Monday, February 3, 2014

Another good book about the Norman Conquest

As I’ve confessed before, I love reading historical novels. They put a personal spin on events and breathe life into history not found in straight history books. I just finished another I’d like to share.

Handfasted Wife by Carol McGrath tells part of the story surrounding the Norman Invasion made by William the Conquerer in the 1060s. Something I was previously only aware of as an event in ancient history. It took on personal importance when seen through the eyes of a woman who was personally and deeply effected by it.

Handfasting was a traditional way of marrying among the Celts. The man and woman pledged fealty to each other without the interference of clergy or government. In this story, it proved disastrous for the couple.

When William had almost completed his conquest, he decided that the late king’s wife should marry someone loyal to William. Thus the hand fasting was declared null and void and Edith (Elditha Swanneck) lost Harold, her husband and the father of their half dozen children. He became the new King of England and married his predecessor’s widow. He died at the Battle of Hastings and his handfasted wife had to identify his mutilated body while her son was taken hostage.

The behind the scenes machinations to achieve political and logistical goals are fascinating and some times disturbing. However, the novel reveals how fiercely and intelligently noble women fought against the Norman Conquest, nearly derailing it.

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