In “Honour of Thieves”, one of the stories in the historical anthology Betrayed, highwayman James Hart plans a heist and has to break into Warwick Castle. During the English Civil War, the castle served as a Parliamentarian garrison, so it’s imperative that James doesn’t get caught. He’s a staunch Royalist with a price on his head.
I love heist movies like The Italian Job and Ocean’s Eleven. They’re like a clever puzzle where you don’t see the full picture until the last piece is snapped into place. A proper heist involves meticulous planning and requires the ability to find vulnerabilities in a secure place. Even the most impenetrable fortresses, like Warwick Castle, have their weaknesses.
For “Honour of Thieves” I had the greatest fun in planning the heist. How does one break into an impenetrable castle manned by a full garrison of guards? No spoilers. Instead, I wanted to describe the canvas.
Warwick Castle dates back to 1068, two short years after the Norman Conquest. The original fortress didn’t look as it does today and was a simple motte-and-bailey construction. The original keep was situated where the Castle Mound stands today, and by the 14th century the castle as we know it, with the barbican, the towers and stone walls, had all been built.
The stewardship of the castle has passed down the ages from one family to another. In the early 17th century, Sir Fulke Greville was gifted a castle desperate in need of repairs and poured £20,000 into renovations, which expanded into the exterior garden paths. Over the next two centuries more funds would be poured into the castle to maintain it. The term “money pit” likely covers it.
During the English Civil War, Warwick Castle was used as a Parliamentarian stronghold. The Earl of Northampton tried to seize the fortress for the king but did not prevail. At the height of the war, there were approximately three hundred soldiers occupying the castle. Guns were added to Guy’s Tower and its windows enlarged. Iron hooks were installed on the face of the barbican where they would have hung woolsacks to protect the stone walls. The Waterford Tower was where most the garrison was quartered. An old crumbling walkway linking the keep with the Waterford Tower was very possibly still there. Throughout the keep, the Greville family furniture was shifted around to allow for cots and beds. The castle still had its secrets, including a secret passageway. After all, what is a castle without one of those?
As I poured through these old accounts, I tried to piece together what the layout of the keep would have been like in 1650 and plotted how I would break into a castle full of enemy soldiers were I a Royalist highwayman.
So how did I do it?
I invite you to download Betrayal and read “Honour of Thieves” to find out. Betrayal is a FREE download and available through all online retailers, including Amazon, Kobo, Apple Books, and Barnes & Noble. Start reading today!