Doyle, Arthur Conan – The White Company


Doyle, Arthur Conan - The White Company

Doyle, Arthur Conan – The White Company: A Tale of Adventure in the Middle Ages

Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The White Company” is a thrilling historical adventure set in the Middle Ages. First published in 1891, the novel follows the exploits of a group of English mercenaries during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. It offers readers a detailed and vivid glimpse into the medieval period, filled with sword fights, epic battles, and political intrigues.

The story centers around the protagonist, Sir Nigel Loring, a brave and honorable knight who leads the renowned White Company. Alongside him are a band of loyal comrades with their own unique personalities and skills. Together, they navigate through a war-torn Europe, facing numerous challenges and encountering famous historical figures such as Black Prince Edward, King John of France, and the notorious Bertrand du Guesclin.

Doyle’s meticulous attention to historical accuracy is evident throughout the novel. He delves into the intricacies of medieval warfare, offering detailed descriptions of weapons, armor, and combat techniques. The battles are depicted with such precision that readers can almost feel the tension and adrenaline as they unfold. Moreover, the author explores the societal norms and customs of the time, shedding light on the chivalrous code of honor that governed knights and the often harsh realities of feudal life.

“The White Company” also explores themes of loyalty, honor, and the pursuit of glory. As the characters embark on their quests, they are forced to confront their deepest fears, make difficult choices, and question their own morality. Doyle’s masterful storytelling brings these complex emotions to life, leaving readers captivated and eager to follow the characters on their journey.

“The White Company” is a testament to Arthur Conan Doyle’s versatility as a writer. Known primarily for his famous detective stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, Doyle’s foray into historical fiction showcases his talent for creating captivating narratives that transport readers to different time periods. With its mix of action, adventure, and historical depth, “The White Company” is a must-read for fans of Arthur Conan Doyle and anyone interested in the vibrancy and excitement of the Middle Ages.

Arthur Conan Doyle: The White Company


Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel “The White Company” is a thrilling tale of adventure set in the Middle Ages. Published in 1891, the book follows the story of a young archer named Alleyne Edricson as he joins the legendary White Company, a band of mercenaries in medieval England. With its vivid descriptions, complex characters, and exciting battles, “The White Company” showcases Doyle’s storytelling prowess and historical knowledge.

Plot Summary

“The White Company” begins with young Alleyne Edricson leaving his monastery where he has been raised and traveling to the castle of Sir Nigel Loring, a famous knight. There, Alleyne is knighted by Sir Nigel and becomes a member of the White Company. Led by Sir Nigel, the White Company embarks on various adventures, including treacherous battles and dangerous missions. Along the way, Alleyne proves his bravery and loyalty and earns the respect of his fellow soldiers.



  • Chivalry: “The White Company” explores the concept of chivalry, highlighting the valor, honor, and loyalty exhibited by the knights and soldiers in the story. The characters strive to uphold the knightly virtues and adhere to a strict code of conduct.
  • War and Conflict: The novel delves into the brutal realities of medieval warfare, portraying the chaos and violence of battles. It explores the motivations behind war and the impact it has on individuals and society.
  • Friendship: Friendship plays a significant role in the story, as Alleyne forms strong bonds with his comrades in the White Company. The camaraderie and mutual support among the soldiers highlight the importance of friendship in overcoming challenges.

Historical Setting

“The White Company” is set in England during the late 14th century, a time of political turmoil and conflict. The Hundred Years’ War between England and France serves as the backdrop for the events in the story. Arthur Conan Doyle researched extensively to create an authentic historical setting, capturing the atmosphere, customs, and politics of the Middle Ages.


Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The White Company” is a captivating adventure that transports readers to the medieval world of knights, battles, and honor. Through its engaging plot and rich historical detail, the novel showcases Doyle’s skill as a storyteller and his deep understanding of the Middle Ages. “The White Company” continues to be a beloved work of historical fiction, captivating readers with its thrilling narrative and vivid characters.

Overview of the Novel

The White Company: A Tale of Adventure in the Middle Ages is a historical novel written by Arthur Conan Doyle. It was first published in 1891 and is set in the 14th century during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France.

The novel follows the adventures of a young Englishman named Alleyne Edricson, whose life is forever changed when he joins the White Company, a group of English mercenaries. As Alleyne journeys through medieval Europe, he encounters various characters and experiences the harsh realities of war.

The main themes of the novel include chivalry, honor, and the contrast between idealized notions of knighthood and the brutal reality of medieval warfare. Conan Doyle delves into the complexities of these themes through the characters and their interactions.

Throughout the novel, the author vividly describes the medieval setting, bringing to life the castles, battlefields, and the political and social climate of the time. The reader is immersed in the world of knights, castles, and epic battles, providing a glimpse into the Middle Ages.

The White Company explores the characters’ personal journeys, including Alleyne’s transformation from a naive young man to a skilled and seasoned warrior. The novel also examines the broader historical context of the Hundred Years’ War and its impact on the lives of ordinary people.

The novel is filled with thrilling action sequences and dramatic encounters, showcasing Conan Doyle’s mastery of storytelling. It blends historical accuracy with elements of adventure and romance, making it an engaging and entertaining read.

Overall, The White Company is a captivating novel that offers a unique perspective on the Middle Ages and explores timeless themes of heroism, loyalty, and the human spirit in times of adversity.

Historical Background of the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages, also known as the Medieval period, spanned from the 5th to the 15th century. It is a significant era in European history that saw the decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of feudalism and Christianity.

The Fall of the Roman Empire

The Fall of the Roman Empire

At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the Western Roman Empire was crumbling, with invasions from barbarian tribes such as the Visigoths and Vandals. In 476 AD, the last Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by Odoacer, a Germanic chieftain. This event is often seen as the end of ancient Rome and the start of the medieval period.

Feudalism and the Rise of Kings

Feudalism and the Rise of Kings

Following the collapse of centralized authority, feudalism became the dominant social and economic system in Europe. Feudalism was a hierarchical system where lords granted land to vassals in exchange for military service and loyalty. These lords, or nobles, held power over their lands and the peasants who worked them.

The Middle Ages also saw the rise of kings and monarchies as central figures of power. Kings and queens used their authority to enforce laws and maintain order within their realms. They relied on the support of the nobles, clergy, and knights to govern and protect their territories.

The Catholic Church and Christianity

The Middle Ages were deeply influenced by Christianity, with the Catholic Church serving as a unifying force across Europe. The Church played a significant role in people’s lives, providing spiritual guidance and control over religious practices. It also held considerable economic and political power, often acting as a mediator between warring factions.

Pilgrimages to holy sites, such as Jerusalem or Santiago de Compostela, became popular during this time, providing opportunities for spiritual growth and the exchange of ideas between different regions.

The Crusades and Contact with the Islamic World

The Crusades and Contact with the Islamic World

One of the defining events of the Middle Ages was the Crusades, a series of holy wars between Christians and Muslims. The Crusades were aimed at reclaiming the Holy Land from Muslim control and promoting Christian ideals. These military campaigns led to increased contact and trade between Europe and the Islamic world, resulting in the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and goods.

The Renaissance and the End of the Middle Ages

In the late 14th and 15th centuries, Europe witnessed a period of renewed interest in art, learning, and science known as the Renaissance. The Renaissance marked the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern era, with a shift towards humanism and an emphasis on individualism and secularism.

The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century played a crucial role in disseminating knowledge and contributing to the spread of ideas across Europe. This period of intellectual and cultural revival set the stage for the Age of Exploration and the subsequent transformation of Europe.

Main Characters and their Adventures

Sir Nigel Loring

Sir Nigel Loring is a brave and experienced knight who is the main protagonist of the story. He is known for his knightly virtues and chivalry. Throughout the book, Sir Nigel embarks on various adventures, including leading the White Company in battles, rescuing damsels in distress, and confronting enemies with courage.

Samkin Aylward

Samkin Aylward is a skilled archer and a loyal companion to Sir Nigel. He is a colorful character known for his jovial personality and witty remarks. Aylward’s adventures often revolve around his exceptional archery skills, whether it’s shooting arrows with remarkable accuracy or engaging in archery competitions.

John Apelesant

John Apelesant, also known as John the Red or John of Hordle, is a muscular and fearless soldier in the White Company. His adventures primarily focus on his strength and combat skills. John is often seen engaging in brutal hand-to-hand combat, overpowering opponents with his sheer power and brawn.

Sir Claude Latour

Sir Claude Latour is a French knight who initially serves as Sir Nigel’s rival but later becomes his ally. His adventures revolve around his skills as a tactician and strategist. Sir Claude is often involved in planning military campaigns, strategizing battle formations, and outsmarting their enemies with his clever tactics.

Sir Oliver Buttesthorn

Sir Oliver Buttesthorn, also known as the Red Shovel, is a stout and pugnacious knight in the White Company. His adventures often depict his fiery temper and fondness for brawls. Sir Oliver can be found engaging in fistfights or duels to defend his honor or settling disputes with his fists rather than words.

Lady Maude

Lady Maude is a beautiful and spirited noblewoman who plays a significant role in the adventures of the main characters. Her adventures involve being a damsel in distress, captured by enemies, and needing rescuing. However, Lady Maude also demonstrates her intelligence and resourcefulness when she helps the protagonists escape dangerous situations or contributes to their overall success.

Themes and Motifs in the Novel

1. Chivalry and Honor

The theme of chivalry and honor is central to the novel. The main characters, Sir Nigel Loring and Sir Nigel’s squire, Alleyne Edricson, are both driven by a strong sense of knightly duty and honor. They adhere to a strict code of conduct, valuing loyalty, courage, and righteousness. The novel explores the challenges faced by these knights as they navigate a world where chivalry is often disregarded or misunderstood.

2. Conflict between Christianity and Paganism

2. Conflict between Christianity and Paganism

The conflict between Christianity and Paganism is another recurring theme in The White Company. The novel is set during the Hundred Years’ War, a time of religious tension between the Christian kingdoms of Europe and the Muslim Empire. Throughout the story, characters grapple with their own beliefs and the conflicting religious ideals of the time.

3. The Nature of Warfare

Doyle provides a realistic portrayal of medieval warfare, highlighting the brutality, chaos, and honor that coexist on the battlefield. The novel explores the different tactics, strategies, and weapons used during this period. It also delves into the psychological and emotional impact of war on the characters.

4. Loyalty and Friendship

The novel explores themes of loyalty and friendship, particularly through the bond between Sir Nigel and Alleyne. Their relationship develops from master and squire to that of true friendship as they endure hardships together and remain faithful to each other and their cause.

5. Gender Roles and Expectations

5. Gender Roles and Expectations

The White Company explores the limitations and expectations placed on women during medieval times. Although female characters like Lady Maude and Aylward’s wife, Watkin, are strong and capable, they are often confined by societal norms. The novel contrasts these societal expectations with the women’s strong will and intelligence.

6. Identity and Purpose

Several characters in the novel struggle with questions of identity and purpose. Alleyne, in particular, grapples with his place in the world and his desire to live up to the ideals of knighthood. The theme of searching for meaning and purpose is explored through Alleyne’s journey of self-discovery.

Themes and Motifs Description
Chivalry and Honor Explores the adherence to a strict code of conduct and the challenges faced by knights.
Conflict between Christianity and Paganism Focuses on the tensions between the Christian and Pagan religions during the Hundred Years’ War.
The Nature of Warfare Portrays the brutality, chaos, and honor on the battlefield during medieval times.
Loyalty and Friendship Explores the bond between Sir Nigel and Alleyne and the loyalty they have for each other.
Gender Roles and Expectations Examines the limitations and expectations placed on women in the medieval society.
Identity and Purpose Explores the search for meaning and purpose in the characters’ lives, particularly Alleyne.

Critical Reception and Legacy

“The White Company” received mixed reviews upon its initial publication. Some critics praised Conan Doyle’s vivid and atmospheric depiction of medieval life, while others found the plot and characterization lacking. However, the novel’s popularity grew over time and it has since become one of Conan Doyle’s most enduring works.

The novel’s historical accuracy has been a subject of debate among scholars. While some argue that Conan Doyle’s research was meticulous and his portrayal of medieval society is authentic, others criticize his romanticized and idealized version of the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, “The White Company” continues to be studied and appreciated for its detailed depiction of medieval warfare and chivalry.

The legacy of “The White Company” can be seen in its influence on later works of historical fiction. Many authors, including George R.R. Martin and Bernard Cornwell, have cited Conan Doyle’s novel as an inspiration for their own works. The themes of honor, loyalty, and adventure explored in “The White Company” continue to resonate with readers today.

Furthermore, “The White Company” has had an impact on popular culture. The novel has been adapted into several film and television productions, further cementing its place in the cultural consciousness. Additionally, the book has inspired countless reenactments and events celebrating the medieval era and its ideals.

What is “The White Company” about?

“The White Company” is a tale of adventure set in the Middle Ages. It follows the story of a group of knights known as the White Company as they journey across Europe, facing various challenges and battles.

Who is the author of “The White Company”?

The author of “The White Company” is Arthur Conan Doyle, best known for his Sherlock Holmes detective stories. “The White Company” was one of Doyle’s historical novels.

What inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write “The White Company”?

Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired to write “The White Company” after coming across a book about medieval warfare. He became fascinated with the era and decided to write a novel set in that time period.

What are the main characters in “The White Company”?

The main characters in “The White Company” include Sir Nigel Loring, a brave knight and the leader of the White Company; Alleyne Edricson, a young squire who joins the company; and John Hawkwood, an experienced soldier who becomes their mentor.

What are some of the challenges and battles the White Company faces?

The White Company faces various challenges and battles throughout their journey. They encounter rival knights, raiders, and even participate in the Hundred Years’ War, fighting against the French. These events test their bravery, loyalty, and skills as warriors.

Is “The White Company” based on real historical events?

While “The White Company” is a work of fiction, it is set against the backdrop of real historical events, such as the Hundred Years’ War and the Battle of Poitiers. Arthur Conan Doyle did extensive research to create a realistic and immersive portrayal of the Middle Ages.

What is the writing style of “The White Company”?

The writing style of “The White Company” is descriptive and vivid, transporting readers to the medieval world. It combines elements of adventure, romance, and historical fiction, with a focus on action-packed scenes and character development.

Is “The White Company” suitable for all readers?

“The White Company” is suitable for readers who enjoy historical fiction, adventure, and tales set in the Middle Ages. However, it may not be suitable for younger readers due to its violent and intense scenes. Parents and guardians should use their discretion when deciding if it is appropriate for their children.

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