41. Last Stands of the Brave, Harlech Castle

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This week Neil comes face to face with the mighty walls of an almost impregnable castle, which down through its history inspired many heroic ‘last stands’ and a song that famously features in one of Neil's favourite films.


On the orders of Edward I, Harlech castle was built between 1283 and 1285 by James of St George a military engineer of unsurpassed genius. It’s clever design, a castle within a castle with it’s back protected by the Irish sea, made it a truly formidable fortress.


During the Wars of the Roses in 1460 Margaret of Anjou, queen and wife of the Lancastrian King Henry VI fled to Harlech castle. For the next eight years the castle was besieged by Yorkist forces determined to capture her. Eventually an army, 10,000 strong, starved the castle into submission. Although unsuccessful this heroic, ‘Last Stand’ was immortalised in the song ‘The Men of Harlech’.


It was this song, which was used to such great effect in Zulu, the 1964 film starring Michael Caine, about another legendary ‘Last Stand’, the defence of Rorke’s Drift in the Anglo-Zulu War.


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