Castles: Britain’s Fortified History
Friday, 28 November 2014

Castles: Britain’s Fortified History

When castles were at the heart of Britain’s very bloody society

Written by Ben Felsenburg
Ben-Felsenberg-176Nothing, but nothing, is sacred. The nation’s shibboleth ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’ has been laid waste, and in mere passing too by doughty historian Sam Willis (Castles: Britain’s Fortified History BBC Four, Thursday, 9pm). You see, the castle arrived in these islands as a mere accoutrement of those invading foreigners who did for Harold a little way back. Not only that, they were first brought over as a flat-pack ready-to-assemble kit by the Normans. (Take that, Ikea!) The original wooden model was, of course, soon overtaken by the imposing stone towers from within which any self-respecting feudal baron could oppress the local peasantry.

A young man with a fashionable beard and a ready smile, Willis is delightfully free of the pretence towards drab sociological relevance that bedevils some modern historians. He relishes sharing with us the colourful details of the past that fit in with the ‘1066 And All That’ curriculum: cue a visit to the blacksmith to bang out a medieval broadsword, and – the taste be damned – he takes a spoon and tucks into a bowl of pottage, the gloopy mess that would have been on the menu eight or nine centuries ago.

This first of three episodes is a fascinating foray into history, and along the way Willis pauses to remind us it’s only thanks to a copious amount of medieval bloodshed that Stephen took the throne and stopped Matilda from becoming England’s first female ruler. Just what kind of name is Stephen for a king anyway?

NOT TO BE MISSED

TV-Nov28-01-NotToBeMissed-590

TURNER PRIZE  Channel 4, Mon, 7.30pm
Britart’s great and good gather at the Tate Britain to acclaim the latest winner.

WILD WEATHER WITH RICHARD HAMMOND BBC1, Monday, 9pm
The boyish presenter throws himself at the mercy of the elements, starting with the power of wind.

THE RAIL•WAY: FIRST GREAT WESTERN Channel 5, Thursday, 8pm
There’s devastation on the Dawlish line in Devon in last winter’s storms as the series returns.


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