Clive Owen in King Arthur
I love historical films, or period piece movies, where the setting is of a different time and especially of a different culture. Once you go pre-Industrial era you’re dealing with huge (or sometimes small) battles involving cutlasses, swords, spears, maces, arrows, catapults, boiling oil, inaccurate muskets, canons and a whole host of hand to hand combat. With the medieval era or early there is still this romanticism about the noble knight, a holdover from Victorian notions that Hollywood has embraced. Sure, war scenes have become gorier, with bodies being skewered and sliced, and blood spraying everywhere. Reality would be the reason the directors would give. But even they fall victim to romanticism, so that even if a movie looks historically accurate in terms of costume and setting, they’ll veer in actual actions and attitudes.
- The mounted fighter will leap off his horse to battle the hordes on the ground. Not in a million years. The difference between a mounted fighter and one on fought was astronomical. Horses and armor were so expensive that those who had these items were pretty much guaranteed to be knights. The term chevalier comes from the Latin caballarius meaning horseman. It was the French word for knight and a noble. Because of the expense of a horse the knight would not give up his mount easily, nor would he lose the advantage he had of literally being head and shoulders above the crowd. It meant superior mobility, better viewing of the battle and powerful blows from above. The knight would stay mounted as long as he could, until he was either pulled off his horse or his horse was killed.
- The noble knight wears no helmet in battle or tears it off in the final face-to-face with the foe. So, what is the point of wearing armor if you remove parts of it, especially when fighting the more experienced warrior? Armor, like those horses, was expensive and you didn’t want to lose your helmet amongst the gore on the field. Not to mention, leave you head bare to being sliced up? I’ll mention here too that the helmets are usually tied, buckled or clipped on to stop them from toppling off with any knock. Maybe not all were, but they would have covered the faces and necks and would not sit jauntily atop the head. I’m no armor expert but I know enough that you have to affix your armor so it stays in place. Clive Owen as Arturius (Arthur) above wore his helmet in battle but his dying comrades didn’t always.
- Armor is black, especially if you’re noble or a bad guy. Before about the 1600s black was a dye color that was extremely difficult to procure, if you could get it at all, and came from black walnut and oak galls. It was therefore very expensive. If you managed to get some of this dye,would you waste it on armor when it was going to get scuffed and hacked at? No. You’d use it on your clothing. The lower classes got the more washed out colors of blue, green, brown, yellow and pink. No one would have black armor unless the metal itself was black and that too would have been rare. Even if movies have no battles this is the biggest mistake made.
- Traveling through the snowy, cold mountains with your cloak billowing behind you, if you’re wearing one. Early armor was made of leather boiled in beeswax. Then there was chain mail and later, plate metal. Some armor could be a combination of two or three of these things. Any metal was cold so warriors always had padding beneath, for keeping the metal off the skin to stop chafing, bruising and cuts, and to insulate. If it was cold enough to wear a cloak and still need to wear your armor while traveling through hostile territory, you would have it billowing nobly behind you. What’s the point? To look like Superman? It certainly wouldn’t serve the purpose it was made for, which was warmth. Everything in those early centuries was handmade and not cheap to replace.
I’m sure there are more inconsistencies and inaccuracies in those movies that show battles. I won’t even touch on the World War movies as I don’t watch many of those. If you have any pet peeve with Hollywood’s mutilation of history, let me know.
First published on my Blogspot blog in Nov. 2007. All pictures are copyrighted.
On Monday October 1, we left Ballycastle. At our B&B were a family from Seattle. They’d been driving about for two weeks and were on their third week. They said, stop at Kinbane on the way. It’s not very far. And it wasn’t, traveling west near the coast.
The weather was perfect. A few clouds, sunshine and the turquoise depths of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean made the northern coast of Ireland beautiful. Along the shorelines, wherever the ocean licks the stones, the rocks become stained and black. Farther back from the shore they may white or brown. Craggy and rugged, the northern coast is wild, and whitecaps and booming waves are common.
Kinbane, which means White Headland, was down a long hill. They really didn’t want people to go to the castle anymore. There were bars across the path but easy to straddle. As I moved around the hill, there was a second barricade just before the beach. I squeezed past that one, and it was obvious many had. Along the northern coast are the remains of stone huts used in the fishing industry, which was closed in the 80’s. This is a sad statement on what the world is doing to the fish populations.
I loved the look of this castle, built in 1544 by Colla MacDonnell (of Balymargy Friary fame). It was shot at and partially destroyed at one point, but one of the MacDonnells lived there till the end of his days. Mostly what is left is one of the towers. It couldn’t have been a very big castle but I can see how this would have been a great fortification. Rugged stony cliffs to the sea and steep steps up to the castle by land.
This castle gave me a great appreciation for the hardiness of those people of centuries past. To hike up and down that hill would definitely make one fit. Even though it was a bit breezy, I was quite warm by the time I pantingly reached the top.
The castle and rock itself are now made unapproachable, the way securely barricaded. The structure was originally besieged and with time it has become highly unstable. I loved many of the castles for different reasons but Kinbane had the true sense of a fortification of the most austere type. This was only the first of our stops on Monday, and the first of a few hikes.
Written on Oct. 22/07 from my trip to Ireland.
This is all still part of our very busy Saturday. After we left Newgrange we trotted up to the Hill of Tara. At one point, at a four-way intersection there were two signs at right angles, both saying Tara. Ah those funny Irish. Turns out one was for the town and one for the Hill. Hard to tell though I think we found the “brown” heritage/tourist sign at one point. Not that it pointed the right way either.
After stopping at a gas station (let me guess, said the owner, you’re lost and looking for the Hill of Tara–only about 100 people have come by) we found our way. The Hill of Tara is…well, a hill, a great big, luscious green hill, with a mound or two, with runnels around it. It’s a hill (Cormac’s House), a hill fort, a passage tomb (mound of the hostages) and numerous other things. I don’t think we saw all of it as it was a murky wet day and wet grass makes things soggy. The Stone of Destiny shown in some of the pictures was supposedly moved in 1798 to commemorate the death of 400 Irishmen who fought the British. It was the seat of the High Kings of Ireland from the 6-12th centuries and the stone was said to cry out when the true king touched it. (I wonder how they worked that miracle).
There is a little cemetery and church dating back only a couple of hundred years I believe. Or at least the stones we could see. But the age of the Hill of Tara goes back to neolithic times with other parts being of Roman and medieval times. Its significance is still great in Ireland. But there is danger of a motorway being put through this historic hill and a petition is being circulated to stop the motorway from destroying it.
We went on to Trim castle which was founded by Hugh de Lacy in the 12th century. Its more recent claim to fame is that it was used in filming Braveheart. But the ruins are quite fabulous. We hit it at the end of the day and didn’t get the tour of the inside of the castle. I believe it’s only a ruin though, no furniture. The tour would have consisted of talking about its different defenses and construction techniques as the tower has twenty sides.
There was a lovely little wedding going one with the men in coats and tails. Yeah, if I ever got married a castle would definitely be a great setting. We didn’t really stick around in Trim, the town, but drove through to an abbey, shown in the next set.