The Development of Castles in Britain (Part 1)

Ah, the castles of England…

Just History Posts

Today we are very lucky to have a guest author! Simon Forder, a writer, researcher and historian who specialises in castles, has written a great introductory post about their origins in Britain. Starting in the Norman period, he explores what different types of castles appeared in Britain after the conquest, and just how original they may have been. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, or via his website. Over to you, Simon!

DSC_05602155Motte at Twmbarlwm, South Wales; late 11th/early 12th century. Picture taken by Simon.

Castles appear in many guises to us. Once massively dominant structures in the medieval landscape, they are inspirational reminders of our past, enabling the visitor to wonder and imagine the splendours of a bygone age. However, in most cases today they are sad remnants of their former glory, often little more than humps and bumps in the landscape.

Britain has a…

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The Reversible Mask by Loretta Goldberg

Set in various parts of Europe in the 16th century

Sir Edward Latham, middle-grade courtier is torn between his adherence to his faith (Catholic) and his loyalty to Queen Elizabeth (Protestant). His answer to this dilemma is to accept his cousin, Lord Darnley’s invitation to go to Scotland and serve his wife Mary, Queen of Scots (Catholic). After the murder of her husband, Mary sends him to the Duc de Guise in France to raise funds for her. Latham becomes a liaison between Guise and the Spanish Ambassador and eventually ends up in Spanish service as a spy. This career takes him to other countries, the most interesting of which is a glimpse into the Divine Porte, where he takes a Turkish lover (Islamic) and learns that different faiths can live in harmony.

The best of the supporting characters are his Turkish lover and his sidekick/agent in Lisbon, both of whom are interesting and unique. The author does a credible job of capturing the two queens, Elizabeth and Mary, in cameos. As for Latham himself, he is a fully-fleshed character, (the author allows him to tremble in fear) but I just couldn’t warm to him. I’m not sure why, perhaps only because of his way of over-analysing things – even his love affairs – which is natural enough in a spy, I suppose.

Throughout the book, Latham struggles with his divided loyalties. After a number of spying assignments, he decides to return to England and offer his services as a double agent and hope that in the near future, Catholics will be granted the right to worship openly.

There is a great deal to like in this book. The author’s knowledge of war, weapons and deployment is sufficient to lend authenticity. I particularly enjoyed reading about ‘Hellburners’. I suspected they were a fiction of the author, but a Google search informed me that they were real and used as the author described. It’s not all derring-do. It’s a story well-told and the dialogue, which can be confusing at times, has a particular ‘zing’ to it.

Recommended for those who like stories of war and the religious turmoil of the 16th century.


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