Over the first May Bank Holiday weekend, we were invited to watch the Knights of Royal England’s Jousting Tournament at Blenheim Palace.
Blenheim Palace has been on my visit wish list for some time and it certainly did not disappoint.
Blenheim Palace is a stunning English country house situated in the civil parish of Blenheim near Woodstock, Oxfordshire most famous for being the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill.
It is now home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family and has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting a long and diverse history.
We arrived for opening time on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far and we immediately impressed by what we saw.
After a couple of hours in the car, the kids were eager to stretch their legs so we followed the signs to the jousting tournament which led us around the outside of the palace, past stunning scenery and manicured gardens.
We soon found what we were looking for – a huge authentic tiltyard (where the jousting takes place) on the South lawn, royal box and authentic tents.
Around the tiltyard were lots of stalls selling memorabilia, food, drink and we even got to meet a baby dragon.
There were also falconry, archery and hand to hand combat displays to keep everyone entertained.
We started the day with a fabulous falconry display featuring owls and peregrine falcons and other impressive birds of prey in a brilliant show complete with some audience participation.
Of course the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for the King and his Knights when they entered the Tiltyard.
The Tiltyard was divided up into two teams, the red English team and the blue French team – we were on the blue side.
Henry VIII’, who refereed proceedings from his throne inside the arena, promised ‘more violence, more blood and more overacting than an episode of Hollyoaks’ and his first job was to recruit some more soldiers to his army, with almost every child from the audience heading into the Tiltyard to be kitted out and parade before the king.
It was then time to start recreating the glorious jousting matches of Britain’s past, with the knights in their shining armour taking to the field on their noble steeds in a momentous display of bravery and skill beneath the spectacular backdrop of Blenheim Palace.
The Knights, from the Knights of Royal England, and horses were costumed with chainmail and steel armour for the period 1200-1250.
There were about 20 participants all dressed to assume their part in the authentic and thrilling re-creation of a jousting tournament with the knights performing a series of challenges, including using 14-foot-long lances and riding at full gallop.
The kids were in awe as they sat and watched the Knights in action with the sound of the thunder of hooves and the clash of lances on shields as they did battle.
As well as jousting, there was also hand to hand combat.
The Blenheim Estate is no stranger to genuine jousting tournaments. In 1389 John, Earl of Pembroke, was killed in a jousting accident while a Christmas guest at the old Woodstock royal palace, but don’t worry, today was just a bit of fun with lots of over-acting and fun jokes as they fought.
One of the poor young knights was even punished for not doing his job properly and was dragged around the arena behind a galloping horse.
Watching the jousting was great fun and the Knights showed some very impressive horsemanship as well as their jousting skills.
The tournament lasted for around an hour and resulted in the Blue team being victorious on this occasion, much to the red teams annoyance.
The last act of the show was a final parade around the Tiltyard by all the actors that took part in the Jousting Tournament, to rapturous applause from the spectators.
Once the show had finished we headed over to see the baby dragons again and got the chance to join the Dragon Procession. Hatched from a small dragon sanctuary in the Welsh Marshes, these delightful creatures are very friendly and well-mannered, although a dragon is never entirely predictable…
There was also an archery display to watch as well as ‘have-a-go’ sessions to join in with.
A visit to Blenheim Palace is a lovely day out for the family and we had so much fun in the grounds that we ran out of time to explore the house, so I would love to go back and visit again.
Blenheim Palace run different events throughout the year. Head to their events page to find out more.
A family ticket to visit the Palace and the gardens costs £62.50 and you can purchase a cheaper ticket to visit just the park and gardens only if you prefer for £43.