I have always been fascinated by the time in England’s history when the Normans, led by William, Duke of Normandy, conquered England, a much larger country than the one he was from. At the time, England was a place of “unwalled villages” separated by shires and different subcultures, even different language dialects.
In the first part of 1066, the King Harold might have been ruling England, but to those in the north, he was little more than the Saxon King of Wessex. The lands of Mercia and Northumbria had their own leaders.
While the Conquest is interesting, it did not interest me as much as the aftermath, when William was still putting out fires and trying to gain control. It was then he began giving away English lands to his barons and knights. So, I set my story of The Red Wolf’s Prize in Talisand, a fictional holding of a wealthy thegn in the North of England, half way between Scotland and Wales—far removed from the initial battles.
In 1068, not surprisingly, the north of England was to give William much grief. The proud English in the north did not want the Norman king for their ruler anymore than they had wanted Harold, but at least Harold was English. This Norman usurper was not.
I kept asking myself, what would an English maiden do when the Normans conquered her country, slayed the father she loved and now the Bastard king had given her lands and her body to one of his Norman knights? What would a courageous, spirited girl do? Why, rebel, of course! Hence, I had my story line.
So what was the history that I researched in England after the Conquest that became a part of this tale?
William started his reign with uncharacteristic diplomacy, allowing the Saxon nobles to keep their lands and he tried to learn English. However, notwithstanding this, he was faced with rebellions throughout his new kingdom. In 1067 rebels in Kent launched an unsuccessful attack on Dover Castle in combination with Eustace II of Boulogne. The Shropshire landowner, Eadric the Wild, in alliance with the Welsh rulers of Gwynedd and Powys, raised a revolt in western Mercia, fighting Norman forces based in Hereford.
Meantime, in 1068, the year of my story, King Harold's mother, Gytha encouraged the people of Devon to rise up, especially in retaking the city of Exeter. William marched on the city and laid siege. It took 18 days before the king had his victory. As in other locations, he left one of his loyal men to build a castle—one of the timber castles—and a garrison of knights to guard the city.
At the same time, the other main claimant to the English throne, Edgar Ætheling, had escaped the William’s clutches and fled to Scotland with his family and a large number of important men. In my story, the heroine’s brother, Steinar, is one of them.
Edgar Ætheling took advantage of this instability and came from Scotland to receive the men of Northumberland at York, which was rife with rebellion. Among the leaders of the uprising were Edwin, Earl of Mercia and his brother Morcar, both of whom are characters in my story. These young, handsome earls were popular with the people but they were no match for William, who moved up fast from the south and surprised the Northumbrians, arriving in York during the summer. Hundreds were slain and the city torched. Thus the rebellion rapidly collapsed as William moved against them, building castles and installing garrisons as he had already done in the south. Some of the rebel leaders – including Edgar – took refuge at the court of the Scottish king Malcolm III. They would return in 1069, which will be the subject of book 2 in my Medieval Warriors series, Rogue Knight.
It took William until 1072 to finally conquer England and unite the country. Some of his victories were assured by his destruction of food sources and farming implements, effectively starving the populace. He took land from the English and gave it to his Norman supporters and instituted a feudalism that strengthened his reign. He died in 1087 as he lived: a warrior, from complications of a wound he received in France.
Now for information about The Red Wolf's Prize:
The door opened with no warning knock.
Serena gasped and pulled the cloth over her breasts and belly, keenly aware her legs were bare for anyone to see.
The Red Wolf stepped into the chamber, his piercing gray gaze sliding over her body and coming to rest where her breasts strained against the thin cloth. She could feel the heat of her blush as she looked down to see the drying cloth clinging to her wet skin.
Without saying a word, he turned to the side and took off his belt. Then, with a grunt, he pulled his mail over his head and struggled out of his tunic. She would have offered to help had she not been so scantily clad. Had she not been so shy of his disrobing before her.
When his tunic slid to the floor, she nervously asked, “What do you intend, my lord?”
The Red Wolf’s Prize on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Wolfs-Prize-Medieval-Warriors-Book-ebook/dp/B00MRF8WVA
Regan’s other links:
Regan’s website: http://www.reganwalkerauthor.com/
Regan’s blog: http://reganromancereview.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @RegansReview (https://twitter.com/RegansReview)
The Red Wolf’s Prize on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/reganwalker123/the-red-wolfs-prize-by-regan-walker/