#OTD 25 March 1194 – Richard the Lionheart arrives at the Siege of Nottingham

Nottingham Castle
Nottingham Castle, circa 1250

King Richard I, the Lionheart, had taken the Cross and journeyed to the Holy Land in 1190. He led his army of approx. 15,000 men to within 12 miles of Jerusalem, but did not re-take the holy city. After a truce with Salah-al-Din, Richard attempted to return home, but was faced with enemies on his path. He was captured by Duke Leopold of Austria outside Vienna around the 20th of December 1192, and by early spring 1193, had been turned over to Heinrich VI, the Holy Roman Emperor. The emperor demanded a huge ransom of 150,000 silver marks – more than twice the annual income of England!

Richard was kept imprisoned while his brother Prince John plotted with King Philip of France – the two of them offered the emperor monies to keep Richard in prison for another year! Despite their subterfuge, Richard finally was freed from his German prison in February 1194.

Prince John’s supporters in England capitulated on hearing this news, with the exception of the castles at Tickhill and Nottingham. However, when word spread that Richard had landed on English soil in early March, the castellans at Tickhill verified the story and then surrendered. Nottingham was a different story…

“The garrison, however, of the castle of Nottingham did not send any of their number to meet the king. The king, being consequently much exasperated, came to Nottingham . . .with such a vast multitude of men, and such a clanger of trumpets and clarions, that those who were in the castle, on hearing and seeing this were astonished, and were confounded and alarmed . . . but still they could not believe the king had come, and supposed that the whole of this was done by the chiefs of the army for the purpose of deceiving them. The king, however, took up his quarters near to the castle, so that the archers of the castle pierced the king’s men at his very feet.”
–The Annals of Roger de Hoveden

For Richard’s incredible journey back from the Holy Land see my post on the English Historical Fiction Authors (EHFA) blog, Richard the Lionheart’s Ordeal, October – December 1192. A second contribution on EHFA details the siege of Nottingham.


men_full-sideCharlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of Battle Scars, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

My visit to Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle
Nottingham Castle Gatehouse

As part of my travels in September, I was able to return to Nottingham for a half day adventure to  explore the Castle. I set several scenes of For King and Country there, so you can imagine how exciting it was for me to have an opportunity to see it from the perspective of someone with research interests rather than just being a tourist as I had been on my first visit in 2010. And there was an added bonus this time! In addition to hanging out with friends Al, Julie, and Katie, I got to take a fantastic tour of the caves.

Now Nottingham and its Castle today don’t look like Nottingham of 1193-1194. The gatehouse pictured above wasn’t built until the 1250s. (I wrote about my research in an earlier post.) Today I just want to share some photos from my trip.


As you walk toward the gatehouse, there’s a lovely courtyard where Robin Hood is ready to defend the Castle from intruders (or is he planning to rob the rich?) The stone of what would have been been a wall of the outer bailey is visible. But in the 1190s during the reign of Richard I, the Lionheart, this would have been a timber and earthworks palisade.

After you pass through the gatehouse, which back in the 13th-17th centuries was a bit taller, you walk through the outer bailey towards the medieval bridge (above left) into what once housed the middle bailey. The photo on the right shows the view after we’d walked under the bridge and looked back. The stone bridge, which dates back to Henry II’s reign in the 12th century, would have crossed a deep ditch, which you can see in the photo I took of the sign describing the past magnificence of the site (below).  The fancy statues weren’t there in Henry’s time but were added later. The bridge is all that is left now.



It is hard to picture the middle and upper baileys of the 12th century castle because nothing really remains of them. The Castle was reduced to rubble during the English Civil War in the 17th century. Much of the original stone was carted off for other building projects, and even the height of the upper bailey was reduced when the ducal palace was built there by William Cavendish in 1674.

The ducal palace occupying the site, now a museum and art gallery

According to records, there was a second deep ditch separating the middle and upper baileys, also built by Henry II.  The museum has several dioramas, including this one representing the Castle circa 1500:

Nottingham Castle, circa 1500

In the last few years, the caves and tunnels beneath the Castle are being explored and one is open for a guided tour. So we started down the uneven path…

In one area, the sandstone roof no longer exists. The guide said it had been knocked out so defensive weapons could be placed there during the Civil War.


In some places, the tunnel was wider than it appears in the photo above. There were steps carved into the sandstone in many parts of the pathway, but nothing to hold onto except in the one area where the path was extremely steep. The tunnel winds down several hundred feet. I was glad we were going down! Men who brought supplies up from the River Leen in medieval times might have been leading pack animals up through the tunnels.

And after a hard day’s work carting supplies up, the good folk could go round the corner to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem for an ale.




Charlene Newcomb is currently working on Book III of her Battle Scars series, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Newsletter. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

Discovering 12th Century Nottingham Castle

“Richard arrived at the siege of Nottingham in a black mood and his first act was to set up an enormous gallows beneath the walls.”
— Richard Coeur de Lion by P. Henderson

Nottingham Castle c. 1189-2

Line drawing is copyright The Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire. Used with permission.

Earlier this week I was a guest at Catherine Curzon’s blog. In An American in Nottingham: Writing Robin Hood at Nottingham Castle, I talk about being a tourist vs. researcher and learning about the history of Nottingham Castle. I hope you will stop by Catherine’s blog.

On a fun note, it was great to see my article retweeted by the folks at the Castle!



king and country_small
Charlene Newcomb is the author of The Battle Scars series, 12th century historical adventures taking place during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. For King and Country, book II of the series, was published on 2 May 2016. There will be more to come, so sign up for Char’s Mailing List. It will be used – sparingly – to offer exclusive content and and to let you be the first to know about special offers.

Visual inspiration and the writer

Nottingham Castle
Nottingham Castle

As someone who grew up with television, visuals have always been important to me. Can’t you get a sense of time, of place, from those period dramas? Translating that to paper – or to computer screen – is still the most difficult thing for me.

As a writer of historical fiction, I have to be careful. I visited Nottingham in 2010 and took this photo of the gatehouse.

ACTION! Picture knights on the towers, archers, flights of arrows darkening the sky. Hear orders shouted out, the rumble of wagons, the stone throwers slinging huge boulders that smash into the curtain wall.

CUT! This gatehouse did not exist in 1193!

Fortunately, I knew that as I dove into my first draft of the sequel to Men of the Cross. Still, the photo is a wonderful inspiration. I can still have my siege at Nottingham Castle and have great resources to pull upon, including Drage’s Nottingham Castle, a Place Full Royal, Briscoe & Lever’s A concise history of Nottingham Castle, and Foulds’ “The Siege of Nottingham Castle in 1194.”

Writers – where do you find inspiration?

almost there… work in progress Wednesday

photo by ChrisO; shared under CC-BY 3.0

Title: Battle Scars: For King and Country
(book 2 of a series)
Current word count: @96,500 words

The writing of the most recent 8,000 words has been like pulling teeth. I want them to be good – well, I want the whole book to be good – but as I close in on the climax, my goal is to give my readers a rush of adrenaline. Forget breathing. Don’t you want those ‘oh wow’, ‘oh my God’, ‘holy @#$^!’  moments? All right – there is a bit of downtime, but your heart should pound even more when Sir Henry and Sir Stephan reunite after Stephan’s 6 month secret mission. The two knights have a lot of catching up to do…

Trebuchet at Warwick Castle
from my 2010 trip to England

On Friday, I had the opening lines for King Richard’s arrival in Nottingham on March 25, 1194. My weekend was a bust. Zero words, but that’s all right. It was a quality weekend with family members that left me exhausted after watching 3 of them do the 5K Rugged Maniac¹ in Weston, Missouri, and listening to the boom boom of a neighbor’s bass at 3:30 in the morning.

Writing resumed – 400 words on Monday, another 900 on Tuesday. Oh – you’re wondering about the trebuchet pictures, aren’t you? The siege weapon has been around for more than 2,000 years, but the chroniclers of the Third Crusade referred to them as stone-throwers or stone engines. I’ve used them extensively in Book 1 during the siege of Acre; and King Richard orders them to be built in this, Book 2, For King and Country. And, as you’ll discover, the stone-throwers play a big role in the novel.

The siege of Nottingham lasted 3 days. Will I finish writing it in 3 days? Don’t I wish…

And soon – very soon – I’ll have the editorial comments back for book 1, Men of the Cross. Book 2 will rest while I begin revisions and the countdown to publication begins.


¹If you want to know what a Rugged Maniac looks like at the end of the race, here’s a picture 🙂

rugged maniac in KC

Nottingham Castle

drage.nottscastle book“Richard arrived at the siege of Nottingham in a black mood and his first act was to set up an enormous gallows beneath the walls.”
— Richard Coeur de Lion by P. Henderson

I am mere paragraphs away from writing the opening scene as King Richard arrives at Nottingham Castle with knights Henry and Stephan.

<—–  I found this very cool book that gives me details on the layout of Castle based on excavations done since the 1970s. And because I want to get to the writing, today’s blog post entertains you with pictures I took when I visited Nottingham in 2010, and a very cool video from the Nottingham Caves survey, which shows the route of Mortimer’s Cave. Check it out!

I love my pictures, but the buildings didn’t exist in the 1190s. The gatehouse was built in the 1250s; the Ducal Palace in the 17th century

Nottingham Castle Nottingham Castle

looking down from Nottingham Castle caves - Nottingham Castle


work in progress Wednesday – weddings and signs of The End

nottingham castle - main gate
Gatehouse at Nottingham Castle

Title: Battle Scars: For King and Country
(book 2 of a series)
Current word count: @88,900 words

I am drawing ever closer to the climax of this story. My unexpected character death? With 11,000 words added since my last update, the man is still dead, and there is no hope for resurrection.

But there were weddings this week! Queen Eleanor decided to make an appearance. This was one of those serendipitous thoughts that ignited a mad search through 6 biographies of the lady and several other volumes of related materials. It is December 1, 1193. Eleanor is busy making final arrangements for the transfer of ransom money to the Holy Roman Emperor for King Richard’s release and preparing to cross the sea to deliver that money. But she holds a special place in her heart for one of the grooms. She’d met him in one of the final chapters of book 1, Men of the Cross. The young squire has served main characters Henry and Stephan, her son Richard, his wife Berengaria, and Queen Joanna, her daughter. Eleanor also brings welcome news to Henry about Stephan, whom he has not seen nor heard from since September – remember, Stephan has been on a secret mission.

I’ve spent the last few days reviewing my sources on the siege of Nottingham and setting the stage to tie all the pieces together. I have 2 minor skirmishes to write up, the king’s return, and the siege at Nottingham. For the last few months, I have also been mulling over the ending – not of the siege, of course, because you can read about that in the history books. 🙂  But how far past the dates of the siege – March 25-28 – would I take the characters? Originally, I was certain I’d need to end the book with King Richard’s departure for Normandy in May. But, to have my “happily for now” ending¹ and leave the way open for conflict in book 3 of this trilogy, I’m almost positive that the story will end as Richard heads off for a day of hunting in Sherwood Forest before he returns for business at the Council of Nottingham. Or, it may end with the Council – only time, and a few more weeks of writing, will tell.

By the way, did I ever tell you that this story was only supposed to be a novella?


On this date
I didn’t manage to write up entries, but here are a few important October dates:

4 October 1190 –  Richard captures Messina, Sicily
10 October 1191 – Richard leaves Jaffa (where his troops are rebuilding the fortress) to return to Acre to settle a dispute between some of his ‘allies’
9 October 1192 – King Richard bids the Holy Land good-bye and sails for home

My Pinterest Board for Battle Scars Locations – New Pins Added

Vézelay, France – in book 1, after the rendezvous with King Richard’s army in Tours, Henry, Stephan and the crusaders meet King Philip of France’s troops in Vézelay in late June of 1190. (Some sources say the meeting took place on July 2.)

Mt. Vesuvius, Italy – a couple of months later, Henry sees Mt. Vesuvius as some of Richard’s fleet drops anchor in Naples.

Mortimer’s Cave, Nottingham Castle – caves, tunnels, secret entrances. Handy for a bit of spying in book 2 beginning in the summer of 1193 through the king’s return in March 1194.

And on those notes, I am back to the writing!


¹Happily-for-now endings are similar to the familiar “And they lived happily ever after.”