Book Inspiration: Raglan Castle

Book Inspiration: Raglan Castle

Originally posted April 17, 2019
An artist’s impression of Raglan Castle cir 1620
Intellectual Property Office © Crown copyright 2015

A velvety wash of twilight purple cloaked the skies from one horizon to the other as our train of horses and palanquins traversed the sloping causeway into Croilton Castle, the ancestral home of the barons of Cilgaron. Royal pennants snapped in the rising winds carrying the tang of the oncoming rains, the musky yet fresh scent of moist air enveloping us as we reached the great gate. I thanked the gods that we arrived to the safety of this bastion just ahead of the downpour.

– The King’s Furies, chapter 37

There is no secret that my books feel more historical than fantasy despite the fantasy label. As a way to help the authentic feel of the place settings and cultures in my books, I do research. One of the ‘characters’ in The King’s Furies which is not a person is my imagined Croilton Castle. Even though my Croilton is imaginary, I based it very closely on a real castle: Raglan Castle, a Welsh castle north of the village of Raglan in the county of Monmouthshire in south east Wales.

While it did manage to hold off Parliamentarian forces for 13 weeks at the end of the English Civil War, Raglan Castle was built to impress rather than defend. Begun in the 1430s, Raglan was an oddity at the end of the castle age, nearly 150 years beyond its practical use as a militarily defensive fortification!

Massive mullioned windows and luxurious bathing rooms, along with one of Raglan’s most distinctive features — the enormous oriel window (a bay window) in the great hall which lit up the high table at the dais end of the hall — made the late-comer to the castle age quite modern.

William ap Thomas who fought with King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 is the man most often associated with the building Raglan. In 1426, ap Thomas was knighted by Henry VI, eventually gaining the nickname “the blue knight of Gwent.” Raglan Castle is also famous for being the boyhood home of Henry Tudor who, in 1485, would defeat King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, becoming King Henry VII (and the father of the more infamous Henry VIII). As a boy, Henry Tudor waited things out while his uncle Jasper plotted a Lancastrian return to the throne with the young Henry.

The Fountain Court at Raglan Castle which I renamed the Isle Court

I looked through a lot of castles to find something that had an easy layout to understand (most castles aren’t very complicated in this regard), but something that just appealed to me. When I saw the artist’s interpretation of the castle (see above), the search was over.

The Fountain Court of Raglan Castle by Ivan Lapper
‘Ann Herbert: Life in the War of the Roses’, The Historian, Spring 2014

The above artist’s impression of the Fountain Court (my Isle Court) helped me imagine scenes within my Croilton Castle as characters moved about in the story. The grand staircase leading up to the luxurious residence is in the left corner of the image.

Other modern photographs helped me envision other aspects of my imaginary castle.

*The pitched stone court upon entering through the main gate. The great hall is to the left. 
*The pitched stone court looking back through the main gate (the great hall is to the right).

A thunderous crash sounded outside the hall, indicating the storm had increased its fury. Rattling rain blew at the window behind us, shaking the very frames.

– The King’s Furies, chapter 38
The oriel window in the great hall.
The great hall. The oriel window is behind and to the right.

A person would have gone between the pitched stone court and the fountain court by progressing through the hall at this end. I imagined domestic rooms above the hall where the Lord Cilgaron and his family would have relocated after giving up their more sumptuous private rooms on the far side of the Isle Court to their visiting king.

*The great staircase on the eastern side of the Fountain Court.
Refinished stairs
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-12484035

The lord of the castle lived and slept in luxurious apartments at the top of these stairs and to the left. As was tradition, I gave these rooms over to Casmir to use during his stay.

I have visited several castles in Wales, but sadly, not Raglan. This one is most definitely on my list of places to visit in the future. I can just imagine walking through the courtyards and the remains of the building, hearing the sound of feasting, the whispered plots and schemes, and all the sights and sounds from The King’s Furies as I imagined them unfold in my imagined Croilton Castle.

*All unattributed photos were taken from http://www.castlewales.com/raglan.html

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