Gaveston, whatever his sexual proclivities, was an outspoken man, and arrogant beyond his comparatively humble birth. Certainly his influence over the king was of an order that irritated the established nobility.
Lancaster and his allies therefore rebelled against the government of Piers Gaveston and forced Gaveston and Edward II to flee to Yorkshire.
Thomas seems to have been incapable of making friends, keeping his wife, holding an army together, or indeed keeping anyone together. As a leader of a political faction he was sadly lacking.
It seems all too likely that it would have been necessary for him to create a refuge for himself away from the centre of English government in the south of England.
The design of the castle is very interesting. It takes the form of a curtain wall surrounding an enormous – and almost entirely empty – enclosure.
We know that this wasn’t the first structure on the site. Archaeological work carried out in the early 2000s suggested that there was an Iron Age promontory fort there. But this was certainly the first castle to have been built on the site.
Archaeological work has revealed a number of surprises at Dunstanburgh, not least the fact that when Thomas of Lancaster built it, the castle was actually formed into an island by the artificial creation of a string of freshwater meres, or lakes, around its western flank.
These meres would have had the effect of turning the castle into an island in the sea.
As support for his rebellion fell apart, Thomas decided to escape to the north and take refuge at Dunstanburgh.
But he didn’t get far. A royalist army intercepted him and defeated his army. Thomas was taken to the city of York, and humiliatingly pelted with snowballs as he was marched through the streets.
Jeremy Ashbee, Rose Arkle