Tag Archive | books and reviews

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracing my past back to Rollo!

In my previous post, I shared my personal timeline going back to Uhtred the Bold, Bamburgh Castle and early Northumbria. Within that lineage, I found one Judith of Lens who married Waltheof of Northumbria and gave me that link back to the history of Northumbria. What is important and special about Judith of Lens is that she also takes me back to Rollo of Normandy! Many of us  know Rollo for his current claim to fame in the Vikings Saga. If you follow this blog, you are well aware that I have always had a certain affinity or fondness for Rollo. Of course, it does help that Clive Standen does such a fine job of portraying him and probably makes him much more appealing to watch than the real Rollo would have been.  As I’ve watched the series unfold, I have become much more interested in the character and true history of Rollo than that of Ragnar. That is not because of Clive’s portrayal of the character although that does not hurt, but because of the actual history and the importance of Rollo and Normandy.  If you look at the history of the Vikings and compare the events or accomplishments of Ragnar and Rollo, it is clear that as far as Viking history and events go, Rollo of Normandy had a far more important and long lasting impact than Ragnar Lodbrok.  Ragnar is more of a myth or legend and his claims to fame have come more from the actions of his sons than any of his own accomplishments. When you look at his sons, even their claims to fame were relatively short lived and can not really be documented much deeper than their individual involvements in the Great Heathen Wars that constituted one portion of the Viking era in England.  Rollo of Normandy though, left a dynasty and legacy of many future generations that is verifiable and documented. 

 

Season 4 of the Vikings Saga will soon be upon us and we will see how Michael Hirst’s version of the Viking era plays out. While we should all be in agreement that this show is more historical fantasy than actual history, Mr. Hirst has made numerous assurances and promises that he will present Rollo’s story more according to actual historical events than fantasy. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Rollo’s life and accomplishments are more historically sound than the events of Ragnar’s or even Ecbert’s…

By including Rollo in this family story as a brother of Ragnar, I think in a way that Hirst  painted or wrote his way into a corner with Rollo’s story. Now, he must find a way to get Rollo out of that corner, separate him from the confines of Ragnar’s story and from the events that will take place in England. So far, he has made a start at this separation by creating the rivalry and possible betrayal of Ragnar on the part of Rollo.  He has set up a scenario whereby it will be possible to set Rollo’s story up as separate from Ragnar and his family.  If you look at the truer history of Rollo, there is little actual documentation of his Danish or Norse family ties so it would seem that for what ever reason, Rollo did indeed separate himself from any of those family ties.  That is not to say that he separated himself from his Viking heritage, traditions or beliefs because throughout his life he seemed to hold on to many of those traditions and beliefs.  What we glimpse in previews of season 4 is Rollo realizing that he must choose between family and personal destiny. 

Rollo must follow his own destiny even if it means a betrayal of his brother Ragnar. I know that this story arc has in a way turned into an us against them, team Ragnar vs team Rollo following or feeling but in reality, this confrontation and closing has to take place for the story to move on.  Perhaps Rollo does have to betray Ragnar in order to achieve his own goals, his own success in life. If he has to betray Ragnar, so be it… Ragnar will be dead before Rollo anyway.  As for the future that the preview shows us, my bigger concern is for Bjorn- it appears as though power may be corrupting him and going to his head bit?  

Now, back to Rollo… he seems to be adjusting to the Frankish customs and life rather well if you ask me!

12494942_10156478820890249_6442139554579576026_n

credit to @teamStanden for the photos of Rollo!

rollo season4

I am digressing and getting a bit side tracked here because my main intent for this post is to share more about the real Rollo and my personal connection to him, ancient and distant as it may be! So, let us return to the original focus of this discussion- which is my path back to Rollo through Judith of Lens.  Let’s play a quick game of six degrees of separation… How are these people connected to each other?

Rollo and Uhtred

I have spent the past few weeks trying to sort through the tangled webs and branches of my tree and figure out this connection. There were some extremely tangled branches due that pesky habit they had back then of marrying relatives, casting off wives, disowning each other or legitimizing children of concubines and mistresses, and that does not include the habit of listing heirs or offspring by their land titles or such instead of a common surname! Anyway, I have now untangled enough to trace a lineage back through Judith of Lens to Rollo.

For those of you unfamiliar with Judith of Lens, you can read her story in this previous article.

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

You can also read more about her and Waltheof of Northumbria in a book by Elizabeth Chadwick called the Winter Mantle. The book is historical fiction- I definitely would not call it historical romance unless of course you consider a husband who commits treason and gets beheaded for it, and a wife who turns bitter and resentful a romance? Elizabeth Chadwick provides excellent historical details and events while creating two stories that cover the time and lives of Judith of Lens, Waltheof of Northumbria, their daughter Maude of Huntington and her husband Simon De Senlis. She also includes some a not so likable or pleasant portrayal of  Judith’s Mother Adelaide of Normandy who was a sister to William the Conqueror.  It is more of an epic lifetime saga than a romance and my only minor disappointment was in the fact that she ended the story before Simon’s death and Maude’s marriage to King David of Scotland! I will admit that had she included that portion, the book would have gone beyond the bounds of epic and been far too long for most people to keep going with the story. I am probably one of few who would endure the added length in order to read the rest of Maude’s story unfold! 

the winter mantle2

Judith of Lens

Judith of Lens

Maude of Huntington

Maude of Huntington

Adelaide of Normandy

Adelaide of Normandy

Waltheof of Northumbria

Waltheof of Northumbria

After picking through all of the threads of my lineage, here is my connection back to Rollo through Judith of Lens.

Relationship to me

Robert I Rollo The Viking Rolf the Ganger Prince of Norway & Saint De Normandie Count of Rouen Ragnvaldsson (846 – 931)
34th great-grandfather
William I Longsword of Normandy 2nd Duke of Normandy (893 – 942)
son of Robert I Rollo The Viking Rolf the Ganger Prince of Norway & Saint De Normandie Count of Rouen Ragnvaldsson
Richard (The Fearless) of Normandy I (933 – 996)
son of William I Longsword of Normandy 2nd Duke of Normandy
Richard (The Good) Normandy II (963 – 1026)
son of Richard (The Fearless) of Normandy I
Robert I of Normandy (1000 – 1035)
son of Richard (The Good) Normandy II
Adelaide Normandy (1027 – 1090)
daughter of Robert I of Normandy
Judith of Lens (1054 – 1086)
daughter of Adelaide Normandy
Simon II Earl of Huntington De St Liz (1090 – 1153)
son of Maud Matilda Queen Consort of the Scots, Countess of Huntingdon and Northumbria
Simon III de Senlis (1138 – 1184)
son of Simon II Earl of Huntington De St Liz
Simon de Senlis (1181 – 1250)
son of Sir Simon IV Huntingdon DeSaintElizabeth DeSenlis St Liz*
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
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
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
William Workman (1819 – 1906)
son of Isaac A. Workman
Charles W. Workman (1862 – 1956)
son of William Workman
Ward Harlan Workman (1924 – 1994)
son of Clarence Bertrand Workman
Judith Ann Workman
You are the daughter of Ward Harlan Workman
 So, Judith of Lens connects me to both Uhtred of Northumbria and Last Kingdom fame, and Rollo of history and Vikings Saga fame! In my previous post, I shared some of the history I learned about Northumbria. Now, I will share  more of the history surrounding Rollo and his dynasty. If you browse through my archives, you will find that I have already shared much of his history so I am not going to repeat all of it again. I am just going to add some of the history I’ve found about the family- the real family, not Mr. Hirst’s version of it, or the numerous variations and versions presented by Norse Sagas.  Because I am attempting to stick to the more factual details and documented evidence while tracing my ancestors, I am not going any further back than Rollo because there is just no concise or conclusive proof of anything beyond Rollo’s existence. One could include the information from Norse Sagas and such but that information is varying depending on which Saga one goes by. It’s difficult enough trying to piece together the sketchy documents there are for this far back let alone try to sift through numerous oral renditions written down centuries after the events. I have not included any of those possibilities in my family tree and will not include them here. Yes, I do know there are a great many stories and legends that take Rollo’s ancestry further back but at this point there is just not enough evidence to say conclusively exactly who his family really was. Historians can not even agree whether he was of Norse descent or Danish. Some documents list his origins as Danish and others list it as Norse. The only thing certain is that he was a Scandinavian Viking raider who managed to cut a good deal with a Frankish King for some coastal land which later became Normandy!
We know little or nothing factual about Rollo’s earlier life before Normandy but in reading through information on his son and grandson, we find that he did have a loyal group of Vikings that stood with him, supported him and went on to look after his interests/family after his death in 931. 
the warriors staying behind with rollo for the winter
When Rollo’s son William took over rule in 927, many of the men loyal to Rollo would eventually rebel against his son.  Rollo’s son William proved to be a bit of a disappointment to most.
William_longsword_statue_in_falaise
 It appears that he faced a rebellion early in his reign, from Normans who felt he had become too Gallicised. Subsequent years are obscure. In 939 William became involved in a war with Arnulf I of Flanders, which soon became intertwined with the other conflicts troubling the reign of Louis IV. He was killed by followers of Arnulf while at a meeting to settle their conflict in abt 940.  After having made rather a mess of his reign and the land of Normandy, his death also left the future uncertain because his heir was a young child at the time.  The age of Richard was not his only obstacle to his inheritance.  He was also the son of William I and a mistress and so was illegitimate. There were many who tried to take advantage of this for their own gain.
assassination of William Longsword

assassination of William Longsword

Richard was born to William I Longsword, princeps (chieftain or ruler) of Normandy, and Sprota. His mother was a Breton concubine captured in war and bound to William by a more danico marriage.  He was also the grandson of the famous Rollo. Richard was about 10 years old when his father was killed on 17 December 942.  William was told of the birth of a son after the battle with Riouf and other Viking rebels, but his existence was kept secret until a few years later when William Longsword first met his son Richard. After kissing the boy and declaring him his heir, William sent Richard to be raised in Bayeux. After William was killed, Sprota became the wife of Esperleng, a wealthy miller; Rodulf or Ralf  of Ivry was their son and Richard’s half-brother. 
Sproata, concubine of William I of Normandy

Sproata, concubine of William I of Normandy

It is with young Richard that we find the men who had been loyal to Rollo stepping up to save the boy and the future of Normandy. With the death of Richard’s father in 942, King Louis IV of France seized the lands of the Duchy of Normandy. The king installed the boy Richard in his father’s office, and placed him in the custody of the count of Ponthieu.  He then split up the Duchy, giving its lands in lower Normandy to Hugh the Great. The King used the excuse that he was seeing to the young nobleman’s education, but at the same time was giving some of Richard’s lands in Lower Normandy to Hugh the Great, Count of Paris.    Louis IV thereafter kept Richard in solitary confinement at Lâon, but the youth escaped from imprisonment with assistance of 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).  According to legend, Richard refused to eat while in captivity.  Because he appeared ill, the guard on him was relaxed. Osmond de Centville secretly entered Laon and smuggled Richard out of his confinement, reportedly by hiding him in a truss of hay. They then took refuge with Bernard of Senlis. In 1854 Charlotte Yonge retold the story of Richard in a series of stories called “The Little Duke.”  These stories, in turn, inspired Mark Twain’s book, “The Prince and the Pauper.”

Richard the fearless

Richard the fearless

Besides these men, another Viking is often mentioned in relation to Richard.  By 944 Louis IV’s soldiers had invaded Normandy again, and had seized control of Rouen, while Hugh the Great, Count of France invaded Lower Normandy around Bayeux. The alliance between Louis and Hugh, always historically unstable, broke down, when Bernard the Dane suggested to Louis that Hugh was getting more than his share of Normandy land. Hugh, in response to the King’s hostility, joined an alliance of Normans loyal to Richard and Danish Vikings under Harold (Harald) of Bayeux or of The Bassin.  This alliance ultimately defeated King Louis.  Harald continued to be of assistance to Richard and Normandy.    According to Flodoard, King Louis was invited to a meeting with this Harold in order to discuss peace terms.  Louis arrived with only a few men; Harold killed most of his men and Louis fled to Rouen where other Northmen, previously thought to be friendly to Louis, captured him.  He was only released to Hugh the Great when Louis gave his son Charles as a hostage at Rouen.  Although Louis was eventually given his freedom, the new alliance of Hugh of France and Richard of Normandy was now the new power in the region.

In 946, Richard agreed to “commend” himself to Hugh, the Count of Paris. At the age of 14, Richard allied himself with the Norman and Viking leaders in France, drove king Louis IV’s army out of Rouen, and successfully took back Normandy from him by 947.  Richard with the backing, the council and advice from those much older Viking Warriors took control and it might be said that he was the one most responsible for turning his Grandfather’s dream into a solid reality, a Kingdom to be reckoned with and if not liked, at least respected and possibly feared by other countries.   By 966 he was using the title “Marquis des Normands.” He never used the title Duke of Normandy, though some historians have retroactively assigned it to him. Richer of Rheims refers to him as “dux pyratorum” or “leader of the pirates”. In no sense did he mean “dux” as an official title.  Richard was also given the nickname of “Sans Peur” or The Fearless.  

Throughout Richard’s reign, there was continued connection and involvement with Viking factions which would suggest that while his Grand father Rollo may have severed personal family ties, he did not severe his connection to the Vikings.  In 961 a Viking band arrived in the Seine Valley and conducted raids towards the Brittany border and around Chartres.  It is possible these Vikings had the tacit support of Richard because the raids provoked hostility between Richard and an alliance of King Lothair and Theobald, Count of Chartres and Blois. Theobald attacked the Norman cities of Évereux and Roeun, and the Normans, in return, attacked Dunois and burned Chartres.  This conflict raged for four years. It is reported that Harold the Dane again came to the aid of Richard in 962.  Unless the medieval historians confused this war with the one of 945, this may be the same Harold who resided in the vicinity of Bayeux when William Longsword died. 

Eventually Richard did swear allegiance to Louis’ successor Lothar [Lothaire] in 965 at Gisors and the King acknowledged Richard’s rule over the Bessin, the Contetin and the Avranchin regions of Normandy. Richard promised to rebuild and restore the monastery of Mont. St. Michael, which he acquired in the agreement.    Other than these early conflicts, Richard’s long reign was relatively peaceful. After 965, Viking raids in the area ceased. Richard quarreled with King Æthelred (Ethelred) II of England.  At the time the Danes had invaded England and taken control over much of the eastern part of country.  Apparently the Normans had been purchasing a lot of the loot. In 991 Richard agreed to a non-aggression pact with King Æthelred, probably to keep either side from sheltering Viking marauders.

Gunnora wife of Richard the fearless

Gunnora wife of Richard the fearless

Gunnora

Gunnora

 Further evidence of the continued connection to the Danes is Richard’s relationship and eventual marriage to his concubine or mistress, Gunnora who was said to be of a noble family of Danes.  It is known that Richard had more than one mistress and one of these, Gunnora, he eventually married some time before 989.  Richard and Gunnora had eight children. She is sometimes called “Gunnora of Crépon” because she had a brother named “Herfast (Artfast) de Crépon” and nephew named “Osborn de Crépon.”  The term de Crépon was never attached to Gunnora’s name during her lifetime and, though Crépon is a town in Lower Normandy near Bayeux, there is no direct evidence that this was a location in which she ever lived.

Richard’s formal marriage to Gunnora was certainly carried out in order to legitimize their children, especially his eldest son and heir Richard II and his second son Robert who Richard had appointed as the Archbishop of Reoun.
All we know about Gunnora is that she was from a “noble family of Danes”, and so her family was probably one of the many Nordic settlers or their descendants that lived in Normandy.  According to Legend the young Richard was hunting in the forests of Normandy when he met and was attracted to a young lady named Sainsfrida (Senfrie), the daughter of a forester of Arques. Sainsfrida was, however, married and so sent her sister Gunnora to Richard.   The chronicles do not give the name of her parents.  Since their eldest son Richard II was born about 953, their relationship must have begun some time before this date.  In spite of conjecture in many family trees, there is absolutely no evidence that she was the daughter of Harold Bluetooth, King of Denmark.  She was referred to as Gunnora Harldsdottir but it is likely that she may have been the daughter of the previously mentioned Harald the Dane who, contrary to some popular assumption is not the same Harald as Harald Bluetooth. 
In looking at the differences between the failures of William and the successes of his son Richard, we probably need to look at them in relation to Rollo. By the time he was awarded Normandy, Rollo was a hardened professional warrior who was used to fighting for what he wanted. He most likely had not lived any easy life, nor had anything handed to him. When he finally achieved his goal of  wealth and land, he still had to work to hold on to it. He was a Viking and for the most part lived by Viking traditions and customs. One example of those customs was his “wife” Poppa of Bayeux.  The generally accepted theory is that Poppa was the daughter of Berenger II of Nuestria and was taken captive by Rollo during an attack on Bayeux in about 885. She was Rollo’s concubine or wife “more danico” in Norse/Danish tradition. She was not a slave and was most likely of high nobility.
statue of Poppa

statue of Poppa

Poppa of Bayeux

Poppa of Bayeux

 A more danico marriage meant “in the Danish manner” or “by Norse customary law“. It designates a type of traditional marriage practiced in northern Europe during the Middle Ages. It is possible, therefore, that marriage more danico was neither informal marriage nor even legitimized abduction, but simply secular marriage contracted in accordance with Germanic law, rather than ecclesiastical marriage.  More danico permitted polygyny (serial or simultaneous), but is not synonymous with it. The “putting away” of a more danico wife could apparently be done at the mere wish of the husband; the rights of the wife are unclear. Often the putting away was done with the intention of marrying a still higher-ranking woman more christiano; but since there are numerous instances of the husband returning to themore danico wife, it is possible that the relationship had merely been deactivated or kept in the background. The union could also be fully dissolved, so that the wife was free to marry another man. Her consent in the matter may or may not have been required; again, the consensual aspect is unknown.  By tradition and customary law, the children of such a relationship were in no way considered of lesser rank or disadvantaged with respect to inheritance. Many sons more danico went on to become dukes or kings by succession or conquest.
By accepting baptism and vassalage under a Christian prince under Charles the Simple after the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in 911, Rollo had placed the Vikings of Normandy on the inevitable path of Christianization; but they clung to some old customs. 
 

 Norman chronicler William of Jumieges uses the term explicitly to refer to two relationships:

  • Rollo, founder of the Norman dynasty, had taken captive at Bayeux, Poppa, daughter of a count, Berengar. Dudo of Saint-Quentin relates that they had been joined in marriage (“connubium”), William of Jumieges describing that Rollo had joined himself to her by more danico. She was mother of his son William Longsword. It is related that he put Poppa aside to marry Gisela, daughter of Charles the Simple, and that when Gisela died, he returned to Poppa. However, the absence of any record of this royal princess or her marriage in Frankish sources suggests the entire supposed marriage to Gisela may be apocryphal.
  • William Longsword in his turn, had a son and heir by a woman whose name is given as Sprota. William of Jumieges reports that Longsword was bound to her pursuant to the mos danicus (“danico more iuncta”).  The chronicler Flodoard refers to her simply as Longsword’s ‘Breton concubine’ (“concubina britanna”).  William would formally marry Luitgarde of Vermandois, daughter of Heribert II, count of Vermandois. [Dudo iii, 32 (p. 70)], who following William’s death remarried to Thibaut, count of Blois. Sprota, who was mother of Longsword’s heir, Richard I, Duke of Normandy, is said to have been forced to become concubine of Esperleng, the rich owner of several mills, by whom she became mother of Rodulf of Ivry, although it is unclear if this occurred at the time of William’s marriage to Luitgarde, or at his death.
  • Richard I carried on the tradition of more danico with Gunnora. She was his wife more danico or concubine as early as sometime in 950s even though he entered into a Christian marriage with Emma daughter of Hugh the Great, Count of Paris.  She was born about 943 and died after 19 Mar 968. After her death he eventually married Gunnora in the Christian manner to ensure legitimacy of their many children after the church began taking a stricter approach and view on the more danico marriages. 

While many may perceive the relationship between Rollo and Poppa as that of her being a captive slave or just a mistress, in reality it was more likely a relationship and marriage of importance in terms of alliances and politics of the time. Being of some high status herself, Poppa would probably have taken this relationship seriously and expected to be treated with the respect due her rank and status. When she gave birth to son William in 893, she provided the much needed heir to the dynasty and would have sealed an alliance between Normandy and Bayeux. William was the heir apparent most likely would have been treated with high regard and esteem… given advantages and a much easier life than Rollo had.  There is reference to Rollo being well attached to his son and at one point he sent William to Bayeux to learn more of the Norse ways of Northmen residing within Bayeux.  From most accounts though, William was far more interested in becoming more Frankish and as a result his own people rebelled against him. It seems that this may have been a case of  William possibly being over indulged, given too much advantage and not having had to truly work for his title… not such an uncommon occurence for many heirs or children of a parent who has worked to achieve wealth and standing.  William was born in 893 while Rollo was working towards his greatness. This meant that Rollo was absent during most of William’s youth so his upbringing was most likely left predominantly to Poppa who was of Noble birth and would have raised William within that context of privilage and esteem. Rollo ruled until 927, which put William well into adulthood with little chance of ruling… it probably seemed to him that Rollo was going to live forever! This situation left William as a well privelaged adult with not a whole lot to do besides enjoy his Father’s wealth. When Rollo turned over the rule to his son in 927, he may have had concerns but probably felt that his son was capable of ruling and continuing along the path he had set. He also had few other choices… William was his only son and at the time, he was the legitimate heir.  Had Rollo chosen someone else to rule, there would have been rebellion from some faction.

Rollo died in 931 and William quickly began to make changes and rebelling against his Father’s policies. He set about building up his allegiances and alliances to the French Kings which caused the Norman Nobles to dissent. In 935, he went so far as to marry his younger sister Gerloc to  William, Count of Poitou with the approval of Hugh the Great. At the same time he At the same time Longsword married Luitgarde,  daughter of Count Herbert II of Vermandois whose dowry gave him the lands of Longueville, Coudres and Illiers l’Eveque.  In addition to supporting King Raoul, he was now a loyal ally of his father-in-law, Herbert II, both of whom his father Rollo had opposed. 

At the time of his arranged marriage to Luitgarde, William had a wife more danica, Sprota as well as his son and heir, Richard. This new marriage left Sprota and Richard in a difficult situation.  He did provide for her and Richard during this period as there was reference to her living in her own household at Bayeux under his protection but she was now looked on as a cast off concubine rather than a wife. Richard was left to endure the being the subject of ridicule, the French King Louis “abused the boy with bitter insults”, calling him “the son of a whore who had seduced another woman’s husband.” 

William’s actions during this time led to his ultimate downfall and death which in turn led to his young son Richard having to fight against all odds to reclaim his title and regain control of Normandy. So, essentially Richard was in much the same position as his Grandfather Rollo had been, fighting and working to achieve his worth and his fame.  After regaining control of Normandy in about 960, Richard spent the remainder of his lengthy reign focused on Normandy itself, and participated less in Frankish politics and its petty wars. In lieu of building up the Norman Empire by expansion, he stabilized the realm and reunited the Normans, forging the reclaimed Duchy of his father and grandfather into West Francia’s most cohesive and formidable principality. Rather than outright war, Richard  used marriage to build strong alliances. His marriage to Emma of Paris connected him directly to the House of Capet. His second wife, Gunnora, from a rival Viking group in the Cotentin, formed an alliance to that group, while her sisters formed the core group that were to provide loyal followers to him and his successors.  His daughters forged valuable marriage alliances with powerful neighboring counts as well as to the king of England.  He also strengthened ties to the church presumably understanding how important the church alliances were. Richard also built on his relationship with the church, restoring their lands and ensuring the great monasteries flourished in Normandy. His further reign was marked by an extended period of peace and tranquility.

While William may not have been successful in his reign or achievements, his son Richard more than made up for his inadequacies. Also, William’s decision to marry his sister into the house of Poitou and Aquitaine would prove to be one of his better decisions. 

gerloc Adeila of normandy

Gerloc (or Geirlaug), baptised in Rouen as Adela (or Adèle) in 912, was the daughter of Rollo, first duke of Normandy, and his wife, Poppa. She was the sister of Duke William Longsword.  In 935, she married William Towhead, the future count of Poitou and duke of Aquitaine. They had two children together before she died on 14 October 962:

Through her son William IV of Aquitaine, she would be ancestor to Dukes of Aquitaine and to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Her daughter Adelaide would go on to become a Queen of France. 

Dukes of Aquetaine

Dukes of Aquetaine

Adbelahide or Adele or Adelaide of Aquitaine (or Adelaide of Poitiers) (c. 945 or 952 – 1004) was the daughter of William III, Duke of Aquitaine andAdele of Normandy, daughter of Rollo of Normandy.  Her father used her as security for a truce with Hugh Capet, whom she married in 969.  In 987, after the death of Louis V, the last Carolingian king ofFrance, Hugh was elected the new king with Adelaide as queen. They were proclaimed at Senlis and blessed at Noyon. They were the founders of the Capetian dynasty of France.

Picture Name Father Birth Marriage Became queen Ceased to be queen spouse
Adelaide of Aquitaine.jpg Adelaide of Aquitaine William III, Duke of Aquitaine c. 945 970 3 July 987 1004 Hugh
Susanna of Italy.jpg Rozala of Italy Berengar II of Italy c. 937 988 996 7 February 1003 Robert II
Berthe de Bourgogne.jpg Bertha of Burgundy Conrad of Burgundy c. 952 996 1035?
Konstancie Arles.jpg Constance of Arles William I, Count of Provence 986 1003 25 July 1034
Of Frisia Matilda.jpg Matilda of Frisia Liudolf, Margrave of Frisia c. 1024 1034 1044 Henry I
Anne Kiev.jpg Anne of Kiev Yaroslav I, Grand Prince of Kiev c. 1024 19 May 1051 1075
Bertha of holland.jpg Bertha of Holland Floris I, Count of Holland c. 1055 1072 1094 Philip I
Bertrade-montfort2.jpg Bertrade de Montfort Simon I de Montfort c. 1070 15 May 1092 1117
Adelaidesavojska.jpg Adélaide de Maurienne Humbert II, Count of Savoy 1092 3 August 1115 18 November 1154 Louis VI
Illus-050-1-.jpg Eleanor of Aquitaine William X, Duke of Aquitaine 1122 22 July 1137 1137 21 March 1152
annulment
1 April 1204

The list of the Capetian dynasty is actually much longer. This above list is just a partial list of Queen Consorts for the Dynasty which continued until the death of Charles the IV in 1328.  The dynasty had a crucial role in the formation of the French state. Initially obeyed only in their own demesne, the Île-de-France, the Capetian kings slowly, but steadily, increased their power and influence until it grew to cover the entirety of their realm. For a detailed narration on the growth of French royal power, see Crown lands of France.

As you’re wading through all of this you may be wondering where Gisela of France is, and why she is not mentioned anywhere in this information?  Well, Gisela is not here because there simply is not enough verifiable evidence to back up her existence let alone her marriage to Rollo.   

Gisela of France, also called Gisella or Giséle (fl. 911), was traditionally a French princess and the consort of Rollo, duke of Normandy. Gisela had no children.  According to tradition, Rollo was betrothed to Gisela, daughter to the king of West Francia, Charles the Simple, after his conversion to Christianity upon his ascension as ruler of Normandy in 911. The marriage and the existence of Gisela are not confirmed. This excerpt from a book called Dictionary of Heroes gives an account of the supposed legend pertaining to Rollo and Gisela and also reaffirms the lack of any proof or evidence to back up the story.  If she did exist and did marry Rollo, she died childless and he maintained his previous relationship with Poppa, the Mother of his children.  So, for the purposes of lineage and ancestry or descendants of Rollo she would be inconsequential. Also, the accounts taken from the treaty of Saint Clair Epte only state that Rollo offered to marry her as a goodwill gesture. Since there is no definitive proof or documentation of any such actual marriage taking place, perhaps Rollo or Charles decided that the baptism would suffice and there was no need to carry things to such extreme as the marriage between the Viking and a Princess of France!

Rollo and Gisela from dictionary of heroes

There is a Gisela listed as a daughter of Charles the Simple and his first wife Frederuna, daughter of Dietrich, Count in the Hamaland. Together they had six daughters:

  • Ermentrude
  • Frederuna
  • Adelaide
  • Gisela, wife of Rollo (existence doubtful)
  • Rotrude
  • Hildegarde

There is always the possibility that having six daughters, Charles may have been willing to part with one of them in order to achieve some sort of peace but it does seem rather doubtful that a Carolingian King would allow for such an arrangement with one of their princesses that were so highly valued and esteemed. My one thought on this is that the daughter must really have annoyed and irritated him- obviously she would not have been a favored daughter for him to so willingly have traded her to a heathen Viking warrior. Hmmm come to think of it, perhaps it did happen and perhaps Hirst has given us a somewhat more accurate portrayal of history than we give him credit for?

gisla is still a young girl wanting her own way

gisla he disgusts me he makes me want to vomit charles with a rather unhappy Gisla at the mass rollo and gisla

If Mr Hirst goes for more historical accuracy with Rollo’s story, perhaps this will be a short lived marriage… Gisla will meet some sort of untimely or unfortunate demise and a woman named Poppa will show up. It’s hard to say where Mr. Hirst will take any of the story but at least now you know truer details of Rollo’s dynasty and legacy that includes so many generations of famous descendants as well as ordinary peons like myself.

And, at least now I know why I feel so compelled to remain loyal to Rollo despite his many faults, flaws and errors in judgement! 

 

 

 

 

More good news for Bernard Cornwell fans and fans of history!

Just wanted to share this recent news.  A recent Variety article revealed that Bad Wolf productions is developing an small screen adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s series, The Warlord Chronicles!

Variety can also exclusively reveal that the company is developing an adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s trilogy “The Warlord Chronicles,” which is a revisionist take on the King Arthur legend. “He is a great storyteller as we know from everything from ‘Sharpe’ to ‘The Last Kingdom,’” Gardner said. “He has a very innovative way into the Arthurian stories, which is to take an ordinary man who by work, chance and life is an observer and an intimate in the relationships of Arthur, Lancelot and the key characters that we know.”

This information was included in Variety’s announcement of  HBO partnering with Bad Wolf Productions. You can read the entire article here:

http://variety.com/2015/tv/global/hbo-partners-with-production-company-bad-wolf-1201632217/

If you follow this blog on any regular basis, you will probably be well aware and familiar with my interest in the early Saxon period in Britain as well as the Roman involvement there. I’ve read the Warlord Chronicles and discussed them previously.  If you have not read this series, you should!

Bernard Cornwell takes a more realistic approach and perspective in his telling of the legend of Arthur. For the most part, he avoids the myth, magic and fantasy realm and tries to create the more real world that Arthur might have lived in. The only exception is his inclusion of Merlin, but even with Merlin, Cornwell attempts to give us a more realistic presentation of Merlin as one of the few remaining Druid Preists in that time period. He does an excellent job for the most part, of debunking much of the magic, mystery and myth but does leave some mystery and question surrounding Merlin.  I say for the most part, because I will admit that I did struggle a bit with the character of Merlin, and at times I felt like Bernard struggled a bit with him as well. Aside from that minor issue, the books were an excellent interpretation of the legend and the more real history that surrounds that myth and legend.

I’ve already written reviews on the book series as well as a number of articles pertaining to early Saxon and Roman history in Britain. I have also previously discussed the legends of Arthur. I will provide links here to some of those previous articles!

Saxons, Romans and Arthur:

king-arthur-tapestry

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/saxons-romans-and-arthur/

From Odin and Woden to Anglo-Saxons in Britain:

wodin and his followers

wodin and his followers

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/from-odin-and-woden-to-anglo-saxons-in-britain/

 

Ancient history connects Norse with Romans and Arthur:

Roman era map of Britain

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

The Last Kingdom episode 3

One King dies, another King rises… Armies march and Uhtred must choose

 In episode 3, we spent much of the time in Wessex seeing the fallout from the unseen battle that resulted in the death of one King and rise of another, Alfred. Althelred is mortally wounded in the battle and dies shortly afterwards.  Alfred is filled with doubts about his own abilities but is certain of one thing… he can surely hold the Kingdom together better than the incapable and drunken young man who insists that he is the true heir to the crown. Besides dealing with Athelred’s death, his impending kingship and the surly drunken Athelwold, he must also determine what to do with Uhtred and the rather surly outspoken Brida.

TLK_103_7 TLK_103_47

a drunken Athelwold

a drunken Athelwold

TLK_103_1

Uhtred and Brida await news of the battle’s outcome from a jail cell. Father Beocca brings them good news but Brida does not see it that way. In her mind, the best news would be of a loss and Alfred’s death.  Beocca assures Uhtred that they will be released soon, but Brida can not hold her frustration and anger in screaming, “We are Danes!”  probably not the wisest comment considering their current circumstances… 

brida can not and will not hold her tongue Brida thinks good news would be Alfred is dead Brida makes it clear we are Danes

Once they are finally released, Uhtred impatiently insists on a meeting with Alfred to discuss the battle win and his reward… Alfred calmly explains that he has a few other things on his mind right now like the death of his brother and his own impending kingship. Alfred is a little pre-occupied right now to have to deal with Uhtred. That will have to come later.

 

Episode 3 dealt with the fallout from the battle that took Athelred’s life and left Alfred and his nephew, Athelwold at some odds over who should rule the Kingdom. There is never really any question about that debate, other than what might be in Athelwold’s rather foggy and often inebriated mind. Athelwold does have one half hearted supporter, however and that young man’s actions should not be discounted or blown off… he will show his deviousness and untrustworthiness in the future. That young man is Odda the Younger and he is not quite so fuddled or incompetent as Athewold.  I only mention him here and now because in the beginning of episode we see a conversation between him and Athelwold that gives a huge clue as to how Odda the Younger’s mind works… when he encourages Athelwold in his ploy and suggests how  Athelwold should claim his Father’s backing of him no matter what Alfred or the Witan might say differently.

TLK_103_35

Some people have made comments and voiced some concerns about the lack of battle scenes thus far. Episodes 3 and 4 do not include major battles, blood or gore. These two episodes deal more with setting up the future plot lines and twists that will become important in the future. They serve to give us a better look and understanding of the characters and of the underlying conspiracies that will run through the story. I think this is just as important to the story as attempting to include some major battle scene in every episode. First of all, the show is running on an extremely tight time and money budget for this first season- those massive battle scenes are expensive and time consuming to pull off in a believable, authentic manner or representation. I personally would prefer that rather than include battle, blood and gore in every episode just for effect, they save the battle scenes and provide them in a way that will truly be epic, standout and memorable to viewers. Yes, they could have shown the battle that killed Athelred in episode 3 but then they would have had to eliminate some of the other just as important but not so in your face violent scenes and segments. The results of the battle are important for everyone concerned there.  That aftermath needed to be addressed in the way it was because it sets up the future for all of them, Saxons and Danes alike.

Thanks in part to Uhtred’s advice, the Saxons did win the battle. Uhtred assumed that Alfred would be so grateful for that help that he would just automatically reward him and not question his reasons or motives at all. Alfred was not so gullible as to believe anything or anyone at face value… well, other than his priests. What you should be realizing even this early in the story is that Uhtred is not necessarily the stereotypical hero type. Uhtred messes up, a lot. He may be the main and central character that the story revolves around, he may be the “good guy” warrior of the battle but that does not mean that he always wins or that he conquers all. Right now, Uhtred has many lessons to learn in life. He will learn most of those lessons the hard way- as in “if at first you fail, then try again”  The person who ends up teaching Uhtred many of those difficult life lessons is Alfred the King. 

Are you offering your sword or selling your sword

On the subject of Alfred the King, we need to understand something very important about his role in the story and in general, I think. Alfred does express his own failings, his own doubts on being a successful King but he does not express these feelings to the public. Alfred is very clear about his goal, his dream for a united England. He also understands his role as leader of his people and knows full well that the worst thing he could do in his situation is show any sign of weakness or vulnerability to his subjects or to the Danes. It’s obvious to anyone who sees him that he is not a strong warrior who can go out and conquer battles/enemies physically. That leaves him with one other option… he must win with mind games, with words and out thinking his opponents. Alfred knows that his kingdom is in a precarious situation and that he will have to make difficult decisions which many of his subjects will not approve of or agree on.  As King, it is Alfred’s responsibility to lead his people and win this war that is beginning around them.  Alfred will inevitably often do things which may not endear him to everyone… he definitely is not the most likeable or jovial, fun loving kind of King. His court is certainly not one high on the A-list of parties or events. It will never be that kind of place even when there is peace in the land! Whether you like him or not is not really his ultimate concern or worry. He has far more important matters to be concerned with than whether he is well liked by all. Of course, he would like to be known as a fair and just ruler to his subjects but he needs his subjects, all of them- and that includes stubborn Uhtred- to trust him, to know that he is strong in mind and convictions, that he can not be taken advantage of or manipulated by factions who would seek to use him for their own benefits. Ohhh and yes of course, he does want to be liked by that one temptation of the flesh that he keeps near to him because of Father Beocca’s suggestion.   One might assume that Alfred’s likeability issues are due to the religious influences engrained in him and while that does play a huge part in his actions, I think it comes down more to the fact that he needs to win a war and make those often unpopular decisions that come along with any crisis. I think even without the religious influence, Alfred would have still been a serious minded individual who needed to be seen as a strong and firm leader.  Alfred’s idea of a good time is more along the lines of a philosophical discussion, a rousing taefl game of strategy or an evening of riddling… and then possibly a game of temptation involving earlier mentioned temptation of the flesh.

taefl game board

The term tafl  is the original name of the game. However, Hnefatafl became the preferred term for the game in Scandinavia by the end of the Viking Age, to distinguish it from other board games, such as Skáktafl (chess), Kvatrutafl (Tables) and Halatafl (Fox games), as these became known. The specific name Hnefatafl possibly arose as meaning “board game of the fist”, from hnefi (“fist”) + tafl, where “fist” referred to the central king-piece. The precise etymology is disputed, but hnefi certainly referred to the king-piece, and several sources refer to Hnefatafl as “King’s table”. In Anglo-Saxon England, the term tæfl also referred to many board games. It is not known if the Anglo-Saxons had a specific name for the game or if they generically referred to it as “tæfl” in the way that modern people might refer to “cards”.  Having spent time in Francia, Alfred may also have had some experience with early games of chess.

Riddling

One of the most popular games was riddling. A warrior was not considered to be up to much unless his word skill was as good as his weapon skills. Riddling was a good way of demonstrating this skill and many of the riddles of the time are full of double meanings which suggest two answers, one innocent, the other more ‘raunchy’. These riddles could be anything from a one to a hundred lines long and sought to describe everyday objects in an unusual way. Part of the skill of riddling was to be able to construct the riddle using the correct ‘poetic’ conventions. Obviously, as well as the correct construction, it was important to make sure that the description given was not too obscure. Here are some actual Saxon riddles. Alfred of course would have preferred the more innocent and correct poetic contexts and conventions!

  1. I’m by nature solitary,
    scarred by spear
    and wounded by sword, weary of battle.
    I frequently see the face of war, and fight
    hateful enemies; yet I hold no hope
    of help being brought to me in the battle,
    before I’m eventually done to death.
    In the stronghold of the city sharp-edged swords,
    skillfully forged in the flame by smiths
    bite deeply into me. I can but await
    a more fearsome encounter; it is not for me
    to discover in the city any of those doctors
    who heal grievous wounds with roots and herbs.
    The scars from sword wounds gape wider and wider
    death blows are dealt me by day and by night.
  2. I’m told a certain object grows
    in the corner, rises and expands, throws up
    a crust. A proud wife carried off
    that boneless wonder, the daughter of a king
    covered that swollen thing with a cloth.
  3. Wob’s my name if you work it out;
    I’m a fair creature fashioned for battle
    When I bend and shoot my deadly shaft
    from my stomach, I desire only to send
    that poison as far away as possible.
    When my lord, who devised this torment for me,
    releases my limbs, I become longer
    and, bent upon slaughter, spit out
    that deadly poison I swallowed before.
    No man’s parted easily from the object
    I describe; if he’s struck by what flies
    from my stomach, he pays for its poison
    with his strength – speedy atonement for his life
    I’ll serve no master when unstrung, only when
    I’m cunningly nocked. Now guess my name.
  4. On the way a miracle: water become bone.
  5. Favoured by men, I am found far and wide,
    taken from woods and the heights of the town,
    From high and from low. during each day
    bees brought me through the bright sky
    skillfully home to a shelter. Soon after that
    I was taken by men and bathed in a tub.
    Now I blind them and chasten them, and cast
    a young man at once to the ground,
    and sometimes an old one too.
    He who struggles against my strength,
    he who dares grapple with me, discovers immediately
    that he will hit the hard floor with his back
    if he persists with such stupidity.
    Deprived of his strength and strangely loquacious,
    he’s a fool, who rules neither his mind
    nor his hands nor his feet.
    Now ask me, my friends,
    who knocks young men stupid,
    and as his slave binds them
    in broad waking daylight?
    Yes ask me my name.
  6. On earth there’s a warrior of curious origin.
    He’s created, gleaming, by two dumb creatures
    for the benefit of men. Foe bears him against foe
    to inflict harm. Women often fetter him,
    strong as he is. If maidens and men
    care for him with due consideration
    and feed him frequently, he’ll faithfully obey them
    and serve them well. Men succour him for the warmth
    he offers in return; but this warrior will savage
    anyone who permits him to become too proud.
  7. The dank earth, wondrously cold,
    first delivered me from her womb.
    I know in my mind I wasn’t made
    from wool, skillfully fashioned with skeins.
    Neither warp nor weft wind about me,
    no thread thrums for me in the thrashing loom,
    nor does a shuttle rattle for me,
    nor does the weaver’s rod bang and beat me.
    Silkworms didn’t spin with their strange craft for me,
    those strange creatures that embroider cloth of gold.
    Yet men will affirm all over this earth
    that I am an excellent garment.
    O wise man, weigh your words
    well, and say what this object is.
  8. A woman, young and lovely, often locked me
    in a chest; she took me out at times,
    lifted me with fair hands and gave me
    to her loyal lord, fulfilling his desire.
    Then he stuck his head well inside me,
    pushed it upwards into the smallest part.
    It was my fate, adorned as I was, to be filled
    with something rough if that person who possessed me
    was virile enough. Now guess what I mean.
  9. A strange thing hangs by man’s hip,
    hidden by a garment. It has a hole
    in its head. It is stiff and strong
    and its firm bearing reaps a reward.
    When the retainer hitches his clothing
    high above his knee, he wants the head
    of that hanging thing to find the old hole
    that it, outstretched, has often filled before.
  10. I saw a creature: his stomach stuck out behind him,
    enormously swollen. A stalwart servant
    waited upon him. What filled his stomach
    had travelled from afar, and flew through his eye.
    He does not always die in giving life
    to others, but new strength revives
    in the pit of his stomach: he breathes again.
    He fathers a son; he’s his own father also.

ANSWERS:

  • Shield
  • Dough/Bread
  • Bow
  • Ice
  • Mead
  • Fire
  • Mail shirt
  • Helmet
  • Key
  • Bellows

Temptation of the flesh…

TLK_103_21

 

So, we can rather safely assume that the majority of Alfred’s warriors would prefer to find their own entertainment and amusements elsewhere,  anywhere else but in Alfred or his wife Eilswith’s company for any evening. Let’s face it, as for Eilswith, even Alfred may have preferred to be anywhere else but in her company.  But, Alfred was a dutiful husband and really, he was not one to be outwardly cruel to his lawfully wedded wife who was devoted and loyal to him. He needs her on his side and in his bed at least occasionally… he does need heirs after all!  Even though Eilswith is about appealing as a mud fence and if possible, even more pious than Alfred, and has a sharp vicious tongue, she can do one thing well as it should become apparent… she can produce fine healthy babies! Historically, Eilswith’s alliance is of importance because she is from a Noble line of Mercia and the long range goal of Wessex rulers is to keep Mercia under their control. Her ability to provide heirs is also of importance. If you are familiar with the history of Alfred’s family- as in his siblings- he was one of six children and out of those six children, the only ones to produce any heirs were him and his brother Athelred. This is part of the reason there was little argument over who would rule. There was no one else left to lay claim to the crown but Alfred and two young nephews, who historically were assumed too young to rule. In episode 3, we begin to see just how unsuitable nephew Athelwold is for any leadership role let alone King. We also begin to see though that he is not going to go away quietly or give up on his claim, especially when he is encouraged by ones such as Odda the younger.  At times his speaking without thinking comes very close to treason. Leofrich bluntly reminds him of that. Uhtred is of the ongoing opinion that Alfred should have had him killed immediately and been done with any possibility of rebellion or attempt for the crown by Athelwold. Alfred reasons that, “If I killed him then it would make it appear as though he did have some legitimate claim.”    Ironically, of course, there are probably a number of Alfred’s supporters who have the same continuing thoughts about Uhtred. He is a vile, hated and untrustworthy Pagan that Alfred should have just killed and been done with him.

TLK_103_1 odda the older and Odda the elder from farfarawayTLK_103_20

 

So, as you can see, no matter how distasteful the thought of Eilswith is, Alfred must make attempt to keep her belly full of babies and her Mercian supporters on his side.

ailswyth Aelswith Father forgive me... go away I might not get another chance at this for a while I am your loving loyal wife

As I mentioned, episode 3 provides us with a better understanding of what is going on within the Kingdom of Wessex, from Alfred’s doubts and temptations, his inner circle of supporters and possible traitors, to his personal relationships, all of which will play their part in the decisions he makes in the future. This is a vulnerable and fragile kingdom verging on chaos and that is exactly what the Danes are hoping for and expecting in their plans for dealing with Alfred. Alfred must use what ever advantages he can come up with and that includes Uhtred, even though Alfred doesn’t trust him any further than he could throw him… which is obviously not very far.  Alfred needs Uhtred but he needs Uhtred loyal to him and he knows that Uhtred is loyal to no one but himself right now. Alfred must find a way, any way to keep Uhtred under control and he needs to do something else important… He needs to show Uhtred that he is the one in control, not Uhtred. This is extremely important in the context of Alfred’s overall rule because if Uhtred is able to best him, to outwit and out maneuver him then he will have lost control of not just Uhtred but others as well who are most likely watching the situation closely. In some ways, this battle of wills between Alfred and Uhtred is a battle that Alfred can not afford to lose. He has to prove himself to his warriors, his subjects, the Witan that put him on the throne, and most importantly, the Danes who are at the doorstep of his Kingdom waiting for him to fail.

The Witenaġemot (“meeting of wise men”), also known as the Witan (more properly the title of its members) was a political institution in Anglo-Saxon England which operated from before the 7th century until the 11th century. The witenagemots did not represent the political will of all England: before the unification of England in the 10th century, separate witenagemots were convened by the Kings of Essex, Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex and Wessex. The Witenagemot was an assembly of the ruling class whose primary function was to advise the king and whose membership was composed of the most important noblemen in England, both ecclesiastic and secular. The institution is thought to represent an aristocratic development of the ancient Germanic general assemblies, or folkmoots. In England, by the 7th century, these ancient folkmoots had developed into convocations of the land’s most powerful and important people, including ealdormen, thegns, and senior clergy, to discuss matters of both national and local importance.  The influence of the king, or at least of kingship, on the constitution of the assembly seems to have been immense. But on the other hand he (the king) was elected by the witan .. He could not depose the prelates or ealdormen, who held their office for life, nor indeed the hereditary thanes. .. At any rate, the king had to get on with the highest statesmen appointed by his predecessor, though possibly disliked by him, until death made a post vacant that he could fill with a relation or a favourite, not, however, without having a certain regard to the wishes of the aristocracy. In addition to having a role in the ‘election’ of English Kings, it is often held that the witenagemots had the power to depose an unpopular king. However, there are only two occasions when this probably happened, in 757 and 774 with the depositions of kings Sigeberht of Wessex and Alhred of Northumbria.

Uhtred is young, cocky, and rebellious. In Alfred’s thoughts he is like an unruly, untamed hound who must be kept on a very tight leash and taught to obey his master… or at least listen and recognize that he has a master otherwise he will be the most dangerous of all animals, a lone wolf. I don’t believe it is ever Alfred’s intent to completely tame Uhtred or break him… what good would that prove. I believe that Alfred knows the power and force that Uhtred will become and he wants to make sure that power is on his side, not the side of the Danes. He needs to teach Uhtred a lesson or two, or three or more as the case will be but I do not believe it is now or ever will be his intent to completely destroy Uhtred. What he needs to do is use any means possible maintain some semblance of control over this volatile weapon he has in Uhtred. Uhtred needs to learn that he does not have that upper hand with Alfred.  Alfred knows exactly how Uhtred thinks right now and calls him on it with his comment on Uhtred’s service to him. He asks Uhtred, “Are your offering me your sword, or are you selling me your sword?”

Are you offering your sword or selling your sword

In Uhtred’s mind right now, what matter should it make to Alfred as long as Alfred gets his service and he gets rewarded… He needs to recognize the difference and fully understand that difference between the loyalty of offering one’s sword and the selling and or trading of one’s sword to the highest bidder.  Uhtred does begin to understand this as we see him grow up emotionally in episode 3.

Uhtred and Brida both begin to grow more into their adult beliefs during episode 3 and as a result, they also begin to grow apart. Uhtred is learning to find a place, a purpose or at least a comfort level with the Saxons- well some of them anyway. He finds friendship and acceptance among the warriors that Alfred sets him to training in the fighting ways of the Danes. Uhtred, in his friendship with Leofric, quickly learns that liking Alfred is not a requirement of his service because many of the fighting men feel the same way about Alfred as he does.  Brida, on the other hand is learning that she will never fit in with these Saxon women, nor does she want to. They both attempt to hold on to their relationship but it seems as though they both have some realization that they are changing in some very fundamental ways. While Uhtred learns to adapt and more fully understand what Alfred’s vision of the future means to him and to his chances of reclaiming his birthright, Brida becomes more determined and set against the Saxons.  The turning point in their paths comes with Brida’s vision seeking and the loss of their child. With that loss, it seems as though they very quickly and harshly must grow up and accept their individual paths. 

Uhtred finds a friend, Leofrich

Uhtred finds a friend, Leofrich

TLK_103_18

Brida knows one thing, she does not want to be a Saxon woman

Brida knows one thing, she does not want to be a Saxon woman

TLK_103_23 TLK_103_43

Ragnar the younger has arrived to help the Danes in their fight and it is at their meeting with him that we see Uhtred’s better understanding and belief in the loyalty and honor of offering one’s oath or sword. We see the difference between Uhtred’s and Brida’s beliefs come to light as Brida tells him to break his word to Alfred, it means nothing. When Uhtred explains though to Ragnar that he gave his word, his oath, Ragnar understands and accepts it. Brida will join Ragnar and return to the Danes where her vision showed her she would go without Uhtred. Uhtred will remain with the Saxons for the time being because he has learned that oaths are honor. It will be his belief throughout his life, good or bad, he will feel honor bound by oaths he will make.

ragnar and brida

While Wessex was dealing with the fallout from that battle, so were the Danes as well. We saw argument and discord among them as their two leaders began to have differences of opinion.  Ubba questioned Guthrum on his action of going into battle without him and he questioned Guthrum’s ability to lead or win battles.

TLK_103_29 TLK_103_28

They headed towards a negotiation with Alfred that they assumed would be easy to win. They assumed Alfred to be weak, spineless and willing to turn over his Kingdom to them. Alfred stood his ground and maintained control of the negotiations. He offered peace with the Danes and explained the importance of the written word that would be a part of history. Those written words would show that Alfred acted in good faith, that Alfred offered peace. Alfred would offer gold, silver and grain but not land, and not the head of Uhtred- which Ubba wanted. Alfred then began to play his mind games with Ubba telling him, “If you wish to occupy Wessex then go ahead, do it. How many Fortresses have you taken to date?”  This infuriated Ubba and he lost control of his emotions while Guthrum for the most part remained more restrained and calm during the meeting. If you pay close attention, you will see Guthrum thinking about what Alfred is saying rather than reacting violently to the words. Alfred ends the meeting reminding them that what will be written and remembered was that Alfred offered terms, Alfred offered payments and Alfred sought peace above all else.

TLK_103_33 uhtred and alfred

TLK_103_30 TLK_103_32

The meeting ends and the Danes leave but everyone knows full well that this but a temporary and extremely fragile peace. Brida has chosen her path with Ragnar and the Danes. Uhtred will follow his own destiny or path that is with the Saxons for now because of his oath of service to Alfred, and also now too because Alfred has saved his life… When the Danes demanded Uhtred’s head as part of the agreement, Alfred refused. He could have easily turned Uhtred over to the Danes at that point, but Uhtred is far more valuable to Alfred alive than he is as a dead trade of peace. It was after that meeting that Alfred made it clear that he never had intent or thought of trading Uhtred’s life. It was also then that he made the offer to Uhtred of one year of service to him. “One year of service, oath and loyalty to me… And, in return you shall have your own reward Uhtred of Bebbanburg”

uhtred via farfar away

Uhtred believes Alfred, puts his trust in him and his vision for the future, and gives him that oath. One year does not seem such a long time. In the beginning, Uhtred was as optimistic as the rest of Wessex that they could fight the Danes and win… In reality, a year can be a very long time and fate will change all. This is merely a lull before the storm that would be known as the Great Heathen invasion and would last for generations beyond Alfred’s reign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Awesome reviews for Last Kingdom premiere!

Apparently I am not the only one impressed with BBCA’s production of The Last Kingdom. There are a number of highly positive reviews showing up for the show so I just want to share some links to them here! Here is a list of reviews and interviews related to the show and it’s premiere.

a less battle ready or prepared Saxon army

The Last Kingdom: A Bloody period piece with depth

http://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/the-last-kingdom-a-bloody-period-piece-with-depth.html/?a=viewall

thelastkingdom-still-08b

TV-Recaps and Reviews for Saturday- Last Kingdom makes it into top 30

http://www.tv-recaps-reviews.com/2015/10/saturday-cable-ratings-october-10.html

ubba of Last Kingdom

The Last Kingdom Series Premiere: If You Like Vikings, Then You’ll Love This

BBC America’s newest sword and shield epic will undoubtedly and unfairly be compared to HBO’s Game of Thrones within the first five minutes of viewing this well-crafted premiere. This is a shame, since The Last Kingdom is a much different kind of beast, and a welcomed one at that.

For starters, if you were going to compare The Last Kingdom to any series, then it would be more accurate to say that the show resembles History’s popular Vikings saga, which will be back for its fourth season in the early part of 2016. In fact, this show is more of a direct sequel to the aforementioned series than an interpretation, or copycat. The Last Kingdom stands alone, and excels at telling a story both compelling and unique.

http://screenrant.com/the-last-kingdom-series-premiere-review/

You bought me for how much Too much

The Last Kingdom Episode 1 review by author, Patricia Bracewell

BBC America’s new series THE LAST KINGDOM is based on The Saxon Tales a series of novels by the brilliant and prolific Bernard Cornwell. I have been a fan of Mr. Cornwell’s books for many years, so I was excited about this series, and especially curious to see how closely this filmed version would follow the story line and capture the atmosphere of the novels. According to a book reviewer for The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Cornwell writes as if he has been to ninth-century Wessex and back.” After seeing the first episode of THE LAST KINGDOM I would say that everyone involved with the series went there as well, and those of us watching are going right along with them. This was the 9th century brought to vivid, often horrifying life.

http://www.patriciabracewell.com/2015/10/the-last-kingdom-episode-1/

uhtred tearfully watches as they bargain for him

‘The Last Kingdom’ – an interview with screenwriter Stephen Butchard

how did you get involved with ‘The Last Kingdom’?

I worked with a guy called Phil Temple who was the script editor on ‘Five Daughters‘. He’s now a Development Producer at Carnival Films and we keep in touch. As we were talking one day he produced the book by Bernard Cornwell ‘The Last Kingdom’ – I read the blurb which immediately hooked me – a Saxon boy who was kidnapped and brought up by Danes, the conflict between Paganism and Christianity when England was being invaded, I thought “this has got to be a great story!”. I hadn’t read Bernard’s books before or seen Sharpe, although of course I was aware of it. I read the book and really enjoyed it. I think it’s essential that you love a book if you are going to be adapting it. As I read it I thought of things I could do with it.

Bernard was really generous and let us go in whatever direction we wanted with it. After all, the books would always be there, and the experience of reading them is personal to each reader. After I read the first book I knew that wouldn’t be enough for a full series and carried on to read the second in the series, ‘The Pale Horseman’.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/writersroom/entries/8d9181b7-0894-4add-87b4-db26d8c45b31

 

 uhtred the peace is over

The Last Kingdom, Episode One: Review by John Henry Clay

Being based in the US at the moment means I’ve been able to watch the first episode of The Last Kingdom, airing on BBC America a week before the UK premiere. (Don’t worry, the following contains only very very minor spoilers.)

 Set in ninth-century England and based on a series of novels by Bernard Cornwell, it stars relative newcomer Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred, treacherously dispossessed of his Northumbrian earldom as a boy and taken in by a band of invading Danes. 

There’s a rich story here waiting to be told, the stuff of classic adventures: revenge, betrayal, conflicting identities and loyalties, and of course the abovementioned beheadings. Dreymon and the younger version of Uhtred, played by Tom Taylor, are propped up an array of stalwarts including Matthew Macfadyen and Rutger Hauer (just about recognisable behind hooded cowl and swirly blue cheek tattoos).

http://www.johnhenryclay.com/?utm_campaign=buffer&utm_content=bufferf970e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com#!The-Last-Kingdom-Episode-One-Review/c1q8z/561b196e0cf2c6c6436f70cf

alfred is crowned and england is bornRutger Hauer as Ravyn

The Last Kingdom: ‘This is the making of England’ Interview with Bernard Cornwell

Patrick Smith speaks to Bernard Cornwell and the team behind the BBC’s new Game of Thrones-esque historical drama, The Last Kingdom.

It was inevitable that the success of Game of Thrones would inspire sagas cut from the same bloody cloth. HBO’s swords-and-sorcery epic, adapted from George RR Martin’s novels, has been a phenomenon, its lurid mix of sex, death, skulduggery and Byzantine intrigue winning tens of millions of fans and numerous awards – including a record-breaking 12 at last month’s Emmys. Now, four years since it premiered in the UK, the BBC has finally decided to tap into a similar vein of sword-wielding medieval strife with two new lavishly produced historical dramas.

Laying siege this winter will be Fall of a City, a 10-parter tackling the decade-long Trojan War. But before then comes The Last Kingdom, a battle-packed ninth-century story charting the Viking invasion of Anglo-Saxon Britain, told from both side’s perspectives. “I’ve always wanted to play a Viking,” says Dutch actor Rutger Hauer, who’s part of a cast that includes Matthew Macfadyen and Alexander Dreymon. “For me, [The Last Kingdom] was Alice in Wonderland with a dark side.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/11921496/The-Last-Kingdom-This-is-the-making-of-England.html

 a well trained and prepared shield wall army

 The Last Kingdom Series Premiere Review: Game of Danes

The latest would-be heir to the (game of) throne, “The Last Kingdom” is an adaption of Bernard Cornwell’s best-selling historical novels, collectively known as “The Saxon Stories.” Cornwell, perhaps best-known for the series of novels revolving around Richard Sharpe, is a sucker for ongoing storylines, thus making him perfect fodder for television, with the Sharpe novels already having been made into a series prior to this one, featuring Sean Bean. (Other series ripe for the picking include “The Warlord Chronicles,” “The Grail Quest Novels” and “The Starbuck Chronicles.”)

The latest to make the sojourn to the small screen, “The Last Kingdom” is an eight-part miniseries based on the first novel of the same name in the ongoing “Saxon Stories” saga, which is currently on its ninth book, “Warriors of the Storm,” which was just released earlier this month. Therefore, as with “Game of Thrones,” there is plenty more source material to draw from, should the first season be a success.

http://www.tvequals.com/2015/10/11/the-last-kingdom-series-premiere-review-game-of-danes/

 

Hopefully some of these various reviews will encourage you to watch this series. I think if you watch the first episode, you will be drawn into the story and not be disappointed. It is not Game of Thrones fantasy, nor is it Vikings series.  You will not find dragons flying or any other mythical creatures. You may find some sorcerers and seers but they are rooted in reality and the beliefs of this time period.

ubba's sorcer storri

If the show is successful (I sincerely hope it will be!) you will see some myth and legend but it will only be from the perspective or belief in such legend, myth or religion  that people might have believed in at the time.  You will not see any overdone, overly explicit or excessively graphic scenes… If that is what you are looking for, please stick to Game of Thrones, or even as much as I hate to admit it- Outlander. This story and show is not all about sex. What you will see is a very realistic representation of people’s views on sex, love and marriage arrangements in this time period.  It will present the sexual situations in a way that leaves something to your imagination, which I greatly appreciate. We all know that Uhtred is a young man who has some very basic short range thoughts in his head right now. Those thoughts do include sex, or in his words- humping on a very regular basis because as he points out to Brida, “It is our destiny to hump!” He is not one however to share the most private intimate details of such activity with the world- Saxon, Dane or the rest of us included!  I am more than impressed with how they have dealt with the sex so far, including some presentation of it as a basic and natural part of life but not pressing the scenes or issue to a point where it takes over from the rest of the story. I especially love the humor that they have put into it!

brida comes up with some of her best thoughts in the middle of humping

brida comes up with some of her best thoughts in the middle of humping

brida's humor

I think that this series offers something that Game of Thrones and Vikings does not. It provides an excellent story full of bloody battle, torture and violence along with love, lust, heartbreak and joy as well but does it in a very realistic and historically accurate format. You will see more than enough bloodletting to satisfy that desire, but you will also see everyday mundane parts of life and relationships. There will be plenty of mystery, intrigue and political as well as personal conspiracies but they will be balanced with more than enough humor to keep you from a complete overdose and breakdown from horror and suspense.  The writers have managed to capture and reserve Cornwell’s excellent sense of humor in this production!

Last but definitely not least- If you are looking for spaces, groups or communities to share your thoughts on the series, here are two facebook groups that you can check out and join!

The Last Kingdom of the Aftermath group

Last Kingdom aftermath

https://www.facebook.com/groups/507550966085991/

The Last Kingdom BBCA

Last Kingdom Uhtredforever

https://www.facebook.com/groups/478635388978382/

 

 

 

 

Saxons, Romans, and Arthur

Previous post about Saxon history: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/from-odin-and-woden-to-anglo-saxons-in-britain/

king-arthur-tapestry King-Arthur-power-rule King-Arthur-2004-king-arthur-875455_1254_940

 

Before we head back to the Viking era, I just want to add some last added thoughts on the earlier realm of the Saxons, the Romans, and that ever elusive yet legendary man called Arthur who united the Britons in defending their world against those heathens the Saxons. The legend of this man is so tied to this time that one can not help but think of him when thinking about the era of the Saxons invading a crumbling and divided Britain. We have already looked at much of the history and seen what may have actually taken place with the Saxon arrival in Britain but those legends of Arthur are so steeped in that history and in peoples’ minds that we need to take one more look at him and those legends.

As I mentioned, I’ve already discussed much of this in earlier posts so this is just more of an update to all of that previous information! You can read a much earlier post on theories of Romans and King Arthur here:  https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

In my previous post about Saxon history, I mentioned movies and books that strip some of that myth and magic from the legends and attempt to give a slightly more historically accurate basis for the stories. I do say slightly more accurate because it is all of course, historical fiction! There are few if any remaining documentations of what actually took place during that time. The only truly accurate account of what happened would be ones from people on both sides who were actually there to witness that history taking place. As far as I know, no one has come across such eye witness accounts! What we have left are scattered remnants, bits and pieces of that history from early sagas and story tellers who were paid-much as current day story tellers- to create a glowing story of that bloody and dark part of history. Every story teller added to and changed the events to please the audience they were telling the story to.  Down trodden and beaten warriors wanted tales of glory, victories and battles. Ladies of the realms wanted romance, a knight in shining armor, a love story, the church wanted tales that would make them look good and the pagans look bad… and, so thus, the Bards wove the legends of Arthur and his Britons into all of those things, just as they do today!

We all know those stories, those fantasies of Arthur the legend. My search has been for more of what might have been the real stories behind the legends. I have stated before, that in every legend or myth, there are grains of truth, you just need to search for them.  When I read or watch historical fiction, I look for those small grains of truth.  I am like anyone else, I love a good story, but being one who is passionate about history, I do prefer those stories to some grain of truth or at least some sort of accuracy when dealing with historical events.  For that reason, I try to stick with authors that I trust, one who have put some significant research into the history that they are writing about. I have no qualm with them playing with timelines as needed in order to weave their story, I also have no problem with them weaving the events into their own story line- that is all to be expected in creating a good story. What I look for within or behind each story is an author’s reasoning and their ability to blend what might have happened to what actually did happen.

The legends of Arthur are so filled with myth, magic and fantasy that is difficult to separate that from the events that actually took place, the events that were the basis for the myths. In order to find some balance between those fantasies and the limited actual history, I have turned to some of those authors that I trust and looked at their stories of what might happened, could have happened. These two authors have given different versions of Arthur and the events surrounding his life, his rise to glory and his attempt to hold on to it.

I did mention the first author and his representation of Arthur in my previous post. I will refresh your memory here and highly recommend that you read his version. Bernard Cornwell gives us his version of Arthur in his Warlord series.

I found this book trailer for Winter King and the Warlord series and had to laugh when it included various clips from our Vikings and the King Arthur movie!

winter_king_uk-179x307

Uther, the High King, has died, leaving the infant Mordred as his only heir. His uncle, the loyal and gifted warlord Arthur, now rules as caretaker for a country which has fallen into chaos – threats emerge from within the British kingdoms while vicious Saxon armies stand ready to invade, As he struggles to unite Britain and hold back the enemy at the gates, Arthur is embroiled in a doomed romance with beautiful Guinevere. Will the old-world magic of Merlin be enough to turn the tide of war in his favour?

enemy of god Arthur book 2 by bernard cornwell

The balance of King Arthur’s unified kingdom is threatened by Merlin’s quest for the last of Britain’s 13 Treasures; by the conflict between the ancient religion and the new Christianity; and by Britain’s war with the Saxons. A master storyteller continues his retelling of the Arthurian legend.

Excalibur arthur book 3 by bernard cornwell

In The Winter King and Enemy of God Bernard Cornwell demonstrated his astonishing ability to make the oft-told legend of King Arthur fresh and new for our time. Now, in this riveting final volume of The Warlord Chronicles, Cornwell tells the unforgettable tale of Arthur’s final struggles against the Saxons and his last attempts to triumph over a ruined marriage and ravaged dreams.   This is the tale not only of a broken love remade, but also of forces both earthly and unearthly that threaten everything Arthur stands for. Peopled by princesses and bards, by warriors and magicians, Excalibur is the story of love, war, loyalty, and betrayal-the work of a magnificent storyteller at the height of his powers.

Bernard Cornwell does include some of the mythology of the legend with his inclusion of Merlin and others such as Nimue (Vivianne). He addresses the conflicts going on between the new religion of Christianity with the dying Pagan beliefs and how this as much as anything else worked to tear the kingdoms apart when they needed to be united against the Saxons.  While he includes that mythology, he also addresses the divisions of the kingdoms, the Roman influences that remained, the betrayals that took place as rulers attempted to hold on to their kingdoms by any means possible- including siding at times with the Saxons and attempting to pit the Saxons against each other. Cornwell looks at all of these things that were most likely actually occurring during that time. He gives us a more realistic picture of those legendary characters, flaws included! My personal favorite deviation from said legends is his portrayal of Lancelot as a vain and traitorous man whose main ambition was to be a King in order to enjoy the materialistic benefits it would bring him. Lancelot had excellent PR men, which he found within the church, and used them to extoll his “saintly” virtues.  The portrayal of Arthur as a man so focused on his role as protector and seeing only the good in people combines that legendary honor status of Arthur while showing the flaws of such belief. He refuses to see clearly what is going on around him, what treachery and deception other people that he trusts as loyal are capable of, that he makes serious mistakes in judgement and nearly defeats his purpose of uniting the kingdoms as a result.  I have not yet read the third book but am looking forward to seeing the conclusion to this version of Arthur and his history.

 

 a more basic and realistic representation. As she herself warns, you will find no magic or fantasy realm here. There is no mention of Merlin, Lancelot, or even Tristan and his beloved Isolde here. Helen Hollick admits freely that she is not an academic historian but she did do a great deal of research into the events of this time period to put together this version of who Arthur may have been, how he might have risen to his power and what might have happened as a result. For those of you looking for a glorious knight in shining armor full of honor and true goodness, this is probably not the book for you… This Arthur is full of flaws!  If you are looking for a romantic love story of Arthur and his true love, Guinevere, then this is probably not quite the right story for you either. Above all else, this Arthur is a warrior with high ambitions. He has a vision of being King as his Father was and he will do almost anything to achieve that goal. He does love his Gwenhwyfar but that love comes second or third to his first ambitions. He is definitely not a saint, he has a lust for all women- which he often acts on and then must suffer the consequences of those actions.  Some of those consequences include a number of jealous and spurned women as well as various offspring along the way.  Some readers have commented and complained that this series portrays women in such bad light as evil, manipulative types… What I get from this series so far is Helen Hollick showing that women could be just as malicious, devious and manipulative as men when it came to terms of them fighting for  power or wealth and status. They were not above using what ever means available to them to ensure they got what they felt they deserved, needed or desired.  This is a much a story of women’s wars against each other as it is about the battles or wars of men for a country or kingdom. The story of Arthur’s battles at time almost comes secondary to the power wars of these early women!

 

The kingmaking Helen hollick

As Uthr Pendragon battles to overthrow the tyrant Vortigern tragedy strikes. There is only one man who can lead Britain from the chaos of darkness into a new age of glory. Protected since birth, he is revealed as the new Pendragon.

The Pendragon Banner 2 by helen hollick

Who was the man
… who became the legend
… we know as
KING ARTHUR?

Pendragon’s Banner is the second book in Helen Hollick’s exciting King Arthur trilogy, covering 459-465 A.D. This is not a fairy tale or fantasy. There is no Merlin, no sword in the stone, and no Lancelot. This is the most accurate Arthurian legend ever written, based on historical evidence and meticulous research.

At age twenty-four, King Arthur has the kingdom he fought so hard for and a new young family. But keeping the throne of Britain—and keeping his wife and three sons safe—proves far from easy. Two enemies in particular threaten everything that is dear to him: Winifred, Arthur’s vindictive first wife, and Morgause, priestess of the Mother and malevolent Queen of the North. Both have royal ambitions of their own.

In this story of harsh battles, secret treasonous plots, and the life-threatening politics of early Britain’s dark ages, author Helen Hollick boldly reintroduces King Arthur as you’ve never seen him before.

PRAISE FOR PENDRAGON’S BANNER:

“Hollick’s interpretation is bold, affecting and well worth fighting to defend.”
Publishers Weekly

“Weaves together fact, legend, and inspired imagination to create a world so real we can breathe the smoke of its fires and revel in the Romano- British lust for life, love and honour.”
Historical Novel Review

“Camelot as it really was… a very talented writer.”
Sharon Kay Penman, bestselling author of Devil’s Brood

PRAISE FOR THE KINGMAKING:

“Hollick juggles a cast of characters and a bloody, tangled plot with great skill.”
Publishers Weekly

“If only all historical fiction could be this good.”
Historical Novels Review

“Stripped of its medieval trappings, the story of Arthur’s rise loses none of its legendary power… this [is a] well-researched, skillfully constructed trilogy opener.”
Library Journal

Shadow of the king by helen hollick

Arthur Pendragon is dead! His widow, Gwenhwyfar, faces overthrow by the powerful council headed by Arthur’s uncle, and a power struggle with his ex-wife Winifred. But, unknown to her, events in France and Germany mean that a far mightier battle is ahead.

 

I have only just started the second book in Helen Hollick’s series so I can not give a full review of all of them together but I can say that I am as equally impressed with Helen Hollick’s version as with Bernard Cornwell’s! The two authors give different representations and reasonings but both present a rather realistic portrayal of the events surrounding the legends. I have to say for now that I am slightly more in favor of Hollick’s version only because she has chosen to leave out the magic of Merlin in her telling of the story. I appreciate that Cornwell found a way to incorporate the myths and magic into his version but kind of wish that he hadn’t put so much focus on Merlin and his seemingly magical qualities. I understand his reasoning in wanting to include this mythology in some way but I think it takes a little away from the rest of the more realistic story he is presenting. He could have presented Merlin as the highly respected Druid that he might have been and even alluded to what ever mythology or magic that may have been associated with that belief system, much as he did with the other beliefs such as Mythros and Isis, and left it at that without involving his supposed mystical and magical qualities quite so much. I did also appreciate his portrayal of Tristan and Isolde in their doomed love affair with no myth or magic involved in it, just a sad story of two lovers who met a bad end.

What initially drew me to Hollick’s version of the legend was that in reading previews and summaries of her series, I was interested in the fact that she chose to include the stories of Hengist and Horsa, and Briton King Voltigern. Hollick’s version of the legend places Arthur in the middle of these events and gives us a version that weaves Arthur’s ambitions and actions into this historical event. It then allows for a telling that coincides with some historical theories that the later Saxon King Cerdic was probably of part Briton descent. I did address this history in the previous post on Saxon history so her weaving of the legend in this way made some sense to me.  Hollick’s version of Arthur places him in the earliest part of the Saxon arrival while Cornwell’s version put Arthur at a later time with Cerdic and another Saxon King Aelle fighting against each other for land and power.

Both Hollick and Cornwell make some reference and admissions as to how it is in some ways a situation that the Britons themselves created. In Hollick’s story, Arthur admits that were he in the same position of those Saxons such as Hengist being deceived and betrayed on land that was promised, he might have reacted in much the same way. This Arthur also concedes that Hengist had a right to promised lands and he honors that particular right, allowing him to retain those lands. Hollick’s  Arthur makes mention of the futile wish for peace between all and realizes that the Saxons are not going to disappear from their land.

 Both authors also both make excellent reference to the earlier Roman domination and remaining influences such as the architecture left behind. In Cornwell’s version, Arthur and his Guinever reside in one of those remaining villas, though the villas all are suffering from disrepair and neglect due to the fact that there are so few skilled artisans left to make any repairs. There is also much reference made to the beliefs of both Britons and Saxons not wanting to live in such stone buildings filled with spirits and ghosts of unknown nature. Another unfortunate side affect of the ongoing wars is that everyone was so focused on battles and surviving that they had little time, wealth or manpower left to devote to the upkeep of such places. 

My personal thought and suggestion is that you read both versions for a better understanding of  who Arthur might have been and those events that had a part in creating the legend and myth that he became!

 

If you are still craving the fantasy and the myth of Arthur, never fear… there is yet another version of that legend coming. Knights of the Roundtable, a feature film version of the story is currently in production with a scheduled release date in 2016. It is being directed by Guy Ritchie, written by Joby Harold and stars at this time include Katie McGrath, Charlie Hunnam, and Jude Law. It was recently announced too that David Beckham will make an appearance. For full details on the cast, see here:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3496992/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast

The young Arthur runs the back passages of Londonium with his crew, not knowing his royal lineage until he grabs Excalibur. Instantly confronted by the sword’s influence, Arthur is forced to make up his mind. He joins the rebellion and a shadowy young woman named Guinevere, he must learn to understand the magic weapon, deal with his demons and unite the people to defeat the dictator Vortigern, the man who murdered his parents and stole his crown to become king.

Some production photos have been released:

'Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur' filming in Wales Featuring: Atmosphere Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

‘Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur’ filming in Wales
Featuring: Atmosphere
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

'Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur' filming in Wales Featuring: Jude Law Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

‘Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur’ filming in Wales
Featuring: Jude Law
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

'Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur' filming in Wales Featuring: Guy Ritchie Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

‘Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur’ filming in Wales
Featuring: Guy Ritchie
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

'Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur' filming in Wales Featuring: Atmosphere Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

‘Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur’ filming in Wales
Featuring: Atmosphere
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

'Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur' filming in Wales Featuring: Jude Law Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

‘Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur’ filming in Wales
Featuring: Jude Law
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

'Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur' filming in Wales Featuring: Jude Law, Eric Bana, Poppy Delavingne Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

‘Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur’ filming in Wales
Featuring: Jude Law, Eric Bana, Poppy Delavingne
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

Filming 'The Knights of the Round Table:King Arthur'  in Wales Featuring: Guy Ritchie Where: Conwy, United Kingdom When: 14 Apr 2015 Credit: WENN.com

Filming ‘The Knights of the Round Table:King Arthur’ in Wales
Featuring: Guy Ritchie
Where: Conwy, United Kingdom
When: 14 Apr 2015
Credit: WENN.com

In January 2014, Warner Bros set Guy Ritchie to direct a new multi-film version of the King Arthur legend. The first film titled Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur,  with Lionel Wigram as producer and Joby Harold as screenwriter,  is the first installment of a planned six films series, and is scheduled for a July 22, 2016 release.  Idris Elba was in talks to play a Merlin-esque figure who trains and mentors Arthur. When Elba did not sign on to the film, the director continued to look for an actor to play the role.Charlie Hunnam, Ritchie’s choice for the role, will play King Arthur.  Elizabeth Olsen was in talks for the female lead.  However, on September 18, it was Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey who was added to the cast of to play Guinevere.  On November 14, Jude Law was in talks to play the lead villain role in the film.  On February 11, 2015, Eric Bana was added to the cast to play Uther, the father of King Arthur.  Mikael Persbrandt joined the film on March 6, 2015 to play a villainous role.   Filming in Windsor Great Park was underway in February 2015, then later in North Wales from March 2, 2015.  Later on March 10, 2015, Ritchie tweeted a photo and confirmed the first day of shooting  In April 2015, filming took place in Snowdonia, where locations used were Tryfan, Nant Gwynant near Beddgelert and Capel Curig.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_of_the_Roundtable:_King_Arthur

From what little plot or story information that is yet available, all I can surmise is that this will be more myth and fantasy than any real historical basis other than mention of said King Vortigern playing some part in it. That is fine too, we all enjoy some fantasy in our life along with the more real stories! It looks interesting so far!