Wednesday 17 November 2010

Guest post: Helen Hollick and The Forever Queen giveaway

Today I have Helen Hollick over for a guest post And at the bottom of the post there is a give-away of 2 copies of her book The Forever Queen.


Hello and thank you so much for having me on your blog today! I thought I’d talk a little bit about the Vikings, as they play a very big role in my latest release, The Forever Queen, about Emma of Normandy who became a great Queen.

If accepted history is to be believed, the “Vikings” were the bad lot of the late eighth to mid eleventh centuries. They would not be out of place in modern times kitted up in leathers and making a nuisance of themselves on their motorbikes.  However, the myths of history are not always accurate: i-víking is a term which means “to go raiding” but was soon appropriated to describe the Scandinavian sea-farers from Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden – the North Men - much as the term “Anglo Saxon” has come to be used for the Angles, Jutes, Friesians and Saxons – the English.

Nor is our image of huge, broad-shouldered men in fur cloaks wearing horned helmets leaping ashore from their dragon-prowed boats to rape, pillage and plunder completely accurate. Sorry, there were no horned helmets, and there was very little pillaging and raping.

Christian churches became a prime target because that was where the gold and valuables were. All else was no different to any other period of unrest in history. The original Celts came from Europe, perhaps got into a few fights with the indigenous people, but mostly settled peacefully. Then the Romans came. Ditto. Then the Anglo Saxons. Then the Vikings, with the Normans following behind - although the Norman encroachment into England was slightly different, and is the subject of my next novel, I Am The Chosen King (US edition of Harold the King) Norman, however, is an abbreviated form of North Man – a Viking. The Danish were the main settlers, particularly in northern England, Yorkshire especially. They settled in great enough numbers to influence the change of the political and cultural map and even affected the English language. For the ordinary people, I doubt the change of dominant people made much difference. For the Church, it was a disaster. Which is why the Vikings received such a bad press. The monks, after all, were the ones who kept the written records and who wrote the history down.

The North was the main settlement area primarily modern Yorkshire, Northumbria, Cumbria and the Midlands. York – Jorvik – is perhaps the best example of how England almost became part of Scandinavia after 865. The Jorvik remains are re-created as a living history tour experience, and I have to say, done very well. The feeling that you really are walking down a “Viking” street, with all the sights, sounds and smells is incredible.

Raids on England were somewhat sporadic until the mid 800’s but by the late 850s Viking armies had started to over-winter in England, their numbers gradually becoming larger armies with an obvious intention of conquest. In 866 York capitulated and by 867 the kingdom of Northumbria was under Viking supremacy. From  876 the army moved south, forcing most of Wessex to submit. Nearly all of England was in Scandinavian hands.

Enter King Alfred the “Great”. Almost defeated, he hid in the marshes of Athelney in Somerset but re-formed his army and defeated the Vikings in 878 at Edington in  Wiltshire. His victory enforced an uneasy peace during which he established a navy, built fortresses, and constructed an efficient defensive strategy. When the Vikings returned in the 890s Wessex was able to resist. At his death in 899 Alfred was king of an independent English kingdom. It was Alfred who ordered the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle', a record of contemporary events to be written – the custom surviving from his reign until the 12th century. If it were not for the Viking raids, and Alfred, we would probably know very little about this period.

Alfred’s son Edward the Elder (899-924) and his grandson Æthelstan (924-939) were even more important to England. Edward, with his sister Æthelflæd, widow of the Mercian king, conquered the south of England from the Danes. Æthelstan continued the fight, and his  greatest success was victory at Brunanburh in the north. He became the first, true, King of All England.

The Norse presence remains today, reflected in modern place-names: for instance, towns with endings of -
by  which meant homestead or village : Derby, Rugby, Whitby, Selby, Grimsby
thorpe (or thorp, thro, trop) ‘farm’: Scunthorpe. Grimethorpe
toft or tofts - a house or a plot of land: Lowestoft

By contrast, much of East Anglia and Essex kept a majority of typical Saxons names, while Devon and Cornwall retained their British (Welsh) origins. Yet “English” did not disappear – rivers, fields, forests kept their “Saxon” names, indicating there must have been communication between the old settled and the new settlers.

Many Old Norse words survive in the dialects of modern north east England – Newcastle Upon Tyne’s “Geordie” accent as a good example. To many a Southerner the words are indecipherable - even in the eleventh century, it was remarked that the “Northerners” spoke very differently. The North/South divide has not changed much!

Much of the Norse language has become part of the English language. Words such as 'husband', 'knife' and 'window', while many surviving words are connected with farming and boats.

The subtle blending of one race of people with another is an interesting and intriguing part of English history. The Normans, under the command of William Duke of Normandy completed the Scandinavian conquest in 1066 – or did they?

For all the raiding, pillaging, plundering, raping and settling, these vast North Men armies and their various leaders did not wholly conquer the English.

For proof, I am writing this in English, not Danish, Swedish or French…!

Thank you Helen for this interesting post :) 

*2 copies of The Forever Queen to 2 winners
* Ends: 22nd November
 * Open to US and Canada.
* If your email is not in your profile then please leave it here, or email it so I do not have to hunt you down if you win.
* Ask a question, comment on the guestpost, or just tell me you're entering :)

What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?

Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom—and her crown—are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England’s shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.

Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.

Helen Hollick lives in northeast London with her husband, daughter and a variety of pets, which include several horses, cats and two dogs. She has two major interests: Roman / Saxon Britain and the Golden Age of Piracy--the early eighteenth century. Sourcebooks Landmark will release the next chapter on Helen’s 1066 saga, I Am the Chose King, in Spring 2011. For more information, please visit


  1. Wonderful guest post by Helen :) It was especially fun to read a bit about the words that have been taken into the English language. For me personally the seem to have been taken from the Norwegian language but Norwegian, Danish and Swedish language share a lot of the same words.

    I don't feel like much of a Viking today throwing wood into the fire.

    I'm not entering the giveaway since I live in Norway ;)

  2. Great post. I loved that I learned some new things. Like the names of modern places...very cool!
    teawench at gmail dot com

  3. Can't enter as I live in the Uk, but fabulous giveaway and post. I will definitely look out for this one.

  4. wonderful guest post!
    I read one book by this author, The Kingmaking, and enjoyed it.
    I love good historical fiction and The Forever Queen sounds great.

  5. oohoo, enter me! it's on my blog as well.

    Loved the interview and the book sounds awesome!


  6. I had no idea that Norse words influenced English! Great guest post!

  7. Please enter me in this contest. I would love learn about Emma. Loved the part about the influence of Norse words on our language.


  8. This was an amazing guest post...I love when you can learn something from the author and they articulate things well. Please enter me! :)

    iswimforoceans at gmail dot com

  9. Wonderful guest post! I've heard great things about this book and I'm so impressed with the incredible amount of research Ms Hollick has put into her book. After reading Anya Seton's Avalon -- which has less-barbaric Vikings too -- I've been interested in them! Thank you for the giveaway!

    unabridgedchick at

  10. I've never heard of Emma. I would love to learn more about her.

    hewella1 at gmail dot com

  11. I read your review yesterday and this book definitely has me interested. I read The Kingmaking and loved that one too so I would love a chance to win!
    joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

  12. Lovely guest post! I always enjoy reading about the Vikings.

    Thanks for the giveaway! I really want to read this book :)

  13. Thank you Helen for this very interesting post :D I enjoyed reading it a great deal.

    The language part was nice, since I am from a village ending with -by :)

    Torp, yeah knew that, but not about toft. Lol, I guess I should know that word, being the granddaughter of farmers and all.

    Though if my ancestors went i-viking they more likely went to the east, I fear I got more Swedes than anything else in my blood

  14. Sure I am entering and thanks for a very interesting, well-researched post!

  15. How excellent is this! I have this book on my list... you loved it, an author interview and a Giveaway!


    Thanks :)

  16. Ladybug
    And to me they seem Swedish :) But yes they are so closely related.

    Good luck

    I hope you do :)

    Oh it was a wonderful book!

    Thanks Hawk

    I guess it really is a small world :)

  17. Very interesting post and the book sounds wonderful as well. I'll have to see if I can find it anyone around here.

  18. Thanks for stopping by Carol

    I do love to be enlightened too :)

    Oh the book was so wonderful, I am sure you'd like it

    Good luck Ashley

    I did fall in love yesterday, lol

    Thanks for coming by, and good luck.

  19. What a fascinating, informative post.

  20. Ana
    So fun to read :)

    Shellie :D

    Yes go look cos it will be worth it

    I do love to learn

  21. Wonderful post!
    I know so little about Vikings and had no idea that Norse words influenced English words.

  22. a great posting...please add my name to this wonderful giveaway...thanks :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  23. Not entering, but I'll mention it Friday!

  24. Don't enter me but I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post. I so can not wait for her next book in this series!!

  25. The vikings have always been kinda fascinating to me ever since I went to Epcot!! Awesome post!

    no need to enter me :)

  26. Elysium
    You had nothing about vikings in your schoolbooks? What a shame :(

    You are in

    Thanks Chris!

    I sure bet it will be interesting :D

    They are sure something, for me, well, I guess I could have viking blood so that makes it cool :)

  27. Dont count me in as I am overseas as well. Thank you for this post and thanks for coming over to my blog and following. Very much appreciated.

  28. Re-posted your contest at:

    Goodluck to everybody entering!!

    (not an entry)

  29. This sounds like a lovely book that I'd enjoy reading, I'd like a chance into this giveaway thank you.

    unforgetable_dreamer_always (at)

  30. An unusual historical novel I'd love to read! Thanks for the chance to win a copy.


  31. Thank you so much for inviting me on to your blog Blodeuedd - Hello everyone: I am so thrilled to have met such lovely people on this tour!

  32. I am glad to have had you over Helen. The post was so interesting to read

  33. Winners: Book Bird Dog and Ashley

  34. Very intersting post and things I did not know before. If only all history books were written as well and fascinating as your posts Helen :)

    I would love to visit Norway, Sweden, that part of the world. Maybe someday I'll get there.

  35. Jenny
    It sure is lovely on thsi part of the world, i hope you get to visit :)

  36. Awesome giveaway!!

    littleone AT shaw DOT ca



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