As my mother and I got off the train at Conwy, our bags trailing behind us, it began to rain. We heaved our suitcases over a bridge and through the main part of town, a beautiful collection of wood and stone houses, some dating from Elizabethan times. At the city walls, part of a castle built by King Edward I, we asked a gentleman directions to our inn. He pointed up a very steep hill to our B&B, perched like an eagle’s nest overlooking the town, and we dutifully tucked our heads against the downpour and trudged up the hill.
I had come to Wales to do research for my second novel. Set partly in 17th century England, the main protagonist was Welsh. I wanted to see for myself the scope and nature of the place that would have helped to shape his character. Wales has been called the “castle capital of the world,” with an official listing of the remains of about 400 castles, 100 of which are still standing. The fact that so many castles were built, many by the English to keep the Welsh at bay, is a testament to the ferocity and pride of the native people. Walking in the shadow of the fortress walls, 15 feet wide, I had to imagine the courage of a people, fighting with stone-age like tools, throwing themselves, time and time again, against the better equipped forces of the English. Finally, in 1403, the sons of Tudur ap Gronw (the forefather of Henry Tudor) captured the castle.
When we got to the top of the hill, I looked over the misted, tumbling walls of the town and thought that the stone fortifications had given my protagonist his will, but it was views like this that had given him his heart.
About the author: Kathleen Kent, author of The Wolves of Andover, The Heretic’s Daughter and recipient of the David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction, is a tenth-generation descendant of Martha Carrier. To read more about the author and her book, click here.