Places: Quentin Durward

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1823

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: 1468

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Castle of Plessis-les-Tours

*Castle Quentin Durwardof Plessis-les-Tours (pleh-SEE-lay-TEWR). Royal French stronghold situated two miles south of the ancient capital of Touraine, in and around which the early phases of the story take place. Quentin makes his first appearance at a treacherous ford on a fast-running brook, a tributary of the Cher River, after which he reposes briefly at Saint Hubert’s Chapel before going to the castle. Important settings within the castle include the Hall of Roland and its surrounding gallery, where Quentin secretly observes Princess Joan and her attendants; the tower where the astrologer Galeotti Marti, or Martivalle, is lodged in richly furnished apartments, with his library of Hermetic Philosophy and his silver astrolabe; and the Dauphin’s tower, where the two countesses of Croye are lodged.


*Namur (NAH-mewr). Town in Flanders (now the capital of a Belgian province) where Quentin and the countesses obtain lodgings at a Franciscan convent while they are traveling to Liege. When their guide Hayraddin is expelled from the convent for licentious behavior, Quentin follows him into the nearby woods and discovers his apparent treachery.


*Liege (leej). Region of the Low Countries that is now a province of Belgium; its capital city is situated at the junction of the Ourthe and Meuse (“Maes” in the novel) Rivers. The castle of Schonwaldt, the residence of the bishop of Liege at the time of the novel, was situated a mile outside the town; it is one of the most important settings of the novel before and after it is stormed and taken by the robber baron William de la Marck. However, it is destroyed before Charles the Bold’s Burgundian troops arrive to retake the city.

The most important settings within the city featured in advance of the climactic battle are the church of Saint Lambert, where Quentin hears mass before being accosted by the burghers, and the house of the Syndic Pavillon, where he takes refuge before returning to the bishop’s palace. After the victory, mass is celebrated in the Roman Cathedral church, but the ending of the story is so hurried that Scott does not bother to specify exactly where it is that Quentin and his uncle confront and kill William de la Marck, or where they display his severed head to the satisfied gazes of Louis and Charles.


*Péronne (peh-rohn). Town and fortress on the banks of the Somme River, thirty miles east of Amiens in northern France. Quentin’s southward journey to Péronne after leaving Liege takes him through Charleroi and across the Lowlands of Hainault, with a brief pause in the town of Landrecy. The castle of Péronne had a well-deserved reputation throughout the Middle Ages for invincibility–it was never broached until the duke of Wellington’s English army captured it in 1815–and was therefore known as Péronne la Pucelle (“the maiden”). The imprisonment there of Louis XI by Charles the Bold is the principal historical incident around which Scott’s plot is organized, and the plot makes much of the fearsome “donjon” in Earl Herbert’s Tower, where the king is confined with his astrologer and advisers. Scott represents Charles the Bold as a belated embodiment of the dying ideals of chivalry, and the fact that his armies are camped around the virgin citadel when Quentin first encounters him thus has a certain symbolic significance.

Château de Hautlieu

Château de Hautlieu (sha-TOH deh oh-LEW). Castle on the banks of the Loire River in France in whose picture-gallery and library the novel’s ostensible narrator finds the inspiration for the story. Its name means “high place,” echoing the long-lost high ideals of chivalry.

BibliographyHart, Francis. Scott’s Novels: The Plotting of Historic Survival. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1966. Excellent discussion of historical background, providing insight into the characters of Charles of Burgundy and Louis XI. Analyzes the theme, the importance of power in politics, and raises questions about the difficult moral issues raised by political allegiance.Johnson, Edgar. Sir Walter Scott: The Great Unknown. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1970. Extensively researched biography exploring Scott, both as a man and as a writer. Provides clear summary of action and good analysis of character, theme, and setting, showing a society in which basic values have broken down, forcing the protagonist to fit into this corrupt world without losing his soul. An excellent introductory source.Shaw, Harry E. The Forms of Historical Fiction: Sir Walter Scott and His Successors. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983. Compares Quentin Durward to the other Waverley novels, discussing plot structure and noting that Scott described Louis XI as the novel’s central character.Sutherland, John. The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1995. Describes Scott’s research for a new setting, studying maps of France. Compares details in the plot to incidents occurring in Scott’s private life.Wagenknecht, Edward. Sir Walter Scott. New York: Continuum, 1991. Clear, detailed discussion of the political background, theme, and characterization. Asserts that Quentin Durward is a realistic hero, while the characterization of James I is the finest in the novel.
Categories: Places