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Friday, December 15, 2017

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England, the largest inhabited castle in Britain after Windsor
 It isn't difficult to envision a 14th century cohort of knights and archers clattering through the gate of Alnwick Castle after the August 1388 Battle of Otterburn, to inform Henry, earl of Northumberland, that his eldest son and the army's commander, Harry "Hotspur" Percy, and another son, Sir Ralph Percy, had been captured by the Scots in a rash moonlight battle in which the banners of friend and foe were indistinguishable. Hotspur's redeeming grace was that he'd stood over his wounded brother to fend off the Scots. They eventually were ransomed. 
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The present-day duke of Northumberland, a descendant of the Percys, owns a vast amount of land and is a savvy businessman. Because the castle played a part in the Harry Potter movies, the castle staff use not only a medieval theme, but the Potter theme, to attract families with children. 

Lessons in swordsmanship and archery are offered within the bailey, as well as broom-flying lessons.

Small denizens of Hogworts.

 But we had come in search of the medieval Alnwick Castle and there was plenty to see.

The Percy lion.

Main castle within the walls where the duke lives, some rooms open to the public, but no photos allowed.
There are two museums.One contains an assortment of historic items.
If you wondered how a fire arrow was assembled, here's a description.

Everyone owned a comb, some more elaborate than others, and they really did remove grease and lice.

At the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers Museum Sammy caught my eye.

I guess they felt so badly in accidentally killing Sammy, they had him taxidermied - there he is in their museum.

A beautiful cold-painted bronze statue of Hotspur.
On Hotspur's cote de arms (the cloth jupen over his armor) are the Percy coat of arms, which makes for an interesting story from my perspective because I'm researching the life of Maud de Lucy, the second wife of  Henry, first earl of Northumberland, Hotspur's father. 
Wouldn't want to be in Hotspur's way when he fought.

After Maud de Lucy's brother, Anthony baron de Lucy, was killed in the Prussian crusade against the pagan Lithuanians in 1368 and her young niece succumbed in 1369, Maud became heiress to the de Lucy barony of Cumberland. When her much-older husband Gilbert, earl of Angus, died in 1381, she married the widowed Henry Percy, first earl of Northumberland. She had no surviving children, but her distinguished Lucy name was so important to her, she conditioned her marriage on the Percy men and their descendants quartering their heraldic lion with her silver fish (lucie was Norman-French for perch, a play on words, you see).  She died in 1398, but Hotspur was wearing this quartered coat of arms when he met his death at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 (he and his father were attempting to overthrow Henry IV), as was his father Henry when he was killed in battle against the crown at Bramham Moore, Yorkshire, in 1408. 
Another Percy lion

 The next day we walked past the castle, crossed the Aln River over Lion Bridge, and strolled along the river through what had been the deer park in medieval times. It was a lovely day.

View of Alnwick Castle from the deer park

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