Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Tudor Roses: the history so far ...

The history of The Tudor Roses starts about 500ish years ago, then there is a big gap until 2011, the 5th June 2011 to be precise. Of course 500 years ago was the amazing Tudor dynasty without which the Roses would not have come into being, in fact many of us may not have even been born if the Tudor dynasty had not happened as it was such a pivotal and influential period of the history of England and Great Britain, even Europe as a whole. Leaving Henry, six wives, reformation, uprisings and virgin queens for the time being we again jump forward in time to 2011 when Lady Emma, Lady Erica and Lady Katherine found themselves at Hever Castle in Tudor gowns for the very first time in public. They had been invited to spend a day there as part of a group of those who had purchased Tudor dresses from the seamstress who made them.
A bond was quickly formed between the three (and Emma’s partner, Darren) as well as an instant
love of wearing the gowns and being ladies of the Tudor court. Coupled with a shared love of everything Tudor a firm friendship grew between them. The Roses officially arrived in August after the girls got in contact and voiced their desire to put on their gowns again, but that Saturday back in June was the real start as it was inevitable that the Roses was going to happen. So after a casual discussion between Darren and Emma about the Hever day, a nudge to get Emma to get in touch with Katherine and Erica and an out of the blue “You could call yourselves The Tudor Roses” from Darren, the ball was sent well and truly rolling.

Logo created, Facebook page setup and website designed the Roses were good to go and the first step for them was to make an appearance on 27th August 2011 at a charity event organised by Restore Rochester Castle (now an official charity), the open air premiere of the film Ironclad in the grounds of Rochester Castle itself. The showing was put on by Nomad Cinema and was attended by the Mayor and ex-mayor of Rochester and two of the main stars of the film, Jamie Foreman (Eastenders) and none other than James Purefoy himself accompanied by Florence; the massive sword he wields in the film. Lady Emma and Lady Katherine were the Roses present at this event and did a splendid job of emptying all those bits of annoying shrapnel (commonly known as loose change) out of the public’s pockets – as well as some of the paper variety too – and collecting it all together in the collection buckets. They also impressed the guests with their dresses, as well as Jamie and James too, and posed for photos with all. Darren was there with his trusty camera which was to become a feature of any visit by the Roses to any event as he was drafted in to be the official photography as well as taxi driver and lacing-up-dresses-type-person. 


From this highly successful first official outing as the Roses the next stop was a weekend of jousting by the Knights of Royal England and the lovely Leeds Castle where Lady Emma and Lady Erica were privileged to be the Knights’ queens, with Emma being Anne Boleyn on the Saturday and Erica as Jane Seymour on the Sunday. This was our first large scale public appearance and it was a great success all round and highly enjoyable. From this first time working alongside the Knights we have worked with and alongside them many times since and it is always a pleasure to do so; even playing rugby along the way – ladies against knights!

With a couple of other bits between then and the end of the year our year was perfectly rounded off by being asked to take part in a Christmas Tudor Banquet at Hall Place in Bexley. Here we were to be found meeting and greeting the guests as they arrived, chatting with them as they had a glass of something and then directing them to their seats for the food – which was amazing incidently; especially the haggis! There was much merriment to be had and Emma, Erica and Katherine entertained the guests with some impromptu Tudor dancing to the tunes of Serpentyne who provided the live Tudor music. But for us, the highlight of the night was being introduced to the sweet honey fire water they call Mead; Lady Erica especially enjoyed it!

With Christmas well behind us, the New Year passed, 2012 saw us a pretty busy events diary with plenty of new and exciting new venues that were going to see a visit from The Tudor Roses. We shall not bore you all with by recounting every single event and what we did and saw but instead just list all the lovely Tudor relevant places we had the privilege and honour to see, several of which we got to visit more than once.
In no particular order we visited;
·         Sudeley Castle
·         Hever Castle
·         Cowdray Ruins
·         Ingatestone Hall
·         Layer Marney Tower
·         Hedingham Castle
·         Rochester Castle
·         Nonsuch
·         Dudley Castle
·         The Vyne
·         Barrington Court

To highlight a couple of these venues we shall first mention Sudeley Castle which saw them hold their first Tudor Fun Days to mark the 500th Anniversary of Kateryn the Quene – KP, who lays in rest at St Mary’s Chapel within the grounds. Her tomb is a fitting monument to such an amazing, and very much overlook and under-estimated, Queen and person. Just being in her presence, so close to the remains of a Queen of England and one of Henry VIII’s wives is a very humbling experience and one that feels you with a strange sense of calm. The Tudor Roses were very proud to be asked to Sudeley to be part of the yearlong remembrance of Lady Latimer, Queen Katherine - 6th Wife of Henry. Katherine Parr’s final home and resting place was visited by the Roses five times for the Tudor Fun Days and also for their Halloween Happening in October. 

The second, lighter hearted event in 2012 was at Dudley Castle where we were part of a live Paranormal Show called Psychic & Science. This was a live investigation into the paranormal world of ghosts, spirits and mediumship by the nationally renowned investigators Compass Paranormal. This late night event was a very memorable one and one at which we had much fun. What wasn’t fun was the mad morning rush the next day down to The Vyne in Basingstoke – though it was very much worth it as the Vyne is an impressive place to visit and to go Tudoring ( as we like to call it).

The final event that needs special mention in 2012 is the Rochester Castle fun run where the Roses took part in fundraising to try to raise awareness and funds to save, restore and preserve the 114 foot Norman keep that dominates the Medway skyline even today. It is also worth noting that this is the castle where the fate of Anne of Cleves’ marriage to Henry VIII was determined when she shunned the strange and overweight aging Henry as he burst in on her in full disguise to surprise her whilst she was watching bull bait on the grass next to the keep. The idea in Henry’s mind was that in true chivalric style true love would not mask who he was and Anne would instantly recognise him; well that back fired didn’t it Henry! We bet he wished he had just stuck to the plan to wait for her at Greenwich and save himself a whole heap of embarrassment and a massive knock to his male ego.
Not mentioning in detail the other venues is not to diminish their impact on us and their importance within the Tudor world, especially when you get to walk amongst such things as the awe inspiring ruins at Cowdray or watch the jousting at Hedingham Castle and to gaze up to the top of the tower at Layer Marney or to be struck by the largely untouched Tudor architecture of Ingatestone Hall. I mean, who can fail to love wandering around Hever Castle or marvelling at the beauty of Leeds. We can only say thank you to all the venues that had The Tudor Roses as their guests in 2012!

Right, on to 2013 and what a year it has been. We are pretty much at the end of our season as this blog post is being typed with only a tour at Layer Marney Tower on 8th September, Nonsuch Awareness Day on 15th September and the last Sudeley Castle Tudor Fun Day on 22nd September to go. We have just completed the final bank holiday weekend at Hedingham Castle and are very much looking forward to being back there next year with all those we are rapidly beginning to regard as our Hedingham based Tudor family.

The list of places visited this year pretty much reflects that of 2012 with a few exceptions, those being Dudley Castle as that was a one off event, Cowdray Ruins as sadly they pretty much closed due to lack of funding and cost of running – though they have started opening on a limited basis and hope to carry on next year which is fabulous news as Cowdray is one of our favourite places we’ve been, and also so far Rochester Castle but watch this space, the year isn’t over yet!
In several cases this year we’ve had to split the Roses in two to cover more than one place at a time as it was impossible not to double book events on occasions. Leading on from this is a good time to mention that The Tudor Roses has grown from the original three ladies to now numbering seven plus two little lords in the shape of Emma and Darren’s sons Jonny and Matty, and now also the Roses’ very own thorn as finally Darren has put the camera down (not permanently we hasten to add, it will still come out from time to time) and put on the tights, well, lower stocks actually! So the Roses now have ten members and are ready for the new season with new locations. We have also had some guest Roses this year and last, three of which have become permanent members. To those who have been guests we say thank you for sharing in the fun and we hope you can join us again next season. To the two who could not make it this year the offer is still open and we hope to have you along next season; you know who you are.

Along our Tudor journey we have made some very good friends including The Knights of Royal England, those permanently based at Hedingham Castle including the Norfolk Longbowmen, the owners and staff of venues and Steve and Joanne from Lavenham Falconry – Jo being our latest Rose, our Hedingham Rose!
A very close bond and friendship has formed between the Roses and Lavenham Falconry and we have worked very closely with Steve at Hedingham Castle and at his displays at his new site. This working relationship is developing and evolving for next year to incorporate many exciting ideas and concepts – definitely something to look forward to for us and we hope for all of you that follow and support us and generally love everything Tudor. The birds at Lavenham Falconry are brilliant to work with and are repeatedly under threat of being stolen by certain members of the Roses, not to mention Alice who works at Hedingham Castle.

Something that we are very proud of and pleased to be able to say we have done is to be involved with Alison Weir’s tours this year and last, being at Hever Castle to meet and greet her tour guests as they arrive at Hever for their first night – a great and much appreciated surprise for all on the tours. Alison is one of the nicest people we have met along the way and we love working with her, we’re honoured to number her among our supporters and friends of the Roses. In 2012 Emma, Erica and Katherine were treated by Alison to a not easily forgotten dinner experience with her tour guests at Hever and this year Emma, Darren and Katherine were invited to stay and watch the amazing play Fallen in Love: The Secret Heart of Anne Boleyn by Red Rose Chain. Emma Connell and Scott Ellis are brilliant actors and brought Anne and George’s story to life using just themselves and a bed that turned into an execution scaffold. Darren, Emma and Katherine actually went to The Tower of London to watch this play (off duty for a change) on the last evening of its run – watching it again at Hever was every bit as good as the first time at The Tower; two locations very relevant to Anne and George.

On a side note we’ve seen an addition to our repertoire with Lady Emma carrying our several school talks this year as part of their history curriculum as well as other Tudor related talks. She was also involved in an annual three week Tudor living history event for school children.  We’ve also been part of a Tudor themed wedding at Hedingham Castle and as mentioned above been involved in tours at Layer Marney Tower. Book launches, falconry and Tudor dancing can also be added to the list – we like to keep busy and to keep offering more. Oh, and let’s not forget a spot of archery with proper longbows. The Tudor side of London has also been shown. To wrap up what we have gotten up to we just need to mention the photo shoots that we have had at various Tudor locations.

All that is left for us to say now is thank you to all of you that have supported us these two and a half years of Tudoring and we hope that you will continue to do so into the future. We invite you all along on our Tudor journey as we grow and expand and bring you more of what you love – everything Tudor. We also hope that some of you will be reading as new to The Tudor Roses and will join us on our Facebook page. The link for that and our website, plus Twitter account will be included at the very end of this post. Look out for a completely revamped website coming over the winter months and for improved video Blogs that is something we started this year – we promise we will keep practicing during the off season. Thank you to Judith for asking us to write this brief, well brief'ish, history of the Roses so far, we enjoyed looking back over the last two and a half years, reliving many good times and looking forward to even more to come. We also need to mention Mr Russ Allen, a lovely fellow and husband to Lady Debbie who has stepped up not only to chauffeur Debbie to events but also to fill the shoes as photographer of the Roses when Darren plays dress up!
We hope you all enjoyed reading this guest post and again, THANK YOU to all of you for your support. We look forward to having you with us next season and we hope to meet many of you at the events we attend.
Thank you from Darren, Emma, Jonny, Matty, Erica, Katherine, Francesca, Rachel, Debbie and Joanne – The Tudor Roses!
Lastly, thank you to all the Roses from Darren and Emma for making the Roses what they are, the success we have enjoyed, the hard work you’ve all put in and most importantly for all the fun we’ve had Tudoring with you – the Mead is on us, here’s to next year!

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