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Arts, Festival, Mixed Bag

ARTS: Abbey Medieval Festival

A Royal Affair

ZENOBIA FROST kneels before BARON CHRISTIAN CHRISTANSONN, who appears at the ABBEY MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL this weekend. He represents His Majesty Valdmar IV Attadag, King of Denmark and Conqueror of Visby. The year is 1361.

ZENOBIA FROST: You’re a well-travelled gentleman with ties to the shipping industry, but 2012 is a very long way to come for a diplomatic mission. What’s life like at home?
BARON CHRISTANSONN: My household in Odense has many attendants, overseen by my fine steward, Stein. When I am at home, I rise early at about eight in the morning — unless I have the company of a beautiful woman. Then I may lie in until well after ten. When I rise, I bathe and dress before a great fire in my bedchamber, in my fine, bright Court clothes, and always wearing a stunning dagger. I will then have a light breakfast of fish, eggs, fruit, fine white bread, and ale in the main hall.

ZF: Beer for breakfast. Nice. You mention beautiful ladies — any progeny?
BC: Sadly my late wife (an Italian) left me with no children. But I am well blessed; my fine Norwegian mistress, Freya, has given me a fine, strong son, Erik. My King, as a kindness to me, allows me to visit Norway to see them often. 

ZF: And what will the Baron be wearing for the festival?
BC: I wear the finest of European fashions: fine silks, stunning jewellery, handsome boots, and hats adorned with amazing feathers. My favourite is the most wonderful red silk, shot with black coathardy, trimmed in hundreds of tiny pearls and garnet beads. I wear tight black hose on my manly thighs and red thigh-high boots that many are afraid to be seen in public wearing. My bullock dagger is a sign of virility and style ­– it causes many a fine lady to blush, but also be intrigued. My one concession to piety is to keep my hair cut short, unlike Sir Justyn Webb of Scarborough in England, who grows his hair long – and vainly.

Knight in Shining Armour: Jo Dunning at the Abbey Festival

ZF: You weren’t born into your title. How did you come into nobility, if that’s not too impolite a question?
BC: The transition from modern Aussie, Warwick Hill, to 14th century nobleman is the result of a great love of history, the amazing friends I have collected along the way, a love of medieval weapons and food, and especially making my own honey mead.

ZF: Your time machine is kaput! Would you choose to be stuck in the past or the present?
BC: The truth is that the 14th century would be an amazing place to live ­— but only if you are a nobleman or higher. As a commoner it would be crap! For a male, war, conflict and intrigue would fill your life with adventure and danger. But honestly, I believe I am in the century that I am meant to live in, because I love my creature comforts, my friends and loved ones.

ZF: What attitude or item would the 21st century benefit from reviving?
BC: I strongly believe that the 21st century gentleman would benefit greatly from wearing 14th century spurs. They make you stand up straight – and walk correctly. When we master spurs, we can travel up and down stairs in a truly noble manner.

ZF: What keeps you coming back to the Abbey Festival?
BC: My love affair with St Michael’s Abbey Fayre has so many facets. I have a lifetime of wonderful friends and companions to spend the weekend with. To encounter the birds of prey in the Eslite d’ Corps encampment has been amazing. Where else can you stand with an owl on your arm? Where else can you pat an Eagle. Nowhere else in Australia will you get in-your-face Battle of the Nations and Skilled Force combat. There is nothing else like what we do. There is nowhere else in Australia where the public gets so involved in the event that they belong to us and us to them.

ABBEY MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL runs at the Abbey Museum, Caboolture from Jul 7–8. Free festival buses run from Caboolture train station every 30 minutes. Ph: (07) 5495 1652 / www.abbeytournament.com

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About Zenobia Frost

Zenobia Frost is a Brisbane writer. Her work has been published in Voiceworks, Overland, The Lifted Brow and The Guardian. Her debut poetry collection, Salt and Bone, is out through Walleah Press. @zenfrost

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