I never read Ronald Welch as a child – he was writing a bit too late for me – but his historical adventure stories have a very familiar ring. In Bowman of Crécy and The Hawk I recognized with nostalgia the dashing heroes of my youth, the dastardly villains, the beautiful but distant women, the chivalry and high moral tone.
The history-based tales that gripped me in childhood didn’t teach me a great deal of history. From John Buchan’s Greenmantle (a big favourite) I got the vaguest notion of Germany’s plot during the First World War to set the Middle East ablaze. I loved the antics of Baroness Orczy’s dashing Scarlet Pimpernel but didn’t learn much about the causes of the French Revolution. C. S. Forester’s Captain Hornblower taught me to fear Napoleon, but then Conan Doyle confused the issue with his comic French hussar Brigadier Gerard.
Ronald Welch’s stories are just as exciting. But he was a history teacher, and his stories are consequently more . . . well, historical. They follow the fortunes of a fictional family, the Careys, for over seven centuries from the Crusades to the First World War. Bowman of Crécy is set during the Hundred Years’ War and is the real story of one of Edward III’s campaigns. In The Hawk you learn of political intrigue at the court of Queen Elizabeth I and the rivalry with Spain; and you get to meet Drake, Walsingham and the Virgin Queen herself.
The heroes of these two books are handsome, courageous youths who grow up to become leaders of men. Hugh Fletcher, the aptly named protagonist of Bowman of Crécy, is another Robin Hood. Head of a band of outlaws in the greenwood, he rescues comrades from the castle of a wicked lord and saves the life of a good lord (Sir John Carey) who takes him and his merry men to the wars in France. The climax is a thrilling account of the Battle of Crécy (1346, in case you’ve forgotten), after which the outlaw is
The full version of this article is only available to subscribers to Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly. To continue reading, please sign in or take out a subscription to the quarterly magazine for yourself or as a gift for a fellow booklover. Both gift givers and gift recipients receive access to the full online archive of articles along with many other benefits, such as preferential prices for all books and goods in our online shop and offers from a number of like-minded organizations. Find out more on our subscriptions page.Subscribe now or Sign in