Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Throne of Henry II in King's Hall, Great Tower of Dover Castle, Kent, UK

A view of the King's Hall on the second-floor of the Keep, or Great Tower (night view), of Dover Castle after "a major transformation by English Heritage to re-create the splendour of a royal court in the late 12th century" (1):

English Heritage replica Royal Palace. Great Hall with thrones for Henry II, Prince John (later King John of Magna Carta fame), and Princess Alice of France (Alys, Countess of the Vexin). Architect Maurice built the Keep
(Click this Palace King's Hall text link to see the largest size)

The middle throne is in blue and gold and stands about 1.5 metres (five feet) tall, while the gold-on-red backcloth is five metres (16 feet) high. Topping the whole thing off is a canopy.

Keith Ashley-Thomas, an English Heritage guide who appears in the original Trebuchet Siege Engine photo (not yet uploaded), said the canopy contains stars of gilded leather and had been made by the Royal School of Needlework. A little research found this entry (2):

2009 for the re-presentation of The Great Hall, Dover Castle. Six large pieces were produced in an extremely short timescale including the King’s Hall backcloth; a canopy and tester; the Guest Hall backcloth and a standard and altar frontal. These were completed with the help of volunteers from the RSN Certificate Course.

On the left of Henry II's throne is a smaller one whose original would have been used principally by Prince John (later King John (Lackland): see the Knights Templar Ruins photo when uploaded) as another son, Prince Richard (later Richard I, Coeur de Lion, or Richard the Lionheart), spent much of his time abroad.

The seat to the right of King Henry II's throne was for Princess Alice of France (or Alys, Countess of the Vexin) who appears to have been more than just the ward of Henry II.

Beginning at top-right on the far wall is a 180-ft-long wall hanging depicting William the Conqueror and the Norman conquest (inspired by the Bayeux tapestry). The last scene shows William I after his coronation, standing beside the White Tower of the Tower of London.

At the end of the wall hanging on the left-hand wall is an arched opening beyond which is the Upper Chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket:

New research by Professor John Gillingham has shown that the spectre of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in 1170 by four of the King's knights, was the main reason for the king to build something impressive at Dover. The need to erect a symbol of royal power visible from afar to exploit and counter the growing cult around the saint was top on his mind, so was the need to have a suitably grand place to entertain dignitaries who were passing through Dover to visit Becket's shrine in Canterbury. (2)

The balcony above the wall hanging on the far wall may have been used as a minstrel's gallery.

The King's Chamber, or Solar, is the same size as the King's Hall and is out-of-shot to the right (link below).

Entry to the medieval royal palace is via the Forebuilding, out-of-shot to the left.

The Keep, or Palace Tower, is 83 feet (25.3m) high and just under 100 feet (30m) square with walls up to 21 feet (6.5m) thick. The architect was 'Maurice the Engineer' (or Mason) and it was built between 1180-1185.

Henry II (5 March 1133 – 6 July 1189) ruled as King of England (1154–1189), Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the first of the House of Plantagenet to rule England. Henry was the first to use the title "King of England" (as opposed to "King of the English").

He is known as Henry Curtmantle or Curtmantel (French: Henri Court-manteau) and Henry Fitz-Empress.

(1) The Royal Palace project, which costs GBP 2.45 million, took over two years of research by English Heritage, "with a team of historians working closely with some 140 artists and craftspeople". The Great Tower re-opened on August 1st, 2009: Medieval Royal Palace at Dover Castle to re-open to the Public
(2) RSN Work on Display

More information (including sources used) can be found on this photo's original webpage at:

The Throne of Henry II in King's Hall, Great Tower of Dover Castle

Also see:

The English Heritage "Pastscape" entry for Dover Castle states:

"Medieval castle possibly originating as a pre-1066 motte and bailey castle, remodelled during the reign of Henry II (Curtmantle; Angevin), to became a castle with concentric defences, one of the first examples of its kind in western Europe."

All Keep and Dover Castle photos first appear under the Dover Castle, Keep, and Castles category labels.

The castle is one of Dover's Grade I Listed Buildings and English Heritage sites.

A Dover Medieval (Middle Ages) and Norman history photo.

Clickable thumbnails of all Dover Castle-related photos on the main Panoramio Images of Dover website are available on this blog on the Dover Castle Page (also linked to below the blog title).

The Panoramio photos are each accompanied by a Google Earth satellite map. However, the images are smaller than those on the Images of Dover Blog and the captions are less well formatted.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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