‘Noli Me Tangere’

‘Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, helas! I may no more.
The vain travail hath worried me so sore,
I am of them that furthest come behind.
Yet I may by no means, my worried mind
Draw from the deer; but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off thereof,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I, may spend his time in vain;
And graven in diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about,
“Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,
And wild to hold, though I seem tame.”

–Sir Thomas Wyatt

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A few weekends ago I went to Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn, and wandered around the the house and gardens. The house, I must admit, is a bit disappointing, largely because it’s a turn of the century reconstruction done by the Astors. With the silly amount of money the Astors possessed, they restored the early modern aspects of the home in an incredibly romantic fashion with little historical accuracy. It’s also, to be honest, become increasingly difficult to go to these old homes and castles. It sounds incredibly snobbish (and probably is), but the level of just . . . factual inaccuracy that parents spout to their children is heinous. This is basic facts, I don’t require nuance. But rather than say ‘I don’t know, let’s find out together when we get home’ or taking the time to read the plaque and relate the information to their children, parents just say whatever pops into their head. We overheard this one woman, when asked by her child which one of Henry VIII’s wives ‘got stabbed’, tell him very sincerely, that Catherine of Aragon was divorced because she couldn’t have children (blissfully overlooking Mary I, her daughter) and that Anne Boleyn had her head chopped off ‘you know, guillotined’. GUILLOTINED. The guillotine as we know it wasn’t invented until the late 18th century, and while the Halifax Gibbet did exist as a method of decapitation in England during the 16th century, it certainly wasn’t wheeled to the Tower of London.

It just frustrates me that key opportunities to spark a child’s interest in history, crucial moments of inspiration, are frequently missed by dismissive parents. I am lucky to have a mother who loves history and encourage my interest in history from an early age. If that interest isn’t fostered, with an emphasis on learning the fascinating facts, then a potential lifetime of passion for a subject is lost.

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Regardless, the gardens were gorgeous, in a very Victorian/Edwardian sort of way. Trellis upon trellis of camellias bloomed, they were so inspiring. The Castle celebrated May Day that weekend, with Morris Dancers and, more importantly, archery demonstrations! For a couple of quid you received several arrows and some very legit archery instruction. I hit a knight at close range, a ‘tower’ at mid range, and almost hit a ‘deer’ at far range. I was positively giddy with excitement, it was very fun (though designed, ultimately, for children).

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Despite whinging about historical inaccuracies and ignorant parents, I do love going to stately homes, and thanks to a very kind present of a National Trust membership, I’ll be able to visit many many more in the coming months!

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