Beverley steps back to the Middle Ages

EVER since reading Chaucer's Prologue to the Canterbury Tales at school, BEVERLEY BOWRY, 54, from Ipswich has loved the late Middle Ages, with its tales of knights and damsels.

EVER since reading Chaucer's Prologue to the Canterbury Tales at school, BEVERLEY BOWRY, 54, from Ipswich has loved the late Middle Ages, with its tales of knights and damsels.

Chaucer, who lived in Ipswich for a time, and possibly worked as a page for Elizabeth de Burgh when a boy, was the inspiration behind her Time Tunnel journey.

Oh, what sport! I have just received an invitation from my dear friend Elizabeth de Burgh requesting the pleasure of my company at the festivities to be held at Clare Castle in celebration of the 12 days of Christmas.

What a glorious way to say farewell to 1352 and to herald in the New Year. I cannot think of another noblewoman in the whole of Suffolk, nay all of England, whose hospitality matches that of Elizabeth's.

As a cousin of Edward III she welcomes many distinguished royal visitors to her abode, and since the death of her third husband Roger, has dedicated herself to ruling her household and estates which I declare she has done to a very high standard. The tournament she hosted at Michaelmas was a truly marvellous pageant indeed!

As someone who abhors violence I was at first greatly concerned about attending such an event.

Most Read

'But jousting tis but a game', she assured me, 'for the lances and swords are blunt'.

And what a game it was! Seated amongst the other noblewomen and men in the elevated stands known as galleries, I was not only privy to a perfect view of the field adjacent to Clare Castle, where the tournament was to take place, but the multicoloured drapes of the pavilions afforded us excellent protection from the autumn breeze. The poor villagers I am afraid had no such shelter seated on the ground nearby, but as Margaret, Countess of Suffolk commented, at least Elizabeth had been generous enough to allow them entry.

Watching the knights as they lined up before us upon their chargers brought to mind my own dear son Alexander who, having recently reached the age of one and 20, has himself just become a knight. Tis unfortunate that my husband Henry did not live to see him ride bearing the family crest. He was quite aged however,.

I pray God will keep Alexander safe. Of course he is not, as yet, sufficiently skilled to warrant a place at a jousting event. Elizabeth's great wealth ensures that she is able to hire the very best knights available. And what a magnificent spectacle they were in their armour, and their tunics and mantles of sapphire blue cloth embroidered with her heraldic sign of a white hart, with the matching covers of their steeds flowing behind them.

All the combatants, sporting the regalia of rich patrons, begged us noblewomen for 'tokens' in order that they might dedicate their performance on the field to a particular lady. Many veils, head-dresses studded with such jewels as pearls and rubies, and ribbons including those from the plaits of Elizabeth's own daughters Isabella and Philippa, were handed over and swiftly tied to helmets or lances as minstrels sang of tales of love.

I must confess I was at first loathe to respond to the heralds' calls for spectators to comment on the Had it not been for the delicious scents of roasted boar, fresh bread, ginger and other such heavenly spices wafting across from the castle, and knowing that Elizabeth purchases only the very best Gascon wine from Gilbert de Bouge here in Ipswich, I do profess I could have gazed admiringly at the men's exploits forever.

As it was, the instant the trumpets and drums sounded, and the champion, having received his prizes of a falcon and a fine gold ring crafted by Elizabeth's own goldsmiths at Walsingham, began to head towards the castle, I sprang to my feet to join the procession of the rest of the company to the feast and dancing that awaited us.

Oh, I do so hope I may have the same bedchamber as before. You have never seen such tapestries with their jade green parrots and cockerels, and the was made from the smoothest aquamarine silk and patterned with gold swans.

But I cannot sit musing any longer for I must prepare to journey to London immediately.

I hear tell that magenta cloth and set-sleeves are all the fashion and I have not a thing to wear.


Which period in history would you like to go back to, and why?

Perhaps you'd like to change the course of history - and what would happen if you did?

To star in Time Tunnel, just get your imagination in gear and tell us your thoughts. Send a story of about 700 words to or post to Features, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

Famous faces:

Elizabeth de Burgh (1295 to 1360) made changes to Clare Castle in 1346 and 1347. She was the youngest daughter of Earl Gilbert de Clare and Joan of Acre, and had three husbands.

Edward The Great was a great military leader, achieving victories against the French, in the Hundred Years War.

Edward married his cousin Joan 'Fair Maid of Kent' in 1362 at Windsor Castle. When Joan's brother died in 1352 she became countess of Kent.

In the news:

the College of St George is established in Windsor, and Corpus Christi College was founded in Cambridge.

The Plague reaches Russia.

Acamapitzin becomes King of the Aztecs.

Toys and games:


hobby horses,

spinning tops,



hoops and diablo

Pewter toys.