When I first started writing La Bastarda, I spent days trying to find the perfect “home” for Constanza’s early years. Even though I never mentioned it by name, I wanted it to be located in the mountains of Languedoc, mainly because I had already written a scene involving her childhood and snow. I searched everywhere, finally settling on this beautiful castle ruin I found through Google. Of course, as often happens, I ended up diving into the history of the castle, and one particular twist surprised me.
Peyrepertuse was built on a limestone cliff roughly half a mile (2625ft, 800m) high, located in the French Pyrénées. It became known as one of the “Five Sons of Carcassonne”, all of which were placed upon high, rocky cliffs considered invulnerable to attack. It appears the castle itself was built before the eleventh century, when it was mentioned in the will of Bernat Tallaferro; at that point, it had a church and a square keep. It was added to the County of Barcelona with the marriage of Ramon Berenguer III to Dolça of Provence, and kept when he died and his lands were split among his children.
As an aside, let me just say that Ramon Berenguer III was *not* into unique baby names: he had two sons, Ramon Berenguer IV, Berenguer Ramon, and a daughter, Berenguela (but, in his defense, a second daughter was named Almodis). He was kind of like the George Foreman of his day.
To cut a long post somewhat shorter, let me just say that it was involved in something called the Albigensian Crusade, it fell into French hands, ended up with another castle built on top of it, and apparently, Enrique II was allowed to retreat to that castle after the 1367 Battle of Nájera (though I can’t seem to find any source for it, it’s still kind of neat).
Now, unfortunately for me, Peyrepertuse seems to be in a relatively warm environment – it appears the average cold temperature is well above freezing (low- to mid-40s*F), so I fully admit Peyreptuse would probably not work as her childhood home, but it’s very similar to what I wanted and imagined, and it’s a very pretty castle. Ultimately, as a fiction writer, I chose to take some artistic license with the imagery and the like, which I doubt would be as big of an issue as if I had said, for example, they hopped on a boat and went to the Americas (or even England). If there’s any truth to Enrique’s hiding in that location and subsequent muster while there, that would make it even more awesome – I can just imagine Constanza learning about her father’s exile, being afraid for him, but feeling a little less anxious because he’s in a castle where they once used to live, so she’s familiar with the area. It was probably a comforting thought for an almost nine-year-old girl.
(I apologize in advance for the quality of this post if it’s not up to par, as I haven’t felt well the last few days, but I felt I should post something, and a straightforward research post seemed like the best idea. )
- Chaytor, H. J. “The Union of Aragon and Catalonia.” A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Methuen, 1933. Via < http://libro.uca.edu/chaytor/achistory.htm >.
- Kaufmann, J. E., and H. W. Kaufmann. The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts, and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages. Combined, 2001. 223. Print.
- Climate: Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse. Web. 3 Sept. 2015. < http://en.climate-data.org/location/170289/ >.
- “HISTOIRE DU CHÂTEAU DE PEYREPERTUSE.” LE CHÂTEAU DE PEYREPERTUSE. Web. 3 Sept. 2015. < http://www.chateau-peyrepertuse.com/french/peyrepertuse-citadelle-du-vertige,46,53,section,modules,contenu-mc.html >.