Historical re-enactments occur throughout the summer months in the UK and many of these gatherings are on a grand scale and enjoyed by thousands of people, but I prefer
the smaller occasions because you can mingle with the participants and talk to them when they are “in character”. One such event took place at the 700-year old Donington-le- Heath Manor House in Leicestershire in the English Midlands. Entitled “a St George’s Day Wedding 1651”, it was organised by a local re-enactment group, the Society of the Open Rope, with support from other groups. The marriage was between a Roundhead groom and a Royalist bride. In the true spirit of the times, some secret discussions were taking place amongst the Cavalier hierarchy, who were deciding if they should support the return of the king. When this news leaked out the trouble started involving a few
muskets, some pikes, and a variety of swords. However, the day had started off peacefully enough.
When I arrived the Roundhead family and their friends were eating from wooden bowls, chatting away, and having a laugh amongst themselves. With their hands they were eating meat that had been cooked over an open fire that was continuing to smoke. Nearby, but out of earshot, some of the Cavalier men were huddled in a tent telling visitors how they had given up their estate for the good of the Commonwealth.
Despite this imposition, they were still able to afford the finest lace (5 shillings an inch – Honiton of course) embroidered on their tunics, at a time when the agricultural
wage rate was 12d. per day. The Cavalier women were keeping themselves to themselves in a separate tent. After eating lunch, the Roundhead pikemen were put through their paces by their leader, whose arm was in a sling after a mishap in a recent battle. The longest pikes were 20 feet long and most useful when they were planted at an angle
of 30 degrees to repel cavalry. Shorter pikes, around 8 feet in length, were easier to control and use against infantry in hand-to-hand combat. At the far end of the grounds, a group of infantry were gathered in the bushes practicing their techniques, though judging from some of the flashes and bangs, plus 17th-Century swearing, it seemed as though some of the musketmen were having a problem keeping their powder dry.