I am so happy to be hosting Patricia today with a post on Emma and a giveaway of Shadow on the Crown.
Take it away, Patricia...
A Tale of Two Emmas
I have been living cheek by jowl with two queens for some time now. They are both named Emma of Normandy. The first Emma lived in the 11th century. She was at the very root of the Norman Conquest, and her actions have been scrutinized by historians for about 900 years. The second Emma is one I’ve created: a character in a book, someone I’ve made up from the historical record, from legend, and from my own imagination.
Neither of these queens who haunt me is real. Even the historical Emma lived such a long time ago that no one today can possibly know who she was, what she looked like, what she felt, believed, desired or understood. We can only guess at any of that.
Both women, though, are very real to me, each blurring into the other like some trick photographic image.
The historical Emma of Normandy lived a long and eventful life, of that much we can be sure. She was probably born in the 980’s, but her birth date is a mystery. She lived well into her 60’s, and although she was born in Normandy – hence her name – she lived in England for nearly fifty years, and was far more involved in England’s interests than she was in Normandy’s. Twice wed and twice widowed, she witnessed the reigns of seven kings of England and she was intimately involved in some way with all of those kings. She married two of them, was stepmother to one, mother to two, and from two of them she had to flee for her life.
I believe that Emma must have been made of pretty stern stuff, and although she was called The Flower of Normandy, she was no shrinking violet. She lived in a time that was ruled by the sword and in a kingdom ravaged by war. Men, especially rulers, had to be ruthless, and the men that Emma married most certainly had blood on their hands. Her first husband, Æthelred II, was described by 19th c historian Edward Freeman as a bad man and a bad king. Her second husband was a Viking conqueror. Need I say more?
But Emma, too, was of Viking stock, from both mother and father. I’m not implying that she ever hefted an axe or a sword, but in her prime she wielded the powers of an early medieval queen, using them with intelligence and skill. She may even have been a little ruthless herself when it came to negotiating with the fierce men around her.
One year after the death of Emma’s first husband she married the second one – the Viking conqueror of England. The men had waged a bloody war for the English crown, and they must have hated each other. One has to wonder what Emma’s thoughts and feelings were as she went from the bed of one king to the bed of the other. Sleeping with the enemy, indeed! Certainly some later historians would regard it that way.
In her 1974 book The Kings and Queens of England Janet Murray observes dryly that when Emma made that second marriage she was playing both ends against the middle, and this was pretty raw, even in the 11th century. But is that true? The attitudes of the 11th century were different from our own, and besides, we cannot know how that marriage actually came about. No one can even say for sure, at this distance, if Emma went to it willingly, or if she was strong-armed into it by her brother the Norman Duke, by English nobles, or perhaps by the new warrior king himself. There is historical evidence for all three possibilities. You can probably guess, just from reading this, what I think happened. However it came about, Emma’s authority and influence would increase. She would have vast lands and wealth and would be a patron of the arts who could shower lavish gifts on churches in England and Normandy. She would eventually see a son by each of her husbands on the English throne.
The Emma that I have imagined in my novel is not yet the powerful queen that the historical Emma would become. She is young, on the cusp of womanhood, sent to a foreign land to seal an alliance with an older king who is haunted by past sins. A difficult road lies ahead of her, but she has strength, courage and intelligence, and she will use those gifts to play a significant role in the formation of England. SHADOW ON THE CROWN is just the beginning of Emma’s story. There is a great deal more to come.
A rich tale of power and forbidden love revolving around a young medieval queen
In 1002, fifteen-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son.
Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life.
Based on real events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the perfect antidote to Tudor fatigue, Shadow on the Crown is packed with nonstop action, romance, and plenty of deliciously creepy Gothic flavor.
Patricia Bracewell grew up in California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon a writing career. This is her first novel. She lives in Oakland, California.
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