Heat 5 - Cardiff, Great Britain
Venue: Cardiff Castle Grounds, Cardiff, Glamorgan
you wanted a setting for Jeux Sans Frontieres whose history and
appearance could raise as many eyebrows as the spectacle of the competition
itself, then Cardiff Castle should really take its rightful place as a classic
European venue. No wonder then, that three times it hosted JSFs, and once a
(largely forgotten) 1969 BBC heat of It’s a Knockout.
lies at the very heart of the Welsh Capital City – Cardiff. Cardiff (whose
name derives from a curious amalgamation of Latin, Old English and Welsh,
meaning “fort on the River Taff”) owes its existence to the Romans who, in
their three hundred years of occupation, built four forts on the site of the
present castle, on what was hitherto marshland. The square perimeter wall of
Cardiff Castle today was once the outer stone wall of the Roman fort, outside
of which a small settlement of traders and suppliers began to grow.
the Romans suddenly left in 400 AD, the fort was abandoned and in the six
centuries which followed, it gradually disappeared through decay and (no
doubt) plunder. When the Norman conquerors arrived in Wales in 1089 AD, all
they probably found was a large eight acre square plot surrounded by grass
embankments, surrounded by a small trading settlement and port on the river.
The remains of the actual Roman walls were not to be rediscovered for another
eight hundred years. The Normans quickly built a classic motte and bailey keep
recognising, like the Romans, that this was a good spot to guard the river and
the sea (both of which were then much closer to the castle than they are
the 12th century, the castle became the stronghold of Robert, 1st Earl of
Gloucester and 2nd Lord of Glamorgan: illegitimate son of King Henry I of
England and grandson of William the Conqueror. Hailed as one of Europe’s
greatest warriors and statesmen of his day, he played a huge role in English
history, even minting his own coins. One of his most famous acts was
imprisoning his uncle, Robert Duke of Normandy, the eldest son of William the
Conqueror, in Cardiff Castle until he died, in order to stop him claiming the
throne. The Duke died a prisoner in the stone keep you see in the opening shot
of the 1970 Jeux Sans Frontières transmission.
successive centuries Cardiff Castle, which slowly expanded along the western
wall, came under the possession of leading nobles and statesmen, often as a
Royal reward. It also passed through many generations of Kings in waiting,
including King John, Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII.
However, Cardiff Castle’s greatest moment came in the nineteenth century, when
it was inherited by “the richest baby in the British Empire”. John Patrick
Crichton Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute, was only 6 months old when his father,
Baron Cardiff, died suddenly after having amassed a fortune through his
successful gamble of building the docks at Cardiff for exporting Welsh coal.
That single act was to cause Cardiff to grow almost one hundred times in size
in just one century to become the largest city in Wales and, in 1955, Capital
City of Wales.
the time the 3rd Marquess himself died in 1900, he was one of the richest men
in the entire world. John devoted vast sums to creating in Cardiff Castle the
perfect medieval fantasy castle, with no expense spared. The Bute family left
in 1947 and sold the Castle to Cardiff City Council for just £1! Today, the
castle and its four hundred acres of adjoining parkland belong to the city and
are open to the public, giving Cardiff more parkland per head of population
than any other city in Europe. To step inside the castle is not only a journey
through two thousand years of Roman, Norman, Plantagenet, Tudor, Georgian and
Victorian history, but a breathtaking fantasy journey through rooms decorated
lavishly with gold, wood, stone and marble, lined with painstakingly detailed
wall murals. Every room has a theme, concerning medieval history, time, space
and astrology and, especially, religion. The perfect fantasy setting for JSF!