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The World is a Stage

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Laurel Beechey - The World is a Stage

Some people read books about life in medieval times with chivalric knights in shining armour, jousting in tournaments, astride their noble steeds, with their lady’s favour tied to their lance.

Or perchance more terrible times when games were set aside, and the King’s champion fought to save the land, and often the fair maiden, from the evil usurper. There are those who read and those who choose to be there, to cheer their daring and dashing knight in all his endeavours!

Yes, fair folk, in today’s modern, technical world, you can be part of this medieval life, but more astonishing, you can grow up to be that knight in armour, and learn the ways of and arms of chivalry!

‘Tis not a dream, for in the fair city of Toronto, you can step back into time and join King Don Carlos and his knights, in a tournament. All are invited. You need not be a Lord or Lady to attend, in truth you will find many wenches and knaves both surrounding you and serving you!

At the arrival of the King’s castle, you are allowed to explore, meet the King, perhaps get knighted, or get a most fascinating, close up view of the entertainment served during the banquet. For the King’s stables hold Pure Spanish Horses, the magnificent Andalusians, used not only by the knights, but also trained to perform during the banquet.

King Don Carlos prepared well, and all of his 1,400 guest are served a bountiful meal which includes soup, bread, a half of a chicken [it is not small], an herb roasted potato, vegetable and pastry speciality of the castle chef. [Vegetarian meals can be ordered with your reservations.]

While the first courses are served guests are introduced not only to the King, and his beautiful daughter Princess Catalina, but also the knights of the realm, who will be partaking in the tournament. Being that they are all Spanish, it is simply easier to use their colours to cheer their prowess. As in all sport, the roar of the crowd does much to spur your contender to victory. I must say that the followers of the very handsome Baron Ruiz de Roig, also known as Red Knight, had the most vocal followers the evening we attended the tournament.

Whilst feasting, we were truly marvelled by intricate routines the Master of Horse put the Andalusians through, although I fear most at the banquet did not understand the time and effort it took to train these fine steeds.

Many gazed in awe as Royal Falconer flew his peregrine falcon throughout the banquet hall. Falcons were an integral part of medieval life, first as an aid in hunting, and later as the sport of kings. All were quite relieved that Merlin did not remove the bird from their plates during the demonstration.

The tournament began with the colourful parade of knights and squires into the arena, then with lance extended the knight’s road at full tilt show their prowess, at plucking small rings from various venues with their lance. Those of course, who speared the most rings received flowers from the hands of the princess, which they then bestowed upon their cheering fans. Other feats of great skill are performed by the six competing knights, but most exciting is the jousting tournament, where the knight’s charge at each other, lances lowered with the intent of knocking their opponent from his saddle.

Most fans have no idea all is choreographed as to not harm rider or horse, but even then there is much danger at stake when dealing with splintering lances and falls from a speeding horse, while encased in metal. Once dismounted the squires rush to their master with the next weapon of choice. There is a lovely assortment of weapons that knights are trained in, including a selection of maces including the Morning Star, which is a spiked iron ball on a chain, and a halberd, which is like a long spear combined with a fancy axe. But of course the weapon of choice for most was the sword and shield and the extremely strong knights wielding these weapons give and take no quarter while fighting.

As the tournament nears completion a Herald of the North arrives at the castle with a gift for the King and plans to unite the two countries with the hand of the Princess, or win the Princess and the country in battle. The Champion, which turned out to be our handsome Red Knight, then fought, no longer for sport, but for the fate of the kingdom. It was indeed a hard-won battle.

I have read, lectured and participated in medieval times over the decades, and Medieval Times in Toronto is the place to go, not only for fun, food and authenticity but a phenomenal way to introduce history to the young. Medieval Times is now offering their spring break special which runs from March 2nd to April 5th – buy one get one free! When one considers the meal and two hours of entertainment, this tournament is a great value. Check out – http://www.medievaltimes.com/toronto/specialoffers/spring-break.aspx. For grandparents wanting to book 1-866-543-9637.

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