Dover Castle - Day Two

When we returned to the castle on the second day in Dover, we were met by fog. It was ok, as we were going to explore the insides of the Great Tower anyway. It was built in the 12th century by King Henry II, who was the great-grandson of William the Conquerer, and not just king over England, but also ruler of Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Nantes, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Brittany, and through his marriage to Eleanor, Aquitaine. I have read a great book about her by Johan Lybeck, who is just one of many who have become fascinated by her. She was first married to the French king, but had only daughters by him. With Henry (by all accounts, they started out madly in love) she had many children, among them Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland. She had daughters as well, and married them off to kings all over Europe. She also took part in one of the crusades. She has been portrayed on film by both Katherine Hepburn and Glenn Close in "The Lion in Winter". I have both films on my wish list at amazon; one day, I´ll get to them.

Anyway, Eleanor was probably here, and it was easy to keep in mind, as the castle has been set up as it might once have looked, when it was originally built. There is no old furniture or anything like that remaining, so everything has been made new, and much is allowed to be touched and sat in, if you´d like to have your picture taken on the throne of Henry II. You can hear an actor´s voice through the rooms, where he is cursing his faithless sons and wife (whom he, after years of passion and happiness, had locked up for years, while sleeping with his son´s fiance, who was a kind of hostage at his court - marriage arrangements could be a bit odd). I´m guessing he wasn´t easy to live with. Probably none of them were.

In the kitchen you can hear the chef scolding the kitchen boy, and all kinds of "authentic" sounds that historians imagine. It´s like they just got called out for a bit, soon returning. Or maybe not. There is something lacking; perhaps just the way things arrange themselves around human bodies, working. You know, it´s just obvious that no one is actually working there. It´s hard to explain how, but one knows.

There is lots of graffiti everywhere by French officers held here during the Napoleonic wars.

The privy

Imagining Henry and Eleanor, tucking in for the night. These strong colours feel strange, but are true to the period, I understand.

Looking at it now, I think the decorations on that box might depict the murder of Thomas Becket, like on this one.
The chapel is dedicated to Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury, who was assassinated by Henry II´s men after the King had complained that someone should rid him of his obstinate bishop, or something like that. Turned out, Henry hadn´t meant it exactly, and he did penance at Becket´s tomb after the pope had canonized him. Becket became the centre of a large cult, and finally another Henry, the VIII, had his bones pulverized during the Reformation.

There is a museum adjacent to the tower, the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment Museum, where you can see all kinds of interesting things regimental. Like this crocheted scarf, one of eight made by Queen Victoria herself, to be given by her grandson to particularly brave soldiers of the ranks in the Colonial Forces. It is made of Khaki-coloured Berlin wool and embroidered with Victoria´s monogram. It was worn over the right shoulder, under the shoulderstrap and buckled to the belt. This particular one belonged to Colour-Sergeant Thomas Ferrett, who served in South Africa, and in the second photo it´s worn by his wife.

When we had finished with all that, the sun had come out, and it turned out to be a really nice day. Of course, we had to go down some more tunnels, this time medieval and running through the fort on the northern side of the castle. It wasn´t all dark and underground in there, though, as it was from these battlements that the enemy would get shot at.

Apropos shot, it´s completely impossible to get one of the castle that conveys any of it´s size and grandure. Even when you see aerial photographs of it, it doesn´t feel as impressive as it does when you are standing on the ground. It was really hard to pick out the photos for this post, as we have so many, all of them pretty good, but none of them totally satisfactory.

The entrance to the medieval tunnels.
Where the tunnels go.

If you are so inclined, you can actually stay at Dover Castle. There is one "holiday cottage" type accomodation, for two, in Peverell´s Tower. Perfect for a romantic weekend, watching "The Lion in Winter", perhaps, drinking toddy? I wasn´t aware of this when we booked, and honestly, four days in July for 543 pounds, would have been totally worth it. Maybe for our 25th anniversary?

In this shot you can see the fort on the Western Heights, which we explored on the third day in Dover.


  1. Stunning pictures and commentary! I felt like I was right there. Thanks for sharing. What a lovely way to brighten the moment here in Washington, DC!