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.
I have a very low opinion of Thomas Becket. He started out as the best friend and right hand man of King Henry II. However, once he became the Archbishop of Cantebury, Becket started defying the monarchy for seven years. He became so popular as a religious figure that he could instigate a rebellion against the monarchy if he wanted to. When Henry II had his eldest son crowned king-in-waiting, Becket excommunicated every priest involved in the coronation. I can’t blame Henry II for not inviting Becket for his son’s coronation. Because Becket spent so many years defying the crown’s authority, he pretty much undermined the monarchy’s trust in Cantebury.
For a priest, Becket was a hypocrite. Henry II was his best friend and he betrayed him. In Dante’s Inferno, the deepest and coldest circle of Hell represented Treachery. Also, Becket was arrogant in thinking that his status as Archbishop would give him the right to do whatever he wanted without consequences. Among the Seven Deadly Sins is the sin of Pride, which Becket clearly submitted to. He is an example of hateful zealots who think everything they say or do is in God’s name. In the end, Becket paid for his arrogance and zealotry with his life. When you betray your friend and defy the government for so long, sooner or later the consequences of such actions will catch up to you. Becket deserved what he got. Did he honestly think that he could challenge a king’s authority and expect there to be no price to pay?
In general, Thomas Becket is a prime example of why religion and politics must NEVER be mixed together. When the public cannot differentiate one from the other, the result is chaos. By undermining the monarchy’s authority, Becket was essentially undermining the credibility of the government as a whole. In modern times, such people would be called anarchists or extremists.
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.
For now, I believe I have acquired enough knowledge of medieval battles, wars, and individuals for a while. Tonight, I will begin watching a series of documentaries that talk about several medieval castles. By learning about the history of castles such as the politics and everyday life, I am hoping to gain a better idea of what it is like to live inside of a castle. I will keep you updated on any developments.
At the museum, I saw a wide variety of different medieval weapons. There were pollards that ranged from billhooks to halberds, crossbows, stiletto daggers, sabers that ranged from sabers to schiavonas, normal swords that ranged from claymores to longswords, strange swords that ranged from hunting swords to katzbalgers, and even smallswords like Arya Stark’s Needle were there. It was a combination between a gallery to an armory. Many of these weapons I included in my fantasy series and I plan to include several more in future works. I was like a kid in a candy store because these rooms were a goldmine of inspiration.
At the museum, I saw all kinds of medieval armor that ranged from plate armor to chainmail. Some of the armor was fluted, others were trimmed with gold, and a few were forged into segmented scale plates. I included some of these designs in my fantasy series and I plan to include more of them in future works. It was like walking through a gallery full of superhero suits.