This weekend marks the 720th anniversary of the siege of Caerlaverock, one of the key moments in the Wars of Scottish Independence.
Edward I of England, known as Longshanks, laid siege to the castle, the family stronghold of the Maxwell family, for two days but was beaten back several times. Despite more than 3000 English soldiers on the outside, just over 60 castle dwellers held out valiantly against arrows and siege engines until they were finally forced to surrender.
The siege was documented in a heraldic poem that survives to this day, which served as the principal source for Barbara Henderson’s new historic novel The Siege of Caerlaveock which will be released early next month. She said: “It was so exciting to know that the poem’s words were written by an eyewitness, even though he was far from impartial. He was a court poet travelling with the king and wrote in the fashionable French language. Nevertheless there were many hints about what might be going on inside the castle which really fuelled my imagination.”
Barbara specialises in historical and eco fiction for children and her books are widely studied in Scottish primary schools. Based in Inverness, she is best known for her Highland Clearances novel Fir for Luck, which reached Number one on the Amazon bestseller chart in 2016, and her Dumfries and Annan-set smuggling novella Black Water featuring the poet Robert Burns.
The Siege of Caerlaverock is her fifth book, and was inspired by her own visits to the castle with her family. She said: “It’s such a David and Goliath tale. With William Wallace in hiding at the time, these were such uncertain times along the border.
“Telling the story from a girl’s point of view adds something unusual too – so many castle stories are aimed only at boys, with lower status female characters all but invisible. I’m glad to have been able to redress that balance a little.”