So, here we are again. In 2015 I introduced you to Brigit Wooller, the Crowan Priestess who would do more than I ever thought possible. Losing another character to Final Battle has been a wrench, but nowhere near as devastating as losing Rowan Tait-of-Amblevale back in 2013 given that this time I definitely felt to have a choice in the matter. Thanks again to the referee who gave her ending meaning, and who made her an utter bad-ass in the end. But this isn’t about Brigit. This is about my new character.
And so, in continuing the tradition, I write below the inspirations, aspirations and hopes for my new character Lady Judith Tirel of Prudha’s Ridge, Feudal Knight and noblewoman.
I like the whole concept of knights within the world of Fools and Heroes. To be honest I’m a sucker for things medieval, including castles and knights, which is why my trips round the English Heritage castles and ruins bring me great joy. Having enjoyed playing Dame Ravenna Corvidae I thought it was time to return to playing a knightly lady, but it was my summer trip to Prudhoe Castle that set my mind in motion.
The Feudal Knights of Ithron are knights of the gentry who typically fall outside the faithful Sidhean constraints of the Knightly Orders. Swearing oaths of fealty to their Baronial Lord these knights seek honour and glory and fame, relying on reputation and the skills of themselves and their retinue to earn their place amongst the nobility and perhaps the courts of the realm.
I pulled together my thoughts and put them to the ‘nobles’ ref we have in branch who looks after the complex web of families and feuds that operate (normally) outside of the adventuring focus. They were kind enough to flesh out some history for my idea and give me enough to turn up at a fest as a new feudal Esquire should the worst happen to Brigit. Alas it was not at a fest that she fell, but having pre-prepared some of Judith’s kit allowed me to pick her up and start playing with only a hurried rush of kit gathering.
But how did Judith come about? Where did her story spring from? “What is her inspiration soup?” I hear you ask. Well, bear with me and I will try to sum up Judith Tirel of Prudha’s Ridge simply.
Add a pinch of armour, a sprinkling of blood, sweat and tears …
As I have said before I have loved lots of things knight for a long, long time. Fairy stories as a child, historical and fantasy films growing up, trips to castles in England and Wales and mountains of books. When I played Dame Ravenna I did alot of research into forming a knightly code and looked at typical behaviours and traditions of the mounted Knightly elite of European history. My OH bought me a book that has become the source of much of my ‘knightly home life’, and I keep turning to the the SCA for resources on chivalry and courtesy in these modern middle ages.
But characters and inspirations – where would I be without Alanna or Keladry from Tortall in Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” or “Protector of the Small” quartets? Alanna was a constant companion during my early teens and Keladry was an unexpected reunion with fictional friends during my twenties. Lady Knights who took no bluster from men who questioned their abilities and who regularly saved the day – what’s not to like? I have been rereading these books for lighthearted relief recently and to help flesh out my wandering hedge-knight in the early days of her journey. I have also been reading the tale of William Marshall, a man who rose from a lowly position to one of great power and influence in the courts of Richard the Lionheart. To read his history, to learn of the intricate dances of politics back in the Middle Ages has been eye-opening and inspiring. It’s almost too good to be true, perhaps a cleverly crafted fiction, but he was a real man and the impact he has had on history is startling.
I must also give a nod to the stories in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” by George RR Martin, whose tales of Dunk and Egg (in a possible “golden” age of the realms of Westeros) reawoke my hunger to play a knight again. If only we were able to do a proper tourney in Fools and Heroes, with all the pomp and circumstance, wouldn’t that be grand?
There are not so many characters who inspired me to play Judith, but as always my inspirations for Lady Knights comes in the forms of Brianne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) from the “Game of Thrones” series and Muriella (Leelee Sobieski) from “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale”. I’ve been watching alot of knightly films recently – “Arn: The Knight Templar”, “Kingdom of Heaven”, “A Knight’s Tale” – and working my way through my collection of historical dramas. I have to say that Queen Maud (Alison Pill) and Lady Aliena from “Pillars of the Earth” have given me sources for strong independent women of means (not to mention Maud’s armour gave me serious kit aspirations – see below), whilst I like the reinterpretation of Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett) in the new Robin Hood film. She’s not just a wet drip waiting for a man to rescue her, and she is portrayed as truly caring for her people. Plus she gets to go out and fight in armour – more inspirations for kit! If I could fight in reasonably period kit and look half as good I’ll be very happy.
Kit inspiration has been drawn from the White Queen and the Tudors, mostly because I love these TV series and because I love the style of kit. I hope to have a collection of simple gowns that are historically inspired to ‘swan’ around in at events, but I am mostly drawing kit from my wardrobe and trying not to go buy more fabric to add to my cloth mountain.
Other sources of inspiration for my character have come from the “Tales of the Old Kingdom” books (“Sabriel”, “Lirael” and “Abhorsen”) by Garth Nix, the “Arthur Trilogy” (“The Seeing Stone”, “At the Crossing-Places” and “King of the Middle March”) by Kevin Crossley-Holland and the films “Brave” and “Dragonheart” – in particular the latter’s knightly code.
A knight is sworn to valour,
His heart knows only virtue,
His blade defends the helpless,
His might upholds the weak,
His word speaks only truth,
His wrath undoes the wicked
~ The Old Code, Dragonheart 1996
A special mention should also go to the Ladies who LARP tumblr blog, which celebrates the varied and wonderful things women do in LARP. I also leave a link here to an article on Ladies who LARP imaginatively titled “I’ve Seen Women Kill Gods”
Outfitting a Knight
Given the quick turn around I had to get Judith in shape, most of her current garb comes from my wardrobe. I am trying to keep things simple – common items that would suit any eventual time-frame I might use as Judith’s eventual costume ‘period’. If I could get away with proper Tudor garb like Angela Clayton’s Orange Tudor Ensemble I would be in the midst of a sewing frenzy right about now!
Her current kit consists of a long black coat over shirt and dark hero pants, with outrageous blue socks to the knee and a hood and veil. The hood is an old one adapted from a robe pattern I own, but newly lined for weight and luxury. Given Judith is a feudal knight she is proud of her heritage – bearing a shield cover with her family heraldry and a belt flash, as well as a feudal writ which was heavily inspired by “A Knights Tale” and the beautiful decorative scrolls in the SCA. I have made a blue surcoat to be worn as a Knight-Errant over my coat / under my armour which is based on a dwarven pattern by Simplicity (Simplicity 1552). This surcoat was made using material taken from my stash, with scraps of cotton brocade to give weight to the front and texture to the quilted panel down the front and collar.
I have also pulled together some banquet kit using the cream brocade dress I made for Brigit along with a wimple and veil, with a long sleeveless over-robe for warmth. Once buttoned up and kirtled up with a belt the whole ensemble is fight-ready, as proven by a recent jaunt to the Keep which found me fighting hand to hand with monsters in the Great Hall and dashing up and down stairs to the rescue of other members of the company. The wimple and veil were made using tutorials provided by Neulakko, secured to a St Birgitta’s cap and covering most of my hair. I dressed up my hair in imitation cornettes at the side of my face because I can get away with making thick braids without the need for making mock ones out of wool / flax. For more information on that sort of style, follow the links above.
Other fun things – music and songs
When my OH and I were at a local historical property over the summer we had the pleasure of meeting a trio of players from “Blast from the Past”, a group of musicians who perform medieval music and who tour in the winter as Green Matthews. Given my love of music, I include below a set of songs who have been rattling round my head whilst I’ve been preparing Judith these past few months. Enjoy!
Inspired by the singing knight Sir Robin Adair I have to gather a collection of songs for events …
And because I recently got a music book with Tudor music in it …