Wednesday 1 June 2016

carry on, constable

There’s something remarkably indulgent about having the campus of well looked after ruins to oneself, imagining how history marched on and then by an inaccessible accord, time stopped and there was a general agreement to stave off both progress and decay. On our trip across England, we experienced this many times over, and the Restormel Castle outside of Lostwithel in Cornwall really typified the romance. This circular fortress was built in the times just after the Norman Conquest and bastions like these transformed and solidified the occupation and displacement and civilised the art of warfare, turning unsheltered carnage and plunder into something more strategic and potentially less violent.
Exchanged several times between the high sheriff of Cornwall and Simon de Montfort (of Crusade fame and infamy), eventually it was ceded to the crown, under Henry III, the residence boasted plumbing (some innovation eight hundred years ago—reaching back to Roman times) and profited off of the local tin trade. Another sight was the Old Sherborne Castle in Dorset (an intact castle is just up the road).
Queen Elizabeth I relinquished this twelfth century estate to Sir Walter Raleigh after the courtier, poet, historian and explorer became enamoured with it, whilst returning from an expedition to the New World and landing at nearby Portsmouth. Raleigh, between searching for El Dorado and the Seven Cities of Gold, was instrumental in the English colonising of North America and popularised tobacco and potatoes in the Old World. An unsanctioned marriage and political intrigues, which may have beckoned the Spanish Armada (over incursions into lands claimed by that crown), led to Raleigh’s unfortunate beheading.
His faithful wife and accomplice, according to some, kept her husband’s head in a velvet bag for nearly thirty years before expiring herself, both unable to retire to the castle that had become a rather frustrated property.