The Spectacle of Kelmarsh - by Rima
It is a few years since Buckingham's Retinue as a group have participated in a large scale Multi Period event, such as English Heritages Festival of History at Kelmarsh. For the people who have swelled the Retinues ranks since the last time, it was a really interesting and enjoyable event as the report from Rima describes:
For most of the two days I managed to get lost on site, either in the traders market or around the endless array of living history camps. Needless to say I think we all had a good time and enjoyed the experience, from trying to find the camp/toilets in the dark (amidst a sea of tents) to taking part in the final parade. The finale was walking the isle of re-enactors from all periods. Walking between the Ermine Street Guard clashing gladius against shields was one of the more surreal moments...or was it discussing the logistics of rabbit stew (whilst in 15 century kit) with a group of WWII soldiers...or watching a fire juggler in the fading light performing for only himself?
William entertained the public and freaked out the small people by playing dead. Our captain saw another group with his orange jack colours and promptly got adopted as a mascot. Bucks camp was a hive of industry with shoe making, scabbard making, chopping of rabbit fur (it’s a bit like sand…you get the picture) and lots of sewing by camp followers. The City Levy entertained us with a bawdy mummers play and got all the younger members of Bucks involved with some games of strength and cunning. Or was it just brute force and whose arm is the longest?
For a multi-period, Kelmarsh is a spectacle everyone should experience at least once. St George smote an unwieldy dragon, to the cries of terrified medieval villagers. The paratroopers jumped to “oohs” and “ahhs” and bated breaths as one had to cut themselves loose and deploy the emergency chute instead. Civil wars raged and bowmen and bills faced each other on the field. World War II planes re-enacted dogfights overhead and I’ve never seen so many exploding things all in one place. The gladiators, a strangely compelling and eye-drawing sight, doing circle dances to 18th century pipers, as we lay waiting for the parade to begin, may surely never be repeated again? I missed loads of other stuff – after all, we were doing our own entertaining, however there are indeed some great groups out there to be met and some spot on folks to say hello to!
I drove through the twisty Suffolk lanes on the way to Framlingham castle with a sense of trepidation. I was in charge of a Buckingham's Retinue event for the first time in years; and I had a number of challenges to face.
Firstly the event was set in around Mary I's ascension to the throne in 1553, about 70 years later than the time period Buckingham's Retinue normally operate in. This meant very little of our medieval kit would be valid, leaving us very short of period kit and knowledge. I had quickly skimmed through one book on Mary Tudor, but realistically I knew that no one in the retinue would be able to answer any really difficult questions the public posed about the period.