I’ve been a little behind with writing my blog posts of late, I’m just now getting around to writing about my visit to Berkeley Castle even though I visited a few weeks ago.
Berkeley Castle is beautiful fairy-tale castle in the rolling Gloucestershire countryside. And since it has been in the Berkeley family since the twelfth century, the building, its contents and estate have all survived intact. There is plenty to see inside the castle and outside and there was even enough to keep Master Steely amused with games of skittles and archery on offer.
My real reason though for my visit in June was to see The Great Hall in the castle. It is magnificent; no wonder it was chosen for the tudor court scenes in the recent BBC production of Wolf Hall. Wolf hall is the first book in a fictional series about the life of Thomas Cromwell and the court of Henry VIII. It is written by Hilary Mantel.
There was also an exhibition of the costumes used in the series. The costumes certainly looked the part on screen, and according to Frock flicks are apparently quite authentic in terms of design and style for the period. I couldn’t help noticing how small Anne Boleyn’s gowns were. Claire Foy, the actress who plays her must be tiny!
On closer inspection I kept thinking that the costumes just weren’t lavish or extravagant enough. After all, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn could afford the best that money could buy and monarchs of this time felt it almost a duty to display their wealth and pomp. (There were certainly no bicycle monarchs in the tudor or the middle ages, not that there were bicycles anyway!)
When I imagine tudor-era gowns, I expect heavy damask, luxurious velvets and detailed embroidery. I was just not blown away by them. This is probably the first time I have ever seen close up, any TV / theatrical costumes and perhaps that is where such costumes belong, rather than under my close inspection! After all, they only have to thrill on screen.
Another Flock flicks article gives a real insight into how difficult it is to achieve authentic-looking costumes. Apparently the costumiers received the actors’ measurements and then fitted the gowns after doing most of the work based on measurements only. It turned out that these weren’t quite right and Claire Foy’s costumes turned out too large. This probably led to the bodice fabric being wrinkled rather than flat on those costumes. Also, it apparently helps if the fabric is really heavy to make the bodice flat. Perhaps the costumes are using more flimsy fabric than would have been used during tudor times. Must admit, I didn’t think the costumes would have kept me warm on a winter’s day in a stone building! Perhaps that ties in with my feeling that the costumes just didn’t seem sumptuous enough.
It seems they quite a few bugbears at Flock flicks. It’s worth reading the section on men wearing their riding boots indoors, it’s quite entertaining. Henry VIII probably had a servant on hand just to change his footwear so he would have undoubtedly changed into soft shoes for wearing inside, but he’s always in his manly riding boots in Wolf Hall! But I don’t think that detracts too much from the drama. I think Henry can pace and stomp about angrily far more dramatically in riding boots!