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Book review: A Year of Ravens

I need to break from our Viking adventures for a few moments to share some thoughts on an excellent book! Before the Normans conquered, before the Vikings invaded, before the legends of Arthur, before someone invited Saxons to settle, the island of Britannia was already home to numerous separate native Celtic tribes that together would be knows as the Britons. These tribes were the original kingdoms of the island and just as any other kingdoms would, they fought with each other for domination and control of the land… until one outside force arrived and began to take control. In AD 43 the Roman Empire began its conquest of the island, establishing a province they called Britannia, which came to encompass the parts of the island south of Caledonia (roughly Scotland).  This Roman invasion and domination would last until some time in the 5th century. 

The Celtic tribes were varied in their reactions and acceptances of the Roman conquest. The Roman conquest was a gradual one that actually could be seen as a somewhat peaceful and benefitial  alliance between the tribes and the Roman Empire. In common with other regions on the edge of the empire, Britain had enjoyed diplomatic and trading links with the Romans in the century since Julius Caesar‘s expeditions in 55 and 54 BC, and Roman economic and cultural influence was a significant part of the British late pre-Roman Iron Age, especially in the south.

Between 55 BC and the 40s AD, the status quo of tribute, hostages, and client states without direct military occupation, begun by Caesar’s invasions of Britain, largely remained intact. Augustus prepared invasions in 34 BC, 27 BC and 25 BC. The first and third were called off due to revolts elsewhere in the empire, the second because the Britons seemed ready to come to terms. According to Augustus’s Res Gestae, two British kings, Dubnovellaunus and Tincomarus, fled to Rome as suppliants during his reign, and Strabo‘s Geography, written during this period, says that Britain paid more in customs and duties than could be raised by taxation if the island were conquered. 

During this early time of Roman involvement, many of the tribes were fighting between themselves and in some cases they sought the assistance and intervention of Rome to strengthen their sides. By the 40s AD, the political situation within Britain was apparently in ferment. The Catuvellauni had displaced the Trinovantes as the most powerful kingdom in south-eastern Britain, taking over the former Trinovantian capital of Camulodunum (Colchester), and were pressing their neighbours the Atrebates, ruled by the descendants of Julius Caesar’s former ally Commius.  In fact, when Claudius eventually mounted his invasion and takeover, it’s intent was to force a reinstatement of client King Verica, who was an exiled king of the Atrebates.

England_Celtic_tribes_-_South

map showing locations of Celtic tribes in southern part of Britain during Roman occupation.

Map_of_the_Territory_of_the_Brigantes.svg

Map showing the Brigantes tribe region during Roman occupation

 

I am only sharing this very basic pre-history of the Roman involvement to point out that during the lengthy process of their conquest, there were tribes that willingly chose to ally themselves with Rome, either for economic benefit, political advantage or in some cases, perhaps they saw a larger picture and felt that resistance was not in their best interests.  Because the tribes looked at themselves as separate entities rather than a unified force against one opposing force, they were unable to come together in the beginning stages to prevent a take over that many of of them did not see coming in the first place.  In a way it directly relates to future invasions of their land by the Saxons and then by the Vikings. It could be said that Rome’s occupation of the island destroyed their unity and ability to fight as a that one united force… but, realistically it might better be said that their unity was not there in the first place and it allowed for a situation in which Rome could conquer them. Had they been able to come together from the beginnings of the rebellions, there are times when they could have defeated the Roman forces.  Boudicca’s rebellion was one of those times and events. 

Her rebellion was enough of a crisis to cause Emperor Nero at the time to seriously consider pulling all Roman troops and involvement out of Britain at this early time in their occupation. Unfortunately, despite earlier victories, her army made crucial mistakes that led to their final defeat. Her forces vastly outnumbered the Romans in the battle of Watling Street and had they chosen a different strategy that what they did, they should have been able to win that last battle. For what ever reasons, they chose to meet the Romans head on in a battle of open ground. Previous victories and successes by Briton forces and others against the Romans and each other were won not by head on battles but by more surprise attacks. It also did not help matters that the army brought with them their entire villages and placed them at the edges of the battle location thereby allowing for the slaughter of everyone, not just the army involved in the battle. 

 

With that bit of pre-history and thought in mind, we can move on to the main focus of this post! The book, A year of Ravens is an excellent historical fiction look at one event where the Britons could have managed that defeat and been successful at their attempt to drive the Romans out of their land. It looks at the event of Boudica’s rebellion from all perspectives- the Romans, the Client Kingdoms, the ones who were intent on rebellion against the massive strength of Rome, and from the standpoint of those who had little say in the event. 

The book is a unique collaborative project by seven authors with seven separate yet connected stories of the events leading up to the final battle and aftermath. It addresses the issues that I touched on in the pre-history discussion including reasons for a Client Ruler’s acceptance and alliance of Roman governance. It also gives us an understanding of various Roman perspectives. Not every Roman was stereotypical bad nor did they all agree with what was taking place. In that same line, not every Briton was good or a true believer in the rebellion. 

A year of Ravens

by Ruth Downie, Kate Quinn,Stephanie Dray, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney , Russell Whitfield, E. Knight

Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.

A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.

A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.

An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.

A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.

A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.

An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.

A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.

A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?

These separate stories come together so well to tell a larger story of Briton and of Rome, of  mistakes on both sides that brought about the rebellion. In telling their separate stories of one particular point in time and one event that had such an impact on the history of Britain, these seven authors have created a vivid and realistic picture to show us all of the sides. It is grim, harsh and gritty, and fault is laid on all of those sides for the decisions and actions that led to the battles of Boudica. Yet, despite all of the fault and harsh reality, there is an underlying message of  understanding, forgiveness and hope amid such a dark future that lies ahead for so many. Boudicca’s rebellion has failed but her legend will live on to inspire others in the future. 

One of the most interesting and compelling stories for me was not that of Boudicca herself, but of another Queen for the most part forgotten in history. The story of Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes in northern Britain at the time. Cartimandua or Cartismandua (reigned c. ad 43 – c. 69) was a 1st-century queen of the Brigantes, a Celtic people living in what is now northern England. She came to power around the time of the Roman conquest of Britain, and formed a large tribal agglomeration that became loyal to Rome. Our only knowledge of her is through the Roman historian Tacitus, though she appears to have been widely influential in early Roman Britain.

Perhaps we know little about her because her story is one of loyalty to Rome. Author Stephanie Dray’s interpretation of this little known Queen provided such a detailed look at this woman who would have been considered a traitor to the Briton’s cause. It presented an understanding of some of those reasons why a ruler would choose alliance and loyalty to Rome to ensure the future of their people- even if the people did not appreciate it, resented the decision and would choose to spit on said ruler’s grave… As Cartimandua points out in this story, “At least my people will be left alive to spit upon my grave!”  She may have been hated by her people but she was able to look beyond that hatred and be at peace with the decisions she made in order to buy her people time and life in an uncertain future.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartimandua

Another of the stories that caught me up was the story of Duro the Iceni warrior and Valeria the Roman wife turned slave. Both of these characters were fictional but came truly alive and believable through Kate Quinn’s story telling. This is the story of an aging battle hardened and weary warrior who is Boudicca’s most ardent supporter and leader of her army- second only to her and the council… Duro is the old warrior set in his ways and beliefs, struggling with changes that he can not accept. Valeria at first appears as the stereotypical Roman wife also set in her Roman ways and beliefs. On the surface their relationship is one of detest for each other and the other’s ways. They are on opposite sides in every way possible but underneath all of the opposition and hatred, there is a level of understanding between them. They both know that should the other side win, their own personal life and future will cease or change forever. Duro continues to look to the past he remembers before the Romans but Valeria reminds him that it is wishful thinking and that past will never be again. Valeria reaches within herself to find a person, a warrior that she never knew existed… she will fight for life and survival no matter what, and she can appreciate that Duro has taught her that. Valeria is young enough and strong enough to change her ways of thinking in some ways and to understand that her world has changed. She is on the verge of some new life while Duro is at the end of his and know it. He can not change as his world is changing but Valeria gives him the one thing that matters most to him in the end… a renewed relationship with a son that he spent years pushing away. This story leaves an open ending with Valeria embarking on a new journey, a renewed life forever changed by her experience and her relationship with Duro.  This is about as close to a romance as any of the stories get and it is one that left me wondering about the what ifs… and the future for Valeria on her return to husband. My personal what if was this… what if Boudicca’s army had listened to advice and won the battle? Where would that have left Duro and Valeria?  I could actually see some of that version that Duro dreamed of!

All of the stories were excellent. I have only chosen to highlight the two that touched me the most!

This overall story is balanced with more than enough historical research to enrich the fiction that is woven around the often limited facts. I found myself completely swept up in the individual stories and not wanting them to end. I was left with an overwhelming appreciation of the writing and the history, an almost obsessive need to know more about all of the people whether real or fictional and the events that were taking place during this time. While it began as an effort by the various authors to tell Boudicca’s story, what it did was tell the story of so many others involved in the history taking place during her life time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Rollo and Poppa to the De Senlis family

This is somewhat of an update to my previous post on Rollo as my ancestor.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/tracing-my-past-back-to-rollo/

This particular investigation and discussion pertains mainly to genealogy/ancestry and  history of the real Rollo and his family. It has little or anything to do with Rollo’s character in the Vikings Saga other than to point out that Rollo did have loyal Viking followers and supporters as well as probably some Frankish ones as well. He may have cut his ties with family and could be considered a traitor in some ways but he did have men who backed him and would continue to back his family. This group of men and their families would remain loyal supporters all the way through to Rollo’s descendant, William the Conqueror. The descendants of these men would follow William to England. In return for their loyalty they would receive great wealth and land, and become leading English Nobility in those early days of  William and his sons.  Among these men were Osmond de Centville, Bernard de Senlis (who had been a companion of Rollo of Normandy), Ivo de Bellèsme, and Bernard the Dane  (ancestor to the families of Harcourt and Beaumont).  I mentioned these men in my previous post and am returning to them now as I feel that one of them plays an important part in a mystery from another branch of my ancestors and also provides a clue or key to the mystery surrounding Rollo’s wife, Poppa of Bayeux. (For my personal thoughts on how the history might relate to Michael Hirst’s creative and imaginative version of events in the Vikings Saga, you can scroll all the way to the end to read more on that.)

 

That man would be Bernard DeSenlis, the one specifically mentioned as a companion of Rollo’s.  After  researching some of the DeSenlis ancestry and  further investigation of Poppa’s possible genealogy, I personally believe that the Bernard DeSenlis mentioned as Rollo’s companion provides a link between those mentioned in Poppa’s genealogy and the DeSenlis family that shows up in my family ancestry.  While there is no definitive proof or documentation, and the link seems to get broken or at least very twisted somewhere along the line, my personal thought is that the DeSenlis line probably goes back to Poppa’s connection.  There often comes a point where you have to do your own research, weigh all of the evidence you have collected and make a choice as to what information you trust the most, what to you makes the most sense and then go with that line of reasoning. When you get to this point, you should also make it very clear to anyone else you are sharing the information with, that from this point on back you are basing your reasoning on suppositions and limited research. From this point on, you are making a hypothesis based on the limited evidence and resources available to you. Make it extremely clear that these are only your personal beliefs and thoughts. This is the case for me from this point back with the DeSenlis family and with family connections for Poppa.  My purpose here is not to provide concrete verifiable evidence because as far as I know, there is none at this time. What we have are a lot of pieces of circumstantial evidence that when pieced together may provide a possible or plausible theory.

First, we need to look at the varying versions of Poppa’s existence and genealogy.  The first version, the more widely accepted one is that she was the daughter of  “Count Berengar”, the dominant prince of that region, who was captured at Bayeux by Rollo in 885 or 889. This has led to speculation that she was the daughter of Berengar II of Neustria.  

It is speculated that her Father was Berengar II of Neustria. Berengar II (died 896) was the Count of Bayeux,  Rennes and Margrave of the Breton March from 886 until his death a decade later.  In 874, Brittany’s internal politics were thrown into turmoil when King Salomon was murdered by a rival. The resulting surge of Viking attacks made possible by the power vacuum was narrowly held at bay by a hasty Breton-Frankish alliance between Alan the Great of Vannes and Berengar of Rennes. Between 889-90, the Seine Vikings moved into Brittany, hard on the heels of the Loire fleet that Alan and Berengar had successfully driven out (this latter force had broken up into several small flotillas and sailed west). Alain again joined forces with Berengar of Rennes and led two Breton armies into the field. Finding their retreat down the Marne blocked, the Vikings hauled their ships overland to the Vire and besieged Saint-Lo, where the Bretons virtually annihilated the fleet.  Berengar is speculated to have married the daughter of Gurvand, Duke of Brittany, by which relationship he attained the countship of Rennes. This would make him brother-in-law of Judicael, Duke of Brittany. He is thought to be the Berengar of Bayeux whose daughter Poppa was captured in a raid and married to Rollo of Normandy. Various reconstructions make him father, grandfather, or great-grandfather of Judicael Berengar, later Count of Rennes.  As I’ve pointed out, this is the generally accepted version even though there is no definitive or verifiable proof. Because of that lack of proof, it may very well be possible that some alternate version holds just as much validity as this one. 

Poppa of Bayeux

Poppa of Bayeux

The alternate version of her existence and genealogy is provided by Robert Sewell as follows in excerpts from his document provided at  http://www.robertsewell.ca/poppa.html

The ancestry of Poppa, wife of Rolf the Ganger, 1st Duke of Normandy, seems to have two versions. It now appears that Poppa was a daughter of Gui, Count of Senlis and not a daughter of Count Berenger of Bayeux.  This makes Poppa, through her mother, a great granddaughter of King Bernard of Italy (b. 797, d. 818; King of Italy 813 – 817) King Bernard was a grandson of Charlemagne.

For the entire document please use the above link. For our purposes, I am providing the portion of the document that links Poppa to the DeSenlis name or family. 

Poppa, Wife of Ganger Rolf     According to Dudon, William Longue Épeé of Normandy had as his ‘avunculus’ (maternal uncle) Count Bernard of Senlis, the friend and consellor of Hugh the Great. The Chronicon Rothomagense (Labbe Bibliotheca Manuscriptorum Nova, I, p. 365) ano 912 confirms this and stated that Rolf married the daughter of Count Gui de Senlis, so if Bernard were the son of Gui, he would be the ‘avunculus” of William. Dudon, however calls Poppa the daughter of Count Berenger, but Dudon is not highly trustworthy. The name Bernard belongs in the family of the Counts of Vermandois, descended from Bernard, King of Italy. A Count Bernard, probably Bernard de Senlis is called be Flodoard (Annales ano 923, p. 15) the ‘consobrinus’ (cousin germain by the female side) of Herbert II Count of Vermandois.

     The Belgian érudit, J. Dhondt, in his “Études sur la Naissance de Principautés Territoriales au France pp. 119/120 n.) (Bruges 1948), suggests that Gui Count of Senlis married a sister of Herbert I Count of Vermandois (see p. 6 anti) and had issue Bernard Count of Senlis and probably Poppa, wife of Rolf.

 Pepin de Peronne, son of Bernard, King of Italy
Died after 846
His children included:

  • Herbert I Count of Vermandois, died between 900 and 904. His son:
    • Herbert II Count of Vermandois, died in 943
  • a daughter who married Gui, Count of Senlis. Their children:
    • Bernard Count of Senlis, adherent of Hugh the Great
    • Poppa who married Rolf, Count of Rouen

What this alternative version does is directly tie the previously mentioned Bernard DeSenlis to Poppa as her brother. It would make sense then that as Poppa’s brother, he would possibly become an ally of Rollo or at least a supporter of Rollo’s children. It would also make sense that he would continue to be allied with Rollo’s family such as in protecting Rollo’s grandson Richard I at the later time. In addition, this would provide some reason for ongoing connections, alliances or links between Rollo’s descendants and the DeSenlis families.  From my personal stand point or view, this version of Poppa’s lineage seems just as plausible or feasible as the other version mentioned. This alternate version makes the connection to the DeSenlis family and in doing so also connects the offspring of Poppa and Rollo to Hugh the Great and the future Capetian dynasty which Rollo’s grand daughter, Adelaide of Aquitaine married into.  Bernard DeSenlis was an adherent of Hugh the Great, who would have been a relative to him. During the battles to rescue and restore Rollo’s grandson Richard to his rightful control of Normandy, Hugh the Great eventually became involved in the fight and sided with the Normans.  One other thing this alternate version does is place Poppa as a descendant of Charlemagne and by doing so, place her as a distant relative of Charles the Simple.  Just because they were distant relatives did not necessarily mean they would have been on the same side or allied to each other in any way. In fact, it may have been the opposite case and might have posed some problem when Rollo made his treaty with Charles. Rollo and Charles signed the treaty of  St. Claire in 911.  At that time he would have already been with Poppa for some time and had both of his children by her.  This would mean that he already had a somewhat firm  alliance with the Count of Senlis and most likely with Herbert I Count of Vermandois along with his son Herbert II.  I mention this because at a later point in time, Herbert II would be an opposing force against Charles. He was just as adamant and vocal about his heritage from Charlemagne and Charles most likely was. Eventually, he was responsible for capturing Charles and holding him prisoner for three years. Later Herbert allied with Hugh the Great and William Longsword, duke of Normandy against King Louis IV, who allocated the County of Laon to Roger II, the son of Roger I, in 941. If you look at the descendants of Charlemagne, you will begin to understand that they were all descendants and proud of their ancestry but they were all competing and vying against each other for control and domination of the various parts of Francia.  As one of those descendants, Herbert I of Vermandois and his family were at odds with the current ruling factions of the time as well as with Baldwin of Flanders. Herbert controlled both St. Quentin and Péronne and his activities in the upper Somme river valley, such as the capture and murder (rather than ransom) of his brother Raoul in 896, may have caused Baldwin II to have him assassinated in 907. These were people who would probably have no qualms about developing some kind of alliances or under the table agreements with a Viking raider such as Rollo who may have been willing to assist a cause in return for some type of reward- monetary or otherwise… for example a spare daughter to use as security, seal a bargain and set up some ongoing continued alliance that might prove benefitial to both parties.

Sometime later when Dudo of Saint Quentin was rewriting the history of Normandy for Richard I, he may have chosen to downplay or omit completely some aspects of the history. 

Dudo does not appear to have consulted any existing documents for his history, but to have obtained his information from oral tradition, much of it being supplied by Raoul, count of Ivry, a half-brother of Duke Richard. Consequently, the Historia partakes of the nature of a romance, and on this ground has been regarded as untrustworthy by such competent critics as Ernst Dümmler and Georg Waitz. Other authorities, however, e.g.,J. Lair and J. Steenstrup, while admitting the existence of a legendary element, regard the book as of considerable value for the history of the Normans.

Although Dudo was acquainted with Virgil (Aeneid) and other Latin writers, his Latin is affected and obscure. The Historia, which is written alternately in prose and in verse of several metres, is divided into four parts, and deals with the history of the Normans from 852 to the death of Duke Richard in 996. It glorifies the Normans, and was largely used by William of Jumièges, Wace, Robert of Torigni,William of Poitiers and Hugh of Fleury in compiling their chronicles.

My last thoughts on Poppa’s genealogy and her relationship with Rollo are that it is probably closer to the second version than the first if you compare the other connecting threads and limited evidence.  If you look at the length of her relationship with Rollo prior to his receiving Normandy, you also begin to get a slightly different picture of Rollo and his ability to take this land offer and forge it into a Kingdom. He was involved with Poppa and her family from about 885 on and did not sign the agreement with Charles until after 911. What this gives us is not a Lone wolf, or man who is unfamiliar with Frankish customs and culture but rather a well seasoned warrior with close to 20 years of experience in with other Frankish territories and rulers.  Over that 20 years, he had most likely become well versed in Frankish affair and politics.  For what ever reason, Dudo chose to play down and omit that portion as well as play down the relationship or existence of Poppa’s connection in all of it. Then Dudo also chose to add in the somewhat doubtful relationship of Gisela, daughter of Charles without giving her much more credibility or history than he did for Poppa. Of course part of this could be due to the fact that Dudo was recounting the history to a male audience and was not so much concerned about the role of any women involved in the history. He most likely played down Poppa’s relationship because she was a wife more danico and it was not thought to be a valid Christian marriage even though the children were recognized as legitimate offspring of the Father.

As for the relationship or existence of Gisela of France, there is always the possibility that Rollo did marry her in the Christian way to seal the treaty.  It was not an uncommon practice back then to have both the more danico wife and the Christian one.  If as  mentioned, she died childless then her relationship and marriage to Rollo would have ended up being of little consequence as far as Dudo’s representation of history went.  I suppose if we look at it realistically, none of Charles’ other daughters receive much recognition either other than just being listed as his daughters. In fact none of his other children seem to be of much consequence other than his son, Louis IV of France. On a side note of interest, Louis’ Mother was Eadgifu of Wessix, grand daughter of Alfred the Great.  My thought on Gisela is that Dudo perhaps included her to tie in the connections to France and used her as a way to offset the presence of Poppa. By including Gisela, Dudo is in a way promoting the idea of Rollo having a Christian Royal wife and thereby putting down or negating Poppa’s ties or importance.  He was after all attempting to make the Normans look better in the eyes of other countries such as France at that time. The last thing he would have wanted to do during this time is bring up any reference or mention of Poppa’s possible connections to the earlier events and disputes that took place between territories vying for control of Frankish regions and previous rebellions against Kings of Francia. 

 

The De Senlis connection

 

Now that we have explored Poppa’s existence and her possible connections to the DeSenlis family, we can go on to the other mystery and broken link in the DeSenlis family.  That broken link shows up with Simon DeSenlis I of my family history. 

Simon de Senlis

Simon I de Senlis (or Senliz), 1st Earl of Northampton and 2nd Earl of Huntingdon jure uxoris born 1068 died between 1111  and 1113 was a Norman nobleman.

Simon DeSenlis

In 1098 he was captured during the Vexin campaign of King William Rufus and was subsequently ransomed. He witnessed King Henry I’s Charter of Liberties issued at his coronation in 1100. He attested royal charters in England from 1100–03, 1106–07, and 1109–011. Sometime in the period, 1093–1100, he and his wife, Maud, founded the Priory of St. Andrew’s, Northampton. He witnessed a grant of King Henry I to Bath Abbey on 8 August 1111 at Bishop’s Waltham, as the king was crossing to Normandy. Simon de Senlis subsequently went abroad and died at La Charité-sur-Loire, where he was buried in the new priory church. The date of his death is uncertain.

He reportedly built Northampton Castle and the town walls.  He also built one of the three remaining round churches in England, The Holy Sepulchre, Sheep Street, Northampton).

Simon 1st De Liz Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Holy Sepulchre 1 Holy_Sepulchre_Cambridge 2 Northampton-Holy Sepulchre

Simon was the third son of Laudri de Senlis, sire of Chantilly and Ermenonville (in Picardy), and his spouse, Ermengarde.

He married in or before 1090 Maud of Huntingdon, daughter of Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria, Northampton, and Huntingdon, by Judith, daughter of Lambert, Count of Lens. They had two sons, Simon II de Senlis, Earl of Huntingdon-Northampton, and Waltheof of Melrose, and one daughter, Maud de Senlis, who married (1st) Robert Fitz Richard (of the De Clare family), of Little Dunmow, Essex.

Following Simon’s death, his widow, Maud, married (2nd) around Christmas 1113, David I nicknamed the Saint, who became King of Scots in 1124. David was recognized as Earl of Huntingdon to the exclusion of his step-son, Simon; the earldom of Northampton reverted to the crown. Maud, 2nd Countess of Huntingdon, the Queen of Scots, died in 1130/31.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_I_de_Senlis,_Earl_of_Huntingdon-Northampton

There is little information given about his ancestry other than that his Father was Laudri De Senlis, born at 

BIRTH 1018 Senlis, Oise, Picardy, France

DEATH 1080 Senlis, Normandy, France

Laudri’s wife is named Ermengarde and no other information is documented for her.  There is some documentation of Laudri’s Father being a Foulques De Senlis, born 988, died 1050.

Simon was born in 1068, after William’s take over of England but his family must have been of some importance and there must have been some connection between his family and William’s otherwise William would not have offered his niece, Judith in marriage to Simon. During William’s take over of England and prior to that, he was no different from  other leaders or rulers of the time in that he used marriage alliances to his advantage as reward to those loyal to him, and at times to ensure loyalty among those he might have doubts about.  He first arranged marriages for his sister Adelaide of Normandy, then went on to arrange marriages for her daughter, Judith of Lens. William initially arranged the marriage of Judith to Waltheof of Northumbria- that may have been a case of ensuring the loyalty of Waltheof and gaining some control over Waltheof’s lands in Northumbria… unfortunately, that arrangement did not prove quite as successful as he may have planned. Waltheof eventually proved to be disloyal and William had him executed in 1076. This left Judith a widow with young children and some extremely valuable landholdings and titles in doubt or up for grabs. William rather quickly set about arranging another marriage for her to Simon De Senlis. Judith refused to marry Simon and she fled the country to avoid William’s anger. William  temporarily confiscated all of Judith’s English estates. Simon later married Judith’s daughter Maud and took over the Earldom of Huntington.  At the time of his marriage to Maud, he had already received land and title in the creation of Earl of Northampton. This would certainly suggest that he was not just some knight standing in line waiting for William to hopefully notice him and reward him with something, anything as recognition. There had to have been some reason or connection for William to bestow the first title and lands on him and then turn around and again reward him with either his niece or great-niece and Huntington.  As I mentioned, Simon was too young to have been among those who arrived with William to do first battle and conquer England so there must have been some other important connection between Simon’s family to William which William deemed of enough importance or value to reward Simon in such way.

Simon De Senlis  was not just some lowly unknown knight or nobleman of little wealth or station that William happened to run into and hand over a landholding and title to even before his marriage into William’s family. As early as 1080- 1084 he was already Earl of Northampton and was responsible for building Northampton Castle. Northampton Castle was one of the most famous Norman castles in England. It was built under the stewardship of Simon e Senlis, the first Earl of Northampton, in 1084. It took several years to complete, as there is no mention of it in the Domesday Book, a great survey of England completed in 1086. The castle site was outside the western city gate, and defended on three sides by deep trenches. A branch of the River Nene provided a natural barrier on the western side. The castle had extensive grounds and a large keep. The gates were surrounded by bulwarks made of earth, used to mount artillery. The castle was ‘obliterated’ by the arrival of a railway branch of what is now the West Coast Main Line in the 19th century, the station of which was built on the castle site and the construction of the original Northampton Castle railway station.

 800px-Northampton_Castle_Bastion 800px-Postern_Gate_of_Northampton_Castle_2013 Northampton_Castle_Postern

All of this information regarding Simon’s early adult years leads me to believe that Simon and his family were already held in some high esteem or regard by William. Simon was not born until mid 1060s  but by the time he was in his late teens or very early twenties he was already made Earl of Northampton and put in charge of constructing this Castle and defenses for this Earldom holding of William. This does not speak of some lowly or relatively unknown prize winner in William’s raffling off of rewards…

In order to find some connection to further back, we can look at the city of Senlis, France  and its history.  The monarchs of the early French dynasties lived here, attracted by the proximity of the Chantilly Forest and its venison, and built a castle on the foundations of the Roman settlement. In 987 the archbishop of Reims, Albéron called together an assembly, and asked them to choose Hugh Capet as king of France. However, the monarchs of France soon abandoned the city, preferring Compiègne and Fontainebleau. New life was given to the city in the 12th century, and ramparts were built. The popularity of the city later fell, and it slipped into decline. Today it remains an attraction for tourists for its long history and its links to the French monarchy.

Senlis ruins

Senlis ruins

Senlis Cathedral

Senlis Cathedral

Senlis2

stock-photo-ruins-of-royal-castle-in-senlis-castle-was-place-of-election-of-hugh-capet-in-completely

stock-photo-ruins-of-royal-castle-in-senlis-castle-was-place-of-election-of-hugh-capet-in-completely

Senlis fell under the ownership of Hugh Capet in 981. He was elected king by his barons in 987 before being crowned at Noyon. Under the Capetian rule, Senlis became a royal city and remained so until the reign of Charles X. A castle was built during this period whose remains still lie today. The city reached its apogee in the 12th and 13th centuries as trade of wool and leather increased, while vineyards began to grow. With an increasing population, the city expanded and required the construction of new ramparts: a second chamber was erected under Phillip II that was larger and higher than the ramparts of the Gallo-Romans. A municipal charter was granted to the town in 1173 by the King Louis VII. The bishop of Senlis and the Chancellor Guérin became close advisors to the King, strengthening Senlis’ ties to the French royalty. In 1265, the Bailiwick of Senlis was created with its vast territory covering theBeauvais and the French Vexin. In 1319, the town crippled by debt, was passed to the control of the royalty. Senlis became devastated by the Hundred Years’ War, but managed to escape destruction despite being besieged by the Armagnacs.

Hugh Capet was married to Rollo’s grand-daughter, Adelaide of Aquitaine and as a result of this connection, DeSenlis families of Senlis probably had some continuing loyalties and alliances or connections to Normandy through her. There is no verifiable proof however to link Simon any further back to the original De Senlis family connected to Rollo and Poppa.  All we can do is form our own theories and conjectures based on the amounts of circumstantial evidence.

Another version gives Simon a somewhat different  parentage and ancestry.

SENLIS or ST. LIZ, SIMON de, Earl of Northampton and Huntingdon (d. 1109), was son of a Norman noble called Randel le Ryche. According to the register of the priory of St. Andrew at Northampton (Monast. Angl. v. 190), he fought with his brother Garner for William the Conqueror at Hastings. But there is no mention of him in Domesday book, and it seems more probable that he did not come to England till about the end of the reign of William I (Freeman, Norman Conquest, iv. 604). According to the legends preserved in the pseudo-Ingulph and the ‘Vita Waldevi,’ Simon was given by the Conqueror the hand of Judith, the widow of Earl Waltheof of Huntingdon; but Judith refused to marry him on account of his lameness. Simon then received the earldom of Northampton and Huntingdon from the king, and eventually married Matilda or Maud, the daughter of Waltheof and Judith. The marriage is an undoubted fact, but probably must be placed, together with the grant of the earldoms, not earlier than 1089. According to the ‘Vita Waldevi,’ Simon went on the crusade in 1095, but he appears to have been fighting on the side of William Rufus in Normandy in 1098, when he was taken prisoner by Louis, son of the king of France (Freeman, William Rufus, ii. 190). He was also one of the witnesses to the coronation charter of Henry I in 1100 (Stubbs, Select Charters, p. 102). Afterwards he went on the crusade. He died in 1109, and was buried at the priory of La Charité-sur-Loire. Earl Simon built Northampton Castle, and founded the priory of St. Andrew, Northampton, according to tradition, about 1084, but more probably in 1108 (Monast. Angl. v. 190–1). By his wife, Matilda, Simon had two sons—Simon, who is noticed below, and Waltheof (d 1159) [q. v.], who was abbot of Melrose. A daughter Maud married Robert FitzRichard of Tonbridge.

There are some  ancestry and genealogy sources that list Simon as son of Ranulf “The Rich” De St. Liz. According to these sources, Ranulf was born about 1030, died 1080. His wife Ermengarde  was born circa 1033. They had one son, Simon De Senlis/De St. Liz. These other sources list Ranulf’s father as Foulques Senlis who was born circa 955.  These accountings would match somewhat closely the information listed for Simon’s Grandfather being one Foulques De Senlis. The discrepancy comes in Simon’s Father either being Laudrie or Ranulf. Both versions give his Mother’s name as Ermangarde. It’s possible that Laudrie and Ranulf are the same person and there is just a discrepancy or some confusion over Laudri’s name being either Laudri or Ranulf. This confusion could stem from mixing up the two differing versions of Simon’s ancestry.

Some researchers have attempted to link Simon to a different Ranulf the Rich. These researchers have used Ranulf (Ranulph) “The Rich” DeMeschines (Viscount De Bayeux) (1021-1089) as the Father of Simon De Senlis. The problem with this connection is that these are two different Ranulph the Riches. Ranulph “The Rich” DeMeschines, Viscount De Bayeux is documented as having married Alice/Alix of Normandy who was an illegitimate daughter of Richard III of Normandy. If you look into the documented history for Ranulf, Viscount of Bayeux there is no connection to Simon DeSenlis or the DeSenlis family.

Ranulf, Viscount of Bayeux was known better as Ranulf de Briquessart (or Ranulf the Viscount) (died c. 1089 or soon after) was an 11th-century Norman magnate and viscount. Ranulf’s family were connected to the House of Normandy by marriage, and, besides Odo, bishop of Bayeux, was the most powerful magnate in the Bessin region.  He married Margaret, daughter of Richard Goz, viscount of the Avranchin, whose son and successor Hugh d’Avranches became Earl of Chester in England c. 1070.  This Ranulf died in 1089 and his son was His son Ranulf le Meschin became ruler of Cumberland and later Earl of Chester. The Durham Liber Vitae, c. 1098 x 1120, shows that his eldest son was one Richard, who died in youth, and that he had another son named William.  He also had a daughter called Agnes, who later married Robert (III) de Grandmesnil (died 1136). 

Another source of evidence to support Simon De Senlis’ Father as Laudri or Landri De Senlis comes from the  Dictionary of the nobility, containing the genealogies, the history …, Vol. 3, p. 65; Lords and Viscount de Senlis, Senlis Bouteiller, by Stephen Pattou, 2003, p. 2

Spouses / Children:
Ermengarde

  • Guy I of Senlis, called “The Tower”, lord of Chantilly .. +
  • Hubert de Senlis, canon of Notre-Dame de Paris
  • Simon I SENLIS (ST. LIZ), Earl of Huntingdon and Northampton +

 Landri of Senlis, knight, lord of Chantilly Ermenonville

  • Married:
  • Died: Between 1070 and 1080

   Landry Senlis, I. name, Knight, Lord & Ermenonville Chantilly, married, in the reign of King Philip I, a lady named Ermengarde, where he had three sons who inherited his property after his death in the year 1080: – -1. Gui, which follows – 2. Hubert, Canon of Notre-Dame de Paris, named in the title of 1119 – 3.Simon, who went to England, where he was the branch of the Counts Hu [n] Huntingdon & Northampton, reported below.

   Marriage Information:

Landry married Ermengarde.

 

I know this is probably getting confusing for many of you who may not be as interested or familiar with genealogy. I will try to simplify and clarify the confusing matters a little as well as get into why this is important in tracing Simon DeSenlis back further to the DeSenlis families connected to Rollo and Poppa.  In researching family histories this far back where this is little documented evidence or proof, it becomes somewhat more like a crime scene investigation or suspect profiling! You need to pay close attention to all of  various clues that show up in different versions or documents pertaining to the person, the family, events of the time and even to those others they might be associated with. You need to be more detective/ researcher and less record keeper/copier, scribe or sheep. 

The basic facts we are certain of are that one Simon DeSenlis was born about 1065-68 and died between 1109-1113. His life after 1080 was well documented and accounted for. More than one source or account lists his parents as Laudri/Landry DeSenlis and wife Ermangarde so it is reasonable to make a connection and assumption for this being Simon’s family line. 

 I am not so much interested in the concrete absolute facts because I know there are few if any of those. What I am looking for is more of a plausibility or feasibility factor or link that would show  a possible connection between Simon DeSenlis’ family and William’s family back to Rollo and Poppa’s generation. I believe that I have already provided evidence that ties Simon and his immediate family to some closer connection with William. 

There are some sources that mention Simon’s Father and possibly a brother arriving in England with William on his initial invasion in 1066. The brothers are not listed in the Domesday book so it could be assumed that they both returned to Normandy after the initial battles. Laudri’s information lists him as being Knight, Lord & Ermenonville Chantilly with his eldest son, Gui presumably inheriting that title. The second son, Hubert went to the Church as Canon of  Notre-Dame de Paris. As a third son, Simon would most likely have had to look elsewhere for title, wealth or lands. If the family had connections to William, this would have been an opportune time for William to assist the family in carving out a destiny for young Simon. Laudri may have aided William and participated in the invasion of England with him but as he already had lands and title, he might have been happy to return home after that first invasion. He may have seen no reason to stay on in England during those early years. Simon was born during these early years of the conquest so it is possible that rather than seek reward or title for himself in England that he did not need or want, Laudri chose instead to have William bestow any reward or favor on this third son who would be in need of title and wealth.  Laudri’s place of birth and death are listed as Senlis, Oise, Picardie, France. As I have mentioned previously, there is some confusion as to Laudri’s name being Laudri or possibly as in some other sources, Ranulf… all of the other information for the two different names is the same (except for the faction that tries to connect Ranulf to Ranulf of Bayeux and we have already discussed that confusion!)

Laudri’s Father is listed as Foulques De Senlis in more than one source and there is some documentation of a Foulques DeSenlis born 988 died 1050 with a son listed as Landry DeSenlis.  This foulques was also listed as living in Senlis, Oise, Picardie.  Foulque’s Father is listed as Rothold DeSenlis born abt 958 and died before 1045 at Senlis. Bear with me please… we are almost at our point of interest or possible connection to Rollo and Poppa!

Rothold’s Father is listed as Bernard II DeSenlis, born about 919 died abt 1000 at Senlis. Now, it does stand to reason that if there was a Bernard II, then there must have been a Bernard I of Senlis? This brings us back to the Bernard of Senlis mentioned in the beginning of this discussion… You know, the one Bernard DeSenlis that I mentioned early on in connection to Rollo and Poppa. Let’s refresh some of our dates here for this to begin to make some sense. Rollo was born about 850, died abt 827-830. Poppa was born around 870 and died abt 930. Let’s also go back to that alternate version of Poppa’s genealogy- you know the one where it lists her as being a daughter of  one Gui, Count of Senlis and sister of a Bernard of Senlis… Hopefully you are beginning to see some connection?  This name of Gui shows up again in the later generation of Simon’s family where Simon’s older brother is named Gui or Guy so it may be an indication of a generational name being passed down.

Bernard II DeSenlis has listed as his Father, a Bernard I born 875 and died sometime after 928 in France. All of the various genealogies listed become quite sketchy and extremely muddy at this point and it’s difficult to sift through all of the irregularities and possibilities for confusing supposed family members. Most of the versions do however, seem to connect Bernard II and his Father, Bernard I back eventually to the same families and lineages mentioned in the alternate version of Poppa’s genealogy. If we sort through all of the possible inaccuracies and look for common threads, those common threads of similar names, locations and titles give us a fairly good idea of Poppa’s general family connections to the houses, dynasties or territories of early Francia such as Senlis, Vermandois, Chantilly, Soissons, Champagne but not Bayeux.   Some history alludes to the idea that Poppa was “captured” during a battle at Bayeux so perhaps that is how she got connected to Bayeux. It may have been a case where Poppa was with Rollo during this campaign that took place some time between 887 and 889. She may have already been his wife or concubine and some might have assumed that if she was not a Dane, she must be a captive or slave of his. And, realistically she may have initially been in a position of hostage/captive or security of some sort to ensure payment or alliance from her family. The problem or question that ever remains is just which family… 

To put the history, the possible family connections and how they might have come about into some perspective, it might help to look at Rollo’s earliest known history in Francia and some maps of the areas involved. During 885/86 Rollo was involved in a siege of Paris. The siege was not successful but rather than fight the Viking group, King Charles the fat instead encouraged and allowed the group to travel down the Seine to ravage Burgandy which was in revolt at the time. When the Vikings withdrew from France the next spring, he gave them 700 livres (pounds) of silver as promised. In some context, this shows that the Frankish rulers were not above using Viking raiders to their own benefit and advantage in setting them up to attack territories that might be some threat to them. They were more than willing to enter into agreements or alliances with these groups and use them as a sort of paid mercenary group to thwart their own personal enemies or oppositions.  If King Charles was not above this type of action, it would stand to reason that other local leaders would be willing to do the same.  The Viking raiders were not unfamiliar with the leaders of Francia. They were an ongoing, fairly constant presence in the area as far back as prior to 845. By 885 when Rollo’s group began their siege of Paris, bribery and payoffs to the raiding groups was a common practice and one might even assume that by this time each groups’ rulers, leaders and politics were well-known to each other. 

The siege of 885 lasted through 885 and well into 886. During that time, various Viking groups would venture out to other areas including  Le Mans, Chartres,  Evreux and into the Loire. This would have put them in the areas of  Senlis, Champagne, Picardie, Soissons and other places associated with Poppa’s family connections. Their time spent on the river Seine would have taken them through areas around Brittany and Bayeux, thus putting them in the middle of the unrest going on there as a result of King Saloman’s murder in the late 870s.  Some time in late 886 or 887, Rollo’s group did leave Paris but that does not mean he left Francia. From most accounts, he remained in Francia throughout this time raiding in different parts. If he spent this amount of time in the area, he most likely began to settle himself there, develop a name and reputation for himself and build some alliances even though those alliances may have been shaky at first and been a result of his “working” relationship or associations based on the business of mercenaries or being paid not to raid…

If you look at the locations on maps, you will see the close proximity of all the places and how the leading families may have formed uneasy alliances or waged wars against each other in land disputes.

This ancient map shows the areas of Vermandois in relation to areas of what would eventually become Rollo’s land of Normandy. Bayeux is situated on the coast within that area. It also shows the close vicinity of Bayeux to Neustria and Brittany or Bretagne.

map of ancient france

This map shows the region of Picardy in relation to Paris and to Normandy, as well as the Champagne area.

france

This is a detailed map showing the separate lands or holdings within Picardy with Senlis being the closest to the borders of what would become Normandy. 

Picardie_adm

Finally, this map shows a better representation of  Senlis in relation to Rouen and Paris.

Senlis on map with Rouen and Paris

I have stated numerous times through out this discussion that there is no absolute conclusive evidence or proof for either Poppa’s family connections or in later generations, Simon DeSenlis’ family connections. My main intent  in this article is merely to suggest that  possibility or plausibility for Poppa’s alternative family connections and that those connections lead to the possible and plausible connection to the DeSenlis family.  Perhaps one day there will be some concrete definitive answer to the puzzles of this history and ancestry, most likely though it will remain an ongoing mystery that people with connections to these lineages will continue to debate. The progresses made in the field of genealogical DNA testing may eventually provide some answers to possible  blood line connections or matches. I have submitted my DNA sample for testing and waiting for results but I really do not expect those results to give any conclusive evidence or answer to this particular puzzle. I think that for the most part, this history and ancestry will remain subjective and dependent on each individual’s personal perspective on the history and people involved. 

My last thoughts on all of this more factual accounting of history have to do with the fiction and fantasy aspect of it. These thoughts are for the Vikings Saga fans of Rollo’s character… We have seen the beginning of Rollo’s arrival in the Frankish world according to Michael Hirst’s version and creative take on the events. Hirst has given us what I believe so far, is a combined version of Poppa and Gisla where Gisla takes prominence and gains some identity or credit rather than Poppa. How that relationship plays out is yet to be seen. We will see this in season 4. What we will also hopefully see is the development of Rollo’s alliances and friendships with those Viking men who remain with him, and with those men of Francia that he must eventually make friends or alliances with in order to succeed in creating and building Normandy. I am reasonably certain that we will most probably not see any actual characterization of one such as Bernard DeSenlis- that in my humble little mind would just be too much to hope for or expect. What I do hope to see is some unfolding is some combination of people in a character that might represent varied facets or bits of actual history.

Roland's role in the story

During the last episodes of season 3, we were vaguely introduced to a character named Roland who we know little about as yet.  Huw Parmenter will be returning as Roland in season 4 and I am anxious to see how his character of Roland fits into the story as Rollo’s life begins in Francia.  From what little we were able to discern or conclude of him in season 3, he is one of Odo’s soldiers and there seems to be some connection between him and Gisela. What that connection might be is a mystery right now. At this point we have no idea what Roland’s story really is? Is he a future villain or foe of Rollo, is he a future friend? What is his connection to Gisela, Charles and Odo… is he some family or relative, or is he some lovesick champion or supporter of Gisela?  What we have seen briefly is him carrying out Odo’s orders, a few subtly foreshadowing scenes of him with Gisela, Charles and Odo but no real definitive clues as to his future role. 

gisla has trouble tearing herself away from the scene even as this man Roland urges her to leave

gisla has trouble tearing herself away from the scene even as this man Roland urges her to leave

and here again we have a long pause on Roland

and here again we have a long pause on Roland

do and roland visit the camp to find out why they have not left yet

Odo and roland visit the camp to find out why they have not left yet

roland, a man to keep an eye on in the future

roland, a man to keep an eye on in the future

Roland's story

Roland’s story is yet to come so we can only make guesses as to what his part in the story will be. These are just my personal thoughts on how his story might play out. I could be completely wrong on this, so please do not hold me to this guess! Roland’s name and his current position within the Royal court suggest some nod, tribute or imaginative illusive reference to a historical legendary figure of Roland who was a military leader under Charlemagne who became one of the principal figures in the literary cycle known as the Matter of France. You can read more about the history and legend of Roland in a previous post:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/prussia-saxony-and-roland-part-2/

Perhaps our character of Roland will become a future friend or ally for Rollo… It stands to some reason that Rollo is going to need some Frankish alliances or friends. He has already made comments in far previous episodes that he understands the importance of alliances… he made such comment in a discussion with Floki about Aethelwulf. If Hirst is setting Roland up as this type of relationship with Rollo then Roland could be a representation of some of those early Frankish men such as Bernard DeSenlis. The DeSenlis line had ties to Charlemagne so would fit into some representation that Roland might possibly portray depending on how Hirst decides to tell the story! He has already set up sort of connection in his combining of Poppa and Gisela. If he presents Roland as some family connection to Gisela rather than some thwarted loved interest, then by making Roland an ally we would see the representation or connection mentioned in history about Bernard DeSenlis being a relative of Poppa’s and of him being one of Rollo’s comrades or companions from the earliest year. If he then carried the story forward, this would feasibly set Roland up as having some role as events of the future might play out in Normandy. As I’ve said, these are just my personal thoughts and wishful thinking about Roland’s character- I would love to see it play out in this way as some underlying tribute or nod to my family connection and version of the history!

 

 

A long path back to that Last Kingdom and the real Uhtred the Bold!

No, I have not deserted you, forgotten you, or gotten completely lost in time… well, okay I have come close on that last one! I have taken some much needed time off from writing to enjoy the holidays with my family. I hope that all of you had time to spend with your own families and appreciate the gift that family is. No matter what problems you may face, how annoying, irritating or frustrating your family may be at times, this is the time of year to set those problems aside and be thankful for what and who you have been blessed with.

Besides enjoying the family  that is here with me, I have been busy trying to fill in the gaps of my family tree as a way of connecting with the past on a personal level and honoring all of those ancestors who have had a part in shaping who I am today. I am trying to fill in those gaps and get a better picture or understanding of  those ancestors in Britain in preparation for my upcoming trip to England in April.  That trip planning has taken up a good portion of my free time as well. Those of you who visit here on a regular basis are probably aware of my planned trip. It is pretty much official now- having received flight confirmations as a Christmas gift from my daughter. As she says, “No backing out now cause the tickets are already paid for… Now, you’re going whether you want to or not!”  We will be flying from Seattle to Aberdeen Scotland with a stop over in Iceland. Our trip will take us through Scotland, England, a stop in Cardiff Wales and and ending stop in Dublin, Ireland with a flight home from Dublin to San Francisco. This is the trip of a lifetime, a fulfillment of dreams and a very real connection to our heritage that began so many centuries ago in Britain. 

You can read more about our trip plans here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/timeslips-makes-travel-plans-real-ones/

TimeSlips travels

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/travel-planning-and-last-kingdom/

Bambugh Castle, the inspiration and setting for Bebbenburg Castle in Last Kingdom

Bamburgh Castle, the inspiration and setting for Bebbenburg Castle in Last Kingdom

The next few months are going to be extremely busy for me as I work  to get everything sorted out and set for this trip. I will try to keep you all updated as much as possible but most of my energy, effort and focus will be devoted to getting through the next few months of intense research and planning. Much of our reason for this trip is to find and feel that connection to our very distant roots.  I am working on piecing together those distant names and places of our ancient history in Britain and finding ways to fit them into our journey. It’s not just the idea of seeing the fantastic historical sites, but of also seeing them in connection to our family roots. 

If you have read through some of my family history posts, you know that I have found some ancestry links that take us back as far as Northumbria and Uhtred the Bold who has found fame in Bernard Cornwell’s versions of Anglo-Saxon history in his Last Kingdom series. This is in addition to the links that take us back to William the Conqueror and then further back of course to Rollo, the founder of Normandy, who has found his own fame in Michael Hirst’s Vikings Saga. These links are all due to one young woman who on initial appearance in our family tree seemed quite unremarkable or uneventful… other than the fact that she seemed to be married off at an extremely young age, even for back then, to my ancestor Humphrey Workman. This young girl- I have to call her a girl because according to some of the records, she was married to Humphrey at the age of 11 or 12- Joan Hathaway was her name and she brought to our family an ancestry that included those already mentioned, along with the inclusion of some other famous or infamous historical figures by the name of Wydville or Woodville.  I have mentioned her limited story in some previous posts concerning family history but I just wanted to mention her here once again and give her the credit she deserves. We know very little about her or her immediate family other than that her Father, Robert Hathaway died shortly before her marriage leaving a rather large family to be taken care of. Joan was one of two girls and was the youngest child of the family. There were five older brothers, all of whom were young adults when their Father died. As far as any records show, Joan’s older sister, Alice did not marry and died in about 1560. My personal thought is that possibly the older brothers and or Joan’s Mother sought to see her married off quickly after Robert’s death in 1545. My ancestor, Humphrey was the son of a wealthy merchant in the area of  King’s Stanley, Gloucestire. He was born in 1525 and was about 10 years older than Joan who was born in 1536. We know little about Humphrey or his parents Nicholas and Julyan Workman- they are one of those families who just seem to appear in a place from nowhere? It is Joan who holds the key to unlocking this portion of our history so I feel it only right to give her her due mention! 

While I do try to keep an open mind on facts and such the further back you go in tracing family history, I do have my share of suspicious nature and skepticism regarding information and all of the possibilities for misinterpretation, errors, blatant mistakes and even made up connections as people strive to connect themselves to some bit of famous history. The striving for famous connections has never been my intent, desire or wish. When I have stumbled across the more famous links recently, in fact my first impulse has been to say- I’m sure that can’t be right! Because I have that skeptical and at times suspicious thought over information that I am doubtful about, I have purchased a DNA testing just to see where it leads and whether it backs up any of the information I have currently found. I will let you know later about this experience and whether it’s even worth the money invested in it! It takes about 4-6 weeks to process so we shall anxiously await it’s results.  It will be interesting to see what the test says about my heritage or genealogy and if it provides any new answers. There are a number of different tests that you can purchase, all of which have their own positives and negatives. I purchased mine through ancestry.com mainly because I already have a membership there, and that is where I have been working on my family tree… this is by no means a plug or advert for their service! I have previously voiced my various complaints about the site and will not delve into them once again. I am at a point in my research where it serves it’s purpose and provides me with enough basic information to do my own further research. I am not necessarily all that happy about it but it works for me right now. Their DNA testing will match my DNA test with other members and hopefully the ones I am most interested in will be members! I am considering this testing as a basic start to the DNA testing. My daughter and I have agreed that at some later point we will probably purchase on of the other tests on the market that may give us more detailed information. For the time being, the cost of Ancestry’s DNA test fell within our more limited budget at the moment.

Now back to Joan Hathaway and her links to our more ancient past, namely that which includes Uhtred of Last Kingdom fame. As Bernard Cornwell has often clarified and stated, the Uhtred of his books is somewhat based on his family history that includes Bamburgh Castle, Northumbria and one or two Uhtreds.  I recently read a post in one of my FB groups where a member shared a copy of an old Family Tree for family Oughtred, which is the old spelling of Uhtred. Of course I was excited because I have managed to find my own connection back to Uthred.  In a previous post, I provided some information on that connection that comes via Waltheof of Northumbria and his wife Judith of Lenz. Judith also provides part of my link back to William the Conqueror. 

You can read Judith’s history and story here:

judith of lens

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/my-ancestor-path-to-normandy-northumbria-and-even-a-uthred-the-bold/

It is Judith’s husband, the ill fated Waltheof of Northumbria that gives us our link further back in Northumbria. If you read the above post on Judith and Waltheof, you will understand why I say ill fated! He met his demise at the hands of William in a rather unpleasant way.

My connection to Waltheof of Northumbria and wife Judith  comes through their daughter Maud Matilda Queen Consort of the Scots, Countess of Huntingdon and Northumbria (1074 – 1131)daughter of Waltheof Earl Northumberland. Waltheof of Northumbria is my 28th great grandfather. There are a number of cross over threads and connections in there as well due to that pesky habit of intermarrying of relatives and such…

Waltheof Earl Northumberland (1045 – 1076)
28th great-grandfather
Maud Matilda Queen Consort of the Scots, Countess of Huntingdon and Northumbria (1074 – 1131)
daughter of Waltheof Earl Northumberland
Henry Prince of Scotland 3rd Earl of Northumberland and de HUNTINGDON (1114 – 1152)
son of Maud Matilda Queen Consort of the Scots, Countess of Huntingdon and Northumbria
William I Lion Scotland (1143 – 1214)
son of Henry Prince of Scotland 3rd Earl of Northumberland and de HUNTINGDON
Amicia De Huntingdon Scotland* (1167 – 1184)
daughter of William I Lion Scotland
Simon de Senlis (1181 – 1250)
son of Amicia De Huntingdon Scotland*
Simon De Saint Elizabeth de Senlis (1218 – 1296)
son of Simon de Senlis
William DeSaintElizabeth DeSenlis (1246 – 1286)
son of Simon De Saint Elizabeth de Senlis
Sir William St . Elizabeth Senlis (1274 – 1313)
son of William DeSaintElizabeth DeSenlis
Lady Alice De St Elizabeth (1300 – 1374)
daughter of Sir William St . Elizabeth Senlis
Isabel “Lady of Swanbourne” de Lyons Godard (1345 – 1392)
daughter of Lady Alice De St Elizabeth
Richard Woodville De Wydeville (1385 – 1441)
son of Isabel “Lady of Swanbourne” de Lyons Godard
Joan Maud Wydville (1410 – 1462)
daughter of Richard Woodville De Wydeville
Sir William XIII, Keeper of the Forest Dene, Hathaway (1440 – )
son of Joan Maud Wydville
William Hathaway (1470 – )
son of Sir William XIII, Keeper of the Forest Dene, Hathaway
Robert Hathaway (1500 – 1545)
son of William Hathaway
Joan Hathaway (1536 – 1584)
daughter of Robert Hathaway
William Workman (1568 – 1628)
son of Joan Hathaway
John Workman (1590 – 1640)
son of William Workman
John William Workman (1600 – 1647)
son of John Workman
Dirck Jans Woertman (1630 – 1694)
son of John William Workman
Jan Derick Woertman (1665 – 1712)
son of Dirck Jans Woertman
Abraham Woertman Workman (1709 – 1736)
son of Jan Derick Woertman
William P Workman (1746 – 1836)
son of Abraham Woertman Workman
Amos Workman (1764 – 1844)
son of William P Workman
Isaac A. Workman (1799 – 1845)
son of Amos Workman
William Workman (1819 – 1906)
son of Isaac A. Workman
Charles W. Workman (1862 – 1956)
son of William Workman
Clarence Bertrand Workman (1889 – 1968)
son of Charles W. Workman
Ward Harlan Workman (1924 – 1994)
son of Clarence Bertrand Workman
Judith Ann Workman
You are the daughter of Ward Harlan Workman

The line from Joan Hathaway back to Waltheof  is fairly well documented considering how far back we are reaching for any type of verifiable and reasonable evidence… Anything after Waltheof is somewhat sketchy and uncertain depending on what sources you choose to use for reference, and realistically as I’ve pointed out previously the further back you go, the chance of error is ever higher.  Much of my research is a time consuming process of weeding through glaring mistakes, mismatches of dates and duplicated names to come up with some reasonable and hopefully half way decent accuracy!

If you look at encyclopedia or historical references, this is basically what you will come up with for Waltheof and his genealogy or ancestry.  As I’ve already mentioned, everything beyond Waltheof and possibly his Father Siward gets a little iffy and sketchy!

Waltheof was the second son of Siward, Earl of Northumbria. His mother was Aelfflaed, daughter of Ealdred, Earl of Bernicia, son of Uhtred, Earl of Northumbria. In 1054, Waltheof’s brother, Osbearn, who was much older than he, was killed in battle, making Waltheof his father’s heir. Siward himself died in 1055, and Waltheof being far too young to succeed as Earl of Northumbria, King Edward appointed Tostig Godwinson to the earldom. He was said to be devout and charitable and was probably educated for a monastic life. In fact around 1065 he became an earl, governing Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire. Following the Battle of Hastings he submitted to William and was allowed to keep his pre-Conquest title and possessions. He remained at William’s court until 1068.

Waltheof’s Father was Siward, Earl of Northumbria. His link to Uhtred came through his Mother’s side. Aelfflaed was a granddaughter of Uhtred the Bold.  Uchtred or Uhtred, called the Bold, (d. 1016) was the ealdorman of all Northumbria from 1006 to 1016, when he was assassinated. He was the son of Waltheof I, ealdorman of Bamburgh, whose ancient family had ruled from the castle of Bamburgh on the Northumbrian coast.

Uchtred or Uhtred, called the Bold, (d. 1016) was the ealdorman of all Northumbria from 1006 to 1016, when he was assassinated. He was the son of Waltheof I, ealdorman of Bamburgh, whose ancient family had ruled from the castle of Bamburgh on the Northumbrian coast.  

I am currently in the process of trying to sort through the discrepancies of various sources and piece together what I believe is some reasonable history as it pertains to my ancestry links. I am going by what I can find as some documented facts or accountings of the history and lineages. So, for my purposes, I will focus on what I do know… Waltheof of Northumbria had one brother who was much older than him and that brother, Osbearn died in battle and no heirs were listed from him. 

Waltheof’s Father was Siward of Northumbria. Siward was probably of Scandinavian origin, perhaps a relative of Earl Ulf, and emerged as a powerful regional strongman in England during the reign of Cnut (“Canute the Great”, 1016–1035). Cnut was a Scandinavian ruler who conquered England in the 1010s, and Siward was one of the many Scandinavians who came to England in the aftermath of that conquest. Siward subsequently rose to become sub-ruler of most of northern England. From 1033 at the latest Siward was in control of southern Northumbria, that is, present-day Yorkshire, governing as earl on Cnut’s behalf.

He entrenched his position in northern England by marrying Ælfflæd, the daughter of Ealdred, Earl of Bamburgh. After killing Ealdred’s successor Eadulf in 1041, Siward gained control of all Northumbria. He exerted his power in support of Cnut’s successors, kings Harthacnut and Edward, assisting them with vital military aid and counsel. He probably gained control of the middle shires of Northampton and Huntingdon by the 1050s, and there is some evidence that he spread Northumbrian control into Cumberland. In the early 1050s Earl Siward turned against the Scottish ruler Mac Bethad mac Findlaích (“Macbeth”). Despite the death of his son Osbjorn, Siward defeated Mac Bethad in battle in 1054. More than half a millennium later the Scotland adventure earned him a place in William Shakespeare‘s Macbeth. Siward died in 1055, leaving one son, Waltheof, who would eventually succeed to Northumbria. St Olave’s church inYork and nearby Heslington Hill are associated with Siward.

Siward’s career in northern England spanned the reigns of four different monarchs. It began during the reign of Cnut, and lasted through those of Harold Harefootand Harthacnut into the early years of Edward the Confessor. Most important was the reign of Cnut, in which so many new political figures rose to power that some historians think it comparable to the Norman conquest five decades later.  These “new men” were military figures, usually with weak hereditary links to the West Saxon royal house that Cnut had deposed.As Cnut ruled several Scandinavian kingdoms in addition to England, power at the highest level was delegated to such strongmen. In England, it fell to a handful of newly promoted “ealdormen” or “earls”, who ruled a shire or group of shires on behalf of the king. Siward was, in the words of historian Robin Fleming, “the third man in Cnut’s new triumvirate of earls”, the other two being Godwine, Earl of Wessex and Leofwine, Earl of Mercia.

Siward was, at some stage, married to Ælfflæd, daughter of Ealdred II of Bamburgh, and granddaughter of Uhtred the Bold. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle asserts that, in 1041 Eadulf, Earl of Bamburgh, was “betrayed” by King Harthacnut.  The “betrayal” seems to have been carried out by Siward; since when the Libellus de Exordio and other sources write about the same event, they say that Siward attacked and killed Eadulf.  It was thus that Siward became earl of all Northumbria, perhaps the first person to do so since Uhtred the Bold. It is possible that Siward used Ælfflæd’s lineage to claim the earldom of Bamburgh for himself, although it is unclear whether the marriage took place before or after Siward killed Eadulf.  Kapelle has pointed out that no ruler of Bamburgh after Uhtred is attested at the English royal court, which he argued “must mean they were in revolt” against the monarchy, and that Siward’s attack may therefore have been encouraged by a monarch wishing to crush a rebellious or disloyal vassal.  Siward however probably had his own interests too. Killing Eadulf eliminated his main rival in the north, and the marriage associated him with the family of Uhtred the Bold, and with Uhtred’s surviving son Gospatric.

One of Siward’s sons is known to have survived him, Waltheof, whose mother was Ælfflæd. Waltheof later rose to be an earl in the East Midlands before becoming Earl of Northumbria.  When Waltheof rebelled against William the Conqueror, however, the act led to his execution and to his subsequent veneration as a saint at Crowland Abbey.  Waltheof’s daughter married David I, King of the Scots, and through this connection Siward became one of the many ancestors of the later Scottish and British monarchs. 

Besides Ælfflæd, Siward is known to have been married to a woman named Godgifu, who died before Siward. The marriage is known from a grant she made of territory around Stamford, Lincolnshire, toPeterborough Abbey. Although no surviving children are attested, and no source states the name of Osbjorn’s mother, this marriage has nonetheless raised the possibility that Waltheof and Osbjorn were born to different mothers, and William Kapelle suggested that Siward may have originally intended Osbjorn to inherit his southern territories while Waltheof inherited those territories in the north associated with the family of his mother Ælfflæd

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siward,_Earl_of_Northumbria

Little is documented about Siward’s wife Aelfflaed or her Father, Ealdred II of Bamburgh. 

Ealdred was Earl of Bernicia from 1020/25 until his murder in 1038. He was the son of Uhtred, Earl of Northumbria, who was murdered by Thurbrand the Hold in 1016 with the connivance of Cnut. Ealdred’s mother was Ecgfrida, daughter of Aldhun, bishop of Durham.  Ealdred succeeded his uncle Eadwulf Cudel as Earl of Bernicia in 1020/25, and some time probably in the mid 1020s he killed Thurbrand in revenge for his father’s death. In 1038 Ealdred was murdered by Thurbrand’s son, Carl. He was succeeded as Earl of Bernicia by his brother, another Eadwulf. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle asserts that in 1041 Eadwulf was “betrayed” by King Harthacnut.  The “betrayal” seems to have been carried out by Siward, Earl of Northumbria; since when the Libellus de Exordio and other sources write about the same event, they say that Siward attacked and killed Eadulf.  It was thus that Siward became earl of all Northumbria, perhaps the first person to do so since Uhtred the Bold. Ealdred’s daughter, Aelfflaed, was the first wife of Siward and her son, and Ealdred’s grandson, was Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria.

This brings us to Uhtred the Bold. Uchtred or Uhtred, called the Bold, (d. 1016) was the ealdorman of all Northumbria from 1006 to 1016, when he was assassinated. He was the son of Waltheof I, ealdorman of Bamburgh, whose ancient family had ruled from the castle of Bamburgh on the Northumbrian coast.  In 995, according to Symeon of Durham, when the remains of St Cuthbert were transferred from Chester-le-Street to Durham, Uhtred helped the monks clear the site of the new cathedral. The new cathedral was founded by Bishop Aldhun, and Uhtred married Aldhun’s daughter, Ecgfrida, probably at about this time. From his marriage he received several estates that had belonged to the church.

In 1006 Malcolm II of Scotland invaded Northumbria and besieged the newly founded episcopal city of Durham. At that time the Danes were raiding southern England and King Ethelred was unable to send help to the Northumbrians. Ealdorman Waltheof was too old to fight and remained in his castle at Bamburgh. Ealdorman Ælfhelm of York also took no action. Uhtred, acting for his father, called together an army from Bernicia and Yorkshire and led it against the Scots. The result was a decisive victory for Uhtred. Local women washed the severed heads of the Scots, receiving a payment of a cow for each, and the heads were fixed on stakes to Durham’s walls. Uhtred was rewarded by King Ethelred II with the ealdormanry of Bamburgh even though his father was still alive. In the mean time, Ethelred had Ealdorman Ælfhelm of York murdered, and he allowed Uhtred to succeed Ælfhelm as ealdorman of York, thus uniting northern and southern Northumbria under the house of Bamburgh. It seems likely that Ethelred did not trust the Scandinavian population of southern Northumbria and wanted an Anglo-Saxon in power there.

After receiving these honours Uhtred dismissed his wife, Ecgfrida, and married Sige, daughter of Styr, son of Ulf. Styr was a rich citizen of York. It appears that Uhtred was trying to make political allies amongst the Danes in Deira. Through Sige, Uhtred had two children, Eadulf, later Eadulf III, and Gospatric. This Gospatric’s grandson was the infamous Eadwulf Rus who murdered Bishop Walcher.

In 1013 King Sweyn of Denmark invaded England, sailing up the Humber and Trent to the town of Gainsborough. Uhtred submitted to him there, as did all of the Danes in the north. In the winter of 1013 Ethelred was forced into exile in Normandy. After London had finally submitted to him, Sweyn was accepted as king by Christmas 1013. However he only reigned for five weeks, for he died at, or near, Gainsborough on 2 February 1014. At Sweyn’s death, Ethelred was able to return from exile and resume his reign. Uhtred, along with many others, transferred his allegiance back to Ethelred, on his return. Uhtred also married Ethelred’s daughter Ælfgifu about this time.

In 1016 Uhtred campaigned with Ethelred’s son Edmund Ironside in Cheshire and the surrounding shires. While Uhtred was away from his lands, Sweyn’s son, Cnut, invaded Yorkshire. Cnut’s forces were too strong for Uhtred to fight, and so Uhtred did homage to him as King of England. Uhtred was summoned to a meeting with Cnut, and on the way there, he and forty of his men were murdered byThurbrand the Hold, with assistance from Uhtred’s own servant, Wighill and with the connivance of Cnut. Uhtred was succeeded in Bernicia by his brother Eadwulf Cudel. Cnut made the Norwegian, Eric of Hlathir, ealdorman (“earl” in Scandinavian terms) in southern Northumbria.

Uhtred’s dynasty continued to reign in Bernicia through Ealdred, Earl of Bamburgh (killed 1038) his son from his marriage to Ecgfrida, and Eadulf (killed 1041) his son from his marriage to Sige, and briefly Eadulf’s son Osulf held the earldom of northern Northumbria 1067 until he too was killed. Eadulf‘s brother Cospatric began the Swinton Family dynasty, his son Eadulf Rus famously murdering William Walcher, Bishop of Durham which led to William the Conqueror sending an army northwards to harry the region again. Uhtred’s marriage to Ælfgifu produced a daughter, Ealdgyth, who married Maldred, brother of Duncan I of Scotland and who gave birth to a son, Gospatric, who was Earl of Northumbria from 1068 to 1072.

In Bernard Cornwell‘s series The Saxon Stories the protagonist is Earl Uhtred of Bebbanburg, also from Northumbria. The story of the siege of Durham and the severed heads on poles is told about the historical Uhtred (see Battles of the Dark Ages, Peter Marren), though it is perhaps possible to assume that the fictional Earl Uhtred of Bebbanburg is an ancestor of this Uhtred.

In Bernard Cornwell’s series he adds a ‘historical note’ at the end, in which, especially in the first book, he mentions that Uhtred was his ancestor. He took the liberty of installing Uhtred earlier in history. 

If we look at what is documented about Uhtred the Bold’s offspring, we see three children accounted for. Naturally, that would mean that his descendants would come from one of these three lines.  My lineage would come from his son, Ealdred with his marriage to Ecgfrida. As far as I know or can find, no other children are listed from that marriage. 

Earlier I mentioned viewing a copy of an old family tree for the Family Oughtred. I have received permission from that poster to share those photos here. They are photos of the tree and thus are somewhat difficult to read. The tree was done back in 1939. This is a copy of the tree that Bernard Cornwell received from his biological father, William Oughtred. If you look at page 2 of the tree, you will see Uhtred listed at the bottom right with the three wives.  This tree takes the line much further back and I have not yet sorted through all of that! I have so far only focused on the line of Ealdred and his descendants because that is the line I am descended from.  I have no idea which branch Bernard Cornwell descends from as this does not show any of that, but it would be interesting to know which branch he fits on!

oughtred family tree

Uhtred family tree from Bernard Cornwell

Uhtred of northumbria family tree

If anyone else is a descendant of one of the other lines, I would love to know more about your history and your ancestry! If any of the other names listed among my ancestors sounds familiar to you, let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Kingdom, ep. 5: Ubba obviously loses, but who wins?

ubba loses but who wins   I know, I am far behind in updates and reviews- my sincere apologies for that! It is certainly not due to any disappointment or lack of interest in the show. No, far from that- in fact, my interest and my appreciation for this show has grown with each episode. Unfortunately, it has been just a matter of real life catching up with me-leaving me in the swamps, marshes and trenches of present day battle for survival in the world of work! I have also been battling the massive webs of ancestors in my family history. I have now clawed my way out of much of that mess, at least temporarily, until the next onslaught begins.  I have a bit of time for much needed respite, rest and reflection so I will try to catch us up on this awesome journey to the past with Uhtred.  If you have not watched any of the series yet, what are you waiting for, an engraved invitation from either Alfred, Uhtred, or possibly Guthrum???  Alfred or Uhtred could possibly accommodate you on the written invitation, but Guthrum as yet has not mastered the magic of the written word. Guthrum may have to send a messenger with a verbal invitation for you. He is currently running low on trusted and loyal subjects, however and he is in the process of changing some of his affiliations and alliances so who ever he sends as messenger may come as a surprise to you… and seeing as he is still Guthrum, you perhaps should be slightly wary of any messenger he sends?

guthrum and aethelwold3

aethelwold5

 

For those who have read the books and are now watching the show, there have of course been some changes to the details. After having watched all of it play out so far, my personal opinion is that the changes to details and characters have not  affected the overall story or plot line. In episode 5, we saw some differences but the outcome remained the same. Uhtred made his escape from the Danes and eventually made his way to  to warn Alfred of the coming danger. War is coming, Alfred is preparing for battle and Odda the younger has taken Mildrith and the baby Uhtred to safety. Before reaching Alfred, Uhtred made his way first to his home to find his estate being grossly used by the obnoxious and disgusting steward, Oswald who was in the process of “plowing a lovely field of barley” as in one serving wench. Uhtred discovers he has a son and that his wife and son have been taken by Odda.  Before he can reunite with his family he must find Alfred and his army,  face the battle of Cynwit hill… and Ubba. This battle played out differently than the books but it still reflected somewhat accurately the factual accounts of this battle.

 

The Battle of Cynwit, also spelt Cynuit, took place in 878 at a fort which Asser calls Cynwit. The location of the battle is uncertain. Possible sites include Cannington Hill, near Cannington, Somerset;  and Countisbury Hill (also known as Wind Hill), near Countisbury, Devon. A party of Vikings led by Ubba, brother of Ivar the Boneless and Halfdan Ragnarsson, landed on the coast at Combwich with 23 ships and twelve hundred men. There they observed that a number of English Thanes and all of their men had taken refuge in the fort of “Cynwit” for safety.  Ubba and the Vikings proceeded to besiege the fort, expecting the English to surrender eventually from lack of water (as there was no available source near the fort).    While the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle glosses over the battle of Cynwit, it is important for two reasons.

Firstly, it was an important victory for the English won by someone other than Alfred the Great, the king of Wessex at the time who was spearheading the English resistance to the Viking invasions. The Chronicle, in addressing the year 878, makes the claim that “all but Alfred the King” had been subdued by the Vikings. Secondly, at the battle of Cynwit, Odda and the English forces not only succeeded in killing Ubba, but they also captured the Raven banner called Hrefn or the Raven. While the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle only briefly mentions the battle, it does draw attention to the capture of the banner, which is interesting considering that it does not single out any other trophy captured by the English in the many other victories they had against the Danes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cynwit

Cannington Camp/Hill

Cannington_Camp4 Cynwits_Castle_Cannington_Somerset_Map

Cannington Camp is a Bronze Age and Iron Age hill fort near Cannington, Somerset, England. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.  The small hill rises to 80 metres (260 ft) above low lying land about 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) west of the tidal estuary of the River Parrett, near the ancient port and ford at Combwich. The hill fort is roughly square in shape, with a single rampart (univallate) enclosing 5 ha (12 acres), and the main entrance to the south-east. The north side of the hill has been destroyed by quarrying during the 19th and 20th centuries. Minor excavations were carried out in 1905, 1913 (Bezell), and 1963 (Rahtz).  It is possibly the site of Cynwit Castle (or Cynuit, Cynwith, Cynwits, etc.) and the Battle of Cynwit between Saxons and Vikings in 878 AD (see map). It may also be the location of an earlier battle in 845 AD, when the Saxons were led by Eanwulf and Ealstan, Bishop of Sherborne.

In our version of the oncoming battle, Uhtred arrived to warn and help but was again doubted and suspected of treachery because he managed to survive and escape the Danes. He must once again prove himself to the English army being led by Odda the elder, who is as Leofrich remarks, a good man but not such a capable leader. He is worried and doubtful while his son, Odda the younger is  spiteful, distrustful and willing to make any excuse or attempt to escape rather than fight…. except when they win- then he will happily take all credit for it!

odda the younger

While the English are arguing with each other over how to survive let alone win a battle against the Danes, Ubba is making judgement errors of his own. He is devoted and completely dependent on his sorcerer, Storrie for advice and listens to what ever Storrie might profess to see in the signs… Unfortunately, as we’ve seen before, Storrie is not all that accurate at his skill in prophecies and signs. Ubba is confident, perhaps overly so of a victory due to Storrie’s advice so he settles into wait and takes time for entertainment and pleasure before battle.

ubba and storri

ubba storri misreads the runes

 

Uhtred is unwilling to sit and wait, so devises a plan to out maneuver the Danes by attacking first… his plan is met with resistance and mistrust by Odda the younger, and doubt by Odda the Elder. He succeeds though in setting the Danish boats on fire and distracting them, all the while hoping that Odda the Elder will follow his directions and use the distraction to attack the Danes by surprise.

boats burning

Uhtred becomes trapped in the Danes’ camp and thus must face Ubba in a one on one battle to the death.

ubba is surprised by this attack ubba is angry very angry ubba has the upper hand here

This does play differently than the books where Uhtred kills Ubba from the shield wall during battle, but it works to advantage this way as we see this more as a personal battle of honor for Uhtred and for Ubba. Uhtred is defending his honor and his truth against Ubba who refuses to ever accept or believe that Uhtred did not have part in killing his family. Ubba had long before branded Uhtred as a family killer, a traitor and vowed to kill him… now he must uphold that vow and this becomes more of a blood feud than a battle between armies.

go to valhalla lord go to valhalla lord 2

As this battle plays out, we still see that Uhtred succeeds in killing Ubba more by luck than anything else. When he kills Ubba, he still respects Ubba as a warrior, places a weapon in his hand and sends him to Valhalla with honor… it is not until afterwards that he realizes the enormity and danger of what he has just done as he looks around and sees the Danes surrounding him. Fortunately, Odda the Elder has by that time conveniently come to his senses and led his men to a stealthy night attack- thereby allowing Uhtred to escape into the depths of their shieldwall.

the saxon shield wall shows up in the darkness

The English have won the battle and Leofrich advises Uhtred to proceed without haste to Alfred and inform him of his actions in this battle. Uhtred as usual, fails to listen to advice and insists that he must go first to find Mildrith and his son. Odda the elder has been gravely wounded in the battle and his son, Odda the younger is now in charge, a fact that Uhtred fails to take into serious enough consideration- a fact that will cause him much added trouble in the future.

odda the elder

Leofrich warns and advises Uhtred to head for Alfred and tell of the events...

Leofrich warns and advises Uhtred to head for Alfred and tell of the events…

 

Uhtred does find Mildrith and his son…they share a bit of family happiness that will quickly be short lived due to Uhtred’s slight problem with some anger issues.

baby uhtred

baby Uhtred

Unaware of treachery and deception taking place, the family happily heads towards Winchester where Uhtred assumes he will be welcomed with open arms and high rewards. Such is not the case and Uhtred’s anger issues come to light in response to that deception by Odda the younger and to the spitefulness of some others such as Alfred’s wife, Ealhswith. Eahlswith’s truer colors, her vengeful character and her purest hatred of anything remotely Pagan… namely and especially Uhtred begin to become much clearer as does Odda the younger’s truest less than honorable character.  She and Odda the younger make fine friends in their mutual hatred of Uhtred.

eilswith and odda

Alfred at prayer and peace

An unsuspecting Uhtred arrives in Winchester to tell Alfred of the victory and his role in it, unaware that Odda the younger has already arrived and taken credit for all, also unaware of new laws passed by Alfred to protect himself and his peace. Beocca attempts to warn him of such new laws but as per usual with Uhtred, he brushes off Beocca and plows headlong into yet another mess, created partly by his own actions or lack of them… He breaks into Alfred’s peace and his prayer, raises his weapon and loses his temper. As a result of this infraction, his punishment is penance and humiliation. This scenario played out much like the book, which I am immensely grateful for! He was joined in this groveling form of penance by Alfred’s nephew, Aethelwold who is much used to such punishments by now. Aethelwold steals the scene and provides some much needed comic relief while still managing to convey some deeper underlying meanings and messages. As they begin the trek of groveling, Aethelwold advises Uhtred to just follow and allow him to lead this procession while commenting that Uhtred will owe him for this act. As they grovel towards a waiting Alfred and company, Aethelwold commences to turn this act of contrition and humility into an all out laughable parade in which he begs forgiveness for his sins of ale, women, tits and asses. Throughout this charade, he points his words directly towards Alfred who understands completely his nephews references to seduction and sins of the flesh being directed towards him. He is not amused, nor is wife Ealhswith who presumably, probably also fully gets the intended reference. They quickly depart the scene and the penance event turns more into an entertaining interlude for all of the villagers watching.

 

tits and ass athelwold saves the day with humor alfred is not amused

I can not resist and neither can you uncle

Alfred’s wife Eahlswith has achieved her own personal ultimate success during this time by producing a male heir for the Kingdom… her status, importance and value to Alfred have greatly increased and her attitude will show it. We catch a glimpse of her attitude in a family scene with Alfred and daughter as they look upon this new baby. This is a quick glimpse at this family life and dynamic but it does show some foreshadow of how this attitude might affect the daughter’s life in the future.

Eilswith too smug

this is not going to go well for the girl children

Alfred’s relationship with his family, and in particular, this daughter will become of great importance and prominence in the future. We do not see it as yet in the show but hopefully there will be added seasons and you will see this girl child grow and take on her true importance in the story and in history. This young girl child is Aethelflaid who will one day be known as Lady of the Mercians.

alfred and family alfred and aethelfaid

Athelflaid, Lady of Mercians

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%86thelfl%C3%A6d

 

The shaming and humiliation have incited Uhtred’s anger at Alfred and at the church or anything related to it, including his wife. The bliss is definitely wearing off of this marriage… Mildrith is upset with Uhtred’s behavior and at his lack of control over his anger. Uhtred has had close to enough of Mildrith’s preaching ways and is disgusted with her rather continuous tears. Her attitude and behavior for him is almost as bad as Alfred’s pious better than thou actions. The final straw breaking their marriage apart happens on their return home to their estate when he discovers the thieving and slovenly steward, Oswald has been stealing trees off their land and selling them for profit. Now, to Uhtred’s credit, he did warn Oswald previously that should he ever catch him being so disrespectful and dishonorable to the estate and to Uhtred, that he would kill him with pleasure. By the time they arrived home, Uhtred’s mood was to say the least, not good… He was in a foul, rage filled mood and most likely anything would have set him off. Oswald’s theft from him was just the trigger that caused him to blindly release his rage and dispose of the man as promised in the name of Justice with no thoughts of consequence for the act. Mildrith was naturally horrified by the killing thus began yet another round of crying, wailing, and moral judgements. Clearly, Uhtred has lost this round of anger management… not that he was really making any effort towards managing his anger issues in the first place but realistically at some point he needs to realize that these uncontrollable fits of temper and anger are creating part of his problems! As Mildrith oft preaches to him, “You’re too ready with anger, there’s a bad spirit within you that needs to be exorcized… You should look to God!”   Mildrith can not fix this man right now, as Alfred can not either nor can their God. Uhtred’s demons are deep within him will take much time for some others to help him exorcize on his own.

uhtred has some marriage troubles

unhappy wife alert gif clip 02

I think it’s important to keep in mind that Mildrith is not a bad person, a bad wife in this situation…she and Uhtred are just not well suited for each other. Once the initial infatuation and lust wore off and they were put in a difficult desperate situation, they reacted in completely different ways and would never come to see things with a like mind or purpose. Faced with the same events as Mildrith, a majority of women would most likely react to Uhtred’s anger issues and violent tendencies in a much similar way as she did- even if we insist that we wouldn’t, that we would be fearless and bad ass strong in our reactions. We like to think we would be as strong as Brida or other shieldmaidens but in reality, few of us would truly be able to handle Uhtred’s outbursts without some fear, tears or meltdown of our own.

So, while Ubba very clearly and obviously lost his battles in this episode, Uhtred was not truly any winner. He only succeeded in killing Ubba by sheer luck, he suffered great humiliation and loss of pride at the hands of Alfred, he certainly lost any attempt at anger control and as a result of that loss, he also lost any chance or hope of some ongoing peace or even civility within his relationship with wife Mildrith. He also lost in a battle of thinking and wits to Odda the younger, and to Ealhswith. Unfortunately in this round, Uhtred must concede defeat to Odda the younger, to Ealhswith, and even to Aethelwold.  Odda has won a huge albeit temporary advantage for now with his deceptions and his sucking up to both Alfred and to Ealhswith. Ealhswith could and does consider herself a winner in all things right now just for the fact that she has scored high on any front by producing that precious heir. And, Aethelwold… well, although for all appearances sake, he is not a winner in anything, he has managed to achieve one thing for his actions. Aethelwold has won by fact that Uhtred now owes him a debt, a favor that he will be able to cash in on at some later time!

One last thought on all of the events and people of this history… our first thoughts and tendencies are to choose sides, label right or wrong and place blame or judgement upon the people involved. What we need to remember instead is that there is good and bad on both sides, in all peoples. This story is not so much about a good or bad, a right or wrong side but of the complexities that made up each of the choices and decisions made by both sides. Mistakes are made, poor judgement is used and immoral inhumane decisions are made by both sides as well. The majority of the people are not all good heroes, nor are they evil incarnate mad villains… you notice I say a majority because as in any society there are those few who display the very worst of what we are, and the few who reflect the very best of all of us.  No one in this story is a perfect ideal or portrayal of who we assume, think, or wish they should be. As in reality, these characters have flaws- they, just as we are, are shaped by the world they live in, the culture and society that has raised them, and the events that take place around them. And… some of them are just unlikeable people- such as Ealhswith and Odda the younger!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Kingdom episode 4: The Peace is over

At the end of episode 3, Leofrich and Uhtred watched the Danes leave and Leofrich had some serious words for Uhtred about his future… “This year, what you’re giving to Alfred, it’s not about a mail coat and helmet. It’s about you. The Bastard thinks, didn’t I say that? He wants more than a year’s service, he wants you. He wants you to help take back England, all of  England. Of course when the year is up, you could go back to the Danes… but what would you be, who would you be?”

You could go back to the Danes but who would you be

 

This question will haunt Uhtred throughout his life, it will tear at him as he tries to figure out the answer and it will ever be what causes him to fight both the physical battles and those battles within himself. As the land settles into some temporary peace before the storm Uhtred will find no peace within himself for a very long time. He has sold himself to Alfred for the vague rewards that Alfred promises and it eats at him continually. The anger, frustration, resentment and guilt are always there just beneath the surface for Uhtred. Of course, those underlying feelings are much of what makes him the warrior that he is and will ever be, but they also cloud his judgement and his reasoning.

Episode 4 deals with the peace being over in more ways than one. It is not so much about peace being over in the land with the Danes, but more about peace of mind, peaces of heart being torn and doubts creeping into cracks. It is about those underlying conflicts coming to surface as the larger storm of war approaches. It is about those differences of thought and opinion that can tear a land apart before it even begins to do battle with an enemy. Uhtred is now a part of Alfred’s army, but there is much resentment from some among Alfred’s inner circle about this decision.  Uhtred holds title of Ealdorman of Northumbria, but that is far to north and in Dane control.  His title is in name only and holds little value to those in the south. Uhtred needs land holding in the south to be considered of importance by the Ealdormen there. Alfred also needs to bind Uhtred to him by some deeper hold… so he “rewards” Uhtred with marriage and a landholding…  Uhtred accepts the bride and the land, sight unseen because he needs the land and it’s wealth in order to accomplish his one goal of reclaiming Bebbanburg someday in the future, and his goal to one day rejoin Ragnar and avenge their family’s deaths. He claims to Leofrich that his bride’s appearance is of no consequence, makes little difference because this is a marriage for title, land and wealth nothing more…

The wife chosen for Uhtred is God daughter of Odda the Elder and in the very beginning of episode, we see Odda the younger’s resentment of Uhtred and of this proposed marriage. We also see, by the way, a very clear view of Uhtred and some of his finer assets…

moon 01

I readily admit here that I enjoyed and appreciated the view even though it could be considered in some sense as gratuitous and pandering to the female viewers. There was a conversation between Uhtred and Odda that made attempt to connect our view and make it relevant… that conversation also served to irritate Odda even more so I will accept that this was the supposed purpose of our view! Uhtred’s response to Odda’s disparaging remarks were, “Have you been watching me, Odda the boy? Should I be marrying you?” Odda is disgusted and offers to pay Uhtred to not go through with the marriage. Uhtred’s final response to this nonsense is to ask Odda if his Father knows or approves of this offer… Odda the younger rides off in more disgust.

I will also admit here that I have never read of any sort of custom that requires a young woman of some noble standing to go to her marriage in such complete masking or coverage as Uhtred’s bride arrived.  One might assume that she was contagious or possibly an obsessed beekeeper. That is my rather minor complaint with this portion of the episode. I would have thought that heavy cloak and hood would suffice in keeping her under wraps… I think they went a bit overboard in this aspect!

mildrith in mask

None the less, we did discover that rather than being a carrier of some dread disease, the young Mildrith was instead a true prize… or as Alfred would mention, a consolation prize for Uhtred.

uhtred and mildrith meet mildrith

Uhtred is quite happy with his bride and wonders why she has not been already given to someone else… Mildrith is rather evasive about this and chooses to direct the conversation elsewhere. Uhtred is so happy that he fails to question what she might be avoiding.  He takes his bride and his new best friend, Leofrich and heads off to his new home, never once questioning why he has received such a prize…

Along their way, they find Guthrum’s warriors scouting deep within the boundaries of Wessex.  Meanwhile back in Wessex, Alfred and Odda the Elder are discussing Mildrith’s plight and Uhtred’s test. “He will not like being beholden to God and King, but if he is to become a true Ealdorman he must accept his burden. That is the test… Mildrith is his beautiful consolation.”

Uhtred does quickly discover that Alfred has set him up by marrying Mildrith to him and now he will owe the church a 2000 shilling debt that increases yearly.  Needless to say, Uhtred is not amused with the news! Damn Alfred, Damn his church, Damn everything he stands for! His added response to Mildrith… By all means, Call me Earsling for not seeing this sooner!  Ummm probably not the best way to start a marriage. This is one situation that I really can not quite settle with in regards to Alfred’s many actions to maintain control of Uhtred. Many of his other retributions and controls, I could always come to some understanding on but this one was one of the most underhanded and manipulative of his deeds. It set Uhtred up so that in some essence or way, he might never be free or clear of this overhanging debt. And, the debt is not to Alfred, but to the church- which Alfred knows Uhtred has no regard for. The church feels the same way about Uhtred and would love to see him fail on this debt- not only so as to be free of him, but to gain the land involved. I think too, this is one instance where Odda the Elder does not agree with Alfred’s actions concerning using Mildrith and her property in this plot to tie Uhtred even more tightly to him in both loyalty and debt. This action does not teach Uhtred any lesson really, other than to trust Alfred even less. It’s certainly not one which would encourage or inspire undying loyalty.

 

Uhtred arrives at his new landholding to discover that is not quite what he was expecting either. No large hall, not much of anything but a worn and ragged rather rundown farmstead with an overseer who seems too well fed and dressed to be altogether honest no matter what trusting and naïve Mildrith might think. His best bud Leofrich abandons him and reminds him that it’s his wedding night, then he finds out that not only has he been robbed, but his wife Mildrith has been as well- of half of her bride price. To top it all off, the ale is not even worth drinking… so much for this Wedding night! He does however, manage to contain his anger- which is a rather huge accomplishment for him.   He wakes up the next morning in a somewhat better frame of mind sets about making amends to Mildrith because as he tells her, none of this was her fault and she has a good heart.  Mildrith does have a good heart, she is pleasant natured (for now) and she’s good to look upon as well. God is Good, an admit from Uhtred himself! Well, perhaps there is some hope for this relationship after all… then again perhaps not? 

mildreth gif 02

They have a lovely honeymoon period with some peace and seem to be living happily ever after on the farm… there is even the prospect of a new addition to the family. God is Good, Life is Good… until the sisters of fate intervene!

 

uhtred and leofrich2 uhtred and mildrith make peace with each other

The Peace is over and the Danes are marching through Wessex… By the time word reaches Alfred, it will be too late!

ragnar and brida brida

 

The peace is over within Alfred’s sanctuary, his home, his church and his inner circle as well. Arguments and accusations begin as Wessex attempts to prepare for the Heathen invasion and a battle at Wareham. Odda the Elder is made aware of his son’s dubious honor and Eilswith shows her more vindictive, spiteful nature…along with her ability to reproduce.  Her less than Christian behavior includes welcoming Mildrith to pray with her and then wishing Uhtred a quick death upon the battlefield. Mildrith is still happy, optimistic and in love with her husband so she cares not what Eilswith thinks, she prays God will protect him even if he is a heathen!

Ealswith and mildrith ealswith is showing her spiteful side mildrith2

 

The conflicts between Alfred and Uhtred come to the surface as they debate the Hand of God and whether God is speaking to the Danes as well.  Alfred considers it God’s doing that Ivar has died across the sea in Ireland and Ubba will abandon this fight to go avenge his brother.  Uhtred confronts Alfred on the debt owed to the church and Alfred responds that Sacrifice and Penance are what separate us from the Heathens… I have my broth to suffer, you have your debt.  Alfred later admits to Father Beocca, “He can not be tamed” Father Beocca’s answer is that he can be trusted and Alfred assures Beocca that he will not abandon Uhtred because he may still be of some use.

Guthrum and his Danes, including Ragnar take Wareham and the Saxon army prepares for battle. Guthrum however, knows and understands that Alfred can easily win this siege by waiting them out. Guthrum spends time within the quietness of the Christian Church contemplating his situation and is confronted by Ragnar who wants to fight, “I did not march my men all the way across this country to sit here and starve!” Guthrum points out that Ubba has abandoned them and put all their lives at risk so now is not the time for war…. until Ubba returns, we must make peace. Doubts are setting in on the Dane side as well, doubts about each other and doubts about personal beliefs.  Guthrum feels them but manages to keep them at bay for the time being, mainly because when he calls out to the Christian God and asks for a sign, he gets nothing- “So, if you are there God of Rome, Strike me down… ahhh I thought naught!” It is becoming apparent though that Guthrum is having some thoughts about this God again and his peace of mind is shaken.

Guthrum God of rome strike me down

Alfred and Guthrum meet on the field at Wareham but both realize the futility of battle right now… neither side would truly win such a battle attempt and the result would be a weakening of their forces. There is negotiation over Guthrum leaving, and when… it is in Guthrum’s best interest to remain as long as possible in hopes that Ubba will return while it is in Alfred’s best interest to be rid of them as quickly as possible. They’re at a stalemate but come to some agreement that results in more loss of that inner personal peace of mind for a few people. Alfred has a plan to create more doubt in Guthrum’s mind. He has heard rumors of Guthrum’s questions about the Christian God so he decides to send a Priest to sway Guthrum and work towards converting him- a challenge that obviously plays havoc with Father Selbix’s peace of mind! Alfred also uses Uhtred once again and once more puts him in the middle of the Danes, and his family. Alfred’s decision to use Uhtred as a hostage casts yet another shadow on Uhtred’s heart and tears again at his loyalties.

hostages

Father Selbix must try to make peace with Guthrum and show him the way to the Christian God…

father selbix selbix and guthrum selbix to guthrum you are a miracle

While we might assume that Father Selbix failed in his mission, did he really? Yes, he met his death much as he expected he might at the hands of Guthrum and the Danes, but he met it quickly and mercifully as Guthrum sent him on his way to meet his God. There was no lengthy dragged out torture here. In fact, the torture seemed to be more on Guthrum’s face and possibly in his mind or heart as he did what he felt he needed to do in the killing of the hostages that included Father Selbix.

Guthrum gives Selbix a merciful quick death and meeting with his God

Uhtred and Ragnar battled their own inner wars as they faced each other again and had to work through guilt, feelings of betrayal and the heart ache of being a family divided by this coming war. Brida’s thoughts were and always will be more black and white, cut and dried on the issues. You are either a Dane and with them, or you are not, in her mind it will ever come down to that feeling. Ragnar is filled with frustration and rage at Uhtred’s oath and loyalty to Alfred but he does understand Uhtred’s need now to return to his family, his wife and the son that he has been given news of. In Ragnar’s mind and heart, they will ever be brothers, family- and that will come before anything else.  Uhtred admitted to Ragnar that he must try to escape if Ubba returned and although Ragnar is outraged at Uhtred’s disloyalty to the Danes, in his heart he knows that Uhtred is now doing what he feels he must to protect his own family. Ragnar and Uhtred will always have that certain deeper bond that even Brida does not have with Uhtred.

Uhtred waits out the hostage situation.

Uhtred waits out the hostage situation.

Ragnar is outraged

Ragnar is outraged

In the end, Ragnar can not stand by and allow Uhtred to be killed. He stands against Guthrum to protect Uhtred. Guthrum makes some attempt to reason with Ragnar but then once more he shows some compassion, some mercy… some charity.

ragnar will defend his brother at any cost

guthrum once agains shows mercy and charity he releases Uhtred without a horse

The Peace is over.  War will tear hearts and loved ones apart but compassion, mercy and family will forever be a tie that binds people together.

go and see your child

uhtred the peace is over

Some additional history about people events during this time:

odda with mildrith

In the Last Kingdoms books and on the show, we see Odda the Elder and Odda the younger… Odda the Elder is a historical figure connected to Alfred and to the Great Heathen Wars. We will see more of both of them in episode 5 along with the events at the Battle of Cynwit.

Odda, also known as Oddune,  was a ninth-century ealdorman of Devon. He is known for his victory at the Battle of Cynwit in 878, where his West Saxon forces defeated a Viking army led by Ubba, brother of the Viking chiefs Ivar the Boneless and Halfdan Ragnarsson.  Throughout the 870s Odda’s liege, Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, was engaged in constant war with the Vikings. They had begun their invasion of England in 865, and by Alfred’s accession in 871 the Kingdom of Wessex was the only Anglo-Saxon realm opposing them.  By 878 the conflict was going poorly for Alfred. In January of that year, the Danes made a sudden attack on Chippenham, a royal stronghold in which Alfred had been staying over Christmas, “and most of the people they killed, except the King Alfred, and he with a little band made his way by wood and swamp, and after Easter he made a fort at Athelney in the marshes of Somerset, and from that fort kept fighting against the foe”.

Guthrum and his men were holding Wareham…

Archaeological evidence exists of a small Roman settlement, though the current town was founded by the Saxons.  The Roman name is unknown, but the town is referred to as Werham in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry of 784, from Old English wer (meaning ‘fish trap, a weir’) and hām (‘homestead’) or hamm (‘enclosure hemmed in by water’).

  Wareham

waiting at Wareham

waiting at Wareham

The town’s oldest features are the town walls, ancient earth ramparts surrounding the town, likely built by Alfred the Great in the 9th century to defend the town from the Danes as part of his system of burh towns. The Danes had invaded Wareham in 876, only leaving after the payment of a ransom. In 998 they attacked again, and in 1015 an invasion led by King Canute left the town in ruins.  The town was a Saxon royal burial place, notably that of King Beorhtric (800 CE). Also in the town at the ancient minster church of Lady St. Mary is the coffin said to be that of Edward the Martyr, dating from 978. His remains had been hastily buried there and were later taken from Wareham to Shaftesbury Abbey in north Dorset (and now lie in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey).

ragnar tells Guthrum my men they will not follow you

In 876 under their new leader, Guthrum, the Danes slipped past the Saxon army and attacked and occupied Wareham in Dorset. Alfred blockaded them but was unable to take Wareham by assault.  Accordingly, he negotiated a peace which involved an exchange of hostages and oaths, which the Danes swore on a “holy ring” associated with the worship of Thor The Danes, however, broke their word and, after killing all the hostages, slipped away under cover of night to Exeter in Devon.

Alfred blockaded the Viking ships in Devon, and with a relief fleet having been scattered by a storm, the Danes were forced to submit. The Danes withdrew to Mercia.

800px-England_Great_Army_map_svg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Last Kingdom: So far, So Excellent!

Hopefully by now, many people have already seen the first few episodes of BBC’s The Last Kingdom series. If you have not seen it yet, please go find it and watch!  I did an initial review after the first episode premiered a few weeks ago and promised to give added thoughts after more people had a chance to view it. We are now up to episode 3 here in the states so I am going to give my thoughts on it up through that episode. Please be advised and warned that I will be including spoilers in this review! There is also some comparison and reference to the book series by Bernard Cornwell.

First of all before we go any further, I want to address the continuing comparisons to Game of Thrones. This is not GOT, this is not fantasy and should not be compared as such. This show is historical fiction/drama but by no means should it be considered and some sort of fantasy genre. Nor is it all about graphic sex for ratings. This is a dirty, grim, and often harsh look at history and life during the time of Alfred’s reign and the Great Heathen armies conquest of England. I have read some reviews in which the viewers complained that it felt dated and low budget as compared to some other shows. I completely disagree in that regard. As I mentioned, what it is, is a more realistic presentation showing the conditions that many- most people lived in during that time.

Are there some historical inaccuracies, of course there are- nothing is perfect and I don’t expect 100% historical authenticity or accuracy… if I did, I would refrain from television or fiction at all and read only text books about the events- and even then, I would never get exact because even text books make mistakes. I am far more interested in the story that is being told here and that story is keeping me interested and waiting for each new episode. If you have read the books, yes there are deviations and changes so I suppose that if you are book purist, this may cause you some frustration, annoyance or irritation. I appreciate the changes that have been made to make this story work in the compacted visual version that the creators are limited to. As far as I can see, the story is still falling into place and following a similar path as the books did, just getting there in a slightly different manner.

In my previous initial review, I did go over the highlights of episode 1. I am not going to repeat that here, you can read my previous review here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/uhtred-of-bebbanburg-has-arrived/

 

For those who have read the books, the first episode followed closely along the lines of the book. It included many of the important events and highlights of the book. Please keep in mind that this initial season is only 8 episodes and is trying to compact the events of two books into these 8 episodes. I do say initial season because from what I have read, if this season is successful, there are already plans for additional seasons! Obviously there is no way they can include every event that each reader might deem important in the filming of the show. While I do wish that we could have seen more of Uhtred’s early years with Ragnar and his family, I understand completely why they chose to present it the way they did. As an introduction to Uhtred’s adult life, the initial episode worked the way it was supposed to. It gave us that introduction to him, his life and the events that would shape his future. We saw the child Uhtred, heir to Bebbenburg, watch the Danes arrive. We watched with Uhtred, the battle between the Danes and the Northumbrians that destroyed Northumbria as a Saxon Kingdom and killed Uhtred’s Father. We were provided with the details of Uhtred’s Uncle’s treachery and deception to take Bebbenburg from Uhtred. Then we also saw Uhtred’s capture by the Danes along with his remaining childhood spent living with them, becoming for the most part a Dane himself.  That first episode provided us with the conspiracies and treasons between the Danes. It included the treachery of a family against Uhtred and his Danish family that will last long into the future. Events such as the actions of young Sven against Thyra, Ragnar’s retaliation, then the later hall burning and kidnapping of Thyra by Kjartin and Sven as well as their blaming of Uhtred for the event; those events are by far the most important parts of the initial story that will continue to haunt Uhtred and shape his path throughout the future.

With episode 2, book readers will see a change in the storyline and of course some may be critical of these changes. I have to say that I am not one of those critical people. I was highly impressed with the episode and the additional history/background it provided. In episode 2, Uhtred and Brida fled Northumbria and headed for the supposedly safer kingdom of Wessex and the one person whom Uhtred thought might be able to help achieve his goal of reclaiming his birthright of Bebbenburg. Uhtred’s one goal in life right now is claiming his rightful title and his lands from his traitorous Uncle.  Uhtred is young, brash and rash in his actions and thoughts, but he does clearly understand one thing… even were the Danes not against him at the moment because of their belief that he turned on his Danish family, they would not allow him to be the clear owner and ruler of Bebbenburg. The Danes might eventually help him to gain it, but it would forever be for their own purpose. They made that quite clear with their installation of Echbert, “King of Nothing”. They might allow someone to rule or hold a title, but they would be the ones in control of that person. Uhtred pins his hopes on the leaders of Wessex being willing or able to help him.

Ecghbert the ridiculous puppet king for Danish masters

In episode 2, we see Uhtred and Brida coming into their own beliefs and ideas as young adults on their perilous adventure to what they hope is some safety. We see them enjoying life but we also see both of them beginning to question the world around them and take steps towards the beliefs that will shape all of their future life decisions. Uhtred insists that their safety lies with Wessex for the time being but Brida is not so sure. The one thing they are sure about is that they are not safe with the Danes until they can find some way of proving their innocence in the murder of Ragnar and their family. They have lost everything except the wealth of Ragnar’s hoard and Uhtred is realistic when he tells Brida that they have no other option but Wessex for the time being… whether Brida likes it or not, they can no longer be Dane- they must be Saxons.

brida we are no longer danes

brida we are no longer danes

During their journey to Wessex, Uhtred purchases what will become his lifelong companion, possibly more important to him than anything else even Bebbenburg. Uhtred’s sword, Serpent Breath is born and is hungry for blood. Uhtred quickly begins to feed his sword’s thirst for blood as he and Brida are besieged and attacked Danes and Saxons both who are hunting for him.

I've given her some beauty but she is a tool first

I’ve given her some beauty but she is a tool first

Introducing Uhtred's best friend Serpent Breath

Introducing Uhtred’s best friend Serpent Breath

 

What Uhtred discovers in Wessex is that Alfred, brother to King Athelred, already knows well of Uhtred and the events of Northumbria. As Alfred later tells Uhtred, “I have ears and eyes everywhere in every Kingdom.”  Uhtred also discovers his childhood tutor and protector, Father Beocca is in Wessex as Alfred’s close advisor and priest. Father Beocca will forever be Uhtred’s friend, advisor, and in many ways, a Father figure for Uhtred whether he wants to adimit it or not. Beocca will eventually often become Uhtred’s inner voice of conscience and reason much as he is for Alfred. We see the beginning of this long relationship between the three men as Beocca introduces Uhtred to Alfred, makes attempts to defend Uhtred and makes no bones about reprimanding Uhtred for his misguided thinking. Beocca possibly knows Uhtred better than Uhtred knows himself and he stands firm in his belief in Uhtred despite Alfred’s doubts, misgivings and rightful mistrust of this adult man who as he puts it, is no longer a child but a man- a man who is selfish “soul-less” and without principle or solid belief. In many ways, Alfred’s current initial assumptions about Uhtred are correct whether we want to admit this of our hero or not.

Aethered and Alfred in last kingdom

I have eyes and ears everywhere in every part of Engleland

I have eyes and ears everywhere in every part of Engleland

Beocca saves Uhtred's ass

Beocca saves Uhtred’s ass

Beocca vouches for Uhtred and leads him to Alfred instead of the king.

Beocca vouches for Uhtred and leads him to Alfred instead of the king.

I look at you I see a Dane Uhtred of nowhere who cares about nothing but himself

I look at you I see a Dane Uhtred of nowhere who cares about nothing but himself

Father Beocca:I know this boy I know his soul Alfreds reply: Father Beocca he has no soul

Father Beocca:I know this boy I know his soul Alfreds reply: Father Beocca he has no soul

 

Uhtred is young, stubborn and strong willed. His thoughts are basic and primary during this time. He is guided by his lust for life, his need for revenge and his desire for what he believes is his rightful title and land. Uhtred must often be reminded of the bigger picture, of the realities and common sense reasonings by Brida, Beocca and by Alfred.  We do see the beginnings of that inner character, that inner man that he will become- the one that Beocca sees.

It is our destiny to hump

finding a way to pass the time

finding a way to pass the time

Brida to Uhtred: I am thinking you have a turd for a brain

Brida to Uhtred: I am thinking you have a turd for a brain

Brida's sound advice Uhtred you need to forget about Bebbanburg

Brida’s sound advice Uhtred you need to forget about Bebbanburg

Father Beocca believes you are an advantage but I believe you are here soley for yourself

Father Beocca believes you are an advantage but I believe you are here soley for yourself

Only by saving Wessex can we have a Northumbria or even a Bebbanburg

Only by saving Wessex can we have a Northumbria or even a Bebbanburg. Alfreds explanation begins to sink in to Uhtred

I mentioned earlier that the show takes a slightly different historical path than the books beginning in episode 2. While it takes a slightly different path, it works well toward taking us to the same events and ideas of the books.

Uhtred's first sight of Roman building skills

Uhtred’s first sight of Roman building skills

One of the most interesting smaller details that people should pay close attention to is Uhtred’s initial reaction to the buildings of Alfred’s domain. It is in this short scene that we see a glimpse of what will be Uhtred’s life long fascination, appreciation and love of building- and all things of that ancient Roman past that is deteriorating around them. This is actually very important because it sets up Uhtred’s view that the world is falling into the darkness and chaos of the Dane belief in Ragnarok.  Throughout Uhtred’s life he will look at the Roman wonders and ruins around him, see the loss of that greatness and compare it to the desolation and chaos of his time. He will see it as that comparison to Ragnarok, the end of time. This deep seated belief in the Old Gods, in the coming of Ragnarok, and in fate or destiny will remain with Uhtred throughout his life even as he makes the decisions to fight for the Saxons, the Christian Nailed God.

Ragnarök  was the doom of the gods and men, and heralded the destruction of the Nine Worlds. Nothing will escape the coming destruction, whether you live in heaven and on earth. The war will be wage between the goods and the evils. The goods were the Aesir, led by Odin, ruler of the gods. The evils, were the giants and monsters, led by Loki.  Yet the strangest things about Ragnarök was that the gods already knew what was going to happen through the prophecy: who will be killed and by whom, who would survive, what happen to those in the other world and so forth. Despite, knowing their fates, the gods will still defiantly face their destiny, as brave as any hero in a saga. The Norse gods knew what was to come, and knew they could not do anything to prevent prophecy coming to pass.

 

Episode 2 introduces us to the leaders and followers of Wessex, to their personal conflicts and to their flaws. We see Athelred as a King trying to hold on to his kingdom and we see the problem he faces with a son that he deems as unqualified and unfit to inherit the rule of Wessex in this most dire time. In history, Athelred did have two sons who should have been next in line to rule but a decision was made to place his adult brother Alfred on the throne instead. It is generally assumed that the decision was made because the boys were too young to rule and as an adult already proven in battle, Alfred would be the better choice to rule in such difficult times. We are introduced to Althelred’s son who does not show much capability to rule… Athelred’s doubts about him are apparent when he makes the comment, “I can not believe he is my son… if his Mother were not dead already, I would have her killed for adultery”

a drunken Athelwold

a drunken Athelwold

I do not think he is mine if his mother were dead already I might have her killed for adultery

I do not think he is mine if his mother were dead already I might have her killed for adultery

I ask that you become a man and quickly

I ask that you become a man and quickly

 

 

We see that Alfred has doubts about his own ability to rule because of his personal failures and sins. Alfred is tempted by sins of the flesh and Father Beocca advises him that this temptation is a sign, a test from God and he must put temptation in his midst so that he can ever be reminded of it and resist it… as a result, his temptation of the flesh is made a part of his household servants and we will eventually see that Alfred does not fare well in resisting it. Alfred’s foretelling and prophetic comment regarding his brother and kingship is, “Pray God that my brother does not die soon, for what kind of King would I be, sinner that I am!” 

temptation of the flesh

We also see Aflred’s other weakness, his very real physical weakness- the ailment and illness that will follow him throughout his life.

Join us for breakfast, I dare you!

Join us for breakfast, I dare you!

it is broth not gruel you should be thanking god for it's goodness!

it is broth not gruel you should be thanking god for it’s goodness!

But, aside from his temptations and his physical weakness, we are introduced to Alfred’s mind, his thought process and his unwavering belief in an idea of One united Kingdom of England. Alfred is intelligent, well studied in strategies of war, cunning and ruthless if he needs to be in order to survive this onslaught from the Danes. Uhtred is advised again and again not to underestimate Alfred. Brida wisely tells Uhtred not to trust him and Beocca warns him against thinking he can outsmart or outthink Alfred. Uhtred is stubborn and refuses to listen to either of them…

 

What we also see in episode 2 is the Dane side of events. We are given a better feeling and understanding of Ubba and of Guthrum, the two major leaders of the Dane army at this time. The massacre of King Edmund of East Anglia was presented in a gruesome segment that tells the story of that massacre and gives some insight to the mindset and thoughts of Guthrum and of Ubba. It is also the defining moment where Uhtred and Brida realize how impossible is for them to try to prove their innocence to the Danes. Ubba is the leader of the Danes and his mind is set against them, to him they are traitors of the worst sort. 

 

Ubba's sorcerer, Storri

Ubba’s sorcerer, Storri

It is during this segment though that we see Ubba’s one weakness.. his complete and unquestioning devotion and belief in his sorcerer, Storrie. Ubba will base all of his decisions on what his sorcerer tells him. If you watch the segment closely, you will also see the beginnings of some inner questions or doubts in Guthrum’s mind. It seems that Guthrum is merely amusing himself and others with his questions to Edmund about religion and this so called true God, but could be looked at as some foretelling of a  distant future in which Guthrum did indeed accept Christianity, at least on the surface. What it does foretell is a different mindset and thinking between these two leaders- one which will become more apparent as you see their differences take shape in episode 3.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guthrum

guthrum: tell me about this god are you not afraid

guthrum: tell me about this god are you not afraid

guthrum: I've heard mention of this heaven

guthrum: I’ve heard mention of this heaven

Guthrum I would say your God has left you hanging

In history, Edmund of East Anglia was was king of East Anglia from about 855 until his death in 869.  In 869, the Great Heathen Army advanced on East Anglia and killed Edmund. He may have been slain by the Danes in battle, but by tradition he met his death at an unidentified place known as Haegelisdun, after he refused the Danes’ demand that he renounce Christ: the Danes beat him, shot him with arrows and then beheaded him, on the orders of Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubba. According to one legend, his head was then thrown into the forest, but was found safe by searchers after following the cries of a wolf that was calling, “Hic, Hic, Hic” – “Here, Here, Here”. Commentators have noted how Edmund’s death bears resemblance to the fate suffered by St Sebastian, St Denis and St Mary of Egypt.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_the_Martyr

Edmund is still alive to face his fate

Edmund is still alive to face his fate

Edmund I've changed my mind I will make no demands

Edmund I’ve changed my mind I will make no demands

Let us try let us see if this god is all powerful if he will save you

Let us try let us see if this god is all powerful if he will save you

 

Uhtred’s and Brida’s escape from Ubba and Gutrum is managed only by their taking of Ubba’s sorcerer, Storri as hostage. Ubba is so fearful of losing his sorcerer that he allows Uhtred to leave but with a last warning that, “One day I will kill you”. 

Now let us see if Our Odin will protect you from the arrows

While on the surface, Brida’s treatment of Storri the sorcerer is humorous and shows her own warrior side, it also shows her deeper future path as a seer in her own right. It gives us an insight to her own personal beliefs that are in some ways, far stronger than Uhtred’s. This side of Brida had not really been addressed until this event where she mentions that he cursed her and she was simply stopping the curse. She does not mention what the curse was so she is beginning to keep her own counsel, her own secrets from Uhtred- which will also come into importance in episode 3.

Storri has learned the hard way do not mess with brida

Storri has learned the hard way do not mess with brida

There's a branch up his ass... which is why he's naked

There’s a branch up his ass… which is why he’s naked

He cursed me it was necessary to block the curse

He cursed me it was necessary to block the curse

 

It is towards the end of episode 2 that we see how serious Alfred is about his convictions and about his mistrust or doubts of Uhtred. We also see Uhtred begin to understand the warnings of both Brida and Father Beocca. Uhtred mistakenly believes that he can easily gain Alfred’s trust by going against all of those warnings, by going behind Alfred’s back to gain his own information on the Danes. He assumes that Alfred and the others will accept him, his words and predictions and that he will be rewarded for his actions. Alfred is not swayed by this action which he very realistically points out to Uhtred could very easily be just another trap by the Danes. How do they know for certain that Uhtred is not working for the Danes and that this is a ploy to send them all to defeat and death? Alfred is determined to keep Uhtred and Brida contained until the outcome of this battle is certain. If the Saxons are being set up and will meet their demise at this battle, then so shall Uhtred meet his own end as will Brida. Alfred is nobody’s fool and Uhtred would be wise to keep this in mind should he survive!

The Pagans need to feel the power of God

The Pagans need to feel the power of God

Uhtred goes behind Alfred back to spy on the Danes and finds his own evidence

Uhtred goes behind Alfred back to spy on the Danes and finds his own evidence

Alfred doesn't trust Uhtred2 if the Saxons lose this battle so does Uhtred2

Alfred chose to teach Pagan Uhtred a lesson in humility and show him that he is not in charge or in control of dealings with Alfred. Alfred then headed into the battle with his own plan but probably the ideas and thoughts of Uhtred as well.

Alfred thinking on his own plan and possibly remembering uhtred's advice

Alfred thinking on his own plan and possibly remembering uhtred’s advice

The battle that Alfred and his brother were headed to was one at a place that Alfred referred to as Asec’s hill… this corresponds to ‘Æscesdūn’ or Ashdown which is generally thought to be an ancient name for the whole of the Berkshire Downs. It is not known exactly where the two armies met, though it was around a lone thorn tree. Thorn Down at Compton, near East Ilsley — meaning Place of Conflict — is therefore a popular contender. Modern investigation suggests a site on the Ridgeway between Aldworth and the Astons.

In late 870, King Ethelred led the army of Wessex against the Danes in their stronghold at Reading. The attack failed, and the Anglo-Saxons were forced to retreat while the Danes pursued. The Danish armies caught up with the Anglo-Saxons on the field of Ashdown, located somewhere near the border of Oxfordshire and Berkshire (the precise location is unknown). It was January 8, 871. The weather was cold and damp, and the Berkshire Downs were soaked and boggy. King Ethelred divided his army in two, positioning the halves on either side of a ridgeway. Ethelred commanded one side, Alfred the other. As the Danes approached, they also split their army.

Alfred watched as the Danes drew nearer, waiting for the order to charge. However, his brother Ethelred had decided that he must pray before the battle and refused to advance until his prayer service was complete. Seeing that the Danish movement would cost him the advantage of high ground, Alfred decided to attack without help from his brother. The Anglo-Saxons’ charged on the Danes on their side of the ridgeway. Although nothing specific is known about the fighting, it is likely that both sides employed shieldwalls from which to push and batter against each other. Eventually the Danes broke and fled across the downs.

Only later did Ethelred launch his own troops into the attack. After more heavy fighting, his side was also victorious.

The West Saxons had a slight advantage in numbers (around 800 to 1,000 men), but the Danes held the high ground. The battle, little more than a great clash of shield walls, resulted in a victory for Alfred. The battle, however, was not decisive. This was a pyrrhic victory, for a great many lives were lost on each side and the Danes were subsequently able to win several battles after receiving reinforcements. Nevertheless, the hard fighting may have made the Danes more cautious in their raids into Wessex, preferring easier targets.

Historically, Athelred would actually die sometime later after the battle of Marton.  The Battle of Marton or Meretum took place on 22 March 871 at a place recorded as Marton, perhaps in Wiltshire or Dorset, after Æthelred of Wessex, forced (along with his brother Alfred) into flight following their costly victory against an army of Danish invaders at the Battle of Ashdown, had retreated to Basing (in Hampshire), where he was again defeated by the forces of Ivar the Boneless.

It was the last of eight battles known to be fought by Æthelred against the Danes that year, and the defeated King is reported to have died on 15 April 871. Whether he died in battle, or as a result of wounds suffered in battle is unclear. The site of the battle is unknown. Suggestions include the borders of the London Borough of Merton, Merton in Oxfordshire, Marden in Wiltshire or Martin in Dorset. The more westerly locations tend to be favoured because King Ethelred was buried in Wimborne Minster in Dorset shortly afterwards.

 

There are just a few last relationships to the book that I want to bring up right now. The first is Leofic because the character is introduced in episode 2 and will play an important part in Uhtred’s life in the future.  In episode 2, we meet Leofric who, though he is introduced in a different way than the book format, still will become a friend to Uhtred. In episode 2, we see him as one of the warriors/guards of Wessex and he does not hold Uhtred in much high regard. We will see the friendship develop more in episode 3.

meeting of Leofric and Uhtred

meeting of Leofric and Uhtred

Leofric still wants a piece of Uhtred

We also meet Odda the elder and his son, Odda the younger, who both will be important to events in future episodes. Odda the elder is  a well trusted and honorable landholder in Wessex, much as in the books.

I do not think he is mine if his mother were dead already I might have her killed for adultery

I do not think he is mine if his mother were dead already I might have her killed for adultery

Odda the younger… not so much, just as in the books as well! Their interactions and relationships with Uhtred will most likely play out in a similar fashion as the books. You should pay attention to them because I believe they will both important in the storyline being mapped and planned as the show continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today in history, a final battle for England

949 years ago today, there was a final battle for England. In a way, it was a three way battle for the country. The battle leading up to this one involved Harald Hardrada, King of Norway and Denmark at the time who felt he had a valid and rightful claim. Without Harald Hardrada’s involvement, Harald Godwinsson King of England at the time might have actually been better prepared and able to win against William of Normandy at the battle of Hastings.

the-battle-of-hastings-granger

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harald_Hardrada

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hastings

I am not going to go into a detailed discussion of the events but I do want to share a few books and such that I have read about the people involved in this history and these events.

Helen Hollick has two excellent books about the prior events leading up to the battle and the final outcome.

The Forever Queen:  This book is a great depiction and detail of  Emma of Normandy, whom little is known about but who is so important in history. It is the first of two books on Emma and her offspring, with the second book being, I am the Chosen King.

What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?

Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom-and her crown-are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England’s shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.

Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.

The Forever Queen (The Saxon Series, #1)

I was quite impressed with all of this book. I appreciate that it was not so much a gushy over done, made up romance novel but more of a historical docu-drama of her life. Helen Hollick took the limited details surrounding this somewhat forgotten queen that we hear so little about and wove those details into an excellent story!

It is not a feel good, happily ever after love story by any means. If you are looking for that, you will be quite disappointed. What you will find is a story about the grim and gritty realities of a woman’s life in those early medieval times. Just because a woman was of noble blood and ended up with a crown- more than one, it did not mean her life was any easier. In fact, in so many ways it was even more difficult.

Emma was married first to Æthelred who failed as both a King and a husband, but Emma did do her duty in providing him with not one, but two legitimate heirs. That should have given her some security in those times but unfortunately luck was not with her… or maybe it was? The kingdom is overtaken by Cnut who claims her along with the kingdom. She finally finds love with him only to have him die leaving the kingdom in another battle of who should rule.

The story of her life was well documented in this book with more than enough factual information woven into the story to give what I felt it was an excellent representation of the constant hurdles she endured throughout her life that colored and shaped how she viewed her role and her destiny as well as that of her sons.

I am the Chosen King

In this beautifully crafted tale, Harold Godwinesson, the last Saxon King of England, is a respected, quick-witted man both vulnerable and strong, honorable and loving-and yet, in the end, only human. After the political turmoil and battles leading up to 1066, we all know William the Conquerer takes England. But Helen Hollick will have readers at the edge of their seats, hoping that just this once, for Harold, the story will have a different ending.

I was  just as impressed with it as I was with the first book! What is interesting for me now is the comparison between this work and the information I previously read in Carol McGrath’s books about the same people. Where as Carol’s books deal more with Edith’s and her daughter’s lives and their possible perspectives of the time and events, this work goes into more depth concerning all of the key figures of the time. By reading all of them, I think you could gain a better insight and picture of  what was happening and how those involved might have come to the choices they made.

http://www.helenhollick.net/index.html

Carol Mcgrath  has a series about the women involved in these events. The Handfasted wife  and the Swan daughter by Carol McGrath.

the handfasted wife by Carol McGrath The Swan daughter by Carol McGrath

These two books are about history during the time of William the Conqueror. They are well written historical biography types more than romances.

The first one, Handfasted wife tells the story  of the Norman Conquest from the perspective of Edith (Elditha) Swanneck, Harold’s common-law wife. She is set aside for a political marriage when Harold becomes king in 1066. Determined to protect her children’s destinies and control her economic future, she is taken to William’s camp when her estate is sacked on the eve of the Battle of Hastings. She later identifies Harold’s body on the battlefield and her youngest son becomes a Norman hostage. Elditha avoids an arranged marriage with a Breton knight by which her son might or might not be given into his care. She makes her own choice and sets out through strife-torn England to seek help from her sons in Dublin. However, events again overtake her. Harold’s mother, Gytha, holds up in her city of Exeter with other aristocratic women, including Elditha’s eldest daughter. The girl is at risk, drawing Elditha back to Exeter and resistance. Initially supported by Exeter’s burghers the women withstand William’s siege. However, after three horrific weeks they negotiate exile and the removal of their treasure. Elditha takes sanctuary in a convent where eventually she is reunited with her hostage son. This is an adventure story of love, loss, survival and reconciliation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Godwinson

1024px-Bayeux_Tapestry_scene23_Harold_sacramentum_fecit_Willelmo_duci

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_the_Fair

Edith_discovering_the_body_of_Harold

 

The second book is about Edith and Harold’s daughter, Gunnhild.  The Swan Daughter is a true 11th C tale of elopement and a love triangle by best-selling author of The Handfasted Wife, Carol McGrath. A marriage made in Heaven or Hell.  It is 1075 and Dowager Queen Edith has died. Gunnhild longs to leave Wilton Abbey but is her suitor Breton knight Count Alan of Richmond interested in her inheritance as the daughter of King Harold and Edith Swan-Neck or does he love her for herself? And is her own love for Count Alain an enduring love or has she made a mistake? 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Rufus

Alan_Rufus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunhild_of_Wessex

Carol has recently published a third book in the series- I have it on my list to read!

The-Betrothed-Sister

The Betrothed Sister
(Book three in The Daughters of Hastings Trilogy)

 

xile, Danger and Revenge

 

1068 and exile for the royal women of Exeter. Thea is betrothed to Prince Vladimir of Kiev. She carries revenge in her heart for the Normans who killed her father and the Rus court is threatened from within and without. Can Thea find peace in her heart and understanding from her prince?

http://www.carolcmcgrath.co.uk/books.html

 

Finally, a third author gives her version of the events and the people. Patricia Bracewell has two books available so far of a planned trilogy. She gives a slightly different perspective but the stories are just as compelling as Helen’s or Carol’s versions!

shadow of the crown

England, A.D. 1002

In a world lit by fire and ruled by the sword, a fifteen-year-old girl kneels to receive an English crown – an act that will echo down the ages. Within that circlet of gold the ambitions of four powerful men are about to collide, for this young queen is the key to all that they desire. To a calculating Norman duke she is a blood tie to the wealthiest monarchy in Europe. To a haunted English king she is a guarantee of allies against a fierce and brutal enemy. To Denmark’s Viking ruler she is a prize worth ten times her weight in silver. To a young ætheling of England she is a temptation to forbidden passion. Her name is Emma…and she will change the course of history.

price-of-blood-sm

England, A.D. 1006

England is under siege. Famine and death stalk the land, ambitious royal sons chafe against a father’s implacable rule, and across the Danish Sea a fierce enemy is poised to strike. A desperate, feckless king sits upon England’s throne, railing against a pitiless God and fearing Almighty vengeance for an ancient sin. His young queen, Emma, fears for the life of her infant son, for she has wed into a royal line that does not balk at murder to win a crown. Determined to protect her child from any who would harm him, the queen forges alliances with men of power, unaware that in a far corner of the kingdom there is treachery afoot. When England is ravaged by wave after wave of Viking armies, when loyalties are strained to the breaking point and no one is safe from the sword, the queen faces a final, terrible dilemma, and at stake is the one thing that she holds most dear.

In these first two books of the series, Patricia has done an amazing job of sweeping us into Emma’s world. She has given us a view of that world with it’s desperation, conspiracies and treacheries from a young girl’s perspective as she tries to weave her way through all the traps, snares and entanglements that become her life. I am looking forward to book 3 to read Patricia’s version of the outcome for Emma and the others who make up her world.

http://www.patriciabracewell.com/

 

None of these books should be labeled or put into a Historical Romance genre or category. All three of these authors have put an enormous amount of time, effort and research into telling these stories from a historical point of view and reference. What they have done is well beyond any simple story of romance. They have all taken the people involved in these historical events and breathed life into them. They have all approached it from different perspectives and made these people come alive, made you care about them and better understand the situations that they were placed in during this time of chaos and turbulence. They deserve much credit, praise and appreciation for telling this story and these events in a way that we might not always think to look at it!