Research and Notes
Research on the variety of languages used around in Medieval Wales reveals a variety of Old English, Old French, Old Scandinavian, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and largely dependant on ethnic group/tribe and migration factors. Modern Welsh emerged from Insular Celtic – Brythonic, Goidelic (Gaelic). In England, Anglo-Saxon, originally influenced by Celtic and Latin and Norse or Old Scandinavian spoken by Vikings arriving in England in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries, transformed into Old English. In the late 1200’s Norman French was still popular in Henry III’s court, but the English of the Welsh Marches would have spoken predominately Middle English. For these reasons I have taken small licence with the people’s vernacular during this time period.
In my book, Rhuddlan, I have taken licence with people’s premature knowledge of the Black Death on the continents in 1312AD. In truth, little was established of the Black Death prior to 1320AD where the disease started in the Gobi desert of Mongolia from where it spread with frightening haste throughout the trade routes of Asia. It was around then; travelling rapidly across Europe and did not arrive in England until 1348AD. By 1349, almost every township and village in Britain had been affected and it killed approximately 25 million people—a quarter of the European population.
Rhuddlan and Conwy Castles
For the purpose of the story, I have altered the time of construction, history and occupation and of Rhuddlan and Conwy castles during this time to infer Welsh origin. Rhuddlan and Conwy were in fact built by English King Edward I, in his late 13th century campaigns against the Welsh. Rhuddlan itself first appears in recorded history in the late eighth century. Rhuddlan castle was built in 1277 to 1282. In 1284, the castle had an influential role in the history of Welsh and English associations when the Statute of Rhuddlan was issued. Conwy would have to be the most magnificent of King Edward I’s Welsh strongholds, with an uncomplicated in design. Conwy’s massive military strength comes from the rock on which it stands. Towering walls and vast round towers give the castle an intimidating presence which has been largely untroubled by the passage of time. Views from the battlements are grand; beyond mountains and sea down to the castles massive Great Hall, and of the town walls. Conwy’s circuit of walls are over three quarters of a mile long and guarded by no less than 22 towers and is one of the finest strongholds in the World.
Rhys ap Gruffudd – ruler of Deheubarth.
Despite that my Rhys Gruffydd was not based upon any Welsh historical authenticities such as Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, I am compelled to mention the inspiration from this remarkable Welsh ruler—Lord Rhys 1132 – 1197 Rhys ap Gruffudd or the Lord Rhys was the last of the rulers of Deheubarth. He established his power at the expense of the marcher lords of south-west Wales, several of whom eventually left Deheubarth to join the Norman invasion of Ireland. In 1171, Henry II recognised him as the justiciar of south Wales. A man of vast approvals, he was a patron of the Cistercian order and in 1174 presided over a cultural gathering at Cardigan and which is considered to be the first recorded example of an eisteddfod. Following the deaths of Madog ap Maredudd and Owain Gwynedd, he was by far the most prominent of the native rulers of Wales. His last years were clouded by disputes among his sons, and which greatly affected Deheubarth following his death.
Samhain, All Souls and All Saints Day
Samhain marks one of the two great days of the Celtic year. The Celts divided the year into two seasons: light and dark; Beltane—May 1st; Samhain—November 1st. Samhain marked the commencement of a complete new cycle. Samhain literally means “summer’s end.” In Scotland and Ireland, Halloween is known as Oíche Shamhna, while in Wales it is Nos Calan Gaeaf, the eve of the winter’s calend.
With conversion to Christianity, Samhain was made: Hallowmas, or All Saints’ Day, to commemorate the souls of the blessed dead who had been canonized that year. Thus the night before became known as Halloween, All Hallows Eve, or Hollantide. November 2nd became All Souls Day, when prayers were to be offered to the souls of all the departed and those who were waiting in Purgatory for entry into Heaven. Throughout the centuries pagan and Christian philosophies intertwine in an array of celebratory events from October 31st through to November 5th. The verse in the beginning of Chapter eight is an extract from a medieval (Pagan) wedding ceremony – an elemental rite.
Edward II ruled from 1307-28 and was thought to be ineffectual and frivolous by his father and his people. He was thought to be largely under the influence of his favourites, especially the Gascon squire, Piers Gaveston, and later Hugh le Despenser and his son. Edward II was not politically astute or militarily capable lost many strongholds taken by Edward I during his campaigns. He struggled with troubled barons, who strongly objected to the influence of Piers Gaveston as he was widely considered the king’s lover. During 1312, the barons seized and executed Gaveston in
Kenilworth. Edward II’s wife, Isabella, (daughter of Philip IV of France), left Edward, and took their son; (the future Edward III), to France.