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Middleham Castle: A Royal Residence DVD, Activity Pack, and Great Hall Print Review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright

John L Fox
Loyalty Binds Me
PO Box 133
Neston, CH33 9BL

We have just finished studying the fascinating time period of the Middle Ages in our homeschool, so my family enjoyed reviewing these materials about Middleham Castle. The most famous owner of Middleham Castle was King Richard III of England, whose death essentially ended the Wars of the Roses. Middleham Castle is where King Richard III lived with his wife, Anne, before he became king, and where their only child, 10-year-old Edward, died suddenly after a short illness. The history of this time period and of these interesting and controversial figures had us searching the Internet to figure out who was who and what really happened in their stories. Unfortunately, we are still a bit baffled, as there appears to be a range of opinions about King Richard, almost from demon to angel!

The Middleham Castle materials focus more on the castle itself than on its most famous resident. Middleham Castle is found in Wensleydale, England, and now lies in ruins--a shell of its former glory. We reviewed the DVD, Activity Pack, and Great Hall Print. The DVD takes viewers on a wonderful tour. Not only does it show the modern-day ruins of the castle, but through the use of stunning computer reconstruction, it shows us what it may have looked like at the height of its beauty. The narrator, John Fox, helps us understand the history and purpose of the various parts of the castle, such as the towers, great hall, kitchen, bailey, living quarters, and even the latrines, as well as what life was like at the castle during the fifteenth century. We came away with a much better understanding of castle life, defensive measures built into the castle, and the Middle Ages in general.

The Activity Pack contains three copies each of the following worksheets: Middleham Castle family tree, Design your own family tree, Colour in Medieval Banners, Design your own family's banner, Word search puzzle, Crossword puzzle, and Colour in the Great Hall. The information for these is found in the DVD or on the worksheets themselves. They were all colorful, printed on heavy paper, interesting, and relevant to the materials. The worksheets helped draw out some of the important information from the video and made it more personal for the kids, especially designing their own family tree and banner. Since the materials are from a British company, the pages are printed on A4 paper, but they could easily be adapted for letter or legal size paper. The kit also included a beautiful full-color, glossy print of a computer reconstruction of what the Great Hall of Middleham Castle probably looked like in its prime. The picture is 11.7" x 16.5" and is printed on heavy stock paper, suitable for framing or display as a poster.

We found all of these materials to be very well made, interesting, informative, and helpful in our understanding of the amazing Middle Ages. The DVD was like taking a tour with a very knowledgeable guide who loves his subject and loves to share it with others. The Activity Pack helped bring all of the materials to life and made it relevant to my children. And the print of the Great Hall helped us understand the beauty of this magnificent castle. I would love to see some additional information, maybe in the Activity Pack, that helps students understand the complicated history surrounding King Richard III. There are some great links on the website and plenty of information on the Internet, but a couple of sheets of background history would be very helpful. We particularly enjoyed the computer reconstructions, which helped us picture how things looked during the fifteenth century. I would highly recommend these materials to homeschoolers who want to experience everyday life in a castle of the Middle Ages!

Product review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2009