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.
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.
I discovered something interesting about Henry VIII’s armor. His armor was used as inspiration by NASA to create the earliest space suits.
I like the design of this war hammer from Forged In Fire because not only did it have beautiful aesthetic, but it could be wielded with either one or both hands. I am thinking of making my new main characters’ initial main weapon to be a war hammer much like this one in my fantasy book. The only difference would be the hammer and spike would not be made from Damascus Steel. My main character would often use his war hammer in one hand and a dagger in the other.
An interesting medieval weapon I came across was the crow-bill. It was a pickaxe-like weapon that used its spike to puncture armor like the spike of a war hammer does. I am planning to make this the weapon of choice for one of the characters in my new fantasy book.