This brilliant historical novel provides us with remarkable insights of the events in the years preceding the infamous 1066 Battle of Hastings
If you have ideas about bravery in war and heroes in conquest you should definitely read this book. If you feel working long arduous hours, having little to eat and the permanent fear of poverty hanging over you makes for ‘strong men and women’ – think again. The foreword in this book makes it abundantly clear that nobody really wins when the effects of war and lack of prosperity leave a country and its inhabitants devastated. What happened? The Battle of Hastings, the culmination of ruthless and dramatic power struggles, brought harrowing consequences in its wake.
Since I first heard about 1066 and the Battle of Hastings, the year stuck in my head. History can be fascinating! So when the author of this beautiful and insightful book asked me to review, I was thrilled. The book follows the events from the year 1045. Why did the Duke of Normandy feel he had a right to the English throne? How did Henry, the Earl of Wessex, become King and why were there problems on the Northern border counties of England? What are the relationships between the noblemen of Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria and the Normans? It is fascinating to see history come alive!
The book opens with the Conqueror King’s deathbed. The man who ordered the brutal slaughtering of his enemies and whom fate had prevented from falling in battle now has his greatest battle before him: death. To understand what happened, we go back 42 years to Winchester, England, the day of the royal wedding of King Edward and Lady Edith. Edith is the daughter of the influential Godwin, Earl of Wessex. Godwin’s three eldest sons are (in order) Sweyn, Harold and Tostig, Edith’s twin brother. The country is excited about the Royal wedding because the prospect of an heir to contribute to England’s stability and thus prosperity is exhilarating. However, the King has no intention of either having an heir or appointing a successor to the Throne. Regardless of an heir being born, Godwin feels triumphant, fully intending to enhance his power by utilising his closeness to the throne, despite being well aware that his (nearby) enemies envy his precarious if advantageous position. Betrayal, deceit and conspiracies: these are all part of daily life at Court.
When you come to understand the bloodlines connecting various noble English families as well as the Royal lineage, the reasons why sides are chosen when disagreements and feuds arise are also clarified. Both King Edward and Harold are descendants from Knut the Great who married Edward’s mother Emma after conquering London. Because of these existing bloodlines in Medieval England, the Mercian and Northumbrian aristocracy are wary of the growing influence of Godwin and his family. Even more so since Harold Godwinson (son of Godwin) becomes the Earl of East Anglia shortly after the Royal marriage. Things are not what they seem as King Edward bears a grudge against Godwin, whom he holds responsible for his brother’s murder. The King’s close personal friend and spiritual guide, the Norman Bishop of London, Robert de Jumieges, is only too happy to feed Edward’s suspicions against the Godwin family because of his own ambition to become England’s most powerful man of the Church. His Norman heritage causes others at Court to mistrust him: the intolerance towards anyone Norman was strong in the existing Aristocracy of the time.
We follow the life of Harold when as Earl of East Anglia and then following his father Godwin’s demise, he becomes the Earl of Wessex. A powerful and for the most part a just man, Harold forges alliances and in the main holds back from cruelty or ordering executions. However, there are his brothers to consider: Sweyn, exiled for life, and Torstig with his overdeveloped sense of entitlement who is never satisfied, always after just one thing more. Torstig and Queen Edith are as close as twins can be so is it a wonder he sees himself as the King’s heir? Torstig’s actions make it difficult for Harold to stand by his brother and, to make matters worse, to prevent a Civil War, Harold has to choose a side: the King or Torstig. Whatever choice he makes, the consequences are serious, even more so because of the constant and unremitting threats both in the North and the South of the Kingdom and a King who is more concerned with seeking Papal approval than his nation’s well-being. We are witness to the lives of the two adversaries in the 21 years before the year 1066, the Duke William of Normandy and, more importantly, of Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, thus regaining a fascinating insight into the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings.
What a brilliant historical novel! The outset is extraordinary and shows us the years before the infamous 1066 Battle of Hastings excellently researched and written with such imaginative descriptions that you see history happening before your eyes. We all know the bare facts, who fought against whom – but the reasons why become very clear in this book and, more importantly perhaps, the insights into the people behind the historical figures are fascinating! History is all about connections and cause-and-effect. Who was related to whom and why would anyone take sides against one’s own brother? A society in which the Pope is desperate to regain control over not only the Vatican but the known world. We recognise Archbishop Hildebrand, later to become Pope Gregory VII, and King of the Scots Macbeth who instigated reforms in the Catholic Church, and so many others. Sometimes, the reasons why the beautiful churches were built in those times are purely superficial, related to the intricate and never-ending game of power and politics.
About the Author
G.K. Holloway has been interested in history since he can remember, which explains why he applied for a degree course in History and Politics at Coventry University. In his years at Coventry University, he was nearby Leofric Hotel with its bell tower and clock, showing a model of Lady Godiva. Little did the author know one day, he would feature Earl Leofric and his Lady in his book. After graduating GK Holloway started a career as a Careers Officer in Adult Education and as a Student Welfare Officer. After moving back to Bristol, the author came across a biography of King Harold II which fascinated and inspired him to start writing this novel, a decision that he regards as “one of the best ever made.” His research was thorough and included visiting York, Winchester, Battle (of course!) as well as Mont St Michael and Bayeux in Normandy. The famous tapestry, a must-see for anyone interested in the Battle of Hastings. The author found that for Harold, everything that could go wrong did go wrong as if the powers were against him, hence the title: 1066: What Fates Impose.
Here are the author’s thoughts on his insightful and brilliant novel: “The events of the mid-eleventh century may seem a long way away but the Battle of Hastings set England on a new course. In the early part of that distant century, England had been just one of the kingdoms in Knut’s Empire, which included Denmark and Norway. England was as much a part of the north as the other two. The language and culture were similar. England did not look south for ideas and remained aloof from Southern European affairs. After Hastings, all this changed. Some say, if it was not for the Normans, England would never have risen to prominence. If that is true, there may never have been a British Empire. If it is not so, there might have been some sort of Nordic Empire that spanned even more of the world. So what impact do I think the Normans had on England? The answer to that will be in the sequel but it is fair to say, a Norman victory changed England forever and consequently had ramifications that echo on through the centuries and around the world. It has to be an interesting story.”
|Publisher||Matador (11 Nov. 2013)|