A Grove of Eagles by Winston Graham – Poldark meets Elizabethan England?

Rather than painting my new figures, I have just finished reading the 640 page long Winston Graham’s The Grove of Eagles – A Novel of Elizabethan England (1963, Pan Macmillan reissue 2016)

Based on real historical events, this book follows the mixed fortunes of the Killigrew family of Arwenack and Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, Cornwall in the 1590s of the Spanish Armadas and raids on England.

Winston Graham is much better known for his 18th Century Poldark novels which were also set in Cornwall (filmed for TV in the 1970s and recently) and other books such as Marnie (later made into a Hitchcock movie). He also wrote a non fiction book about the Spanish Armada, which also arrived as a Christmas present, so he knew the background of the many historical figures who turn up in the book.

It has lots of interesting characters – pirates, witches, wenches, soldiers and sailors. The novel is split into 5 sections, which have some interesting scenarios for gaming:

  1. The Spanish Raids and burning of Mousehole, Newlyn, Penzance and Paul church in Cornwall 1595
  1. Joining up with Walter Raleigh and going to sea against the Spanish – the sea fight and breaching the city walls and street fighting during the land invasion at Cadiz – it all goes a bit C.S. Forester or Bernard Cornwall at this point.

The Cadiz street fighting and ship boarding sections give a good idea of what a visceral and bloody experience it must be facing musketeers, pikes and bill hooks in confined spaces. The casualty rate and attrition from such wounds and being captured or imprisoned is obviously quite high.

I will not give away any plot spoilers about the adventures and romances of young Cornishman Maugan Killigrew but it is an enjoyable story set within real historical events.

I was a little disappointed that there were no maps of the Cornish places or of Cadiz and the sea areas mentioned in the book. Thankfully I have the other Winston Graham Spanish Armada history book for this. You can search for the places on online or OS maps.

A short chapter at the end by Winston Graham fills in what happened after the story to the real characters and what parts are based on fact and contemporary sources.

Shhhh – Don’t tell anybody but for somebody of Cornish ancestry it is no doubt shocking to confess that I haven’t read any Poldark novels or seen the two TV adaptations, either in the 1970s when I was too young (it’s a bit mixed up in my head with The Onedin Line) or more recently.

What makes it more personally interesting to me is that I know many of the Cornish places mentioned in the book. I know a little of the family histories connected to these estates and houses and sometimes wonder what my Cornish ancestors were doing during these Armada days of Spanish Raids, as they all lived in far west part of Cornwall that was raided by the Spanish. Did they see the Spanish ships, flee the burning towns or stand ‘Muster’ in the lacklustre defence of the Cornish shores?

I look forward to reading it again soon, as when you reach the end, some of the previous events and characters are revealed in a new light.

Anyway I turned a few page corners down to go back and look at for possible gaming scenarios with my 54mm figures.

These scenarios will be useful once I have finished painting the new Chintoys Spaniards, some more cheap plastic seaside pirates as ships crews and converted some more plastic knights into a passable Cornish / English Muster, reinforced by the pikes and muskets of a Trained Band of English Civil War figures.




Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 2 January 2021.

An Old Lead Cow for her Birthday? Happy Centenary for Rosemary Sutcliff 14 December 2020

Happy Centenary Rosemary – a small present for your Centenary. If any reader is not sure why I chose these, read more here, crossposted from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog:


Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 14 December 2020