Professor Gilbert Arlin

Gilbert Arlin

 4 December YE 804-Present

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Professor Gilbert Hugh Arlin (born 4 December YE 804, Marcdom of Holderness) is an East Mercian historian, whose main work concerns the royal and heraldic history of Nottingham and the Fitzwalter family. He is the author of The Fitzwalters, a multi-volume series on the family which is currently in progress, with three volumes published and a fourth soon to be released.

Early Life and Education

Gilbert Hugh Arlin was the second child born to Hugh Danforth Arlin and his partner Julia Louise Otford, both booksellers. Actor Rita Arlin-Coombes and musician and record producer Polly Arlin are his sisters. His paternal grandfather, after whom he was named, was the art historian Gilbert Danforth Arlin. Children of the family have taken their father’s surname since the Age of Equality, although some scions are known to prefer the more common usage of the mother’s surname.

The Arlin siblings grew up above their parents’ bookshop, but the family struggled to make ends meet as the Long Famine wracked East Mercia. Gilbert has spoken of the lengths they had to go to in order to ensure the survival of their business;

If I should close my eyes, I can see the image of one of my mother or my father leaving at six o’clock in the morning with their cart full of books, to sell to whomever, wherever, in Holderness or Yarlestre, sometimes further afield. I clearly recall being sat on the cart on a winter’s day as my mother drove, a boy of ten or eleven, engrossed in a volume on the Acorn Uprising.

– Interview for Creative East Mercia, YE 878

Gilbert’s reading fostered his interest in history, and he was encouraged to pursue this by his father, who reasoned that he had inherited his grandfather’s passion. Aged seventeen, he won an essay competition set up by the Marcdom of Holderness to send a promising student to Nottingham to study at Barton University, and a place was confirmed for him to start in the autumn of YE 823. He lived with his sister Rita – who had left for Nottingham the year before to further her acting ambitions and was now appearing in theatre productions – and worked in the university bookshop during holidays and reading weeks to earn some extra money. Polly would soon follow, living with her siblings whilst playing Hammond organ and singing in Nottingham’s clubs and coffee houses.

Gilbert received First Class undergraduate honours from Barton in YE 826, followed by an MA. He completed his doctoral studies at the University of Clifton in the early years of the following decade, writing a thesis entitled Nottingham: City, Capital, Changeling dedicated to his adopted home city. By this time, Rita had built up a successful resume and was now acting on television, a few years away from taking her most remembered role as scheming dentist Dr. Christine Miller-Evans on the soap opera High June’s Square, and Polly had made a series of hit records as part of the band The Relics. The siblings had moved on from living together, but remained close.


Gilbert Arlin had begun teaching at Clifton’s Faculty of History in YE 830, and was made a Fellow in YE 835. Soon after, he put on the first edition of his symposium, The Ages of Fitzwalter, initially presenting it solo; he has expanded it down the years to include a panel of academics from different Clifton faculties. On special occasions, most notably anniversary editions, Arlin brings together a panel of experts from a range of academic institutions including Clifton, Barton University and Pirehill College of the Arts. Dr. Annette Lynton and Dr. Joseph Rake have both appeared on these panels.

The Fitzwalters

Arlin’s success with these symposia inspired him to write the definitive biography of the Fitzwalter family. He completed the first volume, Love, Fear and Destiny, in YE 856; it focused on how the family arrived in England and how they came to be involved in the First Hycath War, as well as their activities during the early First Age of Hycath.

All Roads Lead To Rome, the second volume, was published in YE 864, picking up where the first left off and centring on Queen Mary-Anne and her pivotal role in the Sacking of the Vatican and establishment of the Second Age of Hycath.

Mighty Oaks, the third volume, emerged in YE 872 and told the story of the Fitzwalters through the Oliver Coup and Acorn Uprising, and the establishment of the Age of Equality, with Queens Matilda I, Cecily I and Alviva II, and King John I featuring prominently.

Over this time, Arlin had developed a close relationship with the Fitzwalter family, particularly King John II, brother of King Richard IV. Upon ascending to the throne in YE 877, the now King John II granted Arlin access to the family’s private archives at Nottingham Castle, providing him with new information. With the King’s permission, Arlin prepared a second edition of the first three volumes of The Fitzwalters, placing work on the fourth on hiatus. The second editions were published in November YE 878.

The fourth volume, By Hands of Steel, was published in early YE 882. It covers the rebuilding of Nottingham Castle and the Champion’s Arena, as well as the Industrial Revolution. 

Media and broadcasting work

Arlin was a memorable guest on a television debate in YE 873 on the subject of town planning in East Mercia, where he clashed with Dr. Annette Lynton, then embarking on a broadcasting career after having recently left her teaching post at Barton.

Arlin was reunited with Lynton as the expert guest on the final episode of The Clash of the Cousins in early YE 882, which explored Gabriella Fitzwalter and her role in the Battle of Lincoln, for which he drew on material he had researched for the first volume of The Fitzwalters. The episode was given the title ‘Love, Fear and Destiny’ with his permission.

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