Margie Lawson

Make your writing soar


Fantastic Castles and Horrible Hovels

Castles cover the landscape of Europe. Many have lasted because they are built of stone, but it takes some imagination to see how they looked when they were the homes of the wealthy and powerful. Wherefore this course.

A castle was a fortified structure, the home and administrative centre of a magnate (great man) or king, and the garrison meant to protect them. Few women lived in a castle except for the castellan's wife, daughters, and a few female servitors including the laundresses.

William the Conqueror used motte-and-bailery castles, wooden towers built on an artificial mound, and successfully held England after the battle of Hastings. Why didn’t he built stone castles right at the start?

Even when castles were no longer deemed necessary, the great houses resembled castles with battlements, towers, turrets and curtain walls. What made them vulnerable to siege weapons? In other words, what was the real thing?

This course concentrates on the castles of Britain and the people who inhabited them: lords and ladies, their servitors and dependents. Self-quizzes and simple research projects to generate story ideas are optional. Discussion and questions are encouraged, but lurkers are also welcome.

You will learn about:

The Motte-and-bailey castles
The evolution of castles
How to besiege or defend a castle
A castle’s inhabitants
Manor Houses
Great Houses
Villages & Towns

Who should take this course:

Writers who are writing novels set in the Middle Ages
Writers who want to understand medieval society
Writers who want to understand castles
Writers who love the Plantagenets & the Tudors
Writers who want to write authentic novels

Course Overview:

Lesson One:

  1. The Normans
  2. The Norman Conquest
  3. Motte-and-bailey Castles
  4. Early Stone Castles
  5. The Twelfth Century Castle

Lesson Two:

  1. Transitional Castles
  2. Castles without Keeps
  3. Manors
  4. Furniture & Furnishings

Lesson Three:

  1. Medieval Kingship
  2. Kings of England
  3. Magnates (great men)
    • Feudalism
    • Barons
    • Justice
    • Hospitality
  4. Knights
    • Origins & Definitions
    • Hospitallers & Templars
    • Dubbing
    • Clothing
    • Lambert of Ardres and William Marshall
  5. Medieval Households
    • The Riding Household
    • Noble Attendants & Non-noble Servitors
    • The Staff of a castle
    • Payments for Service

Lesson Four:

  1. Medieval Womanhood
  2. Courtly Love & Troubadours
  3. Marriage
  4. Children
  5. The Nunnery
  6. Clothing
  7. Strong Women

Lesson Five:

  1. Hospitality & Feasts
    • The Greeting
    • The Banquet
    • Manners
    • Entertainment
    • Gifts
  2. Hunting
    • Gaston Phébus
    • Hounds
    • Prey
    • The Ritual
    • Hawking
  3. Travel
    • A Great Household on the Move
    • Pilgrimage
  4. Calendar of Feast Days

Lesson Six:

  1. Tournaments
    • Rational
    • Prohibition
    • The Vesper
    • The Mêlée
    • The Knights of the Round Table
    • The Ladies
    • Training
  2. Armour & Weapons
    • 11th century
    • 12th century
    • 13th century
  3. Heraldry
  4. War
  5. Siege
  6. Mercenaries


Sharron Gunn writing as Sheila Currie

Sheila Currie lives in a world of thousands of books, fiction and non-fiction. Visiting friends worry about avalanches.

She was born on the east coast of Canada where there are many other people whose families came from Scotland and Ireland. Her love of those countries led her to study in Nova Scotia, Canada and then in Scotland where she obtained an M.A. in Scottish History and Celtic Studies from the University of Glasgow. She was fortunate enough to have a summer job selling Gaelic books door-to-door in the West Highlands and Islands. She went from one cup of tea to the next–a wonderful opportunity to talk to local people and hear their stories. 

She has taught history and Gaelic at university and for Hearts Through History Romance Writers. At long last she has published The Banshee of Castle Muirn, the first book of a trilogy–set in magic and historical Scotland.




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