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
*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 :)
THE FOREVER QUEEN BY HELEN HOLLICK – IN STORES NOVEMBER 2010
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 http://www.helenhollick.net/