Does this look real to you?
It doesn’t to me, and I was there, a coupld of days ago on All Hallows Eve, taking this photograph. It’s a view I’ve captured before, but somehow these ruins of Ludlow Castle set high above the River Teme, always manage to look like some idealised Victorian watercolour; or a film set; even dream-like. Yet there was nothing dreamy about the conception of this massive fortification. Its construction began in the 11th century with the sole intention of keeping the Welsh princes in their place behind the nearby England-Wales border.
It’s other significance, in my mind at least, is that in the winter of 1501 Prince Arthur Tudor, heir to the English throne and Henry VIII’s older brother, spent his honeymoon here. He had married the Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon, both of them still in their teens. You can read more this story here: Honeymoon Destination Anyone?
But in any event, even with the walls intact, and some well tapestried royal chambers somewhere within, it takes a great leap of imagination to consider this an ideal honeymoon venue. Presumably Arthur’s presence was a political gesture to impress the Welsh neighbours. In any event, it did not end well. It seems that both Arthur and Catherine fell ill with the ‘sweating sickness’, a strange and passing disease of Tudor times. Catherine recovered but by April 1502 Arthur was dead. And the rest, as they say, is history.
My own experience within the castle walls dates back to the late 1960s. It was a summer’s evening and the time of the Ludlow Arts Festival which every year staged a Shakespeare play inside the castle’s massive inner bailey. Open air of course and on very hard wooden seats. My mother had tickets for Shakespeare’s Richard III. It had poured with rain all day, and I (in grumpy teen mode) didn’t want to go. But by early evening the sky cleared and so we set off for Ludlow, armed with cushions and blankets and a flask of coffee.
There was no set to speak of. Only a platform with a throne against the looming backdrop of the bailey walls. Swifts and swallows whisked by overhead, but as it grew dark it was the turn of the bats to swoop and dive around the battlements. And then came Act 5 scene 3 – the night before the battle of Bosworth Field when Richard is visited by the ghosts of all those he has murdered. And out of the shadows, from different spots around the castle walls, echoed the eerie voices. It was thrilling. Unforgettable. And to think I hadn’t wanted to come.
#Lens-Artists: Flights of Fancy Johnbo has set this week’s challenge. Go see his different approaches for this theme.