At the end of The Wolf & the Witch (and the beginning of The Hunter & the Heiress), Elizabeth has been seized by two men seeking the bounty that will be paid by her betrothed, Calum Moffatt, upon her delivery to him at Caerlaverock castle. Amaury pursues this small party from Kilderrick, with the squire Oliver, intent upon defending Elizabeth. We know that she fled this arranged marriage, but Amaury doesn’t know that part of her story yet.
Today, I thought we’d take a look at Caerlaverock castle, which is built on a site that has been fortified for centuries. There was a Roman fort on Ward Law Hill and a British hill fort around 950 AD. The site allowed a view over Solway Firth. The name Caerlaverock appears in 1160 when the lands were granted to the Cistercian monks of Holm Cultram Abbey in Cumbria (across the firth). They held and rented lands in Galloway and used stone from there to built their abbey, but their grasp on these holdings steadily eroded. Interestingly, they were attacked by Scots, including Robert the Bruce in 1319, despite the fact that his father was buried in the chapel.
The lands of Caerlaverock were granted to Sir John Maxwell in 1220 by King Alexander II, sealing its association with the Maxwell clan. Sir John Maxwell began construction on the first castle, which was square in shape with a moat, in the 1220’s. That castle and site was abandoned (possibly incomplete) in favor of a rise some 200 feet to the north, where the triangular moated castle was built by Sir Aylmer Maxwell—it was complete in 1271.
In this image, you can see the curtain walls that survive from the 14th century and the view over the Solway Firth. It’s likely that the walls were built from the stone excavated to dig the moat. The keep is also surrounded by earthworks. There are 17th century additions inside the walls called the Nithsdale Lodging.
What is interesting for my story is that the castle was besieged in July 1300 by King Edward I of England with an army of knights. Ultimately the castle was compelled to surrender, but there was a poem composed in Old French, called the Siege of Caerlaverock (or the Roll of Caerlaverock) which lists the attending knights, their credentials and standards, as well as describing the battle itself. 87 knights accompanied Edward to this battle, so it’s quite a list.
It starts like this:
In chronicles of great monasteries
It is found that King Edward the Third,
In the year one thousand three hundred
Of grace, on the day of Saint John,
Was at Carlisle, and held a great court,
And commanded that in a short time
All his men should prepare themselves,
To go together with him
Against his enemies the Scots.
Before the appointed day
The whole host summoned was ready;
And the King with his great household
Immediately set forward against the Scots,
Not in coats and surcoats,
But on powerful and costly chargers,
In order that they might not be taken by surprise,
Well and securely armed.
There was many a rich caparison
Embroidered on silks and satins;
Many a beautiful pennon fixed on a lance;
And many a banner displayed.
And afar off was the noise heard
Of the neighing of horses;
Mountains and valleys were everywhere
Covered with sumpter horses and waggons,
With provisions, and the train
Of the tents and pavilions.
And the days were fine and long,
So they proceeded by short journies,
Arranged in four squadrons;
The which I will describe to you,
That I will not pass one over.
First I will tell you of the companions,
All their arms and names,
Especially of the bannerets,
If you will listen how.
Henry the good Earl of Lincoln,
Who embraces and loves valour,
And holds i sovereign in his heart,
Leading the first squadron,
Had a banner of yellow silk
With a purple lion rampant…
(That first footnote notes that the chronicler believed Edward I to be the third Edward who had reigned over England, counting Edward the Elder and Edward the Confessor.)
In this era, the use of insignia was comparatively new and unregulated. There were already certain elements associated with royal families – fleur-de-lis for the French king, or on azure, three leopards rampant for the English king, gold on gules, and ermine for the Kings of Brittany – but many knights simply chose their colors. An incident like this one described later in the poem was thus possible:
Brian le Fitz Alan, saw I,
full of courtesy and honour,
barry gold and gules
displaying in a very splendid banner.
this the same as Hugh Pointz carried —
difference there was none at all —
which was cause of strife between them,
and a marvel to men all.
Here‘s the Wikisource of the poem, from which I took the first excerpt as it’s in the public domain. Some of the poem is presented in a side-by-side translation from the Old French to English, and there are some illustrations of the standards.
Here‘s an English translation of the text with illustrations of all the described standards at the Heraldry Society. The second excerpt came from there.
This is a fascinating chronicle for its detail, but also, in terms of story, I’m sure Amaury is familiar with it. He has a love of pageantry and heraldry, given his history of jousting in tournaments. He’s attended royal courts and heard the troubadours sing, and this poem recounting deeds of knightly valor, would certainly be one he’d find appealing. It’s evocative of the life he expected to life, and also the one Elizabeth abandoned for the sake of having her own choice. Amaury had an insignia, but of course, he was disavowed by Gaston de Vries, the man he believed to be his father, at Jean le Beau’s funeral at the beginning of The Wolf & the Witch. He had been hoping to ride to Paris to tourney (check on a stallion and a noble maiden), so I have to think he had all his trappings with him. He would have packed them away, not discarded them, because of their cost. At Caerlaverock, he will have use for them again – which means I had to design his insignia.
The Hunter & the Heiress is the second book in my Blood Brothers series and will be published in January 2022.
Nothing could be further from Amaury de Vries’ expectations than being compelled to join a company of mercenaries in the wilds of Scotland, much less one led by his notorious half-brother. He chafes to return to his former life of privilege and knows a wealthy bride will allow him to regain his stolen legacy. Elizabeth is a prize unexpected—beautiful and an heiress—and when she is abducted by barbarians, Amaury’s path is clear. He may not be the sole contender for the lady’s hand, but he knows himself to be the best one—and he will use whatever means necessary to seal his triumphant claim.
All Elizabeth D’Acron desires is to wed for love, but her inheritance has made her both a pawn and a prize. Caught between warring chieftains, her defiance blossoms—she chooses instead to flee with Amaury and make a marriage of convenience, hoping her trust in the gallant knight is not misplaced. She does not expect the beguiling fire awakened by Amaury’s touch, much less his unexpected conquest of her heart, and she dares to hope that true love has found a way.
But Elizabeth’s legacy is not so readily claimed—when Amaury’s plan is revealed, she is shattered to learn that her chivalrous husband is no different from other men. Recognizing that the true prize is his lady wife, Amaury rejoins the company of mercenaries and leads the battl to ensure Elizabeth’s freedom, whatever the cost to himself. Can these two lovers overcome the wounds of the past to build a future together? Or will the secret behind Elizabeth’s inheritance destroy any such hope forever?
Coming in January 2022!
The Hunter & the Heiress will ba availble in wide distribution for one week after publication, then it will be exclusive to Amazon and enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.
Pre-order available at some portals:
The Hunter & the Heiress will also be available in an audio edition, narrated by Tim Campbell.