The Legend of Ludgar the War Wolf, King of the Trebuchets

Taking a castle by siege was never as easy as rolling up your machines when the need arose. When the forces of England's King Edward I encircled Scotland's Stirling Castle in 1304, he ordered that thirteen trebuchets be built. Hauling in the supplies and building the huge machine took months, and all the while the besieged Scottish warriors watched and dreaded what was to come.

As the machines were finished, they were christened with names such as Kyngstone, Belfry, Segrave, Toulemonde, Gloucester, and Lincoln. Edward called the biggest of all "Loup–de-guerre," which is French for "wolf of war". A French name for an English king's war engine is not surprising, since English kings spoke French, not English, until a century later. But a name such as Loup-de-guerre would have been quite a mouthful for English speaking soldiers. Soon the big catapult's moniker was bowdlerized into the much more Anglo-Saxony "Ludgar."

Ludgar and his fellow hurling machines threw boulders, but the historical records point to English forces employing more imaginative ammo, too. In fact, this battle might have been the first in England to employ gunpowder-like munitions. The official documents of the time show that Edward sent a letter to his treasurer and the barons of the exchequer "firmly enjoining you with haste to provide a horse load of cotton, quick sulphur and saltpeter… for casting fire into the castle."

The Scots wanted to surrender, but by then, Edward had invested so much time and treasure into his trebuchets that he was gleefully looking forward to using them. Read the story of Ludgar and the other war machines at Popular Mechanics. Bonus: story contains trebuchet videos. (via Digg)  


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