Great news! I discovered that my local museum, the Bowers Museum, will be exhibiting medieval weapons and armor all the way from Florence, Italy. This is just the kind of exhibit I would like to see. I am checking off the days on the calendar as the big day draws near. I will keep you updated on this new development.
One of the major battles of the Scottish War of Independence was the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Many of you would recall the Battle of Stirling in the film Braveheart, but the actual battle was much different in real life. Instead of an open field, the Battle of Stirling Bridge took place on a bridge in a marshy landscape. When the English marched north to quell the Scottish rebellion, the only way to northern Scotland was by crossing Stirling Bridge. The normal rules of engagement of the time required the Scots to let the English to march their entire army over the bridge and form ranks afterwards. However, if the Scots did this, the English would win so the Scots did not wait for the entire English army to cross the bridge. Once about half the English army was over the bridge, the Scots deployed the schiltron spear wall formation and started mowing down the English. Because they were caught off guard and were facing a tactic they never experienced before, the English had no way to counter the Scottish schiltron, resulting in massive casualties on the English side. When it became clear they were about to be annihilated, the English fled for their lives back over the bridge only to run into their comrades marching behind them. This collision of bodies caused the bridge to collapse and many English knights, horses, and men-at-arms fell into the river. Because the water was deep and the beaches were muddy and marshy, the English soldiers were weighed down by their heavy armor and sank to their deaths. By the time the battle was over, the English lost more than half their army. Among the dead was Edward I’s hated tax collector. This tax collector was so hated by the Scots that they each cut off a piece of him to take home as a souvenir. For instance, William Wallace flayed a strip of the tax collector’s skin from head to heel to be made into a sword belt. This battle was a significant boost in morale for the Scots and earned William Wallace the title Guardian of Scotland, which made him king in all but name. I am thinking of drawing inspiration from the Battle of Stirling Bridge for my spin-off fantasy series.
During the reigns of Henry III and Edward II, there were families who acted as enforcers to the king. For Henry III, his enforcers were his half-brothers the Lusignans. For Edward II, his enforcers were the Despensers. Both kings made these families their enforcers in exchange for being allowed to do whatever they wanted. Eventually, their brutality and greed created all-out chaos throughout England. The Lusignans fled for their lives from rebellious barons while the Despeners were hung, beheaded, castrated, drawn and quartered. I am thinking of basing some characters after these two families in my third fantasy book and their lust for power will result in civil war.
Simon De Montfort was a French knight who was given lands and titles by King Henry III of England. Henry III thought Simon De Montfort was the kind of man who could make the tough choices that he never could. However, Simon led a rebellion against the king and briefly made the barons more powerful than the monarchy. This resulted in the groundwork for what would eventually become Parliament. Henry was not strong enough to regain control of his kingdom on his own. However, Henry III’s son and heir, the future Edward I AKA Longshanks, led the assault to take De Montfort down. Eventually, Longshanks defeated De Montfort and had his body desecrated to send a warning to anyone who would dare defy the crown. Thanks to his son, Henry III regained control of his kingdom, but had to yield to the demands of Magna Carta forever. I am thinking of basing a rebellious noble after Simon De Montfort in the third volume of my fantasy series.
As I delve into my medieval research, I reach an undeniable conclusion. The medieval world was a savage world that bred savage people. It was not called the Dark Ages for nothing. Countless atrocities of all kinds were common place, pestilence and famine ravaged the land, religious zealots hounded and persecuted people they feared and hated, kings and lords always extorted the populace and betrayed one another for their own gain, and there was a nearly constant state of war when peacetime was very short-lived. When I write my fantasy series, I try to make the story as close to these dark standards as I can because it feels more real than the fairy tales we were told as children.
Piers Gaveston was a close companion of King Edward II of England. He was a skilled knight and tournaments star, but he was hated by both the nobles and Edward’s father Edward I AKA Longshanks. When Longshanks ruled, Gaveston was banished, but when Longshanks died, Edward II ordered him back to be with him. Gaveston gained a well-deserved reputation for calling many of the nobles bad names, which made them hate him even more. During Edward’s wedding with Isabella of France, Gaveston dined with Edward and wore royal purple, which was a color that only the king was allowed to wear. After seeing this, many nobles wanted to kill Gaveston on the spot. Eventually, they did kill him under the orders of Edward II’s cousin Thomas of Lancaster. This caused Edward II to seek vengeance against all the nobles involved in Gaveston’s murder. I am thinking of including a character who would be similar to Piers Gaveston in the third volume of my fantasy trilogy.
In 1381, the peasants of England revolted against the government due to unpopular tax laws. The nobles believed the peasants were disorganized and uneducated rabble, but the truth was the exact opposite. As a result, the rebels seized control of London and murdered many nobles and political figures. However, the peasants did not blame the current king, Richard II, for their problems. Instead, they blamed Richard’s advisors such as his uncle John of Gaunt. At the time, Richard II was only a 14 year old boy, which gave the peasants the impression that he was being controlled by his advisors. Eventually, Richard rode out to meet the rebel leaders and told them to follow him to Clerkenwell Fields. Believing the king was about to give them the freedom they longed for, the peasants obeyed Richard. Shortly afterwards, Richard’s surviving nobles mustered their remaining forces and surrounded the rebels, displaying the head of their leader on a spike. With this, the rebels lost their morale and surrendered to Richard II. Later, Richard sent his forces to exterminate any rebel remnants that remained and the status quo that the peasants hoped for was gone. I am thinking of including something similar in the reign of the main character of my third fantasy book.