Tuesday 3 March 2020

Check out M J Porter's fabulous The Tenth Century Series #HistoricalFiction #Medieval @coloursofunison

The Tenth Century Series
By M J Porter

From Book 1: Betrayal is a family affair.

12th June AD918. Æthelflaed, Lady of the Mercians and daughter of Alfred the Great, is dead.

Ælfwynn, the niece of Edward, king of Wessex, has been bequeathed her mother’s power and status by the men of the Mercian Witan but knows she is vulnerable to the North of her kingdom, exposed still to the retreating world of the Viking Raiders from her mother’s generation.

With her Mercian allies: her cousin Athelstan, Ealdorman Æthelfrith and his sons, Archbishop Plegmund and her band of trusted warriors, she must act decisively to subvert the threat from the Viking Rognavaldr, grandson of the infamous Viking, Ivarr of Dublin, as he turns his gaze toward the desolate lands of Northern England, with the jewel of York, seemingly his intended prize.

Inexplicably she is also exposed to the south, where her cousin, Ælfweard, and uncle eye her position covetously, their ambitions clear to see.

This is the unknown story of Ælfwynn, the daughter of the Lady of the Mercians and the startling events of late 918 when family loyalty and betrayal marched hand in hand across lands only recently reclaimed by the Mercians. When kingdoms could be won or lost through treachery and fidelity. When there was little love, and even less honesty and the words of a sword were likely to be heard far more loudly than those of a king or churchman, noble lady’s daughter or Viking rogue.

The Tenth Century suggested reading order;
The Lady of Mercia’s Daughter

A Word from M J Porter

I’ve written about the seventh century, I’ve written about the eleventh century, I’ve even written about the tenth century. But not from the perspective of the women who were close to the throne. And goodness me, what a lot of women there were, if you just know where to look.

The Tenth Century series started with a single novel, The Lady of Mercia’s Daughter. The story of Lady Æthelflæd, The Lady of Mercia, is one of the more ‘well-known’ women of  the time period. People know of her marriage to Lord Æthelred, of the fact her father was King Alfred, and also because of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon books, where she’s one of Uhtred’s allies and lovers. But what of the only child she birthed?

Lady Ælfwynn appears only once in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. And then, seemingly not at all. Anywhere. (She might appear in a later charter, but it’s not possible to say with any certainty).  And what happened to her after the death of her mother, and her appearance in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, either six months, or eighteen months later (there is some confusion with the dating in the source material) fascinated me.

Like her mother, she was a woman at a time perceived as a ‘man’s world.’ Why not explore a few possibilities.
And so I did, in both The Lady of Mercia’s Daughter and A Conspiracy of Kings.

And this research led me to other ‘lost’ women of the tenth century. Lady Ælfwynn had female cousins, many, many female cousins.

Her Uncle, King Edward of Wessex, married three times, and fathered either eight or nine daughters from those marriages (I’ve opted for eight). All of these women were close to the throne, and all of them were almost entirely ignored in the (male-dominated) sources of the period.

And, watching over these eight daughters was King Edward’s third wife, Queen Eadgifu. I imagine she was younger, or the same age as Edward’s eldest daughters, and had the advantage of living for many, many years after her husband’s death.

Of all of the women I’ve so far discovered in the tenth century (excluding Queen Elfrida), Lady Eadgifu is perhaps the most well represented in the surviving source material, although her day to day activities must be somewhat inferred from events taking place in the wider world.

Lady Ælfwynn, Queen Eadgifu, Lady Eadgifu (yes, confusing), Lady Eadflæd, Lady Eadgyth and Lady Ælfgifu and the other sisters as well, are the perfect vehicles for discovering just what ‘options’ were available to the royal women of the tenth century.

The Tenth Century books are interconnected, but other than the books about Lady Ælfwynn, are not direct sequels to each other. But, I do love a character from another book to crop up in a new one, and I hope my readers will too.


From The Lady of Mercia’s Daughter.

The men of the witan stand before me in my hall at Tamworth, the ancient capital of the kingdom of Mercia. The aged oak beams bear the brunt of centuries of smoking fires. Some are hard men, glaring at me as though this predicament is of my making. They are the beleaguered Mercians, the men from the disputed borders to the north, the east, and the west, if not the south. They are the men who know the cost of my mother’s unexpected death. And strangely, for all their hard stares and uncompromising attitudes, their crossed arms and tight shoulders, they are the men I trust the most in this vast hall. It’s filled with people I know by name and reputation, if not by sight.

Those with sympathy etched onto their faces are my Uncle’s stooges. These men might once have understood the dangers that Mercia faces, but they’ve grown too comfortable hidden away in Wessex and Kent. Mercia has suffered the brunt of the continual encroachments while they’ve been safe from Viking attack for nearly twenty years. Some are too young to have been born when Wessex was almost extinguished under the onslaught of the northern warriors.

Even the clothes of the sympathetic are different from those with hard stares. Not for them, the warriors’ garb. There are no gaping spaces on warrior belts where seaxs and swords should hang, but don’t as weapons must not be worn in my presence.

No, they wear the luxurious clothing of royalty, even if they’re not part of the House of Wessex. They have the time, and the wealth, to ensure their attire is as opulent as it can be. They don’t fear a middle of the night call to arms. They don’t need to maintain vigilance, or continuously be battle-ready. They don’t have to fight for their kingdom and their family, at a moment’s notice, be ready to lose a loved one or face a fight to the death.

Amongst the number of those not overtly hostile to me with their fake compassion, I count some of my cousins. Not all of them. Never that. But my Uncle has an abundance of children. Of them all, I only know the oldest two well, Athelstan and his sister, Ecgwynn.

Cousin Athelstan’s young face is one of those that I trust. He carries his worry as lightly as he can, but his heavily shadowed eyes attest to grief and disquiet. He wears the apparel of a warrior, his warrior’s sword still sheathed on his back as a mark of his position as a king’s son. As such he is more honoured than I, a mere niece, who must wear the clothes of a woman. At the same time, he’s also less respected, the politics of our positions always complicated by far more than our friendship. The fact that Cousin Athelstan stands for Mercia, not Wessex is the most telling.

We’ve been raised as almost brother and sister. His father abandoned him and his sister to the care of my mother. No sooner had Uncle Edward inherited the title of King of Wessex than my two cousins were deemed surfeit to requirements. My grandfather, Alfred, called ‘the Great’ by those who did not know him, would not have approved

M J Porter

I'm an author of fantasy (viking age/dragon themed) and historical fiction (Early English, Vikings and the British Isles as a whole before the Norman Conquest), born in the old Mercian kingdom at some point since AD1066. I write A LOT. You've been warned! Find me at mjporterauthor.com.

Connect with M J Porter: WebsiteTwitterLinkedInInstagram.

No comments:

Post a Comment

See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx