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Trebuchet is a Web Font and a Medieval War Weapon

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For us who grew up in the age of the internet, we know Trebuchet as a sans-serif web font that didn't look as stiff as Verdana. Its name comes from a medieval war weapon -- a cross between a giant catapult and slingshot that could throw stone balls and, the most dangerous of all, Greek fire.
Scene from Secrets of Great British Castles | Image credit: Netflix

I’ve been watching Secrets of Great British Castles on Netflix. I’m well into the second season but I’m backtracking to write about something interesting I learned in one of the episodes in Season 1.

For us who grew up in the age of the internet, we know Trebuchet as a sans-serif web font that don’t look as stiff as Verdana. According to Typedia:

It is named after the trebuchet, a medieval siege engine. The name was inspired by a puzzle question that Vincent Connare heard within Microsoft headquarters. The question was “can you make a trebuchet that could launch a person from main campus to the new consumer campus about a mile away? Mathematically, is it possible and how?” and Mr. Connare “thought that would be a great name for a font that launches words across the Internet”.

Above is a reproduction of the medieval trebuchet — a cross between a giant catapult and slingshot that could throw stone balls and, the most dangerous of all, “Greek fire.” It figured prominently in the Wars of Scottish Independence whose most famous personality is, arguably, William Wallace who has been immortalized in film as Braveheart.

When Alexander III of Scotland died in 1286, he left no heir save for a three-year-old granddaughter, Margaret, who soon died. There were 13 men were claiming the crown including John Balliol, Lord of Galloway, and Robert Bruce, 5th Lord of Annandale.

England’s King Edward I was invited to mediate to avoid war but the wily English king refused unless he was recognized as Lord Paramount of Scotland and every royal castle be place temporarily (sic) under his control. Thereafter, in 1292, he awarded the Scottish crown to John Balliol but continued to wield power as Lord Paramount.

Balliol refused to become a puppet of Edward I and have Scotland treated as a vassal state. In 1297, Edward I forced him to abdicate. By then, it was clear that England meant to invade Scotland. Scotland openly revolted.

Stirling Castle, Scotland, figured prominently in the Wars for Scottish Independence.

Stirling Castle | Image credit: Netflix

Edward I sent a force of English infantry and cavalry to Scotland. Having found Stirling Castle near the south bank of the Forth River abandoned the previous year, the English had been occupying it. From Stirling Castle, the English forces dispatched to quell the rebellion marched on the bridge across Forth River to conquer Scottish territory to the north.

The English forces were humiliatingly defeated in what is now known as the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Stirling Castle was retaken by the Scots and William Wallace was appointed “Guardian of Scotland.” He would be defeated by Edward I the following year in the Battle of Falkirk but he would not be caught and executed until 1305. But that is another story.

Meanwhile, following their defeat in the Battle of Falkirk, the Scots abandoned Stirling Castle. In 1299, it had been retaken once again by the Scots under Robert the Bruce, grandson of the 5th Lord of Annandale. Meanwhile, the war waged on.

By 1303, Stirling Castle was the last castle held by the Scots. In 1304, Edward I himself led the English army to retake Stirling Castle. He brought with him 17 trebuchets, including the “Warwolf” which was reputedly the largest trebuchet ever built. The English retook Stirling Castle but the war would go on for almost 60 years.