Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Medieval King's Place In History

There's a wonderful book entitled "A Great And Terrible King" which portrays the life of King Edward I of England in great detail, especially his relationships with people around him from his father to his brother, his wife and many others. One interesting thing that came out of the book, however, was just how close he came to death when still relatively young. It was in 1272 during his crusade to 'the Holy Land' (Edward was 33 years of age) that he was attacked by a supposed messenger who turned out to be an assassin. Edward was stabbed in the arm with what was believed to be a poison dagger and how he survived, particularly so far away from home, is quite amazing.

How different history would have played out if he had died at that time. It was well before his encounters with William Wallace and Robert The Bruce so there might never have been the Battle of Stirling Bridge or the ransacking of York and he would have never been known by the nickname 'Hammer Of The Scots'.

Then there are the wonderful medieval castles that Edward had built - some of the finest medieval castles in the world. Perhaps none of those would have ever come into existence if he had died earlier. Another of Edward's significant achievements in later years - the reforms of the institution of the English Parliament - would also never have taken place so the British parliamentary and judiciary process might well have evolved into something other than what we know today.

The most significant thing of all is that, if Edward had died on the crusade then his son who became King Edward II would never have been born and the royal line of accession would have been entirely different as a result. It goes to show how world history can change with just one event.

Read more about the medieval crusades and medieval kings and queens

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

300 Steps From Scones To A Medieval Priory

These steps are not the stone kind that you have to walk up ... no, they are footsteps.

I measured the walk from the Lanercost Tea Rooms (they serve great scones there!) to the front door of Lanercost Priory and it took me exactly 300 footsteps.

An incredible round number which, if nothing else, just shows how close you can be to medieval history when you're out for tea and scones!

Yes, there's a latte in the picture too - they serve a good one :)

** Watch a video clip of Lanercost Priory **

** Read about Lanercost holiday cottages **

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Best Of The Web On The BBC -

This last week has been incredibly exciting for us here at We have received many complimentary emails from medieval history fans as well as requests from castle owners to be considered for inclusion in the site - and all because of the BBC.

On 1 May the BBC's flagship technology program 'Click' did a review of "Best Of The Web". Their reviewer Kate Russell selected 4 websites .... just 4 from the 1 trillion unique URLs* that currently exist on the Web. Out of those 4, one was on medieval castles - and it was! If you missed the tv show just follow the link to watch the tv clip.

Kate was very flattering to the site and gave it the kind of review that money cannot buy. Here's a line extracted from her comments:
"This site is a must for architecture and history fans alike"

All we can say is 'Thank you Kate' - your endorsement restores our faith in reviewers. (Well, let's face it there are some real cynics out there when it comes to reviewing websites!) The reaction from the public too has been equally strong. There are clearly many, many people out there who love medieval history and in particular medieval castles and that's great news in this day and age. History is truly alive and kicking!

For our part we take all of this as a thumbs up for the further development of the site. So please keep revisiting to see what's next on the agenda.

* = this is according to Google who in July 2008 claimed to have seen a trillion unique URLs. Moreover, the number of web pages is, they claim, growing by several billion per day! Read more:

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

From Medieval Mercenaries To Da Vinci

It's so strange how time and again medieval history and modern life come together.

Recently we have been reading "The Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson. The story is enchanting and covers 700 years of history. So not much different than many romances? Oh, but this book introduced us to a very interesting term - "Condotta". In the book it's used to refer to bands of 14th century mercenary soldiers, principally Italian (with cross bows), who were available for hire across the fledgling German states.

So what can we find out about this term? Well, Wikipedia uses the term "Condottieri" as opposed to "Condotta". This is because the condottieri were the actual leaders of the condotta bands of mercenaries. The Wiki page in itself is fascinating reading - full of historical notes and very well written.

So where to next? Well, bizarrely we found this page which talks about toy soldiers recreating the Condotta but it as at the bottom of this page that the real surprise comes ... for this links takes you to a page about Leonardo da Vinci and how he might have created a Condotta. It is a wonderful piece of fantasy, essentially dealing with the idea of what could have happened if the Duke of Milan had developed some of Leonardo's ideas for warfare machines. The wonderful sketches that Leonardo left to posterity are evidence enough of his genius for invention - designs for tanks, assault chariots, flying machines and even helicopters!

Incredibly interesting how spotting an unusual term can take you on a journey through history, across different countries and from war through to great art. Such is the true power of language!

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