20 October 2014

The Battlefield and Beyond: Noble hostages in the medieval English Court



Today, the word hostage is terrifying, implying the threat of imminent death if money is not paid or other demands met.  In the Fourteenth Century, however, being a hostage could be a much more pleasurable experience.
Battle of Poiters.  French knights left, English right.
In fact, if you were a knight or a noble in war at this time, the threat of death in battle was less than the threat of being taken captive.  After all, if you were dead, your enemy got nothing.  If you were alive, however, he might collect quite a tidy sum for your return.  In fact, the potential for such lucrative “spoils of war,” was a great incentive for a knight to join the call to battle.

Of course, there were chivalric rules about all this, but the result, particularly during the Hundred Years’ War, was that war became an elaborate economic game as well as a military one.  This reached its zenith in the Treaty of Bretigny between England and France.  When it was signed, in 1360, it seemed as if England had, indeed, won the war, which had not then gone on for a hundred years.  King Jean II of France was taken prisoner at the battle of Poitiers and the English were in a position to demand nearly any price for his return.  The final amount agreed on, three million gold ecrus, more than France’s total annual income, a ruinous figure which, eventually, contributed to the treaty’s failure.

King Jean II of France
But when he was held in England, King Jean did not languish in a drafty prison cell.  He was housed in the Savoy Palace, along with many other members of his entourage.  Certainly, not all prisoners were so well treated, but part of the code of chivalry was that knights should behave honorably to each other.  The captor should honor a man’s station and the captive should, on his honor, not try to escape.

The result, for a time, was that England was full of French nobles, feasting and partying as if they were guests at an elaborate house party.  (To be fully accurate, a hostage was to pay for his own room and board, but it’s hard to find detailed evidence of how this was accomplished.) 

Late in 1360, King Jean returned to France to personally work to raise the full amount of the ransom, which had been slow in coming.  In his absence, 40 nobles were sent in his place as surety for his return, but after a while, even the substitutes became restless.  In a great example of how this all played out, King Jean’s son, the Duke of Anjou, was allowed to cross the Channel to go to Calais, which was, technically, still English territory.  Even though he had cross the English Channel, he was bound by honor to remain an English prisoner.  However, the temptation of being so close to home, and his wife, proved too much, and the Duke went riding one day in 1363 and never returned.

This horrible breach of honor did not go unnoticed.  King Edward III of England wrote King Jean, shaming him with his son's blot on the royal name, and as a result, King Jean returned to England in January of 1364 and once again put himself in Edward’s hands as a hostage.
Savoy Palace on the Thames, the hostage king's home in London.
There are other, less flattering reasons given by history of why the French king might have returned to captivity, but suffice it to say he was given a royal welcome, once again housed in the Savoy Palace, and though he was ostensibly still working to moderate the ruinous terms of the Treaty, he apparently had a glorious time while doing it. 

Right up until he became ill and died less than three months later.

King Jean's funeral.
The cause of death was natural and the king of England mourned his royal brother with all due ceremony, giving him a funeral truly fit for a king before returning the body to France for another funeral and burial.

Well might Edward have mourned, for when he lost possession of the French king, he lost the leverage he needed to collect the remaining ransom.  Faced with the requirements of honor versus handing over good French coin to the English, the new French king let payments slide and eventually declared the treaty void in 1369.

By 1367, the last hostage in England had been released and by that time, as the French historian Edouard Perroy writes in his book, THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR, “There remained in London as hostages only the small fry of petty barons and burgesses.  Individual measures of clemency set some free, and others married and settled permanently in England…”

Married?  Mas oui!  Including a French count, Enguerrand, Lord de Coucy, who married King Edward’s daughter Isabella.  And that was what sparked the idea for WHISPERS AT COURT, my next Royal Wedding story, scheduled for release in 2015.

After many years in public relations, advertising and marketing, BLYTHE GIFFORD started writing seriously after a corporate layoff. Ten years and one layoff later, she became an overnight success when she sold her first book to the Harlequin Historical line.  Since then, she has published ten romances set in England and on the Scottish Borders, most using real historical events as inspiration.  SECRETS AT COURT, a Royal Wedding story, was a March 2014 release from the Harlequin Historical line.  For more information, visit www.blythegifford.com 

Photo credits:  Author photo Jennifer Girard

"JeanIIdFrance" by Anonymous (Paris) Formerly attributed to Girard d'Orléans. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:JeanIIdFrance.jpg#mediaviewer/File:JeanIIdFrance.jpg
"The funeral procession of Jean II" by Virgil Master (illuminator) - Jean Froissart, Chroniques (Vol. I). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_funeral_procession_of_Jean_II.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_funeral_procession_of_Jean_II.jpg

19 October 2014

Author Interview: Rebecca Hazell on CONSOLAMENTUM

 This week, we're pleased to welcome author REBECCA HAZELL with the third in her The Tiger and the Dove series, CONSOLAMENTUM. One lucky visitor will get a free copy of the novel in Kindle format. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

In the finale of Sofia's memoir, Consolamentum, both dramatic and poignant, her dreams of home are shattered when her own family betrays her. Raising her child on her own, mourning the loss of her beloved knight, and building a trading empire, she seeks safe haven for her child and herself. Her quest takes her from Antioch to Constantinople to Venice. A surprise reunion in Venice leads her to France where she runs afoul of the newly established Holy Inquisition, possibly the greatest challenge she has yet faced. Can a woman so marked by oppression, betrayal, and danger ever find her safe haven, much less genuine happiness?
 
**Q&A with Rebecca Hazell**
 
Welcome. Can you tell us a bit about your historical trilogy? I understand that the title for the series is The Tiger and the Dove, so maybe you could start there.

Thanks for hosting me. Yes, The Tiger and the Dove was taken from something Genghis (Chinggis) Khan once said: “In war be like a tiger; in peace be like a dove.” My novels are set in a war-torn era, where the tiger was more likely to dominate than the dove. But I then contrasted that predatory mindset with the dove’s, because there were always people who were not buying into the tiger approach and who kept civilization going. Without them, the tigers would have torn each other and everyone else apart! In addition, I wanted to show how people could also be peaceful, not just passive, but at home in their own skins, to so speak; or who couldn’t find peace and were therefore tragic figures.
Tell us about the three novels.
The first, The Grip of God, is set during the Mongol invasions of medieval Rus’, where my heroine Sofia is from, and then of Europe. Sofia grows from a spoiled, petted princess into someone both tough and tender, who survives the worst and yet maintains her good heart. She has to be tough, as she’s enslaved and then carried along with the Mongol invasion. There are also lots of plot twists and sub-stories that give the reader a sense of that complex and rather terrifying time; and there is also a difficult romance.
In the second novel, Solomon’s Bride, Sofia has escaped into Iran, where she encounters many of the same problems she’d thought to leave behind. She again must survive difficulties: virtual imprisonment in Alamut, capital of the dreaded Assassins, and another virtual imprisonment in a Crusader castle. Again, there are many subplots, and the reader learns not only her story but also that of others who have also lost so much to war and have had to rebuild their lives. And she falls deeply in love, a love that seems doomed by the crusade of Louis IX.
The third novel, Consolamentum, takes Sofia farther west, first to Antioch and Constantinople, then to Venice, southern France, and Paris. She was quite the traveler, but her adventures resemble those of the Polo brothers, whom I include in the story as her friends. It’s amazing to think that they, like many others, thought nothing of crossing a vast continent not once but twice!
The question that always haunts Sofia is how to find and be able to rest in love. To do so, she must withstand many trials of faith, partly faith in herself and partly faith in love itself. I don’t want to say more and spoil the plot.
It sounds like a serious trilogy.
Yes, it is. But I believe it is entertaining, too, or so independent reviewers have said. I believe I struck a balance between realism and romance. And I have something universal to say, I believe. We all yearn for love; no one wants to be caught up in war. Like Scarlett O’Hara, Sofia has a vision of what she wants and isn’t shy of using her feminine qualities as strengths; unlike Scarlett, she’s not totally selfish and unscrupulous!
What did you enjoy most and least about writing this series of novels?
I loved creating a character who is age appropriate at each stage of her life, who can be petty at one moment and totally generous at another, just like us. It was like witnessing one of my own children unfold into someone unexpected and three-dimensional. In fact, I tried to treat all my characters that way, so that no one was totally ‘the bad guy’, no matter how cruel or deluded they were. All are complex, all have reasons for being who they are.
What I least enjoyed was realizing how truly brutal many people were in that long ago era. Sometime I feel, given our current news, that we haven’t moved much beyond that stage, and then I look around at the amazing way we do cooperate to create a more or less inclusive and functioning society, and I thank my lucky stars that we don’t have Mongols and Assassins and Crusaders and Inquisitors lurking around every corner. Though I suppose that could happen …
Thank you for visiting. Would you like to end our interview with an excerpt from Consolamentum?
Yes, thank you, and yes. Here it is:
“That child you carry is a bastard!  And worse, its father is a known seducer and liar!  We have been at a loss over what to do ever since we found out, for surely you believed this Sir Joscelin’s falsehoods or you’d never have lain with him—I can only hope so, at least.  But you endangered my entire family’s reputation with your heedless conduct.  While you were so ill, your uncle Basil took steps to protect you, even established himself as your guardian. But we still have no idea how to untangle you from the web this man wove around you.”
By the time she had finished speaking, she had calmed down considerably, but her words were hammer blows on my heart.  I sat down on one of her chairs to gather my thoughts.  When I finally spoke, I could not hide the quaver in my voice.  “Where did you hear such things?”
“Basil has many connections in Antioch and beyond.  It took only a month to discover the truth from his agent in Cyprus.  He had to quell the terrible slanders he heard about you.  His man says you are the butt of jests in every tavern, but my husband would not believe his dear niece was anyone’s concubine—and that is the kindest word he heard used about you!  But the more Basil heard, the more alarmed he became.
“He first thought to take you to our country estate as soon as you were fit to travel.  But I urged him to wait, to put out more enquiries into your holdings and so forth, and to set about protecting you in case your seducer might have seized anything through some trick.”
“Good God, these slanders, I assure you, are utterly unjust.  Both of us behaved with the greatest restraint for over a year, always considering ourselves betrothed to each other.  But then he was forced to marry that terrible girl, which was a disaster for us all, even for her.  Their marriage was never consummated, and Sir Joscelin only awaits news of its annulment, and with the blessings of King Louis himself!  He has behaved with complete virtue toward me, and we are truly betrothed, which is as good and binding as marriage.  Indeed, we are married in the eyes of God if not the Church.
“And if he lied to me, why give me not one but two rings, one of the utmost value to him?  I am certain the evil rumors you heard about him merely stem from the death of his first wife, for which he utterly blames himself.  He has been paying for that tragic death ever since. He even went to the Holy Land hoping to die in battle, a death I am so glad our Merciful Lord refused him!”
Caterina looked at me as if I had grown another head.  “You are sadly mistaken, Sofia.  It was bad enough at first when I learned of your previous marriage.  No one who has been widowed should remarry—and you already told us you were widowed—but I thought this last marriage had already taken place and that there was no more to be said about it!” 

I paled, afraid of what would come next.  Why had I ever tried to cover my tracks by mentioning I was a widow?  I had not even told the exact truth about the so-called marriage, just that I’d been married to a merchant who had died on our journey west.  They’d have been far more horrified had they known I had wed not one but two Muslims, Selim and then his son Kerim after Selim was murdered.  Ironically, both marriages had been temporary and not true unions, at least from my point of view.  They simply took advantage of a custom among the Shi’a, first as a way for me to belong to Selim’s family and then to escape Alamut with Kerim.  Neither had been consummated, though a little guilt flitted through my heart.  Had Kerim not been murdered, too, I might have relented one day and lain with him. I had been celibate for so long and was so ruined already that the sin of it would not have stopped me.
 
About the author
Rebecca Hazell is an award winning artist, author, and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best-selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases. She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.

Visit Rebecca:


17 October 2014

New & Noteworthy: October 17


• Piers Alexander's self-published debut novel THE BITTER TRADE to be sold through W H Smith Travel (WHST) stores beginning October 23. Congratulations, Piers!



Kim Rendfeld recently completed her virtual book tour to introduce THE ASHES OF HEAVEN'S PILLAR, which garnered many positive reviews. You can read a roundup on the Reviews page of her website, kimrendfeld.com. Kim also contributed a guest post to Royalty Free Fiction, in which she discussed her inspiration for her novel about a peasant Saxon mother who will go to great lengths to protect her children.

Michelle Styles' latest release, PAYING THE VIKING'S PRICE, will be released in Italian next month. The Italian edition is entitled LA CONCUBINA DEL VICHINGO. Congratulations, Michelle!

16 October 2014

Excerpt Thursday: CONSOLAMENTUM by Rebecca Hazell

This week, we're pleased to welcome author REBECCA HAZELL with the third in her The Tiger and the Dove series, CONSOLAMENTUM. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. One lucky visitor will get a free copy of the novel in Kindle format. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

In the finale of Sofia's memoir, Consolamentum, both dramatic and poignant, her dreams of home are shattered when her own family betrays her. Raising her child on her own, mourning the loss of her beloved knight, and building a trading empire, she seeks safe haven for her child and herself. Her quest takes her from Antioch to Constantinople to Venice. A surprise reunion in Venice leads her to France where she runs afoul of the newly established Holy Inquisition, possibly the greatest challenge she has yet faced. Can a woman so marked by oppression, betrayal, and danger ever find her safe haven, much less genuine happiness?

**An Excerpt from Consolamentum**

Lady Heloise added, “It is said that Saint Denis rose up after his execution, picked up his head, and walked a thousand feet before falling again. That is where a pilgrimage shrine was later founded, but the abbey that bears his name lies farther to the north. You will soon see that it is quite beautiful and also very special, for it is where all the kings of Francia have been buried since it was built. The king, I hear, intends to commission effigies to lie over each tomb, even of the earliest kings of Francia, like Clovis and Pepin. I find it very moving, and you must as well; it is good politics.

“Oh, look, they are already setting up for the October fair; one farmer always sells the richest cream you ever tasted. Not that I use it for eating: it also works wonders on the skin.”

As we passed, I saw many men and a few women setting up booths and stalls and even a few solid buildings. The aroma of roasting meat drifted across our path.

The fair was not yet open, but she and several other ladies did fall back to buy trinkets and, yes, cream, which the vendors were glad to sell them. I made the mistake of following behind. They were already returning, and I should have gone with them then, but I was drawn by a tent surrounded by colorful banners depicting odd-looking symbols. I thought just to look at them quickly and then to return to ask Heloise what they meant, but a woman dressed in motley came out when I rode up and began urging me inside her tent to have my fortune told. When I refused, a gang of hard-looking men suddenly surrounded me.

They probably had never heard a lady scream, but scream I did, and several knights in our company were soon bearing down on the ruffians, laying about and quickly rescuing me. This was shaming enough, but the king and queen heard the noise and were staring at me as I rode back, red-faced, to join their train. Lord Joscelin rode back to see me, looking stern. At least he began with, “Are you all right?” I nodded, looking down, unable to meet his eye. But then he added, “Don’t do anything foolish like that again. King Louis marked it, and you especially offended him by seeking out a fortune teller!”

Praise for the trilogy

“How deftly and compellingly Hazell takes the reader with her into that mysterious and exotic world, and makes it all seem so very close to hand!” – Peter Conradi, Fellow of Britain's Royal Society of Literature and author of Iris Murdoch: A Life, and of A Very English Hero.

"I enjoyed watching her morph from a spoiled sheltered princess with slaves of her own, into a tough, savvy survivor, with a new awareness of social injustice. The book is action packed. I couldn't put it down." -- from a review on Amazon.com.

"I got completely caught up in the characters and story and always looked forward to getting back to them. What a fully fleshed and fascinating world you developed and it was wondrous to learn so much about that time and the Mongol culture. Your gifts come out in your lush descriptions of place and objects. All very vivid and colorful." --author Dede Crane Gaston

“Through all of Sofia's treks across miles of various lands and cultures, I am a reader who is ready to continue the journey with her. I highly recommend this series if you love medieval history of the Far East and Asia, and even European areas, or enjoy reading about ancient cultures and religions. Solomon's Bride was even more well-written than Rebecca's first book, stringently researched, artistically detailed, heartfelt, and exciting.” –Erin, Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

The novel is available both in paperback and Kindle versions and through your local bookstore by special order.


About the author
Rebecca Hazell is an award winning artist, author, and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, created best-selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases. She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.

Visit Rebecca:

Visit other blogs on the tour for reviews, guest posts, excerpts and giveaways!

14 October 2014

The Battlefield: Hastings 1066

By Lisa J. Yarde

On a morning nine hundred and forty-eight years ago, a pivotal battle took place to decide the future of England, whether it would remain in the Anglo-Danish sphere of medieval politics or become aligned with the doctrines of the Catholic Church embraced by its continental neighbors. Two opposing armies met during the Battle of Hastings as those who survived the victor’s lifetime called it, one set of forces under the direction of the Anglo-Danish ruler Harold Godwinson and the other led by the invader, Duke William of Normandy. Each man believed so strongly in his right to rule England that he knew nothing short of the annihilation of his enemy would determine the country’s fate.

Resolve would not have been the only commonality between the proud commanders. Both men had Scandinavian origins, Harold being the great-nephew of King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark through his mother Gytha and William descended from Scandinavian raiders who had carved out the Norman duchy from northernmost France two centuries before the conflict at Hastings. Harold succeeded to the throne in January 1066 upon the death of his predecessor King Edward called the Confessor. He had commended his queen, Edith who was sister to Harold, and the country to his brother in-law. The rudimentary parliament of England, the witan confirmed Harold as king. William was a bastard, born of the Norman duke Robert and his mistress Herleva. William had survived against all odds, including assassination attempts, to rule Normandy from 1035. He believed in a spurious claim over England based on the promise of Edward the Confessor, with whom he shared blood ties through Edward’s mother Emma of Normandy.

Before I started writing On Falcon’s Wings years ago, the tale of Saxon and Norman lovers torn apart by the ambitions of Harold and William, I knew the significance the Battle of Hastings would have held in the development of the characters. Until I delved into research of the period, I never imagined how dramatic the events of that morning of October 14, 1066 would have been. Some scholars still debate the exact location of the battle, a good distance from the town of Hastings. The Anglo-Saxon chronicle referred to it as the battle at the ‘hoary (gray) apple tree’, the site where Harold’s army convened. A century later, the victors called the place Senlac, a form of the Old English Sandlacu, which referred to ‘sandy water’. In Norman French, Senlac meant ‘lake of blood’, an appropriate term for the aftermath of William and Harold’s warfare. How did it begin?

The root of the conflict between the English defenders and their Norman invaders arose from a claim William made, calling Harold an oath breaker. During Edward the Confessor’s rule, Normans held influence at his court; even the Archbishop of Canterbury Robert de Jumieges hailed from Normandy. As a result, there had been bad blood between Harold’s father Godwin and Edward the Confessor up to 15 years before the battle. Later, Godwin and his family went into exile. When they returned to court, reconciliation with the monarch meant the swift departure of Robert de Jumieges. He took with him Harold’s brother Wulfnoth, never fated to live as a free man in the place of his birth again, along with Harold’s nephew Haakon. Two years before the battle, Harold left England and ended up in Normandy. His motives remain unknown; I theorized in On Falcon’s Wings that he sought the freedom of Wulfnoth. Once handed over to William’s custody, Harold remained a guest of the Norman ducal court.

Was he a willing guest? No one will ever know, but William’s chroniclers claimed Edward had sent Harold to confirm William’s right to rule England. According to them, Harold swore an oath on holy relics and having later broken his oath by accepting kingship of England, William had no choice but to fight Harold for the crown. It is a lie in my opinion that also demonstrated sincere ignorance of the role of the witan in confirming England’s kings and dismissed other likely claimants. If Harold swore an oath, he made it under duress while trapped in Normandy. He would have effectively been giving claim to a foreigner in preference over another relevant claimant, Edgar the Aetheling, who although a six-year old child at the time, remained Edward’s closest living male relative. It seems an unlikely choice for Harold, who had proved himself in wars against the Welsh as a devoted patriot of his birth country.  

For a battle-hardened commander like William, the insult to his pride was enough to spur him into battle, but he also sought the blessing of Pope Alexander II, who provided the papal banner that William’s men carried. Warriors such as Roger de Beaumont, Robert de Mortain, Hugh de Montfort, and William de Warenne, even the duke’s half-brother Bishop Odo de Bayeux, received promises of great wealth and planned the invasion of England with William. The Normans sailed from St. Valery on the coast on September 27, 1066 across the English Channel and landed in Sussex at the market town of Pevensey a day later. They proceeded to steal and kill, ravaging the people of villages that would later be referred to in the annals as ‘laid waste’.

Harold was not idle during these events; he had just emerged three days earlier as the victor in a hard-fought battle at Stamford Bridge where his own brother Tostig supported the ambitions of King Harald Hardrada of Norway to rule England. The exhausted English swiftly went south to deal with the newest threat to their way of life, arriving at nightfall on October 13. Loyal members of Harold’s family remained at his side, including his nephew Haakon, whom he had succeeded in repatriating upon his departure from William’s court. Harold’s brothers Gyrth and Leofwine accompanied him, too. His brothers by marriage, the northern earls Edwin and Morcar were absent, claiming great losses against the Norwegians prior to Stamford Bridge at the Battle of Fulford on September 20.    

On the morning of October 14, 1066, the English and Norman forces met. Marshland and ditches, and sloping natural moors covered in thickets of gorse and trees would have surrounded the site. Harold pitched his banner, the dragon of Wessex at the ridge on Caldbec Hill. The English army gathered, largely composed of the fyrd, who gave yearly service to defend their country. The leaders of the fyrd would have been the earls and thegns, local lords who held lands and supported Harold. The elite fighting force would have been the huscarls assigned to Harold, Gyrth, and Leofwine, professional soldiers of Danish origins who had served in England for decades. Thegns and huscarls rode into battle, but like the fyrd, fought on foot. The armaments would have varied; spears, swords, arrows, and round shields for the thegns, but the huscarls like Harold’s men Skalpi, hefted the long Danish axe, known to scythe enemies. Clergy were present to bless the English army, including Abbott Aelfwig of Winchester, Harold’s uncle. The Normans had taken position in the south at Telham Hill in the hours after dawn and formed ranks in three divisions. They defended their bodies with coats of mail, and carried kite-shaped shields, swords, lances, and maces. Lower ranks included archers and even slingers. A conical helmet protected the heads of Norman warriors, with the strength of their forces remaining in the cavalry. Norman knights rode deep-chested, aggressive stallions called destriers into battle. Bishop Odo alongside Bishop Geoffrey of Coutances would have exhorted William’s men to have courage against Harold’s forces, claiming that God had abandoned the English because of Harold’s supposed treachery.

A mile separated William and Harold’s forces. From their natural defensive position, the English streamed out on the battlefield. Huscarls would have occupied the front lines, but also defended their king and his brothers, forming a shield wall. The Norman cavalry attacked, in part led by Roger de Beaumont’s sixteen year-old son Robert, who later received a knighthood for his exploits at Hastings. In a purposeful feint, the Normans tricked the English into pursuit before the Normans counter-attacked with their heavy cavalry. Just before midday, the two armies regrouped and the fighting began to overwhelm the English, who do not recognize the tactics of another feigned flight by cavalry. At some point Harold learned of the deaths of Leofwine and Gyrth. By midafternoon, arrows rained down upon England’s defenders who had lost ground and withdrawn up to Caldbec Hill. There Harold made his last stand with a company of huscarls, where he supposedly suffered an arrow wound to the eye in the shadow of his standard. The Normans gained the ridge and four of them hacked Harold to death alongside the last of his men. After sundown, the battle was over.

My summary can’t really do justice to the tragedy at Hastings or its aftermath. Not only did the last Anglo-Danish king of England die. His brothers, his uncle Aelfwig and many thegns and huscarls including Skalpi joined Harold in death. The Normans continued their devastating path to William’s claim of a conqueror’s crown. He spent the next several years destroying the country he had determined to rule, particularly in the area of York. He ordered the construction of Battle Abbey to commemorate his fight against Harold. Allegedly, William also held some regret upon his death in 1087 for his brutal actions against the English and their king. Cold comfort to those who suffered and died at Hastings.

After the battle, legends persisted of Harold’s survival or escape, as some of his huscarls had done when they left for the shores of Constantinople and service among its Varangian guard. In 2014, the search for Harold’s body at Waltham Abbey has resumed. His birthplace at a Bosham estate also fostered the idea of his burial there, within sight of the English Channel, particularly supported by the discovery in 2003 of a body lacking a head and portions of the limbs. Wherever Harold’s resting place may have been, the catastrophe of his brief reign and his people’s suffering under the Normans remains undeniable.          

Sources
1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Howarth
1066: The Battle of York, Stamford Bridge, and Hastings by Peter Marren
Anglo-Saxon Thegn AD 449-1066 by Mark Harrison
The Godwins by Frank Barlow
Norman Knight AD 950-1204 by Christopher Gravett

Images are licensed from Fotalia.com; include the re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings which takes place every year, Battle Abbey, and elements of the Bayeux Tapestry.

Lisa J. Yarde writes fiction inspired by the Middle Ages in Europe. She is the author of two historical novels set in medieval England and Normandy, The Burning Candle, based on the life of one of the first countesses of Leicester and Surrey, Isabel de Vermandois, and On Falcon's Wings, chronicling the star-crossed romance between Norman and Saxon lovers before the Battle of Hastings. Lisa has also written four novels in a six-part series set in Moorish Spain, Sultana, Sultana’s Legacy, Sultana: Two Sisters, and Sultana: The Bride Price where rivalries and ambitions threaten the fragile bonds between members of a powerful family. Her short story, The Legend Rises, which chronicles the Welsh princess Gwenllian of Gwynedd’s valiant fight against English invaders, is also available.

12 October 2014

Author Interview & Ebook Giveaway: Paula Margulies on FAVORITE DAUGHTER (Part One)

This week, we're pleased to welcome author PAULA MARGULIES with her newest release, FAVORITE DAUGHTER, Part One of a series. One lucky visitor in the United States will get a free copy of Favorite Daughter. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

Set in the time of the Jamestown settlement and the English explorer John Smith, Favorite Daughter, Part One recounts the story of Chief Powhatan's daughter, Pocahontas, as she prepares to take her place as one of our nation's earliest leading women. Pocahontas tells the story from her point of view and invites readers to experience her native world when strangers appear on the shores near her village. From forging a relationship with the charismatic Smith, to experiencing love for the first time and creating a role for herself in her father’s plans for peace, this young girl takes us on a poignant and harrowing journey through the turbulent events of her life. Eventually betrayed by all of the men she loves, Pocahontas matures into a heroine of tremendous nobility, courage, and heart.

Praise for Favorite Daughter 

The novel has received early praise from the historical fiction community, including historical fiction author, Mary Volmer, and former HarperCollins editor and historical fiction author, Kelly McNees,  who writes, "The lyrical prose and complex characters of Favorite Daughter, Part One breathe vivid life into the remote place and time of Pocahontas's story. In Margulies's hands, this fabled girl becomes a flesh-and-blood woman, who seeks not just to be a dutiful daughter but to explore, fearlessly, the world beyond her village. I loved every page."

**Q&A with Paula Margulies**

Where and when do you write?
In my home office mostly, although I try to sneak away to artist residencies whenever my teaching and client work schedule will allow. I usually write on Sundays, but that all depends on how much life intrudes (and it does that often, believe me!).

Why did you write your book? 
I’ve always been fascinated with the story of Pocahontas, and since so much of her history has been told to us by English explorers like John Smith, I decided that retelling her story, from her perspective, might make for an interesting read.

There have been many books written about Pocahontas. How is this book different?
There are a number of differing versions of the history of that time, and much of what we know about Pocahontas comes from the writing of John Smith and the other colonists, who reported on what they found in the new land when they returned to England. Favorite Daughter, Part One is based on my research on works about her by Native Americans, many of whom tell a darker tale than the English history. Also, there aren’t many fictional works about that time from a Native American perspective, and the majority of those that do exist are written for young adults. Favorite Daughter, Part One is written for adults and focuses on Pocahontas’s coming of age into womanhood and becoming a wife and mother, in addition to her work as a representative of her tribe and, eventually, as a celebrity in England (that part of her story will be covered in Part Two).

Are you of Native American heritage?
No, both of my parents are of Italian descent. But my father, Douglas Roccaforte, loved Native American history and was a collector of American Indian artifacts, so I grew up with a deep appreciation of Native American culture and history.

Whose work inspires you?
So many authors inspire me that it’s hard to choose! I’ve always been a huge fan of the Southern gothic – William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor are my all-time favorite writers. As a graduate student in English Literature, I studied Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bellow, Doctorow, Didion, Heller, and Pynchon. Recent authors whose stories have haunted me, stunned me, or made me weep: Sherman Alexie, Ha Jin, Vikram Seth, David Mitchell, Barbara Kingsolver, Louise Erdrich, Jane Smiley, Jane Hamilton, Sena Jeter Naslund, Anna Quindlen, and Elizabeth Berg.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
When I’m not working on my publicity business or teaching classes, I enjoy meditation, reading, writing, and experimenting with artisan bread recipes. In the summer, I try to go to as many local Native American pow wows as I can (there are quite a few here in the San Diego area), and I’ve been known to enjoy an Indian taco (or two) on occasion.

What are the words you live by?
 Less is more (except when we’re talking about Indian tacos).

Learn more about author Paula Margulies.
Paula Margulies is the owner of Paula Margulies Communications, a public relations firm for authors and artists. She has received numerous awards for her essays and works of fiction, including her historical novel, Favorite Daughter, Part One, her first novel, Coyote Heart, and her short story collection, Face Value: Collected Stories. She has been awarded artist residencies at Caldera, Red Cinder Artist Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, and Centrum. Margulies resides in San Diego, California. For more information, please visit www.paulamargulies.com.

09 October 2014

Excerpt Thursday: FAVORITE DAUGHTER (Part One) by Paula Margulies

This week, we're pleased to welcome author PAULA MARGULIES with her newest release, FAVORITE DAUGHTER, Part One of a series. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. One lucky visitor in the United States will get a free copy of Favorite Daughter. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.


Set in the time of the Jamestown settlement and the English explorer John Smith, Favorite Daughter, Part One recounts the story of Chief Powhatan's daughter, Pocahontas, as she prepares to take her place as one of our nation's earliest leading women. Pocahontas tells the story from her point of view and invites readers to experience her native world when strangers appear on the shores near her village. From forging a relationship with the charismatic Smith, to experiencing love for the first time and creating a role for herself in her father’s plans for peace, this young girl takes us on a poignant and harrowing journey through the turbulent events of her life. Eventually betrayed by all of the men she loves, Pocahontas matures into a heroine of tremendous nobility, courage, and heart.

Praise for Favorite Daughter 

The novel has received early praise from the historical fiction community, including historical fiction author, Mary Volmer, and former HarperCollins editor and historical fiction author, Kelly McNees,  who writes, "The lyrical prose and complex characters of Favorite Daughter, Part One breathe vivid life into the remote place and time of Pocahontas's story. In Margulies's hands, this fabled girl becomes a flesh-and-blood woman, who seeks not just to be a dutiful daughter but to explore, fearlessly, the world beyond her village. I loved every page."


**An Excerpt from FAVORITE DAUGHTER, PART ONE**
          
They say that on the eve of my birth, in the Time of Geese Flying, during the English year 1595, a white owl appeared in our tribal village of Werowocomoco. The bird soared across the icy Pamaunk River and flew into the longhouse where my mother, first wife of the Great Chief Powhatan, lay curled on a bed of mats, laboring to bring me into the world. As I finally emerged, bloody and squirming into the capable hands of my mother’s sisters, the owl left its spot in the rafters and escaped into the cold night through a hole in the roof. While the women of our tribe wiped me clean and laid me on a soft piece of deerskin, a single feather drifted down from above. The women say that I reached out and clutched the bit of down in my tiny hand and, afterward, my infant lips relaxed in a calm, knowing smile.
            My mother named me Matoaka, the word that means little snow feather.
            The members of our tribe called me by my formal name, Amonute, or sacred daughter.           
            When I came of age, my father gave me my mother’s name, Pocahontas, or playful, wanton one. 
            Many years later, when I became a Christian and married an English man, I was called Rebecca, the word meaning faithful wife. It was a name I carried with me over great waters to my final resting place in the land of the white people.
            Which one is my real name? They are all mine, and none can ever be separated from the person I ultimately became. But whether I did justice to them, I call on the Great Spirit, Ahone, and my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to render final judgment.
            Whether I deserved any of them, I leave for you to decide.

Learn more about author Paula Margulies.
Paula Margulies is the owner of Paula Margulies Communications, a public relations firm for authors and artists. She has received numerous awards for her essays and works of fiction, including her historical novel, Favorite Daughter, Part One, her first novel, Coyote Heart, and her short story collection, Face Value: Collected Stories. She has been awarded artist residencies at Caldera, Red Cinder Artist Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, and Centrum. Margulies resides in San Diego, California. For more information, please visit www.paulamargulies.com.

07 October 2014

The Battlefield: Heavenfield, Northumberland 634

By Michelle Styles

It is amazing how battles can be forgotten. The seventh century boasts some of the most significant battles in terms of British history and yet most are forgotten. If you love Game of Thrones and its complexities, you will adore the 7th century. The only it is missing is dragons… and sometimes you have to wonder…

I first discovered Heavenfield when my mother insisted we stop beside a sign. There was a lonely church in the middle of a field. Churches are generally easy access so this in itself was strange. Reading the sign, I learnt about one of the more significant battles on English soil – literally the battle which decided if England would be Christian or if it would continue to be pagan.
St Oswald's Church Heavenfield

Conventional wisdom seems to hold that St Augustine came over to Kent and started Canterbury and everyone became Christian. It wasn't that simple. Christianity had been a part of British religious life for centuries before then. In Vindolanda, there are the remains of a 4th century church. Constantine was proclaimed emperor of Rome in York on 25 July 312. Constantine was famously the emperor who made Rome Christian. However in the years after the Roman legions left and the Angles  and Saxons settled, things changed and Christianity was not necessary the religion of choice of the ruling elite.

St Augustine’s mission became poised on a knife-edge because he was, according to British Christians arrogant. He expected obedience. The British church differed from the Roman church in the way they figured Easter, the way the monks wore their tonsure, the unique way of penance and how many bishops it took to consecrate another bishop. The last was surprising as  Britain sent three bishops to the council of Arles and signed up to that.  There were other differences but apparently the way monks wore their hair was a huge sticking point.
Another view of Heavenfield

In 632,the Northumbrian Bretwalda,  King Edwin who was nominally Christian in the Roman tradition (his wife had Kentish connections) lost a battle and his life to Penda of Mercia. Pagans then overran Northumbria.

In 634, the son of the previous Bretwalda Athelfirth and nephew to Edwin, Oswald made his bid for the Northumbrian throne. Oswald had converted to Christianity when he was exiled amongst the Dalriata in south western Scotland. He followed the Celtic tradition of Christianity.  He landed in the west and his war band which included warrior monks made their way to just outside the Roman town of Corbridge. There, in a field, Oswald raised his standard and a cross. This field became known as Heavenfield. He defeated the pagan Penda and drove his followers from the lands. Northumbria was restored to its previous prosperity.
St Oswald's Way

Unlike his late uncle who merely paid lip service to Christianity, Oswald decided his new kingdom would be Christian. He sent for monks from Iona. They started a monastery at Melrose and rapidly expanded to Lindisfarne (or Holy Island).  Oswald became the Bretwalda or High King of all Britain. Tolkien is supposed to have based Aragon on him.  After Oswald fell in battle, his brother Oswui became Bretwalda and was the only 7th century British king to die in his own bed after 40 years of rule. It was Oswui who convened the Synod of Whitby which decided to follow the Roman rather than the Celtic traditions of worship.

These days, Heavenfield is part of the St Oswald’s Way – a long distance walk which takes in some of the most beautiful parts of Northumberland and stretches from Chollerford (near to Heavenfield) up to Lindisfarne (Holy Island). It takes about a week to walk it.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical. This month Harlequin historical are releasing 3 of her Victorian novels To Marry a Matchmaker, Compromising Miss Milton and Breaking the Governess’s Rules. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on www.michellestyles.co.uk