Between Boredom and Brilliance – Part One

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Emma 2009

Chapter One –  After The Honeymoon

 

Emma Knightley, née Woodhouse, strolled down Highbury’s High Street, looking very fetching in a russet-coloured pelisse and matching bonnet. While she walked, and greeted old friends or acquaintances, Emma covertly watched, and took in everything that happened there. And that was the misery of it all; as usual, nothing was happening in the quiet country town of Highbury.

The market place and green were almost deserted, though from the Crown Inn taproom the bragging of a few inebriated farmers could be heard. Farmers. Harriet Smith was now a farmer’s wife. Mr Ford’s boutique still showed the same items of clothing that had been there before Emma departed on her honeymoon. Incredible.  A string of dawdling children round the baker’s little bow-window were eyeing the gingerbread as they had done so for years. There always seemed to be plenty of dawdling children in Highbury, Emma mused. She passed a butcher with his tray and bowed her head to his cheerful greeting.

It was most astonishing. Just one month ago, she would have considered Highbury to be one of the joys of life, and its inhabitants the most interesting people that ever existed. Now, two weeks later, she faced the horrible ordeal of having to settle down in England’s most boring village.

How was it possible that a honeymoon at the Surrey coast could so thoroughly change her opinion about her home town?

Emma knew why this had come about; before her honeymoon, she had never ventured outside Highbury. In all of her twenty years, she never experienced the urge for travelling. She had never seen the sea, never been to London. That was why dearest George took her to the coast in the first place.

As a rule, Emma dreaded leaving Highbury’s sanctity, and the one time, she had done it and gone on an expedition to Box Hill – which was situated in her own county of Surrey – that one adventure had turned into a nightmare. That day, she had managed to offend all the picnic’s attendants with her ill-considered words and her flirting with that wretched Frank Churchill.

As she glanced up to Miss Bates’ dismal little house, Emma felt a flood of appalling memories rush over her. Her cheeks grew hot, and her chest contracted when she remembered how she had so viciously mocked poor Miss Bates. Everybody in Highbury was aware of Miss Bates’ stupidity but she, Emma Woodhouse, indulged herself into highlighting it.

“Badly done, Emma,” George had scolded her. She surely deserved his angry reproof, even if it had brought her to tears of helpless rage. Yet, as distressing it all had been, it had also opened her eyes and made her realise that George Knightley was the one that captured her heart. A warm glow of love kindled deep in Emma’s chest at the thought of her handsome husband.

Suddenly, she knew what was to be done in Highbury; the sleepy little village had to be livened up and must open to the world! It had to be made conscious of all the exciting things outside of Highbury. She, Emma Knightley, née Woodhouse, would be the one to accomplish it.

Emma’s step grew quicker and bolder as she returned home.

 

~~~~

 

George Knightley stood  in front of his study window and stared at  his wide, beautiful lawn, that stretched out to the Donwell Abbey Home Wood. A  touch of unwanted gloominess chilled his hitherto undisturbed newly-wed happiness. Today, he would leave his estate and move to Hartfield.

Donwell Abbey had been his family home for nearly two centuries, and he and countless previous heirs had been born and raised there without interruption. As matters presented themselves now, however, his own heir – should Emma conceive – might well be born and raised at Hartfield.

He had only himself to blame for that. After he declared his love for Emma and proposed marriage, she had burst into tears. Oh, not because of the proposal, which she accepted with boundless joy, but because she realised her father would be alone at Hartfield when she married.

Mr Woodhouse had a constant and very genuine fear of losing the people he loved, which was only natural because he had indeed lost his wife at a very early stage in their marriage. The way he saw it, Mr Woodhouse lost also his daughter Isabella when she married John Knightley and moved to London. Now, the worst had happened; his last child, Emma, had also been taken from him, or so he thought. He was appalled by the idea that he would be all alone in that big house, with no one, other than servants, to be with him. So, Emma and Knightley agreed upon moving to Hartfield.

It would not be so very hard, Knightley mused, to reach Donwell Abbey on a swift horse, every time he wished for it. His steward, Mr Henley, was a very competent man, who did not need the master’s presence to perform his duties in a most satisfactory way. Some of Knightley’s tenants lived closer to Hartfield than to his own estate so they would also be easier to visit. Hartfield was closer to Highbury than Donwell Abbey and only half a mile from Randall, where the Westons lived. Now that Anne Weston had her newborn daughter, Emma would no doubt be there every day. She adored little Anna, who proved to be the quietest child ever born. Mr Weston could be heard praising his little daughter all day long.

Knightley fervently wished for a child of his own, albeit to keep his lively Emma happily entertained, so that she would not endeavour in foolish meddling, like she used to do in the past. What commotion had arisen when all Emma’s schemes for happy reunions had gone awry! Such sadness for all concerned!

A knock on the study door heralded the advent of Blaise Geoffroy, his French valet.

During his military days, Knightley once found a half-starved and wounded boy in a ditch near his

camp. He took the child with him, dressed his wounds himself and fed him. The boy had begged him

to be allowed to accompany him to England. At Donwell Abbey, Knightley’s former valet

was growing old and had already asked to be retired from the service. He was only too happy to

instruct the youngster in his duties as a valet.

“Sir, will you take a portmanteau or will you wait for the entire wardrobe to be transported

to Hartfield? Ne vous trompez pas, Monsieur! It would take several days for that task to be

accomplished!”

“You may ready a vast portmanteau, Geoffroy. My wife is most anxious to see me properly dressed

at all times.”

“Very well, monsieur.” The valet retreated into the hall, and Knightley reached for the leather bag,

filled with some of the most urgent cases he would need to attend to in the next days. Henley would

see to the rest of them. Looking about him one last time, Knightley sighed and left the room, not

knowing when he would ever be back in his familiar surroundings.

Well, at least, he would not be bored at Hartfield. There was Emma, and she would most

certainly keep his spirits up. So he went to collect Phineas, his black stallion, and was soon riding

home at a brisk trot.

 

 

 

Jousting in the Medieval Ages

joust_art1While many associate jousting with the idea of chivalric knights and their adoring maidens, the sport’s true roots are much closer to the physical, dangerous exploits on display in the show Full Metal Jousting. In fact, jousting was history’s first extreme sport.

 

The First Jousters
Jousting and other forms of weapons training can be traced back to the Middle Ages and the rise of the use of the heavy cavalry (armored warriors on horseback)–the primary battlefield weapons of the day. The feudal system then in place required rich landowners and nobles to provide knights to fight for their king during war. Jousting provided these knights with practical, hands-on preparation in horsemanship, accuracy and combat simulations that kept them in fighting shape between battles. However, what was initially intended purely as military training quickly became a form of popular entertainment. The first recorded reference to a jousting tournament was in 1066 (coincidentally the same year as the Battle of Hastings and the Norman conquest of England), and within a century they had become so widespread that a series of regulations were established limiting the number of jousts that could be held, lest the king’s armies be otherwise occupied when an actual conflict arose.Jousting1_KarensWhimsyPD

 

These tournaments, like all courtly celebrations, were highly formal events. Months before a competition, nobles would need to obtain the necessary royal permit, issue challenges to fellow landowners and select their most skilled knights to fight. In some instances, they would hire a jouster who was not committed to any other master (or liege) and was available to fight for the highest bidder. These temporary employees became known as “freelancers,” a term still in use today. It was quite common for successful jousters to become immensely popular. Medieval heralds, quite like today’s sports journalists, promoted the events through poems and songs and helped spread the jousters’ fame. In many ways, these knights were the star athletes of their day. Just like with today’s modern-day athletes and sports franchises, rivalries soon formed as the knights fought each other again and again while travelling the jousting “circuit.” But the knights did not just joust for pride and glory, there was more on the line. The most successful jousters could receive gifts of money, land and titles from a grateful liege.

 

FriesianWikiPD619x812The Horses

The most widely recognized breed of horse for medieval jousting is the Friesian horse. They were actually developed in Europe during the middle ages as a war horse.

The only other breed we have found named as a period-authentic jousting breed is the Andalusian. Though not as big as Friesians, Andalusians also have a history of being developed in Europe (by the Spanish) as a war horse.

 

11Jousting’s Evolution and Decline
Knights were not the only men drawn to the glory of the playing field. By the 14th century, many members of the nobility, including kings had taken up jousting to showcase their own courage, skill and talents, and the sport proved just as dangerous for a king as a knight. England’s King Henry VIII suffered a severe injury to his leg when a horse fell on him during a tournament, ending the 44-year-old monarch’s jousting career and leaving him with wounds that would affect his health for the rest of his life. The most famous royal jousting fatality was King Henry II of France. While participating in a 1559 joust to celebrate the marriage of his daughter to the king of Spain, he received a fatal wound when a sliver of his opponent’s lance broke off and pierced him in the eye, a fatal event some believe to have been prophesized by none other than Nostradamus.

One of the most important developments during medieval-era jousting was the creation of the list, the roped off enclosure that serves as the playing field. The list brought order to chaos. Prior to its introduction, early jousters and their horses would charge at each other head-on, with no divider, leading to dangerous and deadly collisions. What was initially just cloth stretching along the center of the field eventually became a wooden barrier known as the tilt.rufus sewell

 

The development of firearms and muskets in the 16th century greatly diminished both the role of the military knight and the importance of jousting as a form of combat training. Competitive jousting soon fell out of favor and the sport evolved into more of a court spectacle, with choreographed routines that provided more entertainment than visceral thrills. As the role of these Renaissance-era jousts changed, so to did the protection worn by its competitors. Initially, jousters wore little more than chainmail or even boiled leather to protect them. Early innovations resulted in the use of heavy helmets and sturdier materials and by the 1500’s the full-body suit of armor we recognise today was in use. Known as harnesses, these suits could weigh as much as 100 pounds. As this armor was specifically created for entertainment-style jousting, and not traditional combat, they were designed to provide maximum protection, but limited mobility. However, these designs are still considered so advanced that the armor used in modern-day full contact jousting is based on the same basic design principles put in place 500 years ago.joust_pieces

 

By the middle of the 17th century, traditional jousting tournaments were a thing of the past, though some traces of the sport continued in Europe and were transplanted to European colonies in North America. The ring-tilt, in which men on horseback prove their accuracy with lances and suspended rings, remained popular in the United States, and this form of jousting was named the state sport of Maryland in 1962.

 

References:

Jousting

History of Jousting

 

 

The Modern Sport of Jousting

 

When Calls the Heart – Season 2

when-calls-the-heart-daniel-lissing-erin-krakow

Premiers April 25, 2015 on Hallmark US

I can hardly wait for this to begin. I’ve already bought season one, lent it out and haven’t gotten it back. ARG!!

 Based on the series of Canadian novels by Janette Oke, “When Calls the Heart” is about a wealthy woman in the 1800s who gives up her comfortable class station in order to head West and be a school teacher. Elizabeth Thatcher trades high society life for a classroom post in the prairie, determined to prove she is brave enough to live on her own. She learns through her aunt’s secret diary that she had been a pioneer woman herself, and uses it as a guide to embark on her own adventures.