Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Queen Hereafter: A Novel of Margaret of Scotland

I turned this on on my way back from Jacksonville yesterday and decided it was too hard to listen to history .....turned it back on this morning and WOW....became swept up in the story.  The only problem with listening to historical fiction on a long car trip is that one can not stop to google background information!

Margaret is the oldest daughter of Edward Atheling.  Margaret lived with the terrible guilt that she had influenced her father to eat the sweets that she believed had contained poison leading to his death soon after the families arrival in England.  It is her brother Edgar who then succeeds Edward the Confessor as King for a VERY SHORT time if at all before William the Conqueror takes over as King.  Edgar is very young at this time.  

King Harold II Last Anglo-Saxon king of England, January to October 1066. He was defeated and killed by William of Normandy (William the Conqueror) at the Battle of Hastings.

Name: King Harold II
Born: c.1020
Ascended to the throne: January 5, 1066
Crowned: January 6, 1066 at Westminster Abbey, aged c.43
Died: October 14, 1066 at Senlac Abbey, Sussex, of wounds following the Battle of Hastings
Reigned for: 9 months, and 8 days
Succeeded by: Edgar the Aethling, and then Edward the Confessor's 2nd cousin William of Normandy

(if you are not interested in the history, skip down to the next picture)
1066 is probably the most famous date in English history, yet it may come as a surprise to laymen and historians alike that, but for the 'murder most foul' of an exiled Anglo-Saxon prince, the Norman conquest might not have taken place at all.
In the 1050s, the ageing and childless Edward the Confessor saw the succession issue divide the kingdom of Wessex. Earl Godwin's son, Harold, and William of Normandy, the King's kinsman, were the contenders for the throne. While Harold had the full backing of the influential Saxon faction, William had a formidable counter-claim, which cast a giant shadow over England.
The linchpin of the Confessor's compromise plan, intended to deny the crown to both and thus avert civil war and a Norman invasion, was Edward Aetheling. He was the son of the King's half-brother, the legendary Edmund Ironside, murdered at the instigation of Canute the Dane in 1016, after the Danish takeover. Edward and his elder brother Edmund were removed from England soon after their father's murder, and the rightful heirs to the Anglo-Saxon throne were eventually presumed dead and forgotten.
But in the 1050s, the Confessor learnt with joy that his nephew was alive and well in distant Hungary. Being of royal blood by direct male descent, yet untainted by the factional interests of the two main political forces in the realm, he was in the King's view the ideal compromise candidate for the throne who could avert a Norman intervention feared by the country.
But for his sudden death immediately upon his return to England after forty years of exile, the Norman conquest could in all probability have been averted, inviting speculation about one of the most crucial might-have-beens in British history.
In spite of their importance for British history – and, due to Edward's marriage in exile, for the roots of the present royal family – virtually nothing is known about Edmund's and Edward's Continental tribulations or how they escaped with their lives in 1017. Yet the drama of saving the lives of the two tiny royal princes – Edmund was about one or two, Edward an infant – after their father was murdered, greatly exercised the imagination of chroniclers who rated it among the most momentous events of the eleventh century. It was left to this present investigation to uncover their trail and piece together their amazing career in exile.

 Margaret is very pious wishing for a life as a nun.  She is also intelligent and well educated.

Here is the review on Amazon:

Refugee. Queen. Saint. In eleventh-century Scotland, a young woman strives to fulfill her destiny despite the risks . . .

Shipwrecked on the Scottish coast, a young Saxon princess and her family—including the outlawed Edgar of England—ask sanctuary of the warrior-king Malcolm Canmore, who shrewdly sees the political advantage. He promises to aid Edgar and the Saxon cause in return for the hand of Edgar’s sister, Margaret, in marriage.

A foreign queen in a strange land, Margaret adapts to life among the barbarian Scots, bears princes, and shapes the fierce warrior Malcolm into a sophisticated ruler. Yet even as the king and queen build a passionate and tempestuous partnership, the Scots distrust her. When her husband brings Eva, a Celtic bard, to court as a hostage for the good behavior of the formidable Lady Macbeth, Margaret expects trouble. Instead, an unlikely friendship grows between the queen and her bard, though one has a wild Celtic nature and the other follows the demanding path of obligation. 
Torn between old and new loyalties, Eva is bound by a vow to betray the king and his Saxon queen. Soon imprisoned and charged with witchcraft and treason, Eva learns that Queen Margaret—counseled by the furious king and his powerful priests—will decide her fate and that of her kinswoman Lady Macbeth. But can the proud queen forgive such deep treachery?

Impeccably researched, a dramatic page-turner, Queen Hereafter is an unforgettable story of shifting alliances and the tension between fear and trust as a young woman finds her way in a dangerous world.

This morning I have just reached the part of the book that deals with Margaret's marriage to Malcolm.  One of the ideas that the author deals with in the preparations for the betrothal is that Malcolm has burned homes and taken prisoners and slaves in an already ravished area of England in Northumbria.  Margaret says to him that she is not able to think of marriage to such a brute.  Malcolm gives her a story that she can accept about the fact that he could have left these people to die on their lands as the English had salted the land to make it unfit for farming or that he could save the people by bringing them back to Scotland.  Margaret accepts his story and prepares to marry him.

The next character that is introduced into the story (although the story begins with her imprisonment) is Eva.  She speaks Gaelic as she is from the North.

I finished the book in July.  I find the Amazon review to be satisfactory as I finish the book.  The author truly depicts Margaret as a saint.  And she paints Malcolm, her husband, in a good light as well.  The book truly helped me understand the times in a way that reading history does not help me.  I liked the book a lot.