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Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Guest Author, Helen Hollick on the History Behind Her Book -- I AM THE CHOSEN KING
Eliza Knight: Could you tell us a little about the research behind the book, particularly any unique, or intriguing findings?
Helen Hollick: I spent a year researching I Am The Chosen King (Harold the King is its UK title) I was undecided about what to write after completing my Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, but the story of the Battle of Hastings and 1066 was stirring some interest – not least because Harold Godwineson is a local hero: as Earl of Essex he founded Waltham Abbey which is about fifteen minutes’ drive from where I live. His first wife came from a few more miles away. So I was rather attracted to writing about a man who could have walked where I could walk. (Unlike King Arthur who possibly never even existed!)
I knew, without a doubt, that I had just seen Earl Harold, his father, Godwine of Wessex and his two brothers, Swegn and Tostig… and the young Edyth Swanneck who was to become Harold’s wife.
You’ll read the scene in the book. Chapter two.
Eliza Knight: Tell us about the history behind the setting of I Am The Chosen King.
Helen Hollick: The series of events that led to 1066 is rather a long and complicated story – hence the thickness of the novel! Perhaps all I shall say here is that Duke William of Normandy had no right to the English throne, that Harold was our last, legitimate, legally crowned English King, and he is the only King to die fighting to save his Kingdom and people from foreign invasion.
I wanted to write Harold’s story; the story of the events that led to that fateful battle in October 1066, because I wanted to set the history – from the English point of view – straight. I was so tired of reading in history books that English history started with the Norman Conquest, that William was a great King, that the Normans had conquered a “dark age” backward, uncivilised, country. I wanted to unravel the Norman propaganda and write a novel that told a little more of what is probably nearer the truth.
Eliza Knight: I can't think of a better reason to write a book, and I do believe you nailed it! Is there any topic historical in nature, related somehow to the book, but that readers would find fascinating? Of particular interest to my readers are era-related food, fashion, mannerisms, scandals, lifestyles.
Helen Hollick: Scandals? Oh there was a huge one! Harold’s elder brother, Swegn, kidnapped an abbess and held her prisoner for over a year. It was Anglo Saxon Headline news for months!
Of course, we don’t know the actual details, and I personally don’t think Swegn, for all his reckless faults, was that stupid. I’m pretty certain he knew the woman, and it is quite possible that she never really wanted to be incarcerated in an abbey in the first place! Younger daughters were often “given” to an abbey as a nun basically as a way of buying God’s favour for the family. Widows, especially if they were rich, sometimes sought sanctuary in an abbey as a way of avoiding being pestered to remarry. For many it was a welcome escape, for others it must have been like being imprisoned.
I think it is very probable that Swegn and the abbess knew each other and he was attempting to rescue the poor soul. I use the episode in I Am The Chosen King though, so I’d better not give away any spoilers had I?
Harold’s first love, Edyth Swanneck was his Common Law wife for more than twenty years. They had at least six children. I thought it so sad when he had to set Edyth aside once he was crowned King… oh spoilers again! Sorry!
Ms. Hollick, thank you ever so much for posting with us today! I enjoyed your answers, and find that time period to be fascinating. Truly, I AM THE CHOSEN KING was a riveting and intriguing tale! I highly recommend reading it! And guess what? One lucky commenter today will win a print copy of I AM THE CHOSEN KING, so comment away!
Visit Helen Hollick at http://www.helenhollick.net/