One of my new favorite battles from the Scottish War of Independence is the Battle of Loudoun Hill. This battle was depicted at the end of the film The Outlaw King. I researched the actual battle and the film depicted the battle very accurately despite a few changes that were made. After my ancestor, Robert the Bruce, was crowned King of Scots, he suffered serious defeats while fighting the English. After evading the English and rivals Scots, Robert the Bruce rallied 600 infantry to his cause to combat 3,000 English knights and cavalry. The location of the battle was right in the middle of a road that had thick marshlands on either side. In a direct contest of brute strength, the Scots stood no chance against the English. In order to negate the English’s numerical advantage, the Scots used the road as a bottleneck and dug ditches to hinder the charges from English cavalry. If the English tried to flank the Scots, their horses would be stuck in the deep marshes and English knights would sink in the bog due to their heavy armor. Soon the battle turned into a one-sided massacre. Despite outnumbering the Scots five to one, the English were defeated and forced to retreat to the nearest castle to avoid being hunted down by battle-crazed Scots. Overall, the tactics of this battle were nearly identical to the Battle of Stirling Bridge, which also used a bottleneck tactic to beat the English. For my spin-off fantasy trilogy, I will be depicting a similar battle.
I had an epiphany for my spin-off fantasy trilogy. Considering how much I humanized the characters and setting, I think it is a little late for me to start introducing demons, dark lords, and other evils. The reason for this is because I created a human world where most magic and mythic creatures are gone. To introduce demons and dark lords at this stage would be contradictory to the continuity of Gradaia’s history and lore. Therefore, instead of demons and dark lords, my spin-off trilogy will portray Gradaia enduring an invasion from a foreign army from another previously unknown continent. Up until now, the people of Gradaia thought they were the only survivors of the fall of Homantis, but they will learn that they are not alone and their empire is not the only land in the known world.
I am thinking of basing this new conflict on the Viking invasions of Anglo-Saxon England during the Dark Ages as well as the Norman invasion of 1066 AD. When J. R. R. Tolkein created the kingdom of Rohan, he based them on the Anglo-Saxons yet made one significant modification of his own. In addition, to basing Rohan’s people and culture on the Anglo-Saxons, he made them a powerful cavalry force. The reason this is significant is because the real-life Anglo-Saxons were mainly an infantry army, which was one of the factors that led to their defeat at the hands of William the Conqueror. So Tolkein wanted to depict what the Anglo-Saxons could have been like if they had their own cavalry.
The Vikings were much the same way when it came to how they fought. They were mainly infantry and had little to no cavalry. Just as Tolkein did with the Anglo-Saxons, I will be tinkering with what the Vikings could have been like if they had their own cavalry. However, this new culture will have a much more balanced military when it comes to cavalry, archers, and infantry than Rohan did. Also, I will be watching documentaries that talk more about Viking history, culture, and mythology. This will enrich my medieval knowledge even further.
The War for Scottish Independence produced many iconic heroes such as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. Another hero was James Douglas, Lord of Douglasdale. When his father, William Douglas, supported William Wallace, James went to Paris when he was a boy to be educated. When his father was slain, James lost all of his ancestral lands and titles, which were given to an English baron named Robert Clifford. After William Wallace was executed, James approached Edward I in an attempt to win back his lands, but Edward I spurned him. When Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scots, James swore fealty to him because he saw Robert the Bruce as his last hope to get his lands back. Throughout the war, James Douglas proved to be a ruthless military leader who was a demon with a sword on the battlefield. He instilled so much fear into the English that he became known as The Black Douglas. After the Battle of Bannockburn, James led countless raids against northern England. It was because of him that the English never invaded Scotland again; they were too scared of the Black Douglas! When the war was over and Scotland finally regained their independence, James got his lands and titles back with A LOT of interest. Before the war, the House Douglas was a relatively obscure noble family. Thanks to his unmatched military record and undying loyalty to the Scottish crown, James made his House more powerful and influential than it had ever been before. After Robert the Bruce died, James was made Guardian of Scotland and tutor to the future Robert II. In his final campaign, James took Robert the Bruce’s heart to the Holy Land, where James was slain in battle while fighting the Moors. James Douglas was succeeded by his two sons, William and Archibald.
One of the most famous English leaders is the Anglo-Saxon king known as Alfred the Great. In the 9th century, the Viking host known as the Great Heathen Army invaded the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England. One by one, the kingdoms of England fell to the Viking horde until only Wessex remained. The king of Wessex, Alfred, resisted the Vikings for years and was nearly killed in an ambush on Christmas Eve. With most of his army dead, Alfred and his remaining warriors turned into a guerrilla force that hunted the Vikings down. The Viking corpses that littered the countryside proved to the Anglo-Saxon that even though he was weakened Alfred was still a strong leader. This convinced many Anglo-Saxons to provide a new army for Alfred. Eventually, Alfred defeated the Vikings in the Battle of Edington, forcing them to flee to Alfred’s captured palace. Instead of laying siege to the palace, Alfred and his army sat outside and feasted in front of the Vikings, which proved to be an effective form of psychological warfare. With no food or ale left in the palace, the Vikings were demoralized and starved out. Instead of executing the defeated Vikings, Alfred released the Vikings on the condition that they converted into Christianity. With the Vikings crushed and all the other Anglo-Saxon monarchies annihilated, Alfred became the first king of ALL of England. I am thinking of basing the main character of a new fantasy series on Alfred the Great.
Due to poor healthcare, it was common in medieval times for some babies to be either stillborn, miscarried, or died young. For example, when Edward I was married to Eleanor of Castile, they had sixteen children yet only seven reached adulthood and had children of their own. The rest of their children were stillbirths, miscarriages, or died young. Every dynasty suffered such tragedies since the dawn of time. The monarchs are not only experiencing parental grief, they are also personally devastated because each of those dead children was a potential heir to the throne who died before their time. In some cases, these tragedies can seal the fate of dynasties. For example, Henry VIII had two daughters and a sickly son as his legitimate heirs and the rest of his legitimate heirs died young or before they are born. As a result, Edward VI (Henry VIII’s son) died young without issue, Mary I AKA Bloody Mary died of cancer and without issue, and Elizabeth I died unmarried and without issue. Due to these factors and the loss of so many potential heirs, the Tudor Dynasty died out after a mere century of ruling England. In order to stay faithful to medieval standards and to include some emotional trauma and conflict for my characters, I will be including these kinds of tragedies in my third fantasy book.
When Henry VIII came to the throne, he was just a seventeen year old kid. Before he became the obese tyrant we know, Henry VIII was handsome, sexy, athletic, intelligent, charming, generous, and charismatic. In the early years of his reign, Henry’s court was filled with young noblemen who were around his age, giving his court the energy and vigor of a frat house. He often engaged in sports such as jousting, hunting, and tennis. Also, while most kings appointed nobles to high ranking positions, Henry VIII appointed commoners to high ranking positions. He did not care if his ministers were nobles or commoners. As long as they ran his kingdom and made him rich, he was happy as a clam. Before divorcing Katherine of Aragon, the first half of Henry’s marriage to her was very happy. Before he became a tyrant, many thought of Henry VIII as the brightest and most charismatic prince and king England ever knew. Thomas More once wrote that “this king is loved” and he compared the passing of Henry VII and the ascension of Henry VIII to the transition of winter to spring. If Henry VII was the winter, then Henry VIII was the spring. However, Henry VIII had one fatal flaw in his character: he could not rule himself. A king who cannot rule himself must not rule a kingdom. Still, I am curious and interested in Henry VIII’s early reign as a young king. I will be basing aspects of one my main fantasy characters’ reigns on the early reign of Henry VIII. This way, we could see what kind of king Henry VIII could have been if he could rule himself.
I found another collection of medieval documentaries that talk about the earliest knights in the tenth century Holy Roman Empire. Back in those days, some knights would start out as peasants who were called to war by the king. If the peasants achieved great deeds in battle, they were elevated into the nobility with lands, titles, and wealth. While later knights were mostly raised from the nobility, the first knights became nobles due to their own merits. In addition to knights raised from the peasants, there were knights who were born nobles and inherited everything from their fathers. The first tournaments were more brutal and less fancy than later ones because deaths were common even though they were mock battles. When a knight was beaten into submission, the victor claimed their foes and their armor for ransom. When the ransom was paid, these knights would share it amongst others. They were generous mainly for two reasons. First, sharing one’s winnings with other knights, strengthened bonds between them and formed alliances. Second, it made the peasants more willing to work for this knight. Apart from real wars and tournaments, the first knights also engaged in private skirmishes to settle disputes between them. Knights who lost their lands and wealth became robber knights who plundered and pillaged. I am thinking of basing the knights in my new fantasy works on these early knights because the fall of the various monarchies make many knights fall from grace and become less civil.