And so the knights gathered on this glorious afternoon, in the Garden of England in front of the King himself and his fair Queen Anne Boleyn, returning home to Hever Castle once again.
For the English, four fine and mighty warriors, selected for their horsemanship and skill; These valiant Knights were Sir Jasper De Barry, Sir Steven of Porlock, Sir Ashley of Hampshire and the flamboyant Sir Sam of Hever.
On the opposing side stood four Frenchmen, led by Baron Guy de la Tour… Gallic in appearance and with no love for the English. This could be a bloody and brutal affair. Let battle commence!
The beautiful Hever Castle in Kent, England provided the setting for an afternoon of medieval jousting. The grounds create the perfect location to immerse yourself in ancient English history. Hever Castle was built in the 13th century and was once home to Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleeves. It’s now open to the public and well worth a visit.
However, I was here for some action; and what action indeed! To briefly explain, jousting is a martial game between two horsemen using lances, often as part of a tournament. The primary aim is to strike the opponent with the lance while riding towards him at high speed, if possible breaking the lance on the opponent’s shield or armour, or unhorsing him.
Jousting emerged in the High Middle Ages based on the military use of the lance by heavy cavalry. It transformed into a specialised sport during the Late Middle Ages. Now, it’s had somewhat of a revival with re-enactments taking place across the country.
And it really pulls in the spectators. The show, which lasts nearly two hours is a blend of exciting action, comedic moments and a dazzling display of colour… great to capture on camera.
I armed myself with just one camera (Canon 5D Mk III and lens Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS II). It was a baking hot day and travelling light(ish) was the only option. Whilst many spectators had small pocket cameras or mobile phones trained on the action, some were armed with some real weaponry… including one chap with a 400mm f/2.8! Going for the real close ups. In fairness, a telephoto lens probably isn’t required as you can get pretty close. You’re free to wander as you wish and many (including myself) opted for taking a picnic.
The show involves many different games of horse-riding skill and those participating take some rather hefty bumps. One part of the show involves one of the Serfs being dragged around the arena by a particularly-amused Knight… on horse! Health and Safety seems very far away from this corner of Kent.
As with most action, you’ll want to shoot fast! A clear summer’s day gave me no problems in cranking up the shutter speeds, but the overhead sun can cause other issues such as harsh shadows… not the most ideal time to photograph. Whilst shooting at f/2.8 will throw the unwanted background out (there were cars parked in the distance… not very medieval), the depth of field is probably too narrow to ensure both horses and riders are in focus. I dabbled with more closed apertures to combat this. I also limited any shooting towards the sun.
Hopefully, my photos show elements of what is a fantastic and highly-recommended way to spend an afternoon. You can find out more about the Knights of Royal England Jousting Tournaments by visiting Hever Castle’s website. For all the pictures of the afternoon as shot by myself, visit here, or for more equestrian-related content, click here.
Author – Stuart Tree