This castle dates from the 11th Century. That’s as about as old as you find ruins without them being prehistoric.
When this castle was born England as we know it hadn’t really taken shape, and it was shaped in part due to the Norman invasion of which this castle was a result. To bolster their power the Normans wisely built fortress keeps, castles, to withstand mutiny and rebellion. Powerhouses, seats of Kings and Queens, decision makers and shakers – they all walked these steps and lived in these walls. Their power was a given, as sure as the sun rising in the East and setting in the West. They really had no competition and were a fierce and intelligent people, famed for their martial prowess and later their christian piety. They were famed for their culture and were a great influence in all Crusader States. I love this description of them by 11th century Benedictine monk and historian, Geoffrey Malaterra:
“They were, moreover, a race skillful in flattery, given to the study of eloquence, so that the very boys were orators, a race altogether unbridled unless held firmly down by the yoke of justice. They were enduring of toil, hunger, and cold whenever fortune laid it on them, given to hunting and hawking, delighting in the pleasure of horses, and of all the weapons and garb of war.”
I remember this whenever we come here. The boys love to play in these ruins – which boy never played knights and Kings and queens? Which boy never dreamed of being Robin Hood? As they scrabble up to look out the windows, marvelling at how they are wider inside than outside, imagining arrows aimed at their heads and how they would fire back unfettered by the small windows, I look around and take stock.
Where are they now, these mighty men? Where are their certainties? The stone walls withstood any attack that man could throw at it, but defenceless against the assault of Time. Men who fought off any enemy yet could not avert their own demise. As sure as night follows day.
My nana used to say, when one of us was fretting over (to her) a silly matter, ‘Oh Debbie! In a hundred years, who’s going to care??!’. It was that kind of perspective that always kept her feet on the ground, kept her cheerful even when she was sad.
And I think it too. Quite often. Especially when we are in places like this – my worries melt away and I’m left with Realities – the things that DO matter, the things that WILL count in a hundred years. And often they are not the things stressing me out right now, but generally the things I try to forget about altogether. How am I living my life? What happens when I die? What am I leaving behind? How am I raising my children? When I die and leave the world behind and take only my deeds and my soul with me in what state will they be?
People busy their lives away imagining they are doing great and important things; they build grand schemes and mighty walls, but in hundreds of years they count for nothing. Where are they now, these mighty men? And in what state were their affairs when they came face to face with Reality?
And, more importantly, … in what state will mine be?
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