Wednesday, 2 April 2014

C is for Castles


http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

My goal here is to provide some glimpses of medieval history that might be useful for writers. Today I want to talk about castles. Castles weren’t one thing. They came in all kinds of shapes and sizes, from simple fortified keeps to motte and bailey constructions, through multiple concentric rings of defences, to the over-elaborate fantasies of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria. Commonly, we tend to think of castles as a Norman introduction to Britain, and they certainly made the most of them. Yet if we think of a castle as simply a fortification with some living space, we have forts dating back to the Romans and before.

 

What were castles for? Defence is an obvious answer, but actually, there are many examples of country houses with castle-y features like moats or crenulations, but which would never function defensively. They might be overlooked, or lacking in real walls, or any one of a dozen other things. In these cases, castles were more about projecting authority and status. They were a big staple in the countryside, saying “I own this”. They were also a way of saying that the owner was of a level of nobility that allowed them to build castles.

 

Some kings required the building of castles (religious institutions only sometimes being exempt from the obligation), while others required licenses to build them. For a writer, that could provide a useful source of ongoing disputes with authority, if you need them. At the very least, you should consider doing something more than just a big ring of walls with a tower the next time you need a castle.

10 comments:

mshatch said...

castles are so interesting; I'd love to take a castle tour vacation, but it would have to include Mad Ludwig's place - that place is fantastic.

Donna Hole said...

I always thought of a castle as a family statement. Towers are authoritative. A well run castle is a community effort though.

Ah, I wish I lived in a castle - with central heating and air, of course.

....dhole

Rusty Carl said...

Good to know. Went to Nashville a couple of times in the past few weeks. Someone just south of the city has built a small castle there. It is impressive. Makes me think anyone rich enough to build a real one probably already had some political clout. Probably.

J.L. Campbell said...

Interesting. Hadn't thought about castles as a status symbol, but that's what they are in part. Totally understand the security factor.

J.L. Campbell writes at The Character Depot
and the Jamaican Kid Lit Blog.

Huntress said...

One journey I'd love to take is a tour of UK's castles. Then onto Europe, :)

Brenda Williamson said...

Thanks for sharing the useful facts about castles.


Brenda

www.AnEclecticAuthor.blogspot.com

Patrick Stahl said...

I think the most difficult part of writing about a castle is making your bailey realistic and exciting, especially if your characters spend several pages walking through it to get to the keep or palace.

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

My characters have spent time walking the corridors of a castle. I'm sure I've been vague enough not to offend anyone.

Deena Rae ebookbuilders said...

Great post for the #AtoZChallenge.

I would love to go to Scotland, Britain and the rest Europe to visit the castles there.

Millie Burns said...

Hello A to Z neighbor, you just gained a new follower : ) I love castles looking forward to plowing through all your posts to glean some knowledge!