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.