Taunton and its Castle, by
D.P. Alford (Memorials of Old
Somerset), p. 149.
In the principality of Wales we find many noted strong holds—Conway, Harlech, and many others. Carnarvon Castle, the repair of which is being undertaken by Sir John Puleston, has no rival among our medieval fortresses for the grandeur and extent of the ruins. It was commenced about 1283 by Edward I, but took forty years to complete. In 1295 a playful North Walian, named Madoc, who was an illegitimate son of Prince David, took the rising stronghold by surprise upon a fair day, massacred the entire garrison, and hanged the constable from his own half-finished walls. Sir John Puleston, the present constable, though he derives his patronymic from the “base, bloody, and brutal Saxon,” is really a warmly patriotic Welshman, and is doing a good work in preserving the ruins of the fortress of which he is the titular governor.
We should like to record the romantic stories that have woven themselves around each crumbling keep and bailey-court, to see them in the days of their glory when warders kept the gate and watching archers guarded the wall, and the lord and lady and their knights and esquires dined in the great hall, and knights practised feats of arms in the tilting-ground, and the banner of the lord waved over the battlements, and everything was ready for war or sport, hunting or hawking. But all the glories of most of the castles of England have vanished, and naught is to be seen but ruined walls and deserted halls. Some few have survived and become royal palaces or noblemen’s mansions. Such are Windsor, Warwick, Raby, Alnwick, and Arundel, but the fate of most of them is very similar. The old fortress aimed at being impregnable in the days of bows and arrows; but the progress of guns and artillery somewhat changed the ideas with regard to their security. In the struggle between Yorkists and Lancastrians many a noble owner lost his castle and his head. Edward IV thinned down castle-ownership, and many a fine fortress was left to die. When