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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Knight’s horses...and a book giveaway

by guest blogger Regan Walker

When I was doing the research for my new medieval, THE RED WOLF’S PRIZE, set in England two years after the Norman Conquest, I learned a lot of surprising things about the horses the Norman knights rode. For example, horses were not so much distinguished by breed as by use. There were highly trained warhorses like destriers, strong coursers, smooth-gaited palfreys for lords and ladies, and general purpose rounceys. Knights did not, for the most part, ride their warhorses around the countryside, at least not very often. They rode palfreys, high-status riding horses.

Warhorses—the destrier and coursers—were reserved for battle. The courser was preferred over the destrier as it was light, fast, steady and strong—and less expensive. You can get a rough idea of the warhorses from illustrations of the period, such as the Bayeux Tapestry, which is actually an embroidery sewn in the 11th century and meant to depict the events that surrounded the Conquest.

 Destriers and coursers were stallions trained for charging and putting up with the shock of impacts. They had to be maneuverable, too, but with the strength to bear a knight’s weight in battle. (Though the chain mail was much lighter in the 11th century than the mail and plate armor that would come later.) 

While the origin of the medieval warhorse is not clear, it is thought they had some Barb and Arabian blood through the Spanish Jennet, a forerunner to the modern Friesian and Andalusian horse. Today, breeds that have similar bloodlines include the Welsh Cob, the Friesian, the American Quarter Horse, a stocky Morgan and the Andalusian.

The Spanish-Norman horse, like both the Percheron and the Andalusian, is predominantly gray in color, and is the horse Sir Renaud (“the Red Wolf”) rides in THE RED WOLF’S PRIZE. It is known that William the Conqueror was gifted a Spanish stallion at one point and so it occurred to me that a favored knight might also receive one as a gift from his lord.
In addition to palfreys, nobles rode the general purpose rounceys, but not typically knights, although knights might use them in a pinch. There were also horses for the hunt and the race that were fast and had stamina. And there were workhorses (common plough horses), and carthorses bread for hauling things.

Interestingly, William the Conqueror shipped horses across the English Channel when he invaded England in 1066—as many as thousand or more. Unlike the English, who rode their horses to battle and then dismounted to fight on foot, the Normans fought on horseback. It is also why they fought using longer swords than the English. The outcome of the Battle of Hastings has been described as “the inevitable victory of stirrupped cavalry over helpless infantry.”

When the battle was over, the knight would leave his warhorse and his helm with his squire and ride off on a palfrey, a much more manageable horse than his often mean-spirited warhorse, and one that had a smoother gait making for a better ride. Hence, the Red Wolf rides his Spanish horse when going to the Siege of Exeter and the Battle of York, while his squire leads his destrier.

Ladies rode the smooth-gaited palfrey, too, often riding either astride or pillion (sitting sideways and having their horse led by a groom). In THE RED WOLF’S PRIZE, Lady Serena rides a white palfrey her father had given her.

Here's the blurb for Regan's new historical romance, THE RED WOLF’S PRIZE:

Sir Renaud de Pierrepont, the Norman knight known as the Red Wolf for the beast he slayed with his bare hands, hoped to gain lands with his sword. A year after the Conquest, King William rewards his favored knight with Talisand, the lands of an English thegn slain at Hastings, and orders him to wed Lady Serena, the heiress that goes with them.

Serena wants nothing to do with the fierce warrior to whom she has been unwillingly given, the knight who may have killed her father. When she learns the Red Wolf is coming to claim her, she dyes her flaxen hair brown and flees, disguised as a servant, determined to one day regain her lands. But her escape goes awry and she is brought back to live among her people, though not unnoticed by the new Norman lord.

Deprived of his promised bride, the Red Wolf turns his attention to the comely servant girl hoping to woo her to his bed. But the wench resists, claiming she hates all Normans.

As the passion between them rises, Serena wonders, can she deny the Norman her body? Or her heart?

To celebrate the release of her new book, Regan is giving away the eBook of The Red Wolf's Prize to one winner.  To enter the random drawing, simply enter in the rafflecopter below. It's super easy! 

Regan Walker - Author Bio:

Bestselling author Regan Walker loved to write stories as a child, particularly those about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.” And in each of her novels, there is always real history and real historic figures.
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses. 


Regan said...

Hi, Donna! Thanks so much for having me and the Red Wolf on your blog. He is happy to talk about his favorite Spanish stallion.

Alanna Lucas said...

Wonderful information. Congrats on the release!

Regan said...

Thanks, Alana.

Elizabeth said...

I like reading historical romances because, just as in fantasy, it's fun to be transported to a different world. I know it's just a change in time and place, but I like having a new environment to live in while I'm reading the book. Also, as someone who majored in history in college, I really appreciate well-researched historical stories that I can learn from while I'm reading.

Ashley Pederson said...

I love historical fiction as well and will for sure check this one out- looks amazing! Currently I am reading a great historical fiction that centers around Thomas Edison, "Inventing Madness" by J.G. Schwartz Definitely not for those who are under 18, but a great read... here's a teaser about the book.. Did Thomas Edison fail to reveal his greatest invention? You will have to read the book to find out!

Donna Wren said...

The Red Wolf looks intriguing - I just love historical fiction romances :-). Thanks for recommend as well, Ashley. Sounds like an exciting read!

Regan said...

Hi, Ashley. I do hope you enjoy The Red Wolf's Prize.

Regan said...

Donna, thanks for stopping by. Do let me know what you think of The Red Wolf's Prize. You can always reach me via my website.

Ashley Pederson said...

You're welcome Donna! Enjoy!

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