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Monday 5 October 2015

Shining Light On Our Ladies

Welcome to a slightly different Blog Tour... 
every Tuesday during October I will be shining a light on some of the women of my novels 
- and inviting some other fabulous authors to do the same!

Join the tour!
PLEASE TWEET: #LightOnOurLadies

So who is this 'Forever Queen, Emma?
Queen to two kings. Mother of two kings. 

She is known as Emma of Normandy and was born in the late 990’s, a daughter of Richard of Normandy, great-grandfather of Duke William of 1066 fame. Her mother was Scandinavian - and the Normans themselves were, not so long previously, North Men – that is, Vikings.

In the spring of 1002, Emma (aged between thirteen-fifteen) was sent to marry Æthelred, King of the English. 

The idea was for England to form an alliance with Normandy who would, in return, stop their Viking cousins from using Normandy to over-winter their boats and then attack the English coast. 
As a strategy it failed miserably – for eventually, not only did the raids increase but the Dane, Cnut, was to become the King of England.

But back to our Emma.
I first ‘met’ her while researching my novel Harold the King (titled I Am The Chosen  King in the US) Harold Godwineson was crowned King of England on 6th January 1066 – much to the chagrin of Duke William  of Normandy who insisted that the crown had been promised to him.

Hang on a minute… He was a Norman what had the English throne got to do with him?
The connection is Edward the Confessor – the firstborn son of Emma and Æthelred.

After a prolonged period of Viking raiding Æthelred decided that the best strategy was to pay them to go away. Well, as any sensible person knows, that might work for a while but they soon came back - and demanded more and more to ‘go away’. In the end (and cutting a long story short!) Æthelred died and Cnut (also spelt Knut and Canute… yes, he of ‘hold back the tide’ fame) was in a position of power to claim England.

Before this, the raiding had got pretty hairy at times, so bad in fact that Emma, Æthelred, and their sons Edward and Alfred, had to flee to Normandy. For a brief while they came back, but then Æthelred died and in stepped Cnut.

By this time Emma had realised that she quite liked wearing a crown, and enjoyed the status and power of Queen (and the English were much more liberal about Women’s Rights than were the Normans). She had two choices. Stay in England or return to Normandy – which would probably either result in another (unwanted) marriage or the nunnery.
Our Emma was a clever woman. She saw a better advantage to her life by opting to stay put. And the best way for Cnut to become accepted was to cleave to as much continuity as possible where English Kingship was concerned. He set his pagan beliefs behind him, became a devout Christian – and married the resident Queen. Emma.

Fine for her, but not so good for Edward and Alfred. They were to remain in Normandy for many years. Edward, when he eventually became King of England in 1042 was more Norman than English. He had probably been brought up with the young William – or at least they would have known each other very well. And they were kin – related through Emma. So it seems that it was natural for Edward to suggest to his Norman buddy that he could have the crown, if he had no children. He didn’t  – but that comes under next week’s episode!

Emma was undoubtedly a strong-minded woman. What struck me while I was researching Harold was how much she and Edward loathed each other – soon after he became King he had his mother arrested and stripped of her lands and treasure, although he stopped short of forcing her into exile.

I became intrigued. What made a mother and her first-born loathe each other to the point of hatred?

The cover depicts Emma and her two sons Edward and Harthacnut
(an image from her biography the Encomium Emmae)
I finished Harold and started writing  Emma’s own novel – the UK edition A Hollow Crown. And I have to be honest here, the US edition, The Forever Queen is the better book. Crown needs a thorough re-edit – unfortunately my UK publisher, Random House, will not permit me to do so, I am in their hands, there is nothing I can do about it except wait for the day when they (eventually) give me the rights back. I am proud that Forever Queen became a USA Today bestseller though! I amalso looking forward to its publication in the Turkish language some time soon. A striking cover for the edition - although not very accurate historicaly!

Turkish edition cover
It seems very likely that her marriage to Æthelred was a loveless one. He was much older than her – he’d already had wives and quite a few children. He was also, sad to say, not a very good king (he was known as Æthelred Unraed – which became Æthelred the Unready. The word means something like ill-counselled or ill-advised.)

I think Emma found him to be weak and possibly not a very nice man – maybe a bully, even cruel (although there is no evidence of this – it’s just a hunch on my part). Was the birth of her first child perhaps traumatic? One out of every four women in this period (in fact right up until the mid 1900’s) died in childbirth. And was Edward, perhaps the image of his father – in looks and character?

For his part, he did not know his mother – from early teen-age years he lived in Normandy. When Cnut unexpectedly died it was her son by him, Harthacnut, Emma called on to take the crown of England – not Edward.

So it seems there was no love lost between the two. But for herself, Emma was a remarkable woman. It is my firm belief that had the Norman Conquest not happened in 1066 then Emma would not have become an obscure Saxon Queen that few people have heard of; she would very probably have become as famous as that other indomitable queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

It seems ironic that the woman who was, indirectly, the reason for William of Normandy to claim England for his own, was thrust into the deep shadows because of him!

Emma's story continues in these novels
For more information  about Queen Emma : click here 

Buy the books in paperback or on Kindle 
go to my Author Page on Amazon

Next week: the two Ediths of 1066.
* * * * * 
But are there other views on Emma? 
Is my vision of her the same as history saw her? 
Or how do other authors see her?

Meet author Patricia Bracewell and her view of Queen Emma!

Patricia Bracewell taught high school English before pursuing a writing career. The Price of Blood, is the second book in her trilogy about the 11th century queen of England, Emma of Normandy. Her first book, Shadow on the Crown, has been published in the UK, Australia, Italy, Germany, Russia and Brazil as well as in the U.S and Canada. She continues to travel extensively for research, and in the fall of 2014 she served as Writer-in-Residence at Gladstone’s Library, Wales. She is currently at work on the final novel of her Emma of Normandy trilogy. She lives in Oakland, California.

And Patricia's Emma... Emma of Normandy lived in an age ruled by the sword – an age when even women’s hearts had to be forged from steel. Warrior’s daughter, bride of kings, mother and peace-weaver, she was England’s only twice-crowned queen whose strength of spirit would bind the wounds of a shattered kingdom.

Find out more on Pat's own Blog today

By contrast to Saxon England... Fancy a trip to Ancient Egypt? 
Let's go  there with author Inge H Borg  
Inge H. Borg was born and raised in Austria. Spending many years all over the US, she now lives at a lake in Arkansas, devoting most of her time to writing.
Her "Legends of the Winged Scarab" series has grown to four volumes, with a fifth soon to be published. In this series, she combines the myths of Ancient Egypt with present-day adventure, even adding a bit of dystopian suspense following a (luckily fictional) eruption of Yellowstone Supervolcano.
A staunch supporter of her Indie-writer colleagues, Borg frequently highlights their books on  and, those with pets and other animals, on
And Inge's Shining Lady?

Nefret, Royal Daughter of the Horus-King Aha, Fighting Falcon of the First Dynasty of Egypt (3080 BC) Nefret, King Aha’s Royal Heiress, was still so young, but her eternal soul was already old for it was a reawakened Ba. This essence, having lived through paradise and cataclysms, was destined to live through many other storms for it was a sinner’s soul which had not yet found atonement on this earth. Got your passport to the past?
 Let's go with Inge...

Next Tuesday some more Shining Ladies! For one, the man she most despises is the man who owns her heart. For another, a district nurse must cope with the tragedies of World War II, and another faces the horrors and tragedies of the American Civil War
Come back and join us!

If you would like to win a book by Helen Hollick 
send a message via my main website 
and automatically enter my monthly giveaway draw! 

The Full Shining Light Tour

Week Two : Helen Hollick (Women of 1066) with Regina JeffersElizabeth Revill and Diana Wilder

Week Three : Helen Hollick (King Arthur’s women) paired with Alison Morton  and Sophie Perinot

Week Four : Helen Hollick (the Sea Witch women) with Anna Belfrage and  Linda Collison


  1. Helen, What a lady your Emma must have been not only to survive so much during her lifetime, but to survive to our day in your fabulous books--to be translated into Turkish!
    Can't wait to read more next week.
    And, thank you, for featuring my own Nefret; such a thrill.

  2. Comment from the lovely Pauline Barclay (for some reason Blogger won't let her comment! Grr)
    She says: 'An amazing post, I love it and whilst I'm here I can tell you, Helen I have just recommended all your books to my friend :) Have a great time ladies' Thanks Pauline you're a star!

  3. Great post on Emma, Helen. Learned something new today… Thanks for including me in the blog hop.

    1. Thanks Regina - and thank YOU for joining us!

  4. I always thought there was a great story waiting to be told about Emma of Normandy - studying the "Encomium Emmae Reginae" as part of my degree course, I too, wondered about this lady and her complicated family dynamics! Great post, Helen - thanks

  5. Thank you for including me in the Blog Tour! It's fascinating to read your work about Emma and see her through someone else's eyes.

  6. What a great post Helen, I love all those old fashioned names spelt with a funny A at the beginning. Love that you are getting your book out in different languages too.

    1. Thanks Rosie - Sea Witch will be out in Italian some time soon as well!

  7. Great post. I have an Emma and an Emily. Not a bit like your Emma. Great book trailer too. Shared 👀

  8. Really interesting, I never really bothered much with history at school but if it had been taught like this it might have been a different story. Roll on next Tuesday.

    1. I also hated history at school - iot was SO boring! (I remember our history teacher 'teaching' us about the industrial revolution by droning (correct word) out of a book. I didn't discover history until I was in my early 20's... and yes through a fabulous fiction book which sparked my interest.

  9. What a powerful feeling, to rediscover and re-imagine the lives of women who lived long ago and made a difference in their world. I have always lived with half of my brain in another time, and its a pleasure to discover other writers who do the same. Helen, it's a pleasure to meet your Emma, Patricia's Emma, and Inge's Nefret.

    1. Thanks Linda - I feel very privileged to have 'known' Emma so well.

  10. Interesting to read about Emma, as been reading up about Cnut and his North Sea Empire. Fascinated by the Norse during this period and everything related to them. Even wonder how the 'Viking Age' could have continued? Or can we class the Normans as their successors?

    1. I don't think the Normans could be identified as Viking successors as they changed to much into their own Christian culture - however Harold II was half Danish I do personally think that England would have remained more Scandinavian had he survived to rule.

  11. Really sorry I missed all this but I was stuck fast in the mire of Sixth Century Britain and only just escaped. Otherwise I would have liked to put Marianne Tambour or her real-life equivalents in there. And then I'd no sooner got out of the mire than Ann asked me whether I'd read any good books about Emma of Normandy. Well, yes, I said, as it happens... Anyway, the upshot is that she's now surrounded by volumes of Hollick and Bracewell novels! And our granddaughter is Emma, of course, too.

    1. we'll forgive you Dave LOL :-) Don't forget to catch up on the other posts as well!


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