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CASTLES | Claire Caterer


Click to see a few of Britain’s medieval-era castles open to visitors.
The links in the captions will tell you more about each magnificent fortress.
(Images used by permission of copyright holders.)


What had looked like a toy from the valley now seemed more like a prison.
“It’s a fortress,” said Everett. “Not a fairy tale.”
                                                      —The Key & the Flame


Claire Caterer

When Holly finds herself in the world of Anglielle, some things are very different … and some are quite familiar. Yawning above the fictional village of Hawkesbury in England are the ruins of a long-forgotten castle, but in Anglielle, the castle is new, strong, and ruled by a ruthless king.

Hundreds of castles like these were built in Britain between 1066 and around 1400 AD. Today, dozens of them still remain and are open to visitors. Although scattered throughout Britain, the greatest numbers are found along the borders and coasts of South and North Wales and in southern Scotland. These territories were the sites of many fierce battles throughout the Middle Ages.


Life in a Castle
A castle was designed to keep its lord, his family, and his servants safe in times of war. If the castle was attacked, the lord and lady could retreat to the inner keep, which was a fortified structure protected by the castle’s outer walls. For this reason, the keep was stocked with food and water to withstand a long siege by an invading army. Bathrooms—sometimes just a latrine in the floor—were indoors, but generally not very pleasant, because castles weren’t equipped with sewer pipes to carry wastewater away from castle grounds. Some castles had basins called lavabos built into the walls. (Ben uses one of these to wash up after he and Everett are captured.) Lavabos were supplied with water from pumps or tanks above them (which had to be refilled by hand). Bathing was done in large wooden tubs like the kind Ben and Everett are obliged to use. Because heating the water took a long time, people probably didn’t bathe every day.


King Reynard’s Castle
Claire Caterer

In The Key & the Flame, King Reynard lives in a castle similar to an English castle from the early 1300s. The rooms tend to be cool, even cold, and thus are hung with tapestries both for decoration and for warmth. As a prosperous ruler, he has many servants and a large supply of livestock. The vast Northern Wood is his for hunting. While serfs (peasants) might be allowed to hunt small game here, large game like stag or boar is reserved for the lord of the castle. Poaching—which is hunting where you aren’t allowed—was considered a serious crime. The idea that Ben and Everett could be sentenced to lose a hand or even their lives is not unreasonable. These were typical punishments that the lord of the castle, especially if he were a king or baron, could dole out as he saw fit.

In times of peace and plenty, feasting and tournaments were a nobleman’s entertainment. To keep knights in shape and competitive, tournaments were held to test their skills. Real tournaments were very similar to the one you can read about in The Key & the Flame. Read more about real knights and jousting on this page.

To learn more about real medieval castles and see photographs of how they look today, visit www.castles-of-britain.com.


Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph & Frances Gies (Harper Perennial, 1979)
The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook to Visitors to the Fourteenth Century

by Ian Mortimer (Touchstone, 2011)
Castle (DK Eyewitness Books) by Christopher Gravett (DK Children, 2008)


photos: top, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland; bottom, Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, England; both © Can Stock Photos, used by permission. slide show: Cardiff, Skipton, Stirling: © Can Stock; Dunluce: © Eva Schuster/stock.xchng; Glamis: © Can Stock/Ruth Black; Malahide: © Mette Finderup/stock.xchng; Pembroke: © Christopher Mazzoli/stock.xchng; Warkworth: ©stock.xchng; Warwick: © Tim Rogers/stock.xchng; Windsor: © Filipe Samora/stock.xchng


text © 2012-2013 by Claire M. Caterer


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