After spending a gloomy rainy day at Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford on Avon, Tapirgal and I were told that it was essential to visit was Warwick Castle not far away.
The castle was originally built by William the Conquerer in 1068 but has gone through many restorations since then and was still in use as a private residence up until 1978 by the Earl of Warwick until purchased by the Madame Tussaud Group. The main quarters are elaborately decorated and filled with realistic life-sized wax figures taken from the Tussaud Museum. This is no run-0f-the mill tourist attraction but is ranked on par with the Tower of London as a Grade 1 Ancient Protected Monument. It had so many elaborate rooms, gardens and outbuildings open for viewing. We didn't have the time to go in the basement to see the dungeon, but we saw the world's largest siege engine hurl a fiery boulder 800 feet.
I've always found it hard to be sympathetic with the wars, intrigues and brutality associated with these castles and their residents and, since I was raised in a working class family, it's been hard to identify with the travails of upper class royalty. I know also that in the town below, countless people lived on the edge of existence and were exploited and enslaved through the feudal system.
Nonetheless the magnificence of such a place is seductive and romantic. It is easy to shut your eyes and hear courtly music, and see men in armor marching in on white steeds or hear the horns of a fox hunt while the ghosts of the past live in vapors on the heath.