The White Company & Sir Nigel
At the Abbey of Beaulieu in 1366, the abbot expels Brother John for a rash of bad behavior, and the brawny youth makes good his escape. When Sir Nigel of the White Company of “brave English boys” comes recruiting, John joins the ranks. Doyle chooses words that shed light on usage and that illuminate the Hundred Years War at the time of the Black Prince. The epic Doyle most enjoyed writing, from which he resented being pulled away to crank out another Sherlock Holmes mystery, is a wonderful discovery.
Sir Nigel is the “prequel” volume which details the coming of age of the heir of a noble but impoverished family. He plays tricks on the abbey that usurped his land. The churchmen put him on trial and he is rescued by the archer Aylward with news that King Edward is coming to visit. Nigel challenges the king and his retinue to joust on the bridge. His courage finds favor with the king and he gets the opportunity to go to war in France, “the land of chivalry and glory.” He loves Mary, daughter of Sir John Buttlesthorn, for her spirit, and vows to perform three deeds that will make him worthy of her. His failings and triumphs in this quest depict the knights on a human scale in the days when a man would risk all to exalt his lady.