The dramatic coastal clifftop setting of the 13th century Tintagel Castle in Cornwall was the setting for one of the most legendary acts of debauchery: Uther Pendragon’s sneak seduction of Ygerna (aka Igraine) while magically disguised as her husband Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. That heated night of rape-by-fraud at Tintagel resulted nine months later in the birth of the Once and Future King, Arthur. What would you do if you got to spend an evening at Tintagel with five of your closest friends?
Think about it carefully and then post your answer on English Heritage’s Tintagel Castle Facebook wall. If your idea has a mass appeal, you get to make it happen. The entrant who gets the most ‘likes’ by August 1st (subject to English Heritage’s discretion, so, like, peeing your name on the ramparts probably won’t cut it even though you’d get plenty of likes) will win private access to the ruins on an evening of your choice between August 6th and August 20th.
Matt Ward, site supervisor at the castle explains: “Tintagel is such a beautiful and atmospheric place, as well as being steeped in history and folklore it has some of the most spectacular views along the English coastline. Never before have we been able to hand over the castle for someone to enjoy exclusively so we’re really excited to see what ideas people will come up with to make the most of it.”
I’m afraid if I were honest in my entry, I’d be sure not to win since I’d just spend the evening nerding out over the ruins and the view and that’s not really a crowd-pleasing concept. Just as well I can’t make it to Cornwall next month. Still, if one of y’all submits an entry please link to it in the comments and you’ll at least get yourself a like or two from other readers.
Although the Tintagel peninsula was in use from Roman Times through the early Middle Ages as an easily defensible location for the peripatetic courts of local kings and chieftains, Tintagel Castle as we know it today began as a Norman stronghold built by Reginald, Earl of Cornwall, in 1145. That was six years after Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his account of Arthur’s conception in his Historia Regum Britanniae but there’s no evidence of an earlier structure on the spot that Geoffrey could have known as Tintagel Castle. Most of the ruins we see today date from 1233 when Richard, Earl of Cornwall and Henry III’s younger brother, built the main part of the castle. He could well have picked the spot to associate himself with Arthurian legend.
The Castle fell into disuse after the death of Edward, the Black Prince, son of King Edward III and Duke of Cornwall, in 1376. The county sheriffs took it over, using the building as a prison and letting the land to shepherds for pasture. With the revival of interest in Arthurian legend during the mid-19th century, the romantic windswept outcroppings of Tintagel became a tourist attraction.
As Monmouth describes it:
A whole week was now past, when, retaining in mind his love to Igerna, [King Uther] said to one of his confidants, named Ulfin de Ricaradoch: “My passion for Igerna is such, that I can neither have ease of mind, nor health of body, till I obtain her: and if you cannot assist me with your advice how to accomplish my desire, the inward torments I endure will kill me.”– “Who can advise you in this matter,” said Ulfin, “when no force will enable us to have access to her in the town of Tintagel? For it is situated upon the sea, and on every side surrounded by it; and there is but one entrance into it, and that through a straight rock, which three men shall be able to defend against the whole power of the kingdom.