3 February 2011

Welcome to a Regia Anglorum re-enactor

Who am I?
Connor & Paula

I am Paula Wilcox a psychiatric nurse working in Intensive Care for people experiencing an acute mental illness. I am also mum to Ron 23, Catherine 16 and Connor 14. I qualified as an RMN just two and a half years ago and I love my work.
Ten years ago I decided after my second marital break down, that I would have to re-evaluate my life and what I was going to do with it. I wanted something better for my children, so after procrastinating and feeling sorry for myself, I picked myself up and left my job of fourteen years and went to college and got on the mental health nursing course at Surrey University.
I chose mental health because I wanted to care for people who had suffered the traumas of life like I had,  but who were not lucky enough to recover like myself.
But my greatest ambition (and there have been many!) is to one day complete a historical novel.

I had started many in my younger days but had never finished them. So, in my forties, having ‘sorted’ myself out at last, I started on my project, Sons of the Wolf  after being inspired by a re-enactment of the Battle of 1066 at Battle Abbey in 2005.
Anglo Saxon  re-enactment

Whilst researchiWng for my novel, I stumbled across the Regia Anglorum website  and thought what a good idea it would be to join and experince first hand something of what my characters would have felt, and how they would have lived.

I looked at other re-enactment groups but Regia was the one that impressed me the most. It was the right period of interest for me and also had their own Long Hall site, a truly authentic settlement at Wychurst in Kent where members could experience what it was like to live in the Hall, feasting and drinking, huddled round the great hearth place, listening to sagas and riddles as our ancestors would have in the Anglo Saxon period.

image: courtesy Regia Anglorum
It has been of great use to me in my writing and Regia is a great organisation. Their insistence for authenticity is second to none and they always endeavour to present themselves as so to the public. For nearly a quarter of a century, Regia Anglorum has  been re-creating history for audiences around the world. The group can offer skilled, properly equipped and highly motivated men and women of all ages, including horses and riders and four full-scale ship replicas.

Helen with Paula & Conner
Battle 2010

To wander around a re-created encampment at places like annual the Battle of \Hastings re-enactment at Battle Abbey is an enlightening way to re-live the sights, sounds and smells of an era that existed around 1,000 years ago.
And to be a re-enactor, on top of all that is great fun!
Hello Paula,
H.H. As a re-enactor, do you have to wear authentic costume? Where do you get it from – and is it comfortable?
P.W. Hi Helen. All our ‘kit’ is made intending to portray authentic clothing for the time we are depicting. Most of us make our own. We mainly use wool or linen. It’s quite easy to make and believe it or not, it’s not as itchy or rough as it looks. The tunics are very comfortable but the thing I hate wearing the most are the wimples. They can be very annoying on windy days!
image: courtesy Regia Anglorum
H.H. I notice from your photograph that you had a great time at Wychurst, Regia Anglorum’s very own ‘Long Hall’ – what is it like sitting there in that big hall, does it really make you feel that you could be living back in say, the year 1066?
image: courtesy Regia Anglorum
P.W.  the Long Hall at Wychurst is one of the most magical places! It’s very atmospheric and you definitely get a feeling of being transported back to another time and place. We had a 12th Night Feast there recently and I really felt as if I was living a thousand years ago. It was all there, the fire blazing in the hearth, the food, the smoke, the torches in their sconces.....its just so magical.

H.H. Your son, Connor is a re-enactor too? Does he enjoy it?

P.W. Connor joined the society with me 4 years ago when he was 11. He does enjoy it but is looking forward to the day he can start combat training. At the moment he is too young and for health and safety reasons, he cannot fight until he is 16, so he has just over a year to go. So for now he has to be content with polishing the weapons and acting as a warrior's shield bearer.

H.H. Let’s pretend some magic has happened and you suddenly find yourself back in time in the real Anglo Saxon time period:
What do you think are the good things?
I think in some ways it was a much simpler time then, although the work was harsh for the peasant classes and even harsher for slaves. People were more content to just be alive I guess, so they would not have been wracked by guilt of putting on weight, nor did they worry about careers, having material things and so on. People lived off the land and their main worries were whether or not they had food on the table. I guess that was enough stress to cope with, without all the modern day stresses we have today. Women were more respected and had  more rights under Anglo Saxon rule, unlike the Roman and Norman women who were no more than chattels, the property of men, to be used and abused as their men-folk pleased. Women could own their own land and earn their own incomes. Once the Norman’s came, they lost these rights virtually overnight.
H.H. What are the not so good?
P.W. Toilets! They must have been the most awful unhygienic places. And smoke in the houses really gets in your eyes but I suppose they probably got used to that, unlike us who experience it only every so often. The cold too, must have been terrible for the poorer classes. The foot wear was not that brilliant and if you were lucky you might have been able to stuff your shoes with some fur or wool but otherwise cold feet would have been awful!
H.H. You are asked to hold a feast at Wychurst, you can invite ten guests – anyone from any time period. Who would they be and why?

9th/10th c Lady Aethelflaeda, she was an incredible woman. She was King Alfred the Great’s daughter, married to the Eolderman of Mercia. When he died she became known as Lady of the Mercians and led her men into battle against the Danes, succeeding in pushing them back Northwards.
11th c King Harold Godwinson. Of course he would have to be there, he is my hero!
12th c William Marshall. Another great Englishman. He was an amazing man, the David Beckham of his time. A star of the tourney, he was a true mediaeval celebrity. He had it all, could sing, play the lyre, fight and was tall and handsome. He lived to a great age and even in his 70’s went into battle.
5th c Ambrosius Aurelianus, so I could ask him who the hell was Arthur!lol.
9th c King Alfred the Great. His stand against the Danes, coming back from the swamp was something so admirable! And he did a lot for the Englisc language.
11th c Edmund Ironside. This was a very brave man and I have always wondered what sort of king he would have made.
11th c King Edward the Confessor. I would like to ask him why the hell did he not do something about the succession sooner. I would really tell him off!
11th c Hereward. He was a mean so and so! I admire him for his stand against the Norman whom he really hated.
11th c  Gytha Haroldsdotor. I would like to ask her how she felt about losing her father and uncles so tragically, having to leave England and become the wife of a Russian prince.
11th c Hakon Swegnson. He and his uncle Wulfnoth were real tragic characters. They were whisked away from their family to Normandy and kept there as prisoners for years. Hakon was released when Harold turned up at William’s court in Normandy and was lucky to go back to England for a short while before his death at Hastings. He would have been only about 21 when he died. I was glad that he had a few years home with his grandmother and uncles for awhile.
15th c Richard the third. This man was nothing like the Shakespearian hunchback everyone came to think of him as. He was a fierce warrior, brave and courageous and should not have been murdered in the way that he was. He was brave right to the end.
Oops there are 11! I would have invited more but there aren’t enough places at the table!
Thank you Paula – I’ll let you off the extra guest!

Regia Anglorum Events Calendar 2011 

Wychurst in the snow
image: courtesy Regia Anglorum

Next Week's Guest - Richard Denning - The Blog Tour


  1. Thank you to Kim Siddorn of Regia Anglorum for permission to use the photograhs!

  2. What a great interview. Paula's determination to pick herself up and fulfill her ambitions is an inspiration to us all. I cant wait to read her historical novel.


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