It’s the start of the A-Z blogging challenge. My theme – castles and today is the letter A.
I’ve loved them since I was small and the great fortifications still fascinate me.
Alnwick Castle in Northumberland is not a ruin. It’s the family home of the Duke of Northumberland and lived in by the same family for 700 years. They obviously like the place. It hasn’t appeared on Rightmove, or been given over to the National Trust. In recent times the castle has been made more famous by providing the backdrop for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts and Downton Abbey.
I visited it as a child and again a couple of decades ago, approx. Famed for its octagonal towers, private art collections and amongst the grandeur of the interior, the stone figures that stand on the fortifications looking down on the visitors.
Original figures? Were they used as decoys by the defenders under siege or to give the illusion of a bigger garrison?
Some are old, but many were added during the 18th century. Their purpose? Aesthetic. Nothing defensive or practical. It rather sums up the modern castle nicely. Gone the days when they were necessary fortifications built to guard the land from invaders, or the nobility from each other. Those that survived the civil wars intact have been turned into palatial homes for the wealthy or titled.
“I’ve decided to turn the castle into a school.”
“Excellent idea, your grace. Education is the pinnacle of a good society.”
With a wry smile, the duke nodded. “Absolutely.”
“Which fortunate scholars are we to welcome here?”
“The request comes from a clandestine group. Practically invisible they are. The letter was dropped on the dining table by an owl.”
The castle’s steward scratched his head. The old duke was showing those signs again. The worrying ones.
“I see, your grace. To whom are you referring?”
“They claim this is the ideal location for flying brooms, sky high ball games and their magical staircases. They’ve also have an extensive portrait gallery. It will fit alongside ours beautifully.”
The steward wrung his clammy hands together and cleared his throat. “When exactly do these children arrive?”
“By train, tomorrow.”
“There isn’t a station anywhere near here, sir.”
“I gather that won’t be a problem. In fact, I’m hoping all of our problems will be swiftly solved. Including those useless figures on the roof. The headmaster assures me they’ll come in very handy.” The duke rose and leaned on his walking stick.
The steward slowly backed out of the room. “I’ll just go put all of your valuables in storage, sir.”
“Oh, they’ve a room for that, too!”
The steward bolted out of the door leaving the duke to wobble his way across the room.