"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Saturday, June 08, 2019

Historian Marc Morris on British Castles

Historian Marc Morris on British Castles | History Extra Podcast - History Extra

"A murder hole, I couldn't tell you precisely when the term comes into fashion. Meurtrière is the French word. But they are the holes within a gatehouse, as you pass into the gatehouse itself. If you look up, if there are holes in the ceiling, they give the potential for people standing on the floor above to drop things on top of you, whatever, you know, lime, boiling water, perhaps not boiling oil. That's the famous old one that we’re told there isn't any evidence for. But whatever kind of nastiness you could contrive, it gives you the opportunity to put that on people, to shoot down with crossbow bolts for that matter.

Now, people have said in in recent years, perhaps these were more likely to be for extinguishing fires at the gate, which is sort of slightly perhaps disappointing way to see them. But I think in many cases, there is little doubt that they could be used for the purpose that murder hole suggest, for killing people as they were trying to get through that particular choke point...

As originally built, they were palaces. They were palaces fit for the richest people in medieval society… I always have to sort of bite my tongue if I'm being led around a castle, it is increasingly rare these days. If I'm going around a castle and I see a tour group, a school group perhaps being told, can you imagine how miserable it would be to live here. It would have been cold and drafty, it's like, well, yes, perhaps it would by 21st century standards. But in the 12th, 13th or 14th centuries, this would have been the highest level of opulence imaginable. So you're going to have, particularly in those later centuries, glazed windows or partially glazed windows. You're going to have roaring fires, you would have ensuite accommodation, you're going to have perhaps water running down lead pipes, or being able to draw out from the well. So in terms of medieval living conditions, they were as good as could be imagined. Because these were the richest people in society paying for them. So however ruinous they appear now, remember they were palaces...

Their owners would only have been residents very occasionally... Kings had dozens and dozens of castles dotted around the country as a legacy of the Norman conquest. Kings had estates everywhere. So a castle say, you know, there were castles that were favored, like Windsor Castle. Or in the case of just thinking of someone like King John, he favored Corfe castle and Marlborough castle. But there were royal castles, you know, in the far north of places like sort of Scarborough, that might get visited, you know, once or not at all, during the course of the entire reign. But they were they were kept up by a resident constable and a sort of skeletal garrison of men, they could be beefed up in times of unrest. And so kings didn't have one residence. Kings, and to pretty much the same extent great aristocrats like Earls were always on the move around their estates. So their furniture traveled with them, to some extent their chests, their beds.

So most of the most of the time these castles stood empty. So that's one thing in terms of what it was like for everybody else, well, you know, it's probably better to have been a servant in royal pay than someone who was, you know, begging outside the castle gates. But as you went further down the scale in the royal household, you're living conditions are going to become worse and worse. So you're not going to be getting your own room sleeping, you'll have to sort of curl up wherever you can, in sort of rushes on the floor. So you know, medieval society goes without saying is a very strictly hierarchical society, so there are, even within the castle walls, there are extremes of luxury and comfort, right down to sort of the person who mucks out the horses...

When people get it right the films tend to be boring and when the films are sort of exciting and sort of the things that cause you to grab more popcorn, they're often the worst offenders when it comes to historical accuracy...
They will fuss about the armor and the weapons and they will get those things right because they'll have a historical advisor, but the person who has actually written the lines people say and determine the way characters behave, has people behave either in a totally modern way. So they are modern people in mili- medieval dress, or they will have have them behave in a way, which they think is archetypally medieval, so they’ll be sort of thundering around saying off with his head, do you know, and put him on the rack and you know, torturing people left, right and center"
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