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A beautiful ideal

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Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, built around 1385

Speaking of children (we do below) this is one of their favorite castles – the very image of the castle that looms in their mind when they think of castles. Wrote one father, typical of many, on a Bodiam site, “When our children saw Bodiam Castle, they stood in awe.”

Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, the man who built the castle, was interested in defending against a French invasion, or so he told Richard II. He built Bodiam to defend the upper reaches of a river, the Rother, which was navigable in medieval times when sea levels were higher. (Clearly, among their other problems, they were dealing with global warming.)

There is a clear sense that Sir Edward also built to impress and that he liked domestic comfort, though ideas about comfort were a little different then, and it difficult not to imagine a degree of watery damp in a castle built over a spring.

There is probably some disagreeable history associated with this castle, but children see Bodiam Castle’s symmetry and crenellated beauty and imagine good and chivalrous knights galloping toward adventure. They know there are bad knights, but they are riding with the good knights and they know why – because they rescue those in distress, are brave, and never mean.

At least, that is what children used to think. I hope they still do. The reality of the knight will never be the same as the idea, but where would we be if we did not hold in our minds a beautiful ideal.

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