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The White Company

By: Arthur Conan Doyle

The White Company is a historical adventure by British writer Arthur Conan Doyle, set during the Hundred Years' War. The story is set in England, France, and Spain, in the years 1366 and 1367, against the background of the campaign of Edward, the Black Prince, to restore Peter of Castile to the throne of the Kingdom of Castile. The climax of the book occurs before the Battle of Nájera. Doyle became inspired to write the novel after attending a lecture on the Middle Ages in 1889. After extensive research, The White Company was published in serialized form in 1891 in Cornhill Magazine. Additionally, the book is considered a companion to Doyle's 1905-06 Sir Nigel, which explores the early campaigns of Sir Nigel Loring and Samkin Aylward.

At the age of twenty, young Alleyne, son of Edric, leaves the Catholic abbey where he has been raised—intelligent, skilled, and well-liked, though sheltered and naive—and goes out to see the world, in accordance with the terms of his father's will. The same day, the abbot banishes John of Hordle for worldly behavior: great appetite, teasing, and flirting. They meet at the Pied Merlin inn as they each rest for the night. There, they make friends with veteran archer Sam Aylward who has returned to England from France to recruit for the White Company of mercenaries. Aylward has brought a request for Sir Nigel Loring of Christchurch to take command of the company. Aylward and John continue to Christchurch, while Alleyne detours to visit his older brother, the socman or landlord of Minstead, whose fierce reputation has grown to wickedness.  


The brothers meet for the first time since Alleyne was an infant and Alleyne finds that his brother is still furious their father gave three hides of land (80–120 acres) to the monastery for the boy's support. The socman threatens a lovely maiden, Maude, who escapes with Alleyne's aid and they flee on foot to find her horse. Maude makes a striking impression on the abbey-raised young man. When she hears that Alleyne intends to rejoin his friends to approach Sir Nigel Loring, Maude laughs and leaves him. Alleyne meets up again with Aylward and Hordle John, and the three friends meet Sir Nigel and his formidable wife Mary. There, he learns that Maude is Sir Nigel's daughter. Alleyne is taken on as squire to Sir Nigel and as tutor to Maude. When the men eventually depart for France, the young couple admit their love, but only to each other. En route to Gascony, our heroes destroy pirates, then report to the court of the Prince of Wales in Bordeaux.   


After adventures fearful and funny, the valiant fighters lead the White Company to join the Prince. A letter arrives to Sir Nigel declaring that Alleyne's brother, the Socman of Minstead, had attacked Sir Nigel's castle. During the siege, the socman died. This news means that Alleyne is the new socman and emboldens him to declare his love for Maude to Sir Nigel. Sir Nigel is startled by the news and Alleyne's declaration, but indicates that he prefers that Alleyne should be a full knight before he approaches Maude again with talk of love. The Spanish and French attack them in a narrow ravine, where the mighty warriors are almost all destroyed and the Company must disband -- only seven bowmen remain, including John. Alleyne was badly wounded when Sir Nigel sent him to alert the Prince to their plight. Sir Nigel and Aylward are missing and presumed dead. The English go on to win the Battle of Nájera, fulfilling the mission. The Prince knights Alleyne in his sick bed. Alleyne returns to England victorious with John as his squire, only to learn from a lady on the road that Maude and her mother had news that none of the White Company had survived. The lady said that love of a "golden-haired squire", who was presumed dead with the fighters, had caused Maude to decide to join a nunnery. The lady had left just before Maude was to take the veil. Alleyne rushes to the doors of the nunnery and he and Maude embrace. They marry. Alleyn and John prepare to return to find out what happened to Sir Nigel and Aylward. As Alleyne rides to see if the boat is ready to take them, he meets Aylward and Sir Nigel. They have a tale of adventure describing what occurred after they were captured by the Spanish, but eventually escaped to return to England. And everyone lives happily ever after. 

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Arthur Conan Doyle

United Kingdom

He was a British writer and physician. He created the character Sherlock Holmes in 1887 for A Study in Scarlet, the first of four novels and fifty-six short stories about Holmes and Dr. Watson. The Sh...

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