Friday, December 31, 2010


First of all to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. May 2011 be happy, healthy and prosperous!

I thought I'd have a look at the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, which charts the history of England and sometimes its neighbours from the year 1 to the year 1154 and see what it had to say about the year eleven in each century - or the nearest if eleven isn't involved. Let's see.

11. Herod Antipas received the kingdom in Judea - good for him. Not sure if it was good for anyone else!

110 (nearest) Bishop Ignatius suffered martyrdom. Oh dear.

200 (nearest) The Holy Cross was found. - A good thing for some.

343. (nearest) St Nicholas passed away. No more Santa (have I got the right one?)

410 (nearest) The Goths broke into Rome, and never since has a Roman ruled in Britain. In all they ruled for four hundred and seventy years since Gaius Julius first sought out that island. - The end of civilisation then.

514 (2nd nearest) 'The West Saxons came into Britain with three ships to the place called Cerdicesora. Stuf and Wihtgar fought with the Britons and put them to flight.' Hmm, so his wife was always asking 'Where's my Stuf?'

611 Cynegils received the kingdom in Wessex, and held it for thirty one years. Settling down and being responsible now.

710 (nearest) Acca, Wilfrid's chaplain, received the bishopric which he had held. The same year, ealdorman Beorhtfrith fought with the Picts between the Avon and the Carron. Ine and Nun, his kinsman, fought with Geraint, the Welsh king. The same year Sygbald was killed. Beating up the neighbours as usual.

809 (nearest) The sun darkened at the beginning of the fifth hour of the day on Tuesday July 16th, the 29th day of the moon.

911, Aethelred, lord of the Mercians died; and King Edward received the boroughs of London and Oxford, with all the lands that belonged to them.

1011. Suddenly we've got a garrulous monk and Viking problems.
The king and his counsellors sent to the force and entreated peace, promised them tribute and provisions on the condition that they stop their ravaging. They had by then overrun i. East Anglia, ii Essex, iii Middlesex, iv Oxfordshire, v Cambridgeshire, vi Hertfordshire, vii Buckinghamshire, viii Bedfordshire, ix half Huntingdonshire, x much of Northamptonshire, all Kent, Sussex, Hastings, Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire, and much of Wiltshire.
All this unhappiness befell us through bad counsel, that tribute was not promised them in time, nor were they withstood; but when they had done the most evil, men made truce and treaty with them. Nonetheless, for all this truce, treaty and tribute, they went everywhere in raiding bands, and plundered and killed our wretched folk. In this year between the Nativity of St. Mary and Michaelmas, they besieged Canterbury, and got in by deceit, because Aelmar, whose life Archbishop Aelfheah had saved, betrayed Canterbury to them. There they seized Archbishop Aelfheah, Aelfword the king's reeve, abbot Leofwine, bishop Godwine - and abbot Aelmaer they let go. Inside, they seized all the people in holy orders, men and women - it is impossible to say how many people that was - and stayed in that town as long as they wished. When they had explored the borough completely, they went to the ships and took the Archbishop with them. Then he was captive who had been England's head, and Christendom's, until the time they martyred him.

1111. King Henry did not bear his crown at Christmas, nor Easter, nor Pentecost, and in August he fared over the sea to Normandy because of hostility against him on some of the borders of France, and mostly because of the eorl of Anjou, who held Maine against him. After he came there, many fierce raids, burnings and ravagings they did between them.
This year passed away eorl Robert of Flanders, and his son Baldwin succeeded thereto.
This year, there was a very long winter, a heavy time and severe; through that the earth-crops were greatly spoiled, and there was the most death among livestock that anyone could remember.

The above series of extracts taken at approximately 100 year intervals kind of makes you glad to be living now and not then... But nothing really changes does it?

Once more
P.S. the illustrations is from a life of Thomas Becket, but it looks the part!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Lady of the English the book trailer

Well, having handed in Lady of the English, I decided to muck about making a book trailer before I start full work on the next project and I've posted it below. I like doing this for fun and I can claim it's work even if I'm playing!
My I wish compliments of the season to everyone wherever you are.
After Christmas I'll return to some more detailed historical posts.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lady of the English - progress report

Well, I am delighted to say that I have FINALLY handed in LADY OF THE ENGLISH to my agent and editor. It's due for publication in UK hardcover in June 2011 and and by Sourcebooks USA in September 2011.

As many regular readers of the blog know, it's about the Empress Matilda and her young stepmother Adeliza of Louvain and their lives as they weave in and out of each other's spheres between the turbulent years 1125-1148. Both women held the title of 'Lady of the English' for parts of their lives, but neither of them ended their days in England. Their characters were very different, particularly in the way they dealt with trouble, yet there were similarites too. They shared a lot of common ground and knew each other well.
Matilda has something of a reputation for being a difficult, bad-tempered cow. The Gesta Stephani calls her headstrong in all that she did’ and says that she insulted and threatened men who came to submit to her. She did not rise to acknowledge men who bowed to her, and she refused to listen to their advice. ‘rebuffing them by an arrogant answer and refusing to hearken to their words…she no longer relied on their advice as she should have and had promised them, but arranged everything as she herself thought fit and according to her own arbitrary will.’ However, the monk Stephen of Rouen, praised her greatly, saying that she was much loved by the poor and the nobility alike. She was ‘wise and pious, merciful to the poor, generous to monks, the refuge of the wretched.' The Cistercian monks of le Valasse remembered her as ‘a woman of intelligence and sense.’ So while there may be no smoke without fire, perhaps history has served to exaggerate certain characteristics by concentrating on them rather than considering all facets, and perhaps has not looked closely enough at possible underlying reasons - something that an author of historical fiction can freely explore.

Lady of the English particularly looks at aspects of the important relationships that Adeliza and Matilda had with certain men in their lives.

King Henry I - Matilda's father and Adeliza's husband. His actions and behaviour had a massive and lasting impact on both women - much of it not to the good.

Geoffrey le Bel, count of Anjou - aged just 14 when he and Matilda, (more than 10 years older than him), were forced to marry in order to fulfil parental dynastic ambitions. What did she think of her adolescent husband? What did he think of his strong-willed much older wife? What actually happened behind closed doors?

Brian FitzCount - Matilda's right hand man and lord of Wallingford. But was he more to her than just a valued civil servant? He was interesting to research and not exactly as I expected to find. There's an article I wrote about him here in the blog archive.

William D'Albini - Lord of Buckenham in Norfolk and hereditary butler in the royal household. Adeliza's second husband. What was Adeliza's married life like with a much younger man who gave her her heart's desire, and yet opposed her support for Matilda? What kind of friction did it create?

Young Henry II, one day to become one of the greatest kings in Christendom. What was Matilda's relationship like with him as a child and a youth?

The above are the main relationships explored in the novel, but others are involved, including King Stephen, who as far as Matilda was concerned had usurped her throne, Robert of Gloucester, her loyal half-brother and commander of her forces, and Henry of Blois Bishop of Winchester, Papal Legate, Stephen's brother and a player of power games extraordinaire.

I love the cover, which I think really gives a feel for Matilda in one of her impatient moods.
It's as if she's been called from some important business and has swished aside a curtain to say 'Yes, what do you want then?' We tried the cover with two woman on it, but it didn't work half as well, and I am really pleased with this look. We also tried out different colours, but this was the one that evoked the best response. I hope to have it up at my website in the early New Year.

Prize draw closed and pending

A note to say that the draw for THE LEOPARD UNLEASHED is now closed. I have forwarded all the entries to my lovely Publicity lady at LittleBrown and she will choose 3 at random. I'll inform the winners as soon as LittleBrown get back to me.