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This half term at The Tower of London, young lords and ladies can return for a little bit of education on the South Lawn where they will attend Knight School and learn the skills required to Defend the Tower.
I’ve long loved and recommended The Tower of London to friends and visitors as one of London’s best attractions. Having stood over 1000 years since the first tower, The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 it has seen and often been central to many significant events in British history. The Tower’s, often rather gory history has always appealed to my children and who wouldn’t be intrigued by the stories of locations such as Traitors Gate and The Bloody Tower or the spot where only the very richest prisoners had their heads chopped off? One of the most brilliant parts of a visit to The Tower of London is the Beefeaters tour; included in the price of your ticket, they will guide you around telling captivating stories from the Tower’s past. This is a great way to get an overview of the sites around the Tower before heading off yourself to explore more thoroughly. However, when visiting with younger children, although The Beefeater’s are fantastic storytellers, they may lack the attention span or find the stories of torture and execution too gruesome and this is where some of the events running especially for them are fantastic!
Having been called to the duty of their King and Queen, the children gather on the lawn ready for training and to begin battle with sword and shield. So it’s quite entertaining to watch them learn that first, a page would need to learn to serve his masters. This is how he would learn respect, duty and obedience. The work they would have to do in servitude would help them build the strength they would need in their occupation as a Knight. As they aged to Squires, they would learn courtly manners and of course to dance! Having endured a little fancy footwork, the children are then split into two groups to put this into practice with weaponry training.
The groups take turns in learning swordsmanship and to duel.
The entertainers who run the school do a great job of speaking to them clearly and in a way that captures their attention throughout. The groups contained the full spread of recommended ages, 4-11 years and even some quite tiny tots and they were all listening and following directions.
It was brilliant to watch them all trot along the lawn with lance in hand to hit the wooden dolly.
Having completed this training they are almost ready to be knighted although I suspect as they learned the rituals to be performed before the ceremony included all night prayer and a bath to wash away sin, some rather repulsed faces might struggle to pass the test.
Defend the Tower
Having completed their training, those that wish to remain can join in defending the tower.
As you join the guards in the Tower’s defence, three characters from great sieges of the past shout their claims from up on the tower walls which gives a great feeling of atmosphere and immerses you into the story. Guided around to various points, enemies of the tower tell their stories, make their threats and you must decide if the Tower will stand or if it will fall?
The stories include that of the Red Earl and his siege engines, Joanna Ferrour and the peasant’s revolt and Sir Thomas Neville with cannons. Did any succeed in overcoming the Tower’s defences?
This culminates back on the lawn where you learn the fates of the invaders and one is decided by a dramatic sword fight!
Object Handling & Activity Zone
Once training is complete, there are two drop-in areas for children further get an insight into life as a knight in medieval times.
At the object handling, they can hold and even try on replica armour and authentic medieval objects which gives an idea why muscle building was the essential start to any training.
This takes place in The White Tower where they will get to see the Royal Armouries collections which includes The Line of Kings with armour worn by kings including Henry VIII, an executioners block and more than enough canons and weaponry to satisfy any fascinated youngster!
In the activity zone, they can try on the style of dress worn by medieval men and women and pick up a craft pack to make their own helmet or shield when they get home.
This is a brilliant addition to an already incredible day out it engages children and sparks their imagination and desire to find out more. Mine most certainly were, returning home they both got changed into their own Knight and Queen costumes and began planning their own battles and defences.
Knight School takes place every day between 16th-24th February; for more information, tickets or if you child just wants to find out if they’re a Sir Know-a-lot in the Knight School online quiz, visit The Tower of London website.
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