Wednesday, 30 December 2015

An American Renaissance Fayre

As I mentioned in my post about my recent trip to the Globe theatre, I had made my Elizabethan suit for a holiday in America.

Neither I, nor my fiancĂ©, Teddy, are sports fans. We do not engage in conventional sports; we do not watch them. I used to think that I had never done any sort of sport until I thought about it again and noted that I  have done riding, archery, 22 shooting, judo and fencing.

Anyway, I live in Wimbledon and have lived with having to avoid the sudden influx of people for the tennis every year all my life. I was, therefore, not looking forward to the London Olympics in 2012.

Teddy has to cross the city every day to get to work in north London and he wasn’t looking forward to the event either.

We formed a plan. Our friends, Karen and William, live in Homewood, just outside Chicago. We had stayed with them for holidays several times before and they said we were welcome to stay for a longer period.
Teddy saved up as much leave as he could carry over between years and I, having been made redundant from my post working for the Church of England as an admin, was free to take a long holiday for the first time.

We planned so that we left before the Games began and came back after the Paralympics closed.

Karen told us that whilst we were there, she and William would be going to the Bristol Renaissance Fayre, where they re-enacted as member of Queen Elizabeth’s court. She played the Countess of Shrewsbury and he portrayed Sir Francis Drake. They said we would be welcome to join them and could be assigned roles to play.

I had already started an Elizabethan suit for a costume set that never happened, so I resolved to finish it. Teddy started a suit of his own.

I’m a bit more organised and focused than Teddy and had finished my suit , with a spare pair of venetians before we left, Teddy still had quite a bit of work to do.

When we arrived in Homewood, I learnt that William had also been asked to paint up a couple of large shields. One was to help decorate the place where we would be re-enacting and the other was a gift for someone. I offered to help.

The first shield was the arms of Sir John Hawkins and the second was to have a blue giraffe (which I understand was the recipient’s nickname). I set to work and here are the results.

In the UK we are often able to re-enact at historic castles and houses, but these do not exist in the states (prior to the Georgian and Victorian periods).

The Bristol Renaissance Fayre had solved this problem by building a small village of Tudor-style shops and adding three open-air theatre stages, a full-sized galleon in its own dock and tilt yard and a small fort.

They re-enacted a visit made by Queen Elizabeth to Bristol, two shows a day, for the public every day for two weeks every year.

As both Karen and William worked, we were to go for the two weekends. I was assigned the role of Lord Mounteagle, a relative of the Earl of Derby. Thus, as a true Yorkist at heart, I had to grit my teeth and play a Stanley. I borrowed a sword belt and rapier from William for the role (though I bought a beautifully tooled sword belt and hanger at the fayre. Teddy had finally got his suit to a  stage where it was wearable( I forget who he was to play).

Unfortunately, Teddy was feeling ill and throwing up on the morning of the first weekend, so we went without him.( We did not find out till we got back that he was still feeling ill and couldn’t move from a prone position without hurling. As we didn’t know what was wrong with him, we ended up calling an ambulance. He was diagnosed with severe vertigo and spent a couple of days in hospital).

With me feeling slightly guilty for leaving him behind, we arrived at the fayre and dragged our wheeled cases over the rough track to the rear of the small fort that backed the royal court.

Other members of the group (the Guild of St George) had already arrived and we helped get the large carpets and all the furniture out of the store room and set it up. The formal part of the day was Court, where various worthies were presented to the queen and there were some set pieces , and the Procession thought the town to one of the main stages. There was then a set piece between the Queen and Leicester. The Queen and some nobles then attended a joust in the afternoon.

The rest of the time we were free to wander and be involved in our own plots etcetera.

I attended the joust several times, mostly to cheer on a rather handsome young knight (even if he was playing a Frenchman). Here he is

I had great fun and Teddy was well enough to join us the second weekend.

They had a professional actress playing the queen and she was excellent. I could not fault her accent. The chap playing Leicester was also very good, but he was of southern extraction and twinges of accent or idiom crept in on occasion.

The was a marvellous performance by Drake and the other sea captains , where they were brought before the court drunk, to explain how the inn came to be burnt down. Somehow they got away with it – probably by blaming the Spanish.

The other re-enactor of note was the man playing Sir Francis Wallsingham, who was excellent. I became involved in a plot where he had been captured by some Scots and they were trying to get a ransom. I somehow managed to get the negotiation turned into an auction and the Scots ended up getting so confused they bought him.

We enjoyed ourselves and, it seems, made an impression on the guild. They were disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to join them for the 2013 shows.

Until next time


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