Christmas Crossword Puzzle – Medieval Mayhem


Well, here we are at the end of 2016! As most of our readers know, we made writing the fourth book to our series a big priority this year and so had little time for other activities. However, we decided to dive into our basket of goodies to see what we could devise for Xmas.  And here it is – A medieval crossword puzzle with entry into a prize draw for all readers who solve it!

We shall post as this year’s advent calendar, six clues daily and then four on the last days, until you have them all by December 24th. Then send us a scanned copy of your completed crossword puzzle for entry into the draw. The winner will receive a copy of one of our books, or if you have the current three, then we’ll reserve for you, one of the new release copies of book four ‘The Traitor’s Noose.’

We wish all our readers a very merry Christmas and hope you have some fun with this puzzle!

Lions and Lilies would like to thank Cathy T who manually designed the crossword – that is to say, without using one of those ‘crossword puzzle makers!’

Send a scanned copy of the completed puzzle to

Competition closes on January, Friday 13th, 2017 and winner will be drawn on Catherine and Cecile’s birthday – January 17th!

(Please note :- Due to high postal costs in Australia, a print copy will be drawn for Australian Residents only – An EBook copy will be presented via Amazon to an overseas winner)

Good luck everyone!





1              Duke of Normandy (Born 1027 – Died 1087)  (7,3,9)

7              Plague (5,5)

14           Famous meadow where a charter was signed by 17 Across


1              Name of the struggle between two houses for the English throne in 1455 – 1487 (3,2,3,5)

2              Castle in England that houses one of the four remaining copies of 99 Across

3              One of the herbs of St John, brought indoors only at the 12 days of Christmas




15     Arch Bishop of Canterbury under Richard II and under Henry  IV

16      Tender

17      Youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine


4         Author of the Canterbury Tales

5         Set of instructions laid down when entering a tournament

6         King of England (1189 – 1199) (7,3,9)




19        Victuals

20       Before you could joust you had to be able to do this well                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           21        King of France 1380 – 1422, suffered bouts of madness


8          One of the royal houses involved in 1 Down

9          Danish King of England (1016) and first Norse ruler to be accepted as a Christian King

10        Usurped Richard II for the English throne. King of England until 1412 (5,2,11)




22           Thomas Becket was murdered in this cathedral

24           Not a she

26           This series of battles was known as The  –   –   –  (7,5,3)


11           A dealer in textile fabrics

12           Point on the body where 44 Across was struck by an arrow at 21 Down

13           Vikings who settled in France became known as (6, 8)




27           Italian poet 1265 – 1321

31           A move made in fencing

32           A heraldic charge used by the vikings


18           Nowadays part of Belgium, in the Middle Ages this city was the capital of Flanders

21           Famous English battle in 1066

23           The other royal house involved in 1 Down





33           Wheel indentation in the roads

34           First King of England with this name ascended the English throne in  1272

35           The first born of a king


25           Count of Blois, King of England (1135 – 1154)

28           Son of Charles VII of France, grandson to 21 Across. King of France 1461 – 1483                          (name + number)

29           French royal house that reigned from 1328 – 1589 replacing the Capetian line




37          Viking who colonised Greenland

38          Mischievous demon in folklore

42          An impression in a piece of wax


30          16th Earl of Warwick known as ‘The Kingmaker’. His daughters married 90 Down and 82 Across

36          Won the English throne at the Battle of Towton. (name + number)

39          Archers on horseback were known as this type of infantry




44           Last Anglo Saxon King of England (1022 – 1066)

45           Birthplace of 87 Down was Domremy, a small village in the province of ——-

47           Farm animal


40           To decompose

41           Daughter of 36 Down, married 106 Across in order to bring an end to 1 Down

42           Commoner




48          What every fighter wants to do

49          A combination of this and strength made a formidable fighter

50          To house 47 Across


43          Not ‘out’

46          Sad song

52          The two sons of 36 Down became known as this when 82 Across took them into custody


DEC 10


51           Ammunition shot from bows (singular)

53           Luxury condiment used on the high table

57           Traditional name of Highland outlaw from Clan McGregor (1671 – 1734)


54           Arable land sown with legumes or grass; pastureland

55           The King known as Longshanks

56           Region of France with Dijon as its capital. Sported many famous Dukes


DEC 11


58          Oneself

60          Ointment

61          Religious ceremonial act


59          Royal house of England that took the throne from 82 Across – surname of 106 Across

63          This building in Paris has been an arsenal, fortress, a royal residence, prison and museum

67          Cease


DEC 12


62           Used widely in food preparation

63           Most battles were fought in order to possess more of this

64           To sharpen the blades of swords


68           A circular band of metal

73           Lover of Queen Isabella of France, wife to Edward II (first name)

75           Type of bow


DEC 13


65          An early Scottish/English rank between Earl and Freeman who holds lands for the king

66          Archaic form of do

69          Wife of Henry Plantagenet


77          Victor of 96 Down (name and number)

79          Singular

82          A heraldic device


DEC 14


70           118 Across is one of these

71           Archaic form of does

72           Plaid


83           Gascon family name who supported 87 Down. It became the name of the political party opposing the English

84           King of France 1137 – 1180 and married Eleanor of Aquitaine (name + number)

85           Surname of one of Henry VIII’s wives


DEC 15


74          Birthplace of brother to the Black Prince. Father to 10 Down

76          English version of French word ‘non’

78          Peasants are usually (and sometimes wrongly) depicted covered in this


86          Nickname of 17 Across because he received no major feoff from his father

87          17-year-old warrior who led the French against the English

88          Resin


DEC 16


80           The handle of a sword

81           Scottish version of ‘John’

82           Brother to 36 Down. Depicted by Shakespeare as a hunchback (Name + number)


89           Royal house to ascend the English throne in 1154

90           Brother to 36 Down – George, Duke of ——– supposedly drowned in a vat of wine

93           King of Scotland 1406 – 1437 (name + number)


DEC 17


83          Two letter word used to indicate proximity

88          Conjunction word used to join words and phrases

89          First name of two of Henry VIII’s wives


94          87 Down was known as ‘The Maid of ——-‘

96          Decisive battle in France in 1415

101        Surname of 73 Down


DEC 18


91           A tot of rum

92           Queen of England for a total of nine days in 1553 (4,4)

95           Alcoholic beverage from molasses

97           Cathedral which houses one of the remaining four copies of 99 Across


107         The main body of a church


DEC 19


98          The metal mounting or trimming of a scabbard

99          Name of the charter signed in 14 Across (5,5)

100        To consume completely

101        Freely split in battle


109        Thrusting weapon


DEC 20


102         A member of the Indo-European people – Irish, Gaelic, Welsh & Breton

103         Alcoholic beverage from grapes

104         Precious stone

105         An arrangement of order especially in battles


110         Beheaded at the Tower of London on May 19, 1536 (surname)


DEC 21


106         Usurper of 82 Across, triumphant at the Battle of Bosworth (name + number)

108         Nowadays displayed in 63 Down

111         An inhabitant of the area south of Guyenne (Acquitaine). Musketeer D’Artagnan was one. (So are the Albrets and Armagnacs in Lions and Lilies)


112         Colour of one of the flowers in 1 Down


DEC 22


115         Scottish pants

117         Skill in dealing with delicate situations

118         Port in Picardy on the French side of the Straits of Dover

119         Welsh boys name and name of grandfather to 106 Across


114         Successful ammunition used at 96 Down


DEC 23


120         You, me, all of —

123         Surname of one of Henry VIII’s wives

124         Scottish dance

125         A law that protects oneself against defamation


116         Wears a kilt


DEC 24


126         Small town in France where the English burned 87 Down at the stake

127         Crowned King of Scotland at Scone in 1306 (6,3,5)

128         Edward II suffered a humiliating defeat here by 127 Across in 1314


121         A Viking drinking vessel

122         Bears the acorn


Lions and Lilies hope you have enjoyed our Christmas Medieval Crossword. We wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year.




Lions and Lilies Advent Calendar – 2015

We have had requests to repeat our advent calendar from 2013. As both authors are hard at work on book four this year, we gladly comply and will repost it for December.

Lions and Lilies wish all our readers a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Welcome to Lions and Lilies Advent Calendar – 2015

 Dec 1 - The Kissing Bush


The Kissing Bush

A Medieval Christmas did not have a Christmas tree. Instead they hung a large bunch of holly on a wooden frame from a slender chain in the hall. It was known as the kissing bush.

 Dec 1 - The kissing-bough


Nativity Box

In medieval England and Europe an early form of the Nativity scene developed which incorporated an ‘advent image’ or a ‘vessel cup’. It consisted of a box, often with a lid that was covered with a linen square and contained two dolls representing Mary and the baby Jesus. The box was decorated with ribbons and flowers (and sometimes apples) and it was thought to be very unlucky if you had not seen one before Christmas Eve.

 Dec 2 - Nativity Box



The Yule Log

The largest possible log the hearth could hold was cut from a tree and brought into the hall on Christmas Eve and lit. It was to be kept burning for the entire twelve days of Christmas so that its last embers still smoulder on Twelfth Night. A small section of the last piece would be carefully preserved to ignite the new Yule log in the following year.

Dec 3 - Yule Log


Deck the Halls

The medieval practice of decking churches and halls with greens for the season had its roots in ancient custom. The early Church had banned the use of evergreens because of their ties with pagan winter festivals, but by the Middle Ages, these plants had been given Christian interpretations and were brought in to brighten and decorate during the shorter dark and cold days of winter.

Dec 4 - Deck the Halls


 DEC 5

Letting in the Season

Before the ceremonies of the Christmas feast can begin, the festive joy must be invited into the hall. This is called ‘Letting-In the Season.’ Usually it is a ‘mummer,’ dressed in green and wearing bands of bells. Wassail! He dances his way in, inviting good fortune to fly in with him. He must be dark-haired too (for Judas was thought to have been a red-head!)

Dec 5 - Letting in the Season

 DEC 6

The Feast of Saint Nicholas the Bishop

December 6th is the feast of Saint Nicholas the Bishop who is remembered for secretly assisting and providing gifts for the poor. He became associated with Christmas with the idea of the wise men presenting gifts to the baby Jesus.

 Dec 6 - Saint Nicholas


Yule Candle

Before the Christmas food was served a ceremonial light would be lit. A gigantic candle was placed on the high table so that all in the hall could see and admire it. Specially crafted throughout the year and made from multiple layers of coloured wax, one for every month, taking twelve months to complete. The base was surrounded by holly. The candle was lit each night of the twelve day celebration and extinguished on Twelfth Night.

Dec 7 - The Yule Candle



Christmas Roast

A wide variety of what we might consider unusual fowl appeared on the medieval Christmas menu, such as swans and peacocks. The cook would strive to present the birds in artful ways by decorating the roasted carcass with the bird’s own feathers.

Dec 8 - Christmas Roast


The Yule Boar

Among the preparations for winter is the hunt and one of the favourites was the hunt for the Yuletide boar. Great praise was lavished upon the hunter who managed to snare the beast for the Christmas table, often the centrepiece complete with an apple or orange in its mouth. Carried out on a huge tray, it was delivered to the high table with much pomp and ceremony.

Dec 9 - The Yule Boar

DEC 10

Christmas Mead

No medieval Christmas was complete without a goblet of warm, spiced mead. Many families had their own recipes, passed from one generation to the next, but all contained the basic ingredient of honey with added variations of fruit and spices, warmed traditionally by having a hot poker plunged into the jug.

Dec 10 - Christmas Mead

DEC 11


A mummer was an amateur actor who performed in village plays at harvest time and special feasts. Often they performed in masks to hide their identity, a pagan tradition in which they were enticing back the sun to end the long winter but if their identity was revealed, the magic would fail. In medieval times, mummers were hired to entertain with religious plays at Yuletide. Using a wagon as a stage, they could move from village to village, performing.

Dec 22 - We wish you a Merry Christmas

 DEC 12

Mince Pies

Mince Pies were so called because they contained shredded or minced meat and were baked in oblong shaped pans or casings, to represent Jesus’ crib. The pies were not considered authentic unless the contained three particular spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) – the three gifts presented to the Christ child by the Magi, the three wise men from the East.

Dec 12 - Mince Pies - Copy

DEC 13

Multi-bird Roast

In addition to serving whole birds in plumage, another creative dish was the multi-roast.

Some historians claim that these roasts emerged during the middle ages, while others believe they can be traced back to ancient times. At Christmastide, a twelve-bird roast would have included such birds as a woodcock, partridge, pigeon, pheasant, quail, guinea fowl, mallard, aylesbury duck, chicken, duck, and a goose, all within a swan, one bird for each month. The birds would be carefully boned out and folded, one within the other, the smaller birds side-by-side. One multi-roast could feed up to 130 people. But such creations were not limited to just birds. A medieval recipe book Le Viandier de Tailleven (origins late 13thC, early 14thC) gave us the ‘Helmeted Cock’ in which the capon rides a pig and is outfitted in the coat of arms of the honoured Lord. And in Greenland 400 auks (a type of seabird) were stuffed inside a seal!

Dec 13 - Multi Roasts

DEC 14

From the thirteenth century, the four week period leading up to Christmas was celebrated as Advent. It was also considered to be the start of the church year.

The fourth century saw the introduction of the holidays of All Saints and All Souls, followed on November 11th by the feast of Saint Martin or Martinmas. The next four weeks were then a time of preparation, penance and fasting similar to those of lent.

Dec 14 - Advent

DEC 15

 Yule Dolls

Yule dolls were gingerbread figures made with honey, nutmeg, saffron, lemon and currants. Eyes and nose are raisins and the smiling mouth is a curl of orange peel. The first piece could be offered to a favourite animal incorporating the ancient custom of giving gifts of food to the animals so they will be healthy for spring. They were served only during the twelve days of Christmas and thought to be best eaten with a tankard of perry!

Dec 15 - Yule Dolls

 DEC 16


Wassail (Old English wæs hæl,) is a medieval toast or salute which literally means ‘be you healthy.’ It originates both from the salute ‘Waes Hail’ and the drink of wassail, a hot mulled cider traditionally drunk at Christmas.     ‘Wassailing’ was an ancient southern English custom of visiting orchards in cider-producing regions of England, reciting incantations and singing to the trees to promote a good apple harvest for the coming year. Wassailing also has its origins in Yulesinging or Caroling and during the medieval period the wassail was a reciprocal exchange between the feudal lords and their peasants as a form of recipient-initiated charitable giving, to be distinguished from begging, whereby the singers would receive food and drink in return for a blessing, delivered in the form of a song or carol.

Dec 16 - Wassaill

DEC 17


Frumenty is a sweet simple dish made of cracked wheat (hence its name which derives from the Latin word frumentum meaning ‘grain’), boiled milk, egg yolks, honey, fruit and spices and was considered a real treat. The mixture was left to cool and eaten with a spoon. One of the oldest documented recipes for frumenty survives in a 1390 manuscript The Forme of Cury written by a master cook from the court of Richard II (Black Prince’s son, 1377-1390). It is one of the oldest cookery manuscripts in the English language. The preamble to the manuscript explains that the The Forme of Cury contains recipes for ‘common pottages and common meats for the household, as they should be made, craftily and wholesomely,’ as well as food designed to impress at royal banquets. Frumenty falls into both categories and there’s a basic recipe for cooking the dish with broth but there’s also frumenty with porpoise, a dish fit for kings!

Dec 17 - Frumenty

DEC 18

Christmas Pudding
Christmas puddings in Medieval England may have had the same shape and dark rich colour that we see today, but they certainly would not have tasted very similar. The medieval pudding was made with a spicy kind of porridge, or frumenty. Once the wheat had been boiled, currants and dried fruit were stirred in. The yolks of eggs were also added and, if available, spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. The mixture was left to cool and set before being served.

Dec 18 - Christmas Pudding

DEC 19

 Umble Pie

In the 14th century, the numbles (or noumbles, nomblys, noubles) was the name given to the heart, liver, entrails etc. of animals, especially of deer – what we now call offal or lights. The word numbles became ‘umble’ and it is often used to refer to the pie of lesser value than the pie with the rich meat. Therefore, the poor would often eat ‘umble’ pie. Nowadays, if you have taken a tumble in life and have to live a standard of life you would not usually be used to, it is said that you are having to eat ‘humble pie.’

Dec 19 - Umble pie

DEC 20

 Nativity Play
Saint Francis of Assisi performed Midnight Mass in Greccio on Christmas Eve 1223 in front of a life-size nativity scene (crib or creche) built by Giovanni Velita, with live animals. This is often credited as the first nativity play. Medieval society loved entertainment and in particular plays. Christmas offered ample opportunity for everyone to become involved in the presentations, which were performed both in open public spaces and within larger private homes, with the Nativity Play being a particular favourite.

Dec 20 - Nativity Play

DEC 21

 Frankincense and Myrrh

Drawn from the tale of Christ’s birth, frankincense and myrrh were prominently displayed in the homes of wealthy people during the Middle Ages. The two precious tree resins were presented to the baby Jesus at his birth and were later often placed in or near nativity scenes. Housed in elaborately carved trunks, the resins were also burnt as incense and thrown into the fireplace to perfume the smoke. Today, frankincense and myrrh are readily available at import stores and are an effective way of lending atmosphere to homes decorated in the medieval style.

Dec 21 - Frankinsence and Myrrh

DEC 22

We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Carolling, or traveling to different homes to offer or sing Christmas cheer evolved, as we know, from the tradition of ‘Wassailing’. No one is quite sure when the custom started, but it did give us the song, ‘Here We Come-A-Wassailing’ — sung as carollers wished good cheer to their neighbors in the hope of getting a gift in return. The song gradually became the popular ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ — its last verse, ‘Bring us some figgy pudding’ stems from the wassailers’ original intent of requesting food in return for a blessing.

Dec 11 - Mumming

DEC 23

 The Shepherds’ Play

The Shepherds’ Play (also known as The Second Shepherds’ Play/pageant) is a famous medieval mystery play. It acts as a prelude to the nativity play where it becomes clear that Christ is coming to Earth to redeem the world from its sins. Although the underlying tone of The Shepherd’s Play is serious, many of the antics that occur among the shepherds are extremely farcical in nature. The biblical portion of the play, a retelling of the Visitation of the Shepherds, comes only after a longer, invented story that mirrors it, in which the shepherds, before visiting the holy baby outside in a manger, must first rescue one of their sheep that has been hidden in a cradle indoors by a comically evil sheep-stealing couple. Once they have discovered and punished the thieves, the storyline switches to the familiar one of the three shepherds being told of the birth of Christ. Although nothing is known about the author, or the origins of the play, it is agreed by several scholars that it dates sometime between 1400-1450.

Dec 23 - Shepherds Play

DEC 24

 12 Day of Christmas
The Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning Christmas Day (25 December) – which was also known as Christmastide and Twelvetide. The Twelfth Day of Christmas is always on Epiphany Eve (5 January), but the Twelfth Night can either precede or follow the Twelfth Day according to which Christian tradition is followed;

Day 1 – 25 December: Christmas Day.
Day 2 – 26 December: St. Stephen’s Day. This day is mentioned in the carol ‘Good King Wenceslas.’
Day 3 – 27 December: Feast of Saint John the Evangelist and Apostle.
Day 4 – 28 December: The Feast of the Holy Innocents, the young male children ordered murdered in Bethlehem by King Herod, according to the Gospel of Matthew. The traditional Christmas song “The Coventry Carol” describes this event.
Day 5 – 29 December: The feast day of Saint Thomas Becket.
Day 6 – 30 December: The feast of the Holy Family.
Day 7 – 31 December: The feast of Saint Sylvester. In Scotland this day is known as Hogmanay.
Day 8 – 1 January: The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Before the Second Vatican Council, it was also observed as the Feast of the Holy Circumcision of Jesus.
Day 9 – 2 January: Octave day of St. Stephen or the feast day of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen. In England, the Lichfield Martyrs are also celebrated on this day.
Day 10 – 3 January: Feast of Saint Genevieve or the most holy name of Jesus.
Day 11 – 4 January: The octave day of the feast of the Holy Innocents or the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint. In medieval times this was The Feast of Saint Simon Stylites.
Day 12 – 5 January: In the UK this was the Feast of St. Edward the Confessor, King of England. The rest of Europe feasted St. Julian the Hospitaller on this day. The evening of the 5 January is also Twelfth Night.

Dec 24 - Twelve Days of Christmas 


Lions and Lilies

wish all their readers a very Merry Christmas

A safe and prosperous New Year


 Don’t forget our FREE Medieval Xmas book featuring the antics of the characters from Lions and Lilies is available for download

A Medieval Christmas by Lions and Lilies

And also from the Apple online Bookstore

In Memoriam to Paris, France


Lions and Lilies would like to express its deepest sympathy

for the tragic loss of life in Paris, France, November 13, 2015

France is a major setting in Lions and Lilies; its people and places,

past and present, will remain always within our hearts.


Awful Offal – only for peasants!

On a recent late afternoon trip home, I was persuaded (by my children) to purchase ‘homemade’ style pies from a very reputable roadhouse. With my youngest in tow, we waited our turn to select four delicacies from the warmer, the smell of the fresh pastry and roasting meats tantalising my taste buds. But, mixed within the tempting aromas was a smell I recognised from childhood, one that I associated with my grandmother, that of steak and kidney!

I was never a lover of offal. As a child I refused to eat kidney, lambs fry or tripe and in some ways I think my dislike led to the period in my teenage years where I choose to be a vegetarian. My grandmother claimed offal was ‘peasant food’, cheap cuts that were both healthy and filling. But was offal really only eaten by the lower class?




We have all heard the phrase ‘eat humble pie’ – to apologise and face humiliation for making a mistake. But did you know the expression derives from ‘umble pie’, a pie consisting of minced offal, in particular from a deer. The word umble evolved from numble (after the French nomble) meaning deer’s innards.  One would have to conclude then that to eat ‘umble pie’ was certainly a step down the social ladder – something that would cause embarrassment.

But we know that there were many intricate and challenging dishes served to royalty and the upper class that contained offal.  A good example is ‘engastration’ where one animal is placed inside another and roasted – chicken, within a goose, within a swan. Each animal is deboned, spiced and forced inside the next, with accompanying stuffing containing ground offal.




And things were not always what they seemed. A traditional Yorkshire dish, known as ‘savoury ducks’, actually contained no duck meat whatsoever! Known elsewhere in England as ‘faggots’ this meat ‘pattie’ was actually made from minced pig’s heart, liver, bacon and pig belly fat.


Savoury ducks


Nor were sweets (desserts) immune from the ‘offal’ treatment. There is evidence to suggest that puddings, including ‘spotted dick’ were consumed in the medieval period and included suet – minced raw fat obtained from beef or mutton. And sweetbreads were NOT sweet breads!


spotted dick


Sweetbread is a culinary term for meat obtained from glands (such as the tongue or testicles) throat and pancreas from beef, pork and lamb.  The sweetbreads were commonly soaked in salt water then poached in milk, with the outer membrane removed. It is believed that the delicacies were called ‘sweet’ as many of the glands are rich tasting, opposed to the savoury flavour of muscle meat. The word bread may come from ‘frombrede’ or brǣd’ meaning roasted meat.

But how much offal do we (middle-class Australian’s) eat today? You might be surprised to learn that you consume more than you realise.

Gelatin – though not technically offal, I think it should be included. Gelatin or gelatine is a flavourless foodstuff, derived from collagen obtained from various animal by-products. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in food and is found in most gummy candy as well as other products such as marshmallows, gelatin dessert, and some ice cream, dip and yogurt. Gelatin is a mixture of peptides and proteins extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, pigs, horses and fish.


jellygelatin chartgelatin lollies


Supermarket Pies – did you know that the meat in your “meat pie” doesn’t have to be beef! Muscle meat from buffalo, camel, cattle, deer, goat, hare, pig, poultry or sheep can be used to manufacture meat pies, and the type of animal doesn’t need to be specified on the label. However offal does, but ONLY if the pie is manufactured for sale in a supermarket. A local butcher, baker or ‘pie store’ can add what they like!


Steak and Kidney Pie


Sausages – exactly the same applies as with pies, so buyer beware!

Pâté – I was surprised to learn that many connoisseurs where unaware that traditional pate contains the livers of ducks, chickens and turkeys.




Black and White Pudding – Black Pudding is generally made from pork blood and oatmeal and White Pudding contains pork meat, suet, bread and oatmeal. Both continue to be very popular in the UK and Ireland.


Black and White pudding


In our ‘throw away’ society, we think nothing of discarding ‘out of date’ food stuffs, excess fat on meats, the outer leaves and skins of vegetables and four day old leftovers. Had we been forced to hunt, scavenge or bake all our own food, as our medieval ancestors were required to do, we might feel differently about excessive wastage. Nor do I believe that ‘offal’ was only consumed by peasants. Given the continued popularity of offal products in modern society, one must assume that we are attracted to the taste, just as the upper class were throughout history. Sweetmeats and Pâté are recorded as ‘delicacies’, certainly not dishes that I would expect to see served only to the poor.


Medieval cooking

Cathy A

King David’s Tower

Edinburgh Castle sits high above the city of Edinburgh upon an extinct volcano from its position on Castle Rock. Archaeologists have established human occupation of the rock since the Iron Age (2nd century) and there has been a royal castle in situ since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century.

The original fortifications and buildings were constructed of timber, with stone structures appearing in the later 12th century.  Of these, St. Margaret’s Chapel remains at the summit. A succession of battles during the late 13th and early 14th century saw the destruction of many of the original castle features and most of the battlements.

With the Treaty of Berwick (c.1357) ending the Scottish Wars of Independence, King David II returned to rule Scotland to reside within his beloved Edinburgh Castle. He was determined to fortify and remodel the structure and make Edinburgh the greatest castle in the land.

220px-David_II_of_Scotland_by_Sylvester_Harding_1797   Braun_&_Hogenberg_'Castrum_Puellarum'_(Edinburgh_Castle)_c.1581

               David II                                                       Edinburgh Castle c.1580

David II began by systematically replacing many of the remaining timber buildings with stone structures; however, his ultimate endeavour was to create a tower so dominating that it would be seen for hundreds of miles.

David's Tower

Plans were well underway by c.1361, with David referencing his ideas and seeking information of the possibility of including a ‘pit for lions’, but construction did not commence until approximately 1366 or 1367. The tower stood on the site of the present Half Moon Battery and was connected by a section of curtain wall to the smaller Constable’s Tower, a round tower built between 1375 and 1379 where the Portcullis Gate now stands. David’s Tower was built on an L-plan – the main block being 16m by 12m, with the adjoining wing measuring 6.4m by 5.5m, pointing to the west. The entrance was via a pointed-arched doorway situated within the inner angle, although in the 16th century this was filled in to make the tower a solid rectangle. The overall height was recorded at a staggering 18m.

Sadly, David was not to see his piece de resistance completed, dying in 1371 before the roof had been completed. His successor, Robert II, finished the tower in the late 1370s.

Over the successive centuries, the Scottish Royal family choose to make the Abbey of Holyrood their preferred place of residence with King James IV (r.1488–1513) building Holyrood House for this purpose. Edinburgh Castle’s role as a royal home subsequently declined, as did the buildings.  During the 15th century the castle was increasingly used as an arsenal and armaments factory.

Impression_of_Edinburgh_Castle_before_the_'Lang_Siege'_of_1573  Edinburgh Castle c.1570

In April 1573, a force of around 1,000 English troops, led by Sir William Drury, arrived in Edinburgh. This battle was to be recorded as The Lang Siege.  The English troops built an artillery emplacement on Castle Hill, with several others in outlying areas. On about the 17th of May the bombardment began. Over the next twelve days the gunners dispatched around 3,000 shots at the castle and on the 22nd May, the south wall of David’s Tower collapsed.

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Half Moon Battery with sections of King David’s Tower visible

The Half Moon Battery, erected between 1753 and 1588, was built around and over the ruins of David’s Tower, two storeys of which survive beneath, with windows facing out onto the interior wall of the battery. The remaining portions of David’s Tower stand up to 15m from Castle Rock and can be seen sitting below the Half Moon Battery.

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          Half Moon Battery at location 16.        Underground doorway located in David’s Tower 

The Tower played a significant part in Scotland’s history. It housed numerous political prisoners, including Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany, for plotting against his brother, King James III. In 1479, he escaped by getting his guards drunk and lowering himself from a window with the use of a rope. He fled first to France, then England, where he allied himself with King Edward IV. In 1482, Alexander marched into Scotland with Richard, Duke of Gloucester at the head of an English army. James III was captured and shut up in the very same room in which he had incarcerated his brother and there he remained until he negotiated a settlement.

Perhaps the most infamous event (one supposedly used by George R.R. Martin as the basis of his ‘Red Wedding’ scene from A Storm of Swords) took place within the tower and is remembered as the ‘Black Dinner’. In November 1440 the then ten year old King, James III ruled Scotland with the assistance of Sir William Crichton, the Chancellor of Scotland and Keeper of Edinburgh Castle. But Crichton wanted more – he had his sights set on the Regency, but the powerful Douglas clan stood in his way. Encouraging James III to invite his two childhood friends to dinner, the 16 year old William Douglas, 6th Earl Douglas and his younger brother arrived early afternoon and engaged in normal boyhood pursuits prior to the evening banquet. While they ate, a black bull’s head, the symbol of death, was brought in and placed before the Earl. The two brothers were then dragged out to Castle Hill, given a mock trial and beheaded, all the while King James pleading for their release. It is said that the older brother begged the executioner to remove his siblings head first, so as the boy would not witness what was to be his own fate.

George R.R. Martin has often stated that far worse occurred in history then ever takes place within his fantasy novels, and in this instance I would most certainly agree.

David’s Tower is mentioned on several occasions within The Gilded Crown and in particular, one very noteworthy feature –

‘As my honoured guest I have something else I wish to show you.’ David turned towards the base of a short tower and opened the timber door, pulling Catherine along with him. ‘This is to become my masterpiece, my enduring legacy. It will be long remembered for both its height and its strength.’

Removing a lit torch from the wall sconce, David led Catherine down a dark set of narrow stairs that finished directly over a deep shaft, the bottom of which she could not see.

‘My lion pit.’ David smiled. ‘Very similar to those favoured by the Romans.’

Catherine quivered with fear as David edged her closer.

Archaeological work continues within the walls of Edinburgh Castle as there is so much more to learn. Who knows what will be uncovered in the future?

Cathy A


Medieval Marginalia – Not just pretty pictures

In dark, cavernous chambers, enclosed by cold stone walls with hundreds of candles flickering, the ‘quilled’ servants of God laboured for hour upon hour to produce wonderfully decorated illuminations. Undertaking page after page of text, they decorated the borders with enormous capital letters and fancy foliage. But what prompted the monks to design the lewd and outrageous pictures hidden within the greenery? In a society that was guided by its Church, was it not strange to find religious men drawing vulgarity?


Marginalia could be described as the thirteenth century experimentation with the design of the manuscript page, especially in psalters (a compendium of the 150 biblical psalms), which were being made in large numbers for an increasingly literate population. To the visual schemes already found in earlier scripts, illuminators added a new twist.


 At the most significant textual divisions, they began to extend the decoration of the large initial letters into the margins, enveloping them in creeping vines to create elaborate borders. Upon these vines sat various creatures, often mimicking the subject of the text. Perhaps this mimicry became mockery. Perhaps years of ink saturating the monks’ skin had an ill effect!

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One particular fascination seemed to be the use a snail.

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(From the British Library) – There has been much scholarly debate about the significance of these depictions of snail combat.  As early as 1850, the magnificently-named bibliophile the Comte de Bastard theorised that a particular marginal image of a snail was intended to represent the Resurrection, since he discovered it in two manuscripts close to miniatures of the Raising of Lazarus.

In another survey of the subject, it was proposed that the snail was a symbol of the Lombards, a group vilified in the early Middle Ages for treasonous behaviour, the sin of usury, and ‘non-chivalrous comportment in general.’  This interpretation accounts for why the snail is so frequently seen antagonising a knight in armour, but does not explain why the knight is often depicted on the losing end of this battle, or why this particular image became so popular in the margins of non-historical texts such as Psalters or Books of Hours.

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In La Vie du Prince Noir, (The Life of the Black Prince) written in the later 14th century, the author includes snail-imitation among the frivolous forms of entertainment he condemns (Chandos Herald, La Vie du Prince Noir, ed. Diana B. Tyson [Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1975]):

For how much store men set
And how much more heed they take
Of a jangler or a false liar,
Of a jongleur or a jester
Who would willingly make a face
Or imitate a snail,
At which men can laugh,
As they’ll do without delay
Than of someone who knows how to speak well!
(ll. 15-24)

snail 6 snail 5 snail 4

Does this apparently hilarious snail-imitating relate to the combats in the marginalia?

snail 3 snail 2 snail 9

snail 8 snail 7 snail 1

Note – in the above picture, the snail is armed. Quite an achievement when he doesn’t have any!  The next two show the snail does not always win.

Other scholars have variously described the ‘knight v snail’ motif as a representation of the struggles of the poor against an oppressive aristocracy, a straightforward statement of the snail’s troublesome reputation as a garden pest, a commentary on social climbers, or even as a saucy symbol of female sexuality.  Oh dear, then what do the rabbits mean?

rabbits killing knight 194xr10alc41jjpg bunnie revenge rabbit playing pipe organ

In these the rabbit is quite the warrior and seems to take revenge on man. In others he is making music!

dogs vs rabbits rabbit hangs dog rabbit riding snail fox vs monkey 13th c bible

The rabbit is not above warring with the other animals either, even going as far as to hang a hound!

But it wasn’t just rabbits. It was monkeys, dragons, boars, dogs, lions, cats, fish, demons and of course, just as lewd, humans.

knight slayind dragon naughty monkeys dog bishop monkeys1

Slaying of a dragon; Monkeys um … entertaining; and the hound dressed as a bishop preaching to a flock of geese must surely be a slur.

It would seem in this next depiction that the text referred to astrological ideals or events.  Above the marginalia is a picture where the woman is pointing to the celestial skies and below dancing on the foliage, a monkey with a pillar sundial, a fox with the celestial globe, a goat with an astrolabe and a bear and a ram using a sextant – all the tools required for astronomy.

star gazing 1     star gazing 2

Did some texts have some medical portent? Or perhaps the pictures were simple instructions in the margins for those who could not read? Certainly bodily functions played a part.

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It is possible these images could have meant all these things and more at one time or another. I have saved the most bizarre for last. Let’s see what you make of them.


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The middle picture depicts a ‘bottom’ playing a bagpipe and the owner’s neck is stretched! 

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They certainly had a fascination with sticking things into the rear cavity! 

ass trumpet real Monty Python

Monty Python did not have it wrong!


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  stabbing 3 Stabbing 2 Stabbing 1


ambidextrous hunting humans half humans

What are they carrying on that stick?


    headless 1 - headless people headless 2 - knights given a head by ladies devilry devilry 2

And perhaps the most bizarre, especially considering the first picture comes from a poem ‘Romance of the Rose’ mentioned in a previous blog


P1 - penis tree from romance of the rose             P2 - women on flying penis

Well, there you have it.  As to the true meaning of pictures penned more than 600 years ago, perhaps we shall never really know for sure but I do know that if today’s clergy were to sit around in dark rooms drawing such pictures, we would not look upon it so lightly!

Cathy T

Medieval Tower Houses

One of my most romantic fantasies about the medieval period is the idea of living in a castle or tower house. Strolling through those ancient buildings fills me with a sense of excitement and I long to draw back the veil of time and explore the world within the thick stone walls. But would it have been anything like what I imagine?

Built from local stone, the tower house primarily occupied a small foot print. It was utilised as a defensive structure or warning tower and provided accommodation for the occupants. A large concentration of tower houses can be found in Scotland where they include peel towers (watch towers) and bastle houses (fortified farm houses). Tower houses generally consist of a vertical ‘single-pile’ building of four or five storeys with the rooms stacked one above the other. In many instances a small loft or garret was included beneath the roof space which was accessed by a wooden ladder. Most tower houses had spiral staircases providing access to the various floors though some had stairs incorporated into the walls. Many of the early tower houses had one or more barrel-vaulted ceilings between the main floors. The roofs generally consisted of large oak beams and rafters covered by thatch or oak shingles and in later periods, slate.

Tower House

Here are just a few of my favourites …


The lands of Craigmillar were granted to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey by King David I in the 12th century. The Preston family were first granted land in the area by King David II in 1342 and a further grant by King Robert II gave the remaining lands of Craigmillar to Sir Simon de Preston, Sheriff of Midlothian. Work began on the tower house in the late 13th century, which now forms the core of the castle. Craigmillar Tower house features in Book 3, The Gilded Crown.




From Book 3, The Gilded Crown –

Craigmillar manor house was imposing, sitting atop a low hill overlooking the southern township of Edinburgh. The new wing, well under construction, was placed strategically adjacent the original building which had been a monastic house. Catherine was surprised by the number of men working on the inner ward that would connect the two structures.

    She pointed out the stonemasons to Simon. ‘They look like bees buzzing about their hive.’

    ‘And there is the Queen herself,’ he said, steering his mount into the courtyard.

    Catherine followed, resisting the urge to pull back on the reins, hesitant to end their journey.



Castle Stalker is a four-storey tower house located on the tidal inlet of Loch Laich, near Port Appin in Argyle, Scotland. The original castle was a small fort, built around 1320 by Clan MacDougall who were then the Lords of Lorn but it is Clan Stewart who are recognised for building the castle in its present form around the 1440s. The tower house changed ownership on several occasions before it was abandoned in about 1840. In 1965 Lt. Col. D. R. Stewart Allward acquired the castle and fully restored the building over a 10 year period.

Stalker 1

Stalker 3

Stalker 2

Castle Stalker became a popular tourist attraction after it featured in Monty Python and The Holy Grail.



The castle, situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness, was approached from the west and defended by a ditch and drawbridge. The buildings of the castle were laid out around two main enclosures on the shore. The northern enclosure or Nether Bailey includes most of the more intact structures, including the gatehouse, and the five-storey Grant Tower at the north end of the castle. The southern enclosure or Upper Bailey, sited on higher ground, comprises the scant remains of earlier buildings. The Grant Tower is a wonderful example of a ‘tower house’ styled structure built within the walls of an earlier castle.


Ur tower-450



The castle was originally founded as a fortified tower house by Hugo de Gourlay before 130 0, making it one of the oldest constructions of its kind in Scotland. The castle stands on a promontory of the Scottish River Tyne.

Hailes Castle grounds

Hailes_Castle_on_Tynehailes 3


The ideals of comfort and safety were no different in the 14th century to what they are today though I need only flick a switch for lighting and heating. And what of the beds? My mattress is ‘posturepedic.’ I am sure I would not receive the same level of support from a straw-filled palliasse! My front gate would never measure up to a portcullis and I have no need for an embrasure – but I can imagine the chill from the frosty air and damp mist, with no glass on any window, only animal skin to protect you from the elements. Yet my fantasy continues, for who wouldn’t want to sweep down the stairs, dressed in a warm kirtle, the sound of your poulaines tapping on the wooden floor as you settle before the open fire to enjoy a spiced goblet of perry.

Cathy A