Henry II Throne, King's Hall, Great Tower Royal Palace, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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John Latter on February 27, 2011

This is a view of King's Hall on the second-floor of the Keep, or Great Tower, of Dover Castle after "a major transformation by English Heritage to re-create the splendour of a royal court in the late 12th century" (1). It now looks "as it might have appeared when newly completed, and ready to receive an important visitor, Count Philip of Flanders, in 1184" (2)

The middle throne is in blue and gold and stands about 1.5 metres (five feet) tall, while the gold-on-red backcloth is five metres (16 feet) high. Topping the whole thing off is an amazing canopy (3). Keith Ashley-Thomas, an English Heritage guide who appears in the original Trebuchet Siege Engine photo, said the canopy contains stars of gilded leather and had been made by the Royal School of Needlework (RSN):

2009 for the re-presentation of The Great Hall, Dover Castle. Six large pieces were produced in an extremely short timescale including the King’s Hall backcloth; a canopy and tester; the Guest Hall backcloth and a standard and altar frontal. These were completed with the help of volunteers from the RSN Certificate Course. (4)

On the left of Henry II's throne is a smaller one whose original would have been used principally by Prince John (later King John: see the Knights Templar Ruins photo) as another son, Prince Richard (later Richard I, Coeur de Lion, or Richard the Lionheart), spent much of his time abroad.

The seat to the right of Henry II's throne was for Princess Alice of France (or Alys, Countess of the Vexin) who appears to have been more than just the ward of Henry II:

Richard had one major reason for discontent with his father. Henry had appropriated Princess Alice (not the same Alice as Richard's half-sister), the daughter of the French king and Richard's betrothed, as his mistress. This made a marriage between Richard and Alice technically impossible - at least in the eyes of the church, but Henry, not wishing to cause a diplomatic incident, prevaricated and did not confess to his misdeed. As for Richard, he was discouraged from renouncing Alice because she was Philip's sister. (5)

Beginning at top-right on the far wall is a 180-ft-long wall hanging depicting the Norman conquest (inspired by the Bayeux tapestry) by Kit Surrey, lead historical set designer of the Great Tower project (6). The first scene shows William the Conqueror-to-be paying for construction of the fleet; the last, at top-left, shows William I after his coronation, standing beside the White Tower of the Tower of London.

At the end of the wall hanging on the left-hand wall is an arched opening beyond which is the Upper Chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket:

New research by Professor John Gillingham has shown that the spectre of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in 1170 by four of the King`s knights, was the main reason for the king to build something impressive at Dover. The need to erect a symbol of royal power visible from afar to exploit and counter the growing cult around the saint was top on his mind, so was the need to have a suitably grand place to entertain dignitaries who were passing through Dover to visit Becket's shrine in Canterbury. (1)

Above the wall hanging of the far wall is a gallery, or balcony:

As in other major Norman keeps, the second level (of Dover Castle's Keep) actually forms a double storey with a mural gallery running most of the way around the upper stage. The precise reason for such galleries is conjectural but, as it lay below the original roof line, its function seems to be residential rather than military. (7)

The King's Hall fulfilled a number of functions. When not employed for the reception of pilgrims and dignitaries (who would enter the King's Hall from the Forebuilding, out-of-shot to the left), Keith Ashley-Thomas speculated the balcony may also have been used as a Minstrels Gallery.

The King's Chamber, or Solar, is the same size as the King's Hall and is out-of-shot to the right. See later "Comments" for photos.

The Keep is 83 feet (25.3m) high and just under 100 feet (30m) square, with walls up to 21 feet (6.5m) thick. It was designed by 'Maurice the Engineer' (ie Mason) and built during the 1180s.

Click to see all photos of Dover Castle.

Dover Castle is a Grade I Listed Building (8).

The following is "© Crown Copyright". Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence (PSI licence number C2010002016):

Building Details:

Building Name: DOVER CASTLE

Parish: DOVER

District: DOVER

County: KENT



LBS Number: 177823

Grade: I

Date Listed: 07/03/1974

Date Delisted:

NGR: TR3249141696

Listing Text:


TR 3241 1/47

TR 34 SW 7/47



Norman keep C.1155 of rag-stone ashlar blooks picked out flints with Caen stone dressings. Around the keep are ranges of C18 (=18th Century) houses of 2 to 3 storeys ashlar with a flint galleting. Round headed windows. Surrounding these ranges are 2 concentric rings of walls and towers dating from Mediaeval times. Beneath the castle are a whole series of subterranean passages dating from the C13 and improved for defence during the Napoleonic period. Ancient Monument. (Abridged).

Listing NGR: TR3249141696

Source: English Heritage. Click to see photos of Listed Buildings and English Heritage locations in the town of Dover, England.

(1) The project, which costs £2.45 million, took over two years of research by English Heritage, "with a team of historians working closely with some 140 artists and craftspeople". The Great Tower re-opened on August 1st, 2009: Medieval Royal Palace at Dover Castle to re-open to the Public

(2) English Heritage webpage: The Great Tower of Dover Castle

(3) Friends of Dover Castle: Henry II`s Great Tower

(4) RSN work on display

(5) Richard the Lionheart

(6) The Guardian newspaper: English Heritage gives Dover Castle a medieval makeover

(7) Abridged from English Castles: A Guide by Counties by Adrian Pettifer

(8) Grade I: buildings "of exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important".

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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John Latter on February 27, 2011

Adjacent to the King's Hall is The King`s Chamber of Henry II in the Great Tower of Dover Castle.

On the first-floor directly below the King's Hall is The Guest Hall of King Henry II in the Great Tower of Dover Castle.

On the first-floor directly below the King's Chamber is the The Guest Chamber of Henry II in the Great Tower of Dover Castle.

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Photo taken in Dover, Kent, UK
Dover Castle

This photo was taken indoors

Photo details

  • Uploaded on January 26, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/01/23 11:18:52
    • Exposure: 30.000s
    • Focal Length: 23.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/29.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash