I fell in love with Welsh Castles while researching my debut novel, DawnSinger, book one of Tales of Faeraven. A novel written in the epic fantasy genre would not seem to require much research, but I base its world on 13th-Century Europe.
The inspiration for one of my fictional locations was Castle Conway (Conway), which guards the mouth of the River Gyffin. My first virtual glimpse of this monolithe stunned me. In the picture it didn’t look real, towering above miniscule cars parked beside it. I pored over images and tourist videos alike, utterly smitten. Here’s the picture that hooked me:
Castle Conwy © Cadw. Crown Copyright
King Edward I of England had the castle built between 1283-87 by James of St. George. Its masterful design makes the construction of Castle Conwy one of the highest achievements of medieval military architecture. It, and a string of castles were erected to subdue the Welsh in a brutal era.
Contrasted against the cruelty of the age in which they lived, the love story of King Edward I and his child bride, Eleanor of Castile, blossomed like a tender rose among thorns. Theirs was a marriage of political convenience, made when Edward was 15 and Eleanor somewhere between 9 and 13 years old (her birth date remains uncertain). Although they married early, they lived apart and did not consummate the marriage until Eleanor was probably in her late teens. In the years that followed, their marriage of convenience grew into a union of love marked by fidelity.
Edward was one of the few kings of his time who did not take a mistress. He and Eleanor were inseparable. When Edward visited the Holy Land during the Eight Crusade, he brought Eleanor along, and she delivered a daughter (Joanna of Acre) in a tent. Altogether, the couple had 15 or 16 children, many who did not survive childhood.
Eleanor and Edward were crowned King and Queen of England in August 1274, following the death of Henry III. Eleanor would live just 15 more years. While traveling to join her husband in the city of Lincoln in late fall of 1290, she grew ill, probably with quartan fever. She had to halt her journey just 10 miles from her destination, where she died with Edward at her bedside.
Edward accompanied his wife’s body to its burial in Westminster Abbey. At each place that her remains rested along the way, he erected “Eleanor Crosses,” elaborate stone monuments in her memory. In all, 12 crosses stood at Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddingston, Northampton, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans, Waltham, Westcheap and Charing. Today only three Eleanor Crosses survive. All have lost the tall crosses they bore, but the lower stages remain. The best of the three (and the only one still in its original location) is at Geddington.
Many years after Eleanor’s death, Edward spoke of her as she “whom living we dearly cherished, and whom dead we cannot cease to love.” Although he eventually remarried, he continued to honor Eleanor’s memory until his own death in 1307.
©2011 Janalyn Voigt
The Geddington Cross
Edward I as depicted in Cassell’s History of England (c.1902)
Eleanor of Castile as depicted in Cassell’s History of England (c.1902)
©2013 by Janalyn Voigt
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