating!

I was mostly sitting in the shade, and demonstrating weaving – both on a rigid heddle and on tablets, and both styles proved to be very popular with the visitors. I enjoyed long and detailed chats about the history of weaving narrow wares, textiles etc, and  it was a pleasure to exchange views and information with a very polite and well informed public. A few  ladies  had actually had a go at the weaving themselves 🙂

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Threading the little loom with linen threads in preparation for tablet weaving

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Tablet weaving in action

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Eleanor talking to the visitors – wearing a Prior Attire gown in gold metallic silk too!

As far as the gown was concerned, I had a length of black damask and was hoping it would be just enough…

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After some serious calculations ( yes! maths happened!), measurements, and drafting, trying to plan how much of the fabric I could use, and still match the pattern, it transpired that it was just enough for a voluminous gown with a modest train. I didn’t mind the modest train, my other frock has a long one, so a variety is there – plus I planned to posh this frock up with some fur…

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The first lady in the black was my generic inspiration – again, the fabric seems almost exactly the same style!

The fur was purchased from GH leathers  – 2 plates of white rabbit ( oh, and one of black for Lucas – didn’t I mention he was getting a new robe too?)

The gown was cut and made, lined with red silk and then the purfells  were prepared – fur was cut to shape for the hem, collar and cuffs, and the borders were secured with tape.

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Then they were studiously attached to the garment, by hand – it takes some time, but the whole process of preparing and attaching the purfells was worth it – the fur lies flat and neat!

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I put on the gown next morning and we had a mini photo-shoot in the castle grounds before the public stormed in 🙂

I must admit that I like the comfortable, shorter gown without a huge train to lug behind, and the basic colours looked elegant – with just a hint of clashing reds and vibrant greens from the kirtle:-)

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Flashing the greens, matching the foliage around!

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The back view

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We found some nice windows for an atmospheric shot…

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…but the wind was playing up with my veil a lot – so had to swap sides!

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The grounds of Sudeley Castle are breathtaking, and the event went well the next day too – it was cooler, so I got to wear the dress most of the day, but it also rained rather a lot. However, Brits  are used to this weather so we still had lots of visitors, though instead of sun hats and sandals they came armed with wellies and umbrellas:-)

The king ( Jason Kingsley)  was around on both days, taking part at ceremonies, public dinners, shows and also entertaining the public while giving short demonstrations of exquisite horsemanship on ‘White Surrey’ (actually Warlord)

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A sneaky picture from the tent…

There were a lot of  things to see – soldiers, kitchens, craftsmen, camp followers, storytelling, a whole bunch of Richard’s many cronies, a fashion show  – in short enough to occupy a family for a day ( plus  for the visitors nice food, the castle, medieval market, ice cream, and beautiful gardens to roam around).

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In short, an exquisite event, probably the most enjoyable tented event of the year – and indeed staying in a posh medieval tent was very much like glamping…  all the things we have accumulated over the years, fur covers, woven mats, tables, tapestries, lanterns, etc – it was all worth every penny; not only to see the pleasant surprise on the  public’s faces – but for our own comfort!

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Despite the rain, the tent was dry, and the mats got  lightly wet at the edges only.  The bed with its layers of sheepskin and wool bedding, with coverings made in wool and fur was not only warm but comfy ( Lucas may have a different opinion, as I got the bed before I knew him – so it is a tad too short for him). Me, I enjoy sleeping under the canvas, especially in the rain – so I loved every minute!

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Tapestries made a real difference too, as well as all the paraphernalia – lots to talk about to the visitors. Some of the items were provided by Eleanor (the games table, religious items, a chair, etc. Still, there’s an ever growing list of what we need for the tent – more chests, more wall coverings, more chairs.. I now want a standing loom too… So, it looks as if we may need a trailer… or a van….

Oh, and did I mention that Lucas got a new robe? There it is, in  the same silk as my kirtle, so we were matching 🙂 I still have enough of it to make another short robe, I may  yet make a stock item after all…

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reading from Chaucer…:-)

And the usual  facts and credits…….

Green kirtle – fabric – 4m of green silk, £115 per metre from the website if I remember well, but I managed to grab a roll at the market at a £80 per metre:-)

4m of taffeta for lining, £25 per metre

silk laces, £25

overall cost of materials –  £450

The gown:

Black damask – 7m @ £60 per metre,

Red taffeta for lining  – £6m @ £25

Fur – £150

Overall cost of materials: –  £650

…and the article on  how to make Burgundian dress and a kirtle here...

With more medieval inspiration here

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Clothes – Prior Attire

Lovely bling (I got a hat gem specially for the event) – as always, by Gemmeus

Belt –  Bayley Heritage Castings

Shoes and pattens – NP Historical shoes

Photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

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And the good news is – it looks like the event  will be back next August, 20/21st!! 🙂  a new page has been created for the event, so keep your eyes peeled! 🙂

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Fun Medieval Photoshoot

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Sometimes the timing is just right – a few months ago I was preparing stock items for the approaching market, and  it just happened that a friend and a client was stopping by  on her way to Devon. We had fitting scheduled for her new Victorian outfit, but  on an impulse we  decided to do a min shoot of the stock medieval items – using Amy and me as Models, and accompanied by  Amy’s ferrets and bird.

 You will no doubt recognize Amy ( the owner of Feathers&Flight Historical Falconry) from our precious shoot as she was the awesome Neobedouin and  Neonavajo in our Steampunk Amazones collection

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 And so without further ado a plan was hatched –  Amy came over ( not without adventures – blowing her tire  just off the motorway, abut 15 min away from us), fitting was done, pizza consumed and we set about photographing 4 medieval gowns. It was also a test of one of our new backgrounds, so lots of playing with set up, props, lights etc was insured – Pitcheresque Imagery sure had some fun with that!

 late 12th/13th style gowns were first. We did a few product shots and then  tried to do a generic ones involving the pets too:-)

 1. Burgundy wool and silk trim gown, lined with linen – worn over a silk undergown. here with Flynn, the barnowl

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2. A wool gown with silk trim

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With Mr. Baggins

Then it was time for  15th century.

first – an early 15th century houppelande in silk, lined with linen ( this one is still available  from our shop – here)

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 and then a late 15th century Burgundian gown in wool sateen with brocade collar and cuffs

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 For this look we tried to experiment  and  stage the Lady With an Ermine portrait look –  but the ferret ( Merry – and he was very merry indeed!) was very excited and the whole thing turned out to be very challenging – lots of fun ( much to the irritation of the photographer, I suppose), but trying to get him to stay more or less still in a graceful pose was tricky ( especially since we didn’t really want the animals to touch the gowns – there was for ale after all)… still we got a few fun pixs!

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Merry is all grace and loveliness – but Amy is clearly up to no good here! 🙂

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giggles galore…

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ewww, what’s that thing??? ;_)

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and at last, success 🙂

 And a few behind the scenes shots to wrap it up!

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ghastly attack

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practicing the fashionably pregnant look. The closest I will ever get to the real thing I think! 🙂

Hope you enjoyed these – I am already looking forward to our next stock photoshoot at some point at the end of June/beginning of July! 🙂

The most common mistakes in historical costuming/re-enactment – and how to avoid them!

 Over the years I have been asked about  a variety of problems within historical costuming – and how to avoid them. I have already written a few posts on different aspects such as the look, fabrics, etc – but here … Continue reading

The Spanish Death Ride, Valencia 2008

COMUNIDAD/// Cabalgata de homenaje a Jaume I   A bit of a blast from the past – but I stumbled upon the pictures and realised tat I hadn’t blogged about this ‘traumatic experience’ yet; ( mostly because back then I did not have a blog…) Anyway, the story…  The event was set up to re-create the famous civic parade that took place in 1428,celebrating the visit of king James I. Griffin Historical  were  given the mammoth task of organizing  it and supplying riders and ground crew. Over 80 riders and support crew were flown from different parts of Europe – England, the Netherlands, Poland,  etc – and the cavalcade itself  counted over twelve hundred people in total, all in medieval gear… We arrived the day before the event  – most of us were picked up at the airport and deposited in two major hostels in Valencia’s Old Town.  Many of us knew one another quite well – from past events, jousting circle, and other historical and equestrian backgrounds, ( I also brought a friend from my  ECW regiment – not everybody had medieval kit, but many people shared what they had in order to get the look). We just had time enough to go for a walk, admire some fireworks and visit a few tapas bars… DSC00722 DSC00731

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practicing before the event…. on little wooden horses…

The next morning we all breakfasted, assembled  and were briefed, then the kit was sorted out – we put on our hose, chemises, doublets, boots etc… And since I was a bloke for this event,  Griff  placed me in a nice padded gambeson, hiding my womanly flesh, and I got a nice piece of headgear too…. DSC00738   Can you see that it is a woman hiding in there? 🙂 DSC00737 A perfect disguise… Then  it was time to do some dry training, (not mounted). The  folks who were to ride in full armour had arrived a few days earlier and practiced with the horses, so they had a vague idea of what to expect – there were 15 fully harnessed knights, quite a sight! The rest of us were blissfully ignorant, but we had fun discovering our duties… Like marching up in down the training grounds, with long pikes, practicing formations… n796310536_4391791_2308   After hours of that, we had a quick break ( siesta!) and  then it was time….. In the centre a huge tent was erected – huge to house about 100 horses and people…. and that’s where we waited…   n1127359090_30157280_7190   and waited some more…. n1127359090_30157278_6584   …and then suddenly it was time to meet the horses and mount up.   Yeeesss, about that…….

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After initial panic, we were shown the proper mounts…

It turned out that quite a few of the supplied mounts that were brought in were supplied by third parties – from outside of the town. Indeed , as I learnt later, many of them were seeing a town for the first time ever – and it was quite evident. They were lovely horses – many of them stallions, many spooked by the unfamiliar surroundings. It didn’t help that many of the riders were beginners, too – since all we had to do was to sit and walk,  no trotting or cantering,  Griff’s team had to match their abilities to the horses. As it happened, I was busy helping people to mount up, and when the time arrived  for me to get a pony, there were only two left in the tent – a nice chestnut and a lovely gray. There were three people standing next to the chestnut, and none with the gray – good, I thought! so I grabbed the handsome beast and led him out.  Only to learn the reason why he was left alone –  once outside, he completely freaked out, rearing and panicking, impossible to mount up. Nicky, ( who was doing a sterling job of organizing the mounting chaos and helping folks out), just looked and told me to forget it, he won’t do, sorry, I will have to walk. Well, I didn’t fly all the way there to just to walk! In the end, Nick led the horse toward me, standing on a mounting block, and I sort of jumped on en route… and then the fireworks started… After a few hairy moments  of dancing, prancing etc, the horse calmed down and was ok 🙂 n1127359090_30157286_9053   Everybody was mounted and we slowly started making progress towards the start of the cavalcade… the steps first though… 2   In the meantime, the weather took a turn for the worse – it started to rain… As a result, ( I think), we were not given any pikes to hold; ( I was very grateful for that, the moment I saw the narrow alleys and slippery cobbles)… Immediately after we started,  problems started to pop up –  there is no Health and Safety over there, it seems – the public was just next to us, next to the slipping, kicking, biting stallions, and bless them, ( the public, not particularly the stallions), they were fearless, especially the kids. Everybody wanted to pat the horses…  Our ground crew, both Griff’s staff and local folk were a great help – trying to calm don panicked horses, shield the public from the riders, and calm down the riders who suddenly decided that it wasn’t their idea of fun and wanted off, now. My horse was doing OK, despite shying and prancing a bit, he wasn’t rearing and bit my  support crew bloke only once – So I felt reasonably safe on board. The bloke in question, a weathered chap of about 60, named Jose was not only helpful, but talkative and  so we struck a conversation in my halting Spanish.  He was the source of my information about where the horses came from, ( mostly farms and gypsy encampments, according to him), and  about the festival.

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here I am, on my pretty gray pony – he did turn out ok in the end:-)

For me the cavalcade was proving fairly uneventful – stressful, yes, but not nerve wracking. Others were not so lucky… The rain meant the ground was very, very slippery – be prepared, some disturbing photos below.  Just let me say that none of the horses were injured in their falls, ( a miracle, surely!) and the riders escaped mostly  unscathed too 🙂 1223576377137 1223576377227 1223623987888   It does look awful –  but all the horses who fell, did get up and continued the parade. They did not even panic, bless them. Apart from a couple incidents like these, it  all went fine… 0070 0035 0022 1223576308746 COMUNIDAD/// Cabalgata de homenaje a Jaume I 1223580919773__t3a3889 1223581828964__t3a4029   The cavalcade was cut about an hour short due to the deteriorating weather conditions, so we missed the fireworks (just as well), and made our way back to the tent, where we dismounted, (many with an audible sight of relief!) We thanked our mounts and left them with their carers/owners… Duty done, time to party  – well, at least food was first on the agenda, we were starved! There was some entertainment too:

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Armour makes a great drumming instrument…. for many drummers it seems!

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a tad wet… I got even wetter later ( if that was possible) bu disappearing into a flooded manhole – only my reflexes saved me from disappearing for good – but fortunately i managed to spread my arm s wide and grab the edges, and the guys dragged me out. next day we wet to see what it was – it turned out there were some serious roadworks going there, and during the day the site was covered by planks… i guess the food carried off the plans and there was no indication that the street was dug up, especially when you are going knee deep in rainwater….

In in the meantime the weather turned to be of the ‘tropical downpour’ variety… n796310536_4391797_4264   We had to make our way back to the hostels – needless to say we were drenched…. DSC00739   The hostels were flooded too, but nothing we couldn’t deal with 🙂 but all evening party plans, ( we were going to hit a salsa club or two),  were cancelled. The city was flooded too, the streets turned into rivers, cars being swept away – and so hostel based entertainment had to suffice, ( chatting mostly and reliving the experiences of the day). The next  day dawned clear and most of the flooded drained away overnight – so I ended up on a romantic walk around the old town, then back to the hostel to check out. Our flight  was in the evening , so  our small party had some time for sightseeing –  we ended up admiring the town, drying our  clothes,  eating, resting, buying Valencian lace (me, mostly…), and socializing.  The flight back was uneventful – though  there were some scenes of distress at the weighting in of the luggage – water soaked gambeson weighs much, much more than a dry one…. Some paid up the price, some wore theirs on the flight…   The whole event was, well, ‘interesting’ is a mild way of putting it! It was stressful,  exhilarating, scary,  and fun –  and I would do it again!  Alas,  it  was a one off, it seems. Still, that 2 hours of a walking taught me a lot about horse riding, dealing with stress, wet surfaces, public etc – so some learning took  place 🙂   Hope you enjoyed reading the bit – I enjoyed re-living it again!   P.S. the pictures of the cavalcade were taken off the news websites shortly after the event – if any of you know the sources, photographers etc, I would appreciate help with tracing them back 🙂