Wednesday, 29 April 2015

REIGNING SUPREME: ARUNDEL CASTLE, THE YOUNG VICTORIA



Arundel Castle in West Sussex was one of a number of "wondrous places" (to quote Martin Scorsese's co-producer Graham King) chosen for The Young Victoria, a film based on a screenplay by Julian Fellowes, charting the formative years of this great British queen (played by Emily Blunt).  At the tender age of 20 Victoria displays remarkably strong will when faced with a domineering mother (Miranda Richardson) who, along with her aide (Mark Strong), attempts to force her daughter to sign papers declaring them as regents following the death of King William (Jim Broadbent).  Meanwhile, the German Prince Albert is being encouraged to court Victoria, and when he arrives in the country and meets her he finds himself becoming smitten, a feeling which appears to be mutual.  The film is beautifully shot and acted, and Arundel Castle looks good in its role as Windsor Castle (not for the first time, as it was also used in The Madness of King George).  In real life the castle was visited by Victoria and Albert, who spent a few days there in 1846.  The town made elaborate preparations for the visit, which caused much excitement among the local populace.  Victoria shared her impressions of the castle and its grounds in her diary, describing the garden as "very pretty and full of evergreens, which made Albert extremely jealous for Osborne House".

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The exterior. Photo by Brett Oliver, via Wikimedia Commons

The Baron's Hall was used for the scene in the film depicting the grand banquet held for William IV's birthday, standing in for Windsor Castle's Great Hall.  Built on the site of the original Medieval Hall, the Baron's Hall, 130 feet in length, is a late Victorian structure which replaced the original octagonal great hall built by the Eleventh Duke.  The Fitzalan Chapel in the grounds of the castle was used to depict the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace where Victoria and Albert were married in 1840.  The chapel was founded in 1390 by the 4th Earl of Arundel and features gothic architecture with a carved timber roof and choir stalls.  Some of the external features of the castle can also be seen in the production, such as the Norman motte, which forms an impressive backdrop for the happy couple.

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Motte and Quadrangle. Photo by Luke van Grieken, via Wikimedia Commons

As for the history of the castle, it was built high up on a hill overlooking the River Arun, which creates a gap in the surrounding dowland.  It was felt that this gap needed defending, which was how the castle came to be founded on Christmas Day 1067 by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel.  Many of the original features still survive, such as the crenellated Norman keep, the gatehouse and the barbican.  The living quarters, however, were almost completely rebuilt during the latter half of the 19th century, with Victorian architecture in the Gothic style.  There are a number of themed gardens in the grounds, and visitors can climb to the top of the Norman motte and keep from where there are magnificent views of the river and downlands.  The adjoining small town of Arundel is pleasant to wander around, with a range of enticing shops, restaurants and pubs.

Map of the area.

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