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The 'Little Park' below Queen's Gate

In the absence to date of a conclusive differentiation between various Medieval Latin terms which we now translate almost indiscriminately as ‘garden’, it might well be feasible to add the definition of a parcus parvum (‘little park’) to the purpose of the designed space below the elevated viewpoint of the Queen’s Gate.111 Indeed, medieval gardens were often constructed within parks (including her-barii).1'2 Lying adjacent to the castle, such designed plots of ground of this period often ‘projected] into and nested within’ a parkland setting.113

Landsberg calculates that Eleanor’s garden of 6,000 turves at neighbouring Rhuddlan Castle in Gwynedd - each turf estimated to have been approximately 1 x 1.5 ft in size (i.e. approximately one third by one half a metre) - would have provided a small herbarium, or herber garden, of up to 18,000 square feet (i.e. less than half of an acre, or approximately 1672 m2). That said, the trapezoidal courtyard that exists at Rhuddlan Castle today is significantly smaller, at approximately 7,200 square feet (i.e. approximately 670 m2).114 The size of the King’s/Prince’s Garden at Caernarfon is approximately three acres (i.e. approximately 12,150 in ), if we were to take the interpretation of its size in The History of the King’s Works as being broadly correct.115 It was, therefore, significantly short of the early thirteenth-century advice in the treatises on gardens by Piero d’ Crescenzi of Bologna, Italy (r.1230/35 - c.1320), who suggested 12.5 acres or more for the perfect ‘pleasure garden’ (jardin de plaisance).iib However, the King’s Garden is considerably larger (about three times more) than the interpreted average-sized herbarium.

Given the probable size of the garden below Queen’s Gate and given what we know about Eleanor’s gardens in other elite residences, it could be that the gar-dinum and later-scribed (h)ortus at Caernarfon was the park-like type, which may, or may not, have enclosed Eleanor’s herbarium referred to in 1283. Hortus might have been short for hortus conclusus, which referred to an enclosed or secret garden, thus referring to virginity, and containing roses, lilies, and fountains, all being attributes to the Virgin Mary.117 Colvin suggested that the enclosed garden with its chambers and pools might have been inspired not by European Romance, but by the twelfth-century British Romance of Tristan and Isolde.'18 Whatever the influence might have been on the design of the hortus conclusus, however, by the late fifteenth-century, Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur includes a recurring theme that the park ‘was an ideal forest in miniature’.11 ’ We know that medieval parks functioned as extensions of the garden,120 with Phiskowski confirming that the ‘distinction between the park and garden was not as sharp as imagined’.121

Little parks were defined not by their size, but by their location subtus castrum (‘below the castle’),122 and were generally in the ‘form of a lobe appended directly onto the side of the castle’.123 This lobe form can be argued for at Caernarfon, where the kidney-shaped former bailey of the late-eleventh-century castle lends itself beautifully for this purpose. Little parks, therefore, were intended as both the contextual setting of, and visual approach to, buildings, where the castle’s external magnificence intentionally pervaded the wider landscape. From the early thirteenth century, park layouts with pools (for example, King’s Pool at Caernarfon) were becoming commonplace amongst the elite,124 and Liddiard argues that by the mid-thirteenth century, parks ‘enjoyed a particular spatial relationship with grand apartments or lodgings, and appear to have functioned more as gardens than “conventional parks’”.125

It could be that the name ‘Green’ is significant within the context of a little parkland,126 where the associated building was intrinsically, architecturally, and symbolically connected. The Green Gate on the walls at Caernarfon Castle, for instance, most likely restricted access to the here-interpreted little park-type garden within the area of the former bailey. Indeed, we know that Eleanor and Edward enjoyed hunting,127 just as Macsen did as an expression of status in The Dream. At Banstead manor in Surrey, for example, Eleanor built a new timberframed chamber with a new cloister and well-house and a park with ditches and hedges between 1276 and 1279.128 Edward and Eleanor might well have intended to recreate these chivalric concepts below Queen’s Gate. The following is a recent interpretation based on the likelihood that the Queen’s Gate provided an elite view of a garden/little park, which was an integral part of a wider chivalric, and inherited imperial and royal Welsh, private territory.121

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