Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday BookReview: Conan Doyle's superb depiction of medieval chivalry

[first published June 17, 2014]


Men such as Dwight Eisenhower and John Wayne were huge fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's pair of novels set in the Hundred Years' War.

The White Company tale of English knights seeking battlefield glory in France is good -- but Sir Nigel is better, covering Nigel Loring's early career as a squire who sets out to perform three heroic labors to win the hand of his fair lady.

The tales are chock-full of reverence for Mother Church and her holy mysteries... but coupled with a healthy contempt for the stink and corruption of too many of her shepherds.

The bloody fights began in 1337 and ended in 1453: "Locked in one long deadly grapple, great England and gallant France with iron hearts and souls of fire strove and strove for mastery."

The Hundred Years' War should call to mind such things as:
  • the use of the 6-foot 'longbow' by the English armies, carrying them to great victories at Crécy, Poitiers, and Agincourt
  • the Black Death of the mid-14th century which may have killed more than half of Europe; 
  • and the maiden warrior whom Mark Twain considered the greatest creature whom God ever breathed life into, Joan of Arc (she who accomplished the miraculous feat of restoring esprit de corps to the men of France).                             

One reason that Sir Nigel is such a fascinating figure is his humility.

He has a fondness for invoking the Apostle who faced 'dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilderness, and dangers at sea.' For example, Nigel will say: "But by Saint Paul! you have spoken like a man this day." 

UPDATE: This video describes the most common medieval weapons.

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