Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Post by David Pilling, Author of The Champion (III): Blood and Faith

6 March 2022

Special Guest Post by David Pilling, Author of The Champion (III): Blood and Faith

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

“I am En Pascal of Valencia, the Adalid, the Champion,
the Leader of Hosts,and this is my tale...”

1300 AD: the armies of Edward Longshanks and the Guardians of Scotland confront each other. The final battle for control of northern Britain looms. Meanwhile Robert de Bruce, the young lord of Carrick, waits in the background to seize his opportunity. Bruce dreams of taking the Scottish crown for himself, and will stop at nothing to seize it...

Two of my favourite historical figures are King Edward I, 'Longshanks' or the Hammer of the Scots, and Robert de Bruce, later King Robert I of Scotland. This may seem strange, since on the surface they were so different. In the popular imagination Edward is generally regarded as a ruthless, expansionist tyrant, hell-bent on conquering Scotland and Wales. Bruce, by contrast, is regarded as a benevolent national hero who eventually liberated his country from the English.

In reality the two men were more similar than Hollywood scriptwriters might care to admit. The real Bruce was every bit as tough and ruthless as Longshanks, and the two men were not always opposed. As Dr Fiona Watson has shown in her recent works, Bruce was fixated on gaining the vacant Scottish throne, and was prepared to do pretty much anything to achieve his ambition. This included murdering his chief rival, John Comyn, and switching sides when it suited him. Between 1302-1306, for instance, Bruce was firmly in the English camp, and actively helped Longshanks to impose what appeared to be a final conquest of Scotland.

It didn't turn out that way, of course. After four years in the English camp, Bruce finally revolted against his paymaster in 1306, and the rest is history. Edward came again, but died in a barren Cumbrian marsh, within sight of the Scottish border. The old king died in pursuit of Bruce, who could be described as a mirror image of himself. To quote one such comparison between the two:

“A crowned warrior, careless of men’s lives, who meant to have his way at any price.” 

Edward's demise was fitting, perhaps, since Scotland had always been just beyond his reach. Bruce went from strength to strength, and after many years of toil and bloodshed finally got his hands on the prize. Those hands, it must be said, were stained with the blood of a great many people, fellow Scots as well as English. 

The nuanced relationship  between these two hard-driving men was the partial inspiration for my book, The Champion (III): Blood and Faith. This series chronicles the adventures of En Pascal de Valencia, a Spanish knight in the service of Longshanks. Pascal is based on a real Spanish mercenary who did indeed fight for the English in Scotland and elsewhere. Apart from the bare accounts, not much is known of the real Pascal, except that he had the interesting nickname of 'Adalid'. This meant 'champion' – hence the title of the series – and implies he was a respected knight and military captain. 

The lack of information on Pascal enables me, as a storyteller, to fill in the gaps. In my novel, Pascal acts as a spy as well as fighting soldier in Scotland, and comes to reluctantly admire Bruce, while at the same time fearing him. However, Pascal's association with the famous Scottish warlord, has only just begun...

David Pilling

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About the Author

David Pilling is a writer and researcher, addicted to history for as long as he can remember. The medieval era has always held a fascination for him, perhaps because he spent much of his childhood exploring the misted ruins of castles in Wales. David also has a keen interest in the Byzantine Empire, the post-Roman period in Britain and the British & Irish Civil Wars. Find out more at David's website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @RobeH2

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