At first, I thought of giving the Magnus Dynasty only one Imperial Palace as their seat of power over the Gradaian Empire. However, I learned that monarchs such as Henry VIII had up to SIXTY castles and residences! With this in mind, I am thinking of giving the Magnus Dynasty a second Imperial Palace that further symbolizes their power and majesty. This castle will have been built in the aftermath of the War of the Gilded Beasts. In terms of style, size, and appearance, I am thinking of this new Imperial Palace being a combination between Hampton Court and Versailles, both of which were the favorite palaces of powerful kings. This palace will make its debut in my third fantasy book.
This morning, I discovered a new documentary that further described the history and inner workings of Versailles Palace. Versailles Palace was constructed by Louis XIV of France. He built this palace because he did not feel safe and powerful in Paris. In Paris, the visiting nobles were close to home and had plenty of opportunity to plot against him. In an attempt to regain his power and security, Louis developed a system of running a royal court that had not been beaten.
At this time, the French monarchy’s power was weakened and the various nobles had more authority in various regions of France. This caused Louis to enter a power struggle with the nobility to regain control over France. Louis learned from the mistakes of Charles I of England. If he went to war with his own people, he would gamble his throne and the future of his dynasty. Therefore, he planned to do battle with his vassals on his own terms and on a battlefield of his choosing. The battlefield was his family’s hunting lodge, which was located some distance from Paris. Its distance meant that his courtiers would be isolated from their allies in the capital and their ability to plot against Louis would be severely diminished. When Louis first moved his court to the lodge, it proved too small to accommodate everyone. With this in mind, Louis made the hunting lodge undergo an extreme makeover into the Versailles Palace.
Louis would conquer his enemies not with armies or weapons, but with fashion and refinement. Louis would set a series of strange yet strict house rules that even the most powerful duke had to obey. These rules even involved something as mundane as watching Louis wake up in the morning. Louis was called the Sun King and he compared his getting up in the morning to the rising of the sun. In exchange for following his strict house rules, Louis would grant favors to nobles who would visit him the most. Nobles who do not obey the house rules are denied any favors from the king. All the visiting nobles would fight with one another to gain an audience with the king, which greatly reduced their ability to scheme against Louis. It also gave Louis a cult of personality where he was almost worshipped as a god. This is something Louis absolutely believed because his mother drilled into him the belief in the divine right of kings.
Even if he did not grant nobles favors, Louis still smothered them with lavish hospitality. This legendary hospitality took the form of gambling, feasts, hunts, and elaborate parties. This constant sense of fun made Versailles Palace the ultimate playground for the French nobility. It constantly made them want to keep coming to Versailles. While the nobles were too busy having the time of their lives, Louis’s spies were gathering intelligence on them from the shadows. Even the mail was monitored in Versailles Palace. If there was any sign of treachery, Louis would be informed. Essentially, Versailles Palace became a gilded cage for the French nobility where all of their secrets were laid bare. Due to this system of surveillance, Louis was always a step ahead of his enemies and countered them accordingly.
Even fashion was strict at Versailles and it would constantly change depending on Louis’s decisions. If you wore the wrong type of clothes, they would be burned and you would be fined. Versailles also had its own version of a shopping mall for the nobility, which sold fashionable items such as shoes and jewelry. They were so expensive that the nobility lost a considerable chunk of the wealth just to please Louis’s constantly changing sense of fashion. With no money in their pockets, betraying the king became both unthinkable and unaffordable, which kept the nobility firmly under Louis’s thumb.
This system of courtly intrigue is what has allowed Louis XIV to become the longest reigning monarch in European history.
The most besieged castle in British history would Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. It has a long history of being a stronghold for warriors for two thousand years since the days of the Celts. As time went on, Edinburgh Castle became a stone fortress that saw more than its fair share of battles. The castle sits on top of an extinct volcano, which forms a rocky crag that is almost impossible for an army to climb. During the War of Scottish Independence, Edward I led an army to Edinburgh Castle and unleashed the largest trebuchet ever constructed: Warwolf. The Scottish garrison surrendered afterwards and the castle remained in English control for nearly two decades. Then a band of thirty Scots found a way to climb the crag and over the castle walls, where they slaughtered the two hundred English soldiers who were stationed. During the Tudor Dynasty, Edinburgh became a place where many Scottish kings and queens were born. In fact, when Henry VIII ruled England, he attempted to bully the Scots into marrying Mary, Queen of Scots to his son and heir Edward VI. The Scots refused and the dispute erupted into a conflict that came to be known as the “Rough Wooing”. Edinburgh Castle is also the scene of the atrocity that would inspire the Red Wedding: The Black Dinner. The Black Dinner took place because several ambitious Scottish nobles wanted as much influence over the young Scottish king as they could get their hands on. The only ones standing in their way were the heads of the Douglas Clan. Like Robb Stark, the heads of the Douglas Clan were just kids with their whole lives ahead of them until they were unjustly and brutally killed by their own hosts. When the cook brought the severed head of a black bull to the table, the two Douglas boys were dragged outside and had their heads chopped off. Overall, Edinburgh Castle was the scene of many battles, betrayals, and murders. I will be drawing inspiration from this castle for future fantasy works.
I watched another castle documentary that talked about Arundel Castle. Arundel is a section of Wessex that is fertile and rich and it is the oldest earldom in England. The families who held that castle traditionally held the titles Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Arundel. These two titles make the owners of the castle twice as important and prestigious than an average noble. Like Warwick Castle, Arundel’s wealth was based on two things: the spoils of war and loyalty to the crown. The wealth of this castle was so great that the owners traditionally held three percent of all the wealth in the kingdom every year. That made the owners the wealthiest nobles in England second only to the king himself. The first owner of the castle was one of William the Conqueror’s most trusted lieutenants, who maintained order in Normandy while William was busy sacking England. As a reward for his loyalty, this lieutenant was given the most fertile patch of land in Wessex, where he initially built a motte-and-bailey castle before replacing it with a stone fortress. For almost a thousand years, Arundel Castle has been the property of many Dukes and Earls. One Duke was an avid art collector and he decorated the castle’s walls with all the art he gathered from Europe. The immense wealth of the castle meant that this Duke had access to the best of the best in European art. There was another flamboyant Duke who would routinely get so slobbering drunk that his servants waited for him to pass out before changing his clothes or giving him a bath. Over time, Arundel Castle become a mixture between an impregnable fortress and a pleasure palace. Overall, I think this castle is overflowing with potential inspiration for future fantasy works.
While watching castle documentaries, I discovered that many of the castles in England were built from Roman fortresses. I am thinking of taking a similar approach in my fantasy series. The story takes place thousands of years after the elves became extinct, but several of their old strongholds are still standing. Therefore, it would make sense that humans would salvage the elves’ castles and remake them in their own image.
One of the costliest castles in Britain was Warwick Castle. The reason for this was because its wealth was almost entirely dependent on its owners’ service and loyalty to the English monarchy. It was a castle that was built on the spoils of war. In peace time, it was virtually impossible to maintain. When the castle’s wealth was high, family members often buried themselves in tombs trimmed with gold. Strategically, Warwick Castle controlled all the roads leading to Wales and Scotland. It was originally built by William the Conqueror as a motte-and-bailey castle before replacing it with a stone fortress. The favorite of Edward II, Piers Gaveston, was condemned by a kangaroo court within the castle’s walls. There was even a section of the dungeon that involved sealing a person under the castle and leave them to die. To make this prison worse, the cell was positioned under the castle privy so it was a combination between a prison cell and a sewer. It was easily the worst kind of prison for a person to die in. The last Earl of Warwick to live in the castle was a movie star from the 1930s and the only way he could pay for the castle’s expenses was through his film career. Eventually, the castle became too expensive to maintain and the castle was sold and made into a tourist attraction. I will be drawing inspiration from this castle for my fantasy series.
Caernarfon Castle was one of the many castles Edward I constructed to consolidate his hold on Wales. It was not only used to symbolize English dominion over Wales, but it also symbolized the alteration of the title “Prince of Wales”. Before Edward I came along, the Prince of Wales was the title given to the ruler of Wales. After Edward’s conquest, it became the title for the heir apparent to the English throne. Edward I’s successor Edward II was born within Caernarfon’s walls. During the Welsh Revolt in the 1400s, the castle faced a siege from Welsh rebels. The castle garrison numbered only 28 men and they drove away the rebels after slaying 300 of them. Because all of the castle’s windows were arrow slits, the invaders had no idea how many defenders they were facing. Caernarfon Castle last saw battle during the English Civil War and repairs were neglected until the 19th century. In more recent history, Caernarfon Castle was where Prince Charles was crowned Prince of Wales. I have several ideas for castles based on this fortress in future fantasy works.
Cardiff Castle was a Welsh castle that was over 2,000 years old. It was originally built as a fort for the Romans before being turned into a motte-and-bailey castle by William the Conqueror’s Normans. William the Conqueror’s firstborn son, Robert, was imprisoned in Cardiff by his kid brother Henry I until the day he died. During the reign of Edward II, Cardiff was the seat of power for Hugh Despenser the Younger and he used it to not only execute Welsh rebels, but also snatch land from Welsh lords such as Roger Mortimer. These actions ultimately led to Edward II losing his throne and Hugh being hanged, drawn, and quartered. During the Welsh Revolt in the 1400s, the castle fell into Welsh hands, but after the rebellion was quelled, the Welsh rebels lost control of the castle. Strategically, whoever held Cardiff Castle controlled southern Wales, which became apparent during the English Civil War where Parliament briefly overthrew the monarchy. During the Industrial Revolution, the town surrounding Cardiff Castle became a rich coal mine and the noble house holding the castle became obscenely rich. With this new wealth, the town grew a port for trade and the castle and the separate mansion were given lavishly luxurious Victorian architecture. Coal made Cardiff rich and trade made it even richer. Overall, I would very much like to visit this castle and draw inspiration from it for some of the castles in my fantasy series. I already have castles that draw their wealth from gold and crops, but I think it would be interesting to depict one where its wealth comes from coal.
The next castle documentary I watched talked about the Tower of London. It was first constructed during the reign of William the Conqueror as the original royal palace. It was meant to frighten the Anglo-Saxons into submission to Norman rule. When it was constructed, the Tower was the tallest building in all of 11th century London. The Tower of London is most famous as the sight of the disappearance of the twelve year old Edward V and his younger brother Richard Duke of York. During the reign of Charles II, the bones of two children were discovered inside the Tower’s walls. The bones were given a royal funeral, but certain groups banned any attempt to confirm the bones’ identities with modern science, which leaves the ultimate fate of the Princes unknown. During the reign of Henry VIII, the Tower of London was the monarchy’s personal prison. Countless people were condemned to the Tower for execution, including one of Henry VIII’s top ministers, Thomas Moore, and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. The royal family of England were given exotic animals as gifts of good will from monarchies across Europe, including a polar bear from the King of Norway. The Tower became a zoo for these exotic animals until the Duke of Wellington had them moved to a location that would become the modern London Zoo. Overall, the Tower of London is a castle with a history of murder, power, and intrigue.
The first castle documentary I watched explained the history and background of one of England’s most impregnable and imposing castles: Dover. Dover Castle had significant strategic importance for over two thousand years. Because of its position overlooking the English Channel to France, Dover served as a fortress to defend against foreign invaders. The castle was originally built by the Romans, but it started out as a mere lighthouse meant to guide Roman legions across the channel. When William the Conqueror and his Normans came, Dover Castle was upgraded even further. During the reign of Henry II, Dover was built into a proper castle with a keep and the first of many walls. Henry II turned the castle into a combination between a strategic stronghold and a private residence to foreign visitors such as the King of France. During the reign of John I, a network of tunnels was constructed under the castle to thwart miners who attempted to compromise the castle’s foundations. The idea was even if the miners dug under the castle, they would break into one of these tunnels and be cut down by the garrison inside. During the reign of Edward I, Dover received more curtain walls and gate houses. During England’s war with Napoleon, Dover received many more significant upgrades incase Napoleon crossed the channel. It gained more walls that were fitted with cannons and the underground tunnels were expanded for miles to accommodate a larger garrison. During World War II, Dover Castle served as an important base of operations for the British military. Important events such as the rescue mission of Dunkirk and the Invasion of Normandy were all managed and directed from within Dover’s walls. During the Cold War, the tunnels were dug even deeper in order to turn Dover Castle into a bunker for VIPs. However, there was one major flaw with this design. The surrounding rock of Dover was made from limestone, which meant that if a nuclear blast went off, the radiation would still seep into the bunker, which resulted in the British government abandoning the whole project. Overall, Dover Castle has guarded the channel to England from the Romans to the Cold War. This goes to show that even though a building was constructed centuries ago, it could still be used for modern purposes. I am thinking of drawing inspiration from Dover Castle for my fantasy series.