An Author's Inspiration
By M J Porter
I don’t really know when I became a fan of historical fiction but I can take a good guess at who, and what, was to blame.
William Shakespeare and Macbeth.
|Macbeth and Banquo encounter the witches for the first time.|
When I was at school, we didn’t get ‘bogged’ down with grammar and spellings, oh no, we studied stories, and plays and words, and also the ‘motivation’ behind the use of those stories and those words. And it was Macbeth that first opened my eyes to the world of historical fiction.
Yes, Macbeth is a blood thirsty play, and it might be cursed, but more importantly, it’s based on Holinshed’s Chronicle of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Macbeth is nothing better than the first work of historical fiction that I truly read, and understood to be as such. And what a delight it was.
I remember less the story of Macbeth as presented by Shakespeare (aside from the three witches – “when shall we three meet again?” “well I can do next Wednesday,’ (thank you Terry Pratchett for that addition), than working out ‘fact’ from ‘fiction’ in his retelling of the story. And hence, my love of historical fiction was slowly born, and from that, stems my love of telling stories about ‘real’ people and the way that they lived their lives, looking at the wider events taking place, and trying to decide how these might, or might not, have influenced these people.
Shakespeare chose the story of a little known ‘Scottish’ monarch for his historical fiction, my latest subject is the third wife of King Edward the Elder, again someone that few people have heard of, but who’s relative, many years in the future, would have interacted with Macbeth, or rather with Mac Bethad mac Findlaích.
Lady Eadgifu, the Lady of Wessex, lived through a tumultuous time.
Many people, studying Anglo-Saxon England, know of King Alfred (diedAD899), and they know of his grandson, Æthelred II (born c.AD968), known as ‘the unready’. But the intervening period is little known about, and that is a true shame.
Lady Eadgifu, just about singlehandedly fills this gap. Born sometime before c.AD903 (at the latest), her death occurred in c.AD964/6. As such, she probably missed Alfred by up to 4 years, and her grandson, King Æthelred by about the same margin.
But what she did witness was the emergence of ‘England’ and the ‘kingdom of the English’ as we know it. And it was not a smooth process, and it was not always assured, and it was certainly, never, at any point, guaranteed that England would emerge ‘whole’ from the First Viking Age.
And more importantly, rather than being one of the kings who ruled during this period, Lady Eadgifu was the king’s wife, the king’s mother, or even the king’s grandmother, during this period. She would have witnessed England as it expanded and contracted, she would have known what went before, and she would have hoped for what would come after her life.
Lady Eadgifu is simply too good a character to allow to lie dormant under the one event that might well be known about from the tenth century – the battle of Brunanburh.
So, for those fans of Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Uhtred’ and for those fans of Lady Elfrida at the end of the tenth century, I hope you will enjoy Lady Eadgifu. She was a woman, in a man’s world, and because she was a woman, she survived when men did not.
I hope you enjoy.
The story of Lady Eadgifu, the Lady of Wessex
By M J Porter
As England’s first Viking Age grinds to a halt in a war of attrition that will see Jorvik finally added to the kingdom of the English, one woman will witness it all.
Seventeen-year-old Eadgifu knows little about her new husband; he’s old, he only wants to marry her because she’s so wealthy, he already has ten children, and he’s Edward, king of Wessex. He also hopes to claim Mercia as his own.
That he’s the son of King Alfred, the man credited with saving Wessex from the Viking Raiders adds no mystique to him at all.
Many say he’s handsome, but Eadgifu knows they speak of the man twenty years ago. Her mother won’t even allow her to be alone with him before their wedding.
But an old man will not live forever. The mother of his youngest sons can be more powerful than the wife of the king of Wessex, especially in the newly made kingdom of England where king’s lives are short and bloody, and war with the Viking Raiders is never far away.
Lady, wife, queen, mother, king’s mother, grandmother, ally, enemy, amenable and rebellious.
Lost to the mists of time, this is Queen Eadgifu’s story, Kingmaker.
Pick up your copy of
M J Porter
I'm an author of fantasy (Viking age/dragon themed) and historical fiction (Anglo-Saxon, Vikings and the British Isles as a whole before the Norman Conquest), born in the old Mercian kingdom at some point since the end of Anglo-Saxon England. Raised in the shadow of a strange little building and told from a very young age that it housed the bones of long dead Kings of Mercia and that our garden was littered with old pieces of pottery from a long-ago battle, it's little wonder that my curiosity in the Anglo-Saxons ran riot. I can only blame my parents!