Female 'knights' to take to the tilting yard in medieval jousting displays
There will be "damsels in shining armour" at castles this summer as women join jousts at English Heritage properties for the first time. And it might even be the men who end up "in distress".
Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, where Robert Dudley famously wooed Tudor England's most powerful woman, Queen Elizabeth I, will be the first of four castles to see a woman take on men in the tilting yard, the charity said.
Two leading female jousters on the European circuit, Nicky Willis and Alix van Zijl, will each join three male "knights" to compete in the medieval sport.
Ms Willis will take the reins at Kenilworth this weekend and at Pendennis Castle, Cornwall, in August, while Ms van Zijl will ride in contests at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight and Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire, in August.
Emily Sewell, English Heritage head of events, said: "Historically, the knights who took part in jousting tournaments were an elite band, the best of the best. No women were amongst that group.
"Now they are, and in order to bring our visitors the opportunity to witness some of the most accomplished knights on the circuit, it made complete sense to invite the leading female jousters to join us this summer."
Ms Willis said: "I have heard how much fun it is to joust at Kenilworth, and can't wait to be part of the action this year.
"Kenilworth is famed for some of the most elaborate tournaments in medieval England - as well as playing host to one of England's strongest women, Queen Elizabeth I - so it's the perfect place to sort the women from the boys."
The grand medieval joust competitions see the knights on horseback riding against each other, dressed in full armour and armed with a lance.
Tournament-goers can also enjoy two days of medieval merriment, including falconry displays, dancing, have-a-go children's combat sessions, living history encampments and jesters.