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A romantic tale from Peveril Castle, Derbyshire

Updated on March 18, 2013

Modern day

Modern day Castleton is a small village situated amongst the peaks of Derbyshire. On the highest peak stand the ruins of Peveril Castle. In modern times it is approached by a steep path cut into the side of the hill and although plenty of benches are provided to rest, the ascent is a test of stamina. When the castle was first built access was via a causeway and a more gentle slope. To the rear of the castle is a sheer drop and its remoteness adds to the feeling of isolation.

Against this background is a tale of true romance, of a ladies hand being won by her valiant suitor.

Model of what the original castle would have looked like
Model of what the original castle would have looked like

Peveril castle was built around 1086, twenty years after the decisive Battle of Hastings, won by William the Conqueror. As was the custom of the age, William Peveril, an illegitimate son of the Conqueror was given his name and a grant of land on which he built his castle in the peaks. William married and had three children; the youngest was regarded as a very beautiful girl by all who saw her. Melette, for that was her name, declared to all that would listen that she would only marry a handsome and distinguished knight with proven ability in battle. She is said to have declared " I care little for riches... the only true wealth is to have what the heart longs for".

The Bayeaux Tapestry
The Bayeaux Tapestry

William, who loved his daughter very much, decided to have a tournament on some flat land in front of the castle. (Probably where the village of Castleton is now built). In those days the only way to publicise an event was to send riders throughout the country with a proclamation that a tourney (tournament) for love was taking place on Michaelmas Day at Peveril of the Peak. The prize was Melette as wife and the winning knight would become the lord and master of Blanchtour and have the feudal rights over the lands. This amounted to Whittington Castle in Shropshire and was regarded as quite a prize.

There were many knights who answered the call to the tourney. From England, Scotland and Wales and also Barons from France. On the day of the tournament the ladies progressed to the top of the castle tower where they had a good view over the tournament. Contestants fought each other bravely for the prize but at last Guarine Dew Metz of Normandy was declared the winner and won the lands and the hand of Mellette.

A re-enactment of norman knights
A re-enactment of norman knights

The couple were married by the Bishop and Peveril gave a great feast for them to celebrate their wedding. The happy couple travelled to their castle at Blanchtour where legend has it that they lived for forty years in "Great Joy", making them very old by the life expectancy of most people who were old at 40!

A beautiful romantic tale, set against the dramatic backdrop of Peveril castle.


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