In the loggia of the oranges I hear the pure voice of Emma Kirkby singing the music Lucrezia and Leonora heard.
The Abbess Leonora took her nieces under her aegis when their mother, Renee, Duchess of Ferrara, was rejected by Duke Ercole for her protestant beliefs, questioned by the Inquisition, imprisoned and exiled, separated from her daughters who took sanctuary in Corpus Domini.
High in the castle garden, Lucrezia listens to sublime music. She cannot hear the cries of prisoners being tortured deep in the dungeons.
Castle or convent? If you could choose, which life would you have preferred? We are in Rushen Abbey, Isle of Man, having visited the castle- the exhibition of its history and the Stanley Earls of Derby, Kings of Man. Fascinating. The gloomy spiral staircases of the fortress less attractive. All very well picturing Lucrezia Borgia amongst the lemon blossoms with her musicians but how did she get up to the roof garden?
The Estense castle is a great fortress, surrounded by a moat. Within the walls of Peel Castle, Isle of Man, there are armouries and gun emplacements looking out to sea, a chapel, the burial plot of a Viking lady buried in her necklace. Swags of flowers spill down crumbling masonry. Elizabethan music plays as we stroll the sward, so we dance.
What does anyone do at the seaside? The tradition of building a castle in the sand endures. A fortress with a keep, flag flying, surrounded by a moat.
An early childhood memory is of a visit to the moated castle of Bodiam. I see it now. And a line from a half-forgotten film, a line that stays with me. It is the Civil War. Destination? ' Bodiam Castle.' Purpose? ' Riotous living.'
Footnote: after listening to radio 3 Composer of the week: the women of Renaissance Ferrara