The Duke and Dutchess of Sussux’s wedding was filled with such magnificent pomp and circumstance which peaked my curiosity of the backstory of The Windsor Castle, one of the most famous castles in the world. Built nearly 1000 years ago, it is the oldest still lived in castle by the Queen of England, used as both her private home and the official residence for hosting formal affairs. The original castle was built with wood then fortified with stone, survived World War II with the Royal family secretly living in the castle and endured a massive fire in 1992 in which over 100 rooms suffered fire or water damage with restoration costs of 40 million pounds.
A dear acquaintance of mine asked me some years ago, if a time machine exists that allowed a traveler to select any time in history to visit, where would I go. As much as I love exploring U.S. and World history, no past timeline was that exciting and I struggled to answer.
However, my inquiring friend had not once ounce of hesitation in responding to the question being asked of him, because he and his wife’s sole hobby is touring the country to attend medieval events and festivals. As a matter of fact, when entering their home, guests are greeted with hundreds of collector items this couple has acquired over decades of travel which included; replicas of fighting weapons, eating utensils, musical instruments and even miniature displays of weapons of torture (folks living in this period were either quite bored or madmen in devising really bizarre methods of torture such as the Garrett Torture Device http://www.medievalchronicles.com/medieval-torture-devices/garrotte-torture-device/ ). In addition to being collectors, they also handcraft a number of authentic costumes worn in their roles as actors during renaissance fairs.
I have teased them about the period lifestyle they adore and in turn, they’ve called me soft knowing I would pack my bags to go home after a few hours in their world. My biased perception (from movies, of course) of early centuries castle living comes down to uncomfortable attire, not much in the form of entertainment except eating and drinking and painful living quarters in cold, damp, poorly lit stone structures.
I must admit after doing my own research on the historical nature of castles, I discovered a few little known facts:
1. Castles innovated mainly in Europe as fortresses to protect the nobility class, however recorded fortresses (numerous structures were loosely defined as castles) are located all over the world: the Middle East, India, Asia and Africa and even in North and South America
2. One war strategy used by enemy armies would be to wait outside and try to starve out the castle dwellers rather than strike with force. This is called a siege. Many castles were built on a spring so they would have water during a siege.
3. The toilets were basically rooms with a built-in wooden or stone seating area with a hole where the waste traveled down to empty into the surrounding moat. The second reason for the toilet room was to house clothes to capture the smell, serving as an insect repellent, hence the name of the toilet room “garderobes”.
4. Castles have been used as backdrops in over a hundred tv shows and films since the early 20th century which include my favorites: Remakes of Ivanhoe, the Avengers TV series, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Braveheart, the Downton Abby series and several Harry Potter’s movies to name a few.
I was reminded of the hilarious discussion about the medieval lifestyle, when one of Beau Satchelle’s favorite twitter followers @luxury_travel or their website www.aluxurytravelblog.com sent out a tweet about the Top 5 luxury castles in Spain (https://www.aluxurytravelblog.com ). These properties are referred to in Spain or Spanish speaking countries as “Paradores” which are high end luxury hotels stationed within a converted castle or monastery and serve to maintain the historical spirit of the country as well as to promote tourism in Spain.
The five luxury castles recommended in their blog are:
These properties have been upgraded to offer all the contemporary creature comforts (i.e., high end accommodations, 4 and 5 star restaurants, historical tours of the castle and grounds, and amenities fit for 21st century nobility mindset) for an exclusive luxurious experience while preserving centuries of architecture. I must admit, for this type of medieval experience, my bags are packed and ready to go! -AJ
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