Harold Godwineson, the Last Anglo-Saxon King, owed everything to his father. Who was this Godwine, first Earl of Wessex and known as the Kingmaker? Was he an unscrupulous schemer, using King and Witan to gain power? Or was he the greatest of all Saxon Earls, protector of the English against the hated Normans? The answer depends on who you ask. He was befriended by the Danes, raised up by Canute the Great, given an Earldom and a wife from the highest Danish ranks. He sired nine children, among them four Earls, a Queen and a future King. Along with his power came a struggle to keep his enemies at bay, and Godwine’s best efforts were brought down by the misdeeds of his eldest son Swegn. Although he became father-in-law to a reluctant Edward the Confessor, his fortunes dwindled as the Normans gained prominence at court. Driven into exile, Godwine regathered his forces and came back even stronger, only to discover that his second son Harold was destined to surpass him in renown and glory.
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Historical Fiction
Emerging from the long shadow cast by his formidable father, Harold Godwineson showed himself to be a worthy successor to the Earldom of Wessex. In the following twelve years, he became the King’s most trusted advisor, practically taking the reins of government into his own hands. And on Edward the Confessor’s death, Harold Godwineson mounted the throne—the first king of England not of royal blood. Yet Harold was only a man, and his rise in fortune was not blameless. Like any person aspiring to power, he made choices he wasn’t particularly proud of. Unfortunately, those closest to him sometimes paid the price of his fame.
This is a story of Godwine’s family as told from the viewpoint of Harold and his younger brothers. Queen Editha, known for her Vita Ædwardi Regis, originally commissioned a work to memorialize the deeds of her family, but after the Conquest historians tell us she abandoned this project and concentrated on her husband, the less dangerous subject. In THE SONS OF GODWINE and FATAL RIVALRY, I am telling the story as it might have survived had she collected and passed on the memoirs of her tragic brothers.
This book is part two of The Last Great Saxon Earls series. Book one, GODWINE KINGMAKER, depicted the rise and fall of the first Earl of Wessex who came to power under Canute and rose to preeminence at the beginning of Edward the Confessor’s reign. Unfortunately, Godwine’s misguided efforts to champion his eldest son Swegn recoiled on the whole family, contributing to their outlawry and Queen Editha’s disgrace. Their exile only lasted one year and they returned victorious to London, though it was obvious that Harold’s career was just beginning as his father’s journey was coming to an end.
Harold’s siblings were all overshadowed by their famous brother; in their memoirs we see remarks tinged sometimes with admiration, sometimes with skepticism, and in Tostig’s case, with jealousy. We see a Harold who is ambitious, self-assured, sometimes egocentric, imperfect, yet heroic. His own story is all about Harold, but his brothers see things a little differently. Throughout, their observations are purely subjective, and witnessing events through their eyes gives us an insider’s perspective.
Harold was his mother’s favorite, confident enough to rise above petty sibling rivalry but Tostig, next in line, was not so lucky. Harold would have been surprised by Tostig’s vindictiveness, if he had ever given his brother a second thought. And that was the problem. Tostig’s love/hate relationship with Harold would eventually destroy everything they worked for, leaving the country open to foreign conquest. This subplot comes to a crisis in book three of the series, FATAL RIVALRY.
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Historical Fiction
In 1066, the rivalry between two brothers brought England to its knees. When Duke William of Normandy landed at Pevensey on September 28, 1066, no one was there to resist him. King Harold Godwineson was in the north, fighting his brother Tostig and a fierce Viking invasion. How could this have happened? Why would Tostig turn traitor to wreak revenge on his brother?
The Sons of Godwine were not always enemies. It took a massive Northumbrian uprising to tear them apart, making Tostig an exile and Harold his sworn enemy. And when 1066 came to an end, all the Godwinesons were dead except one: Wulfnoth, hostage in Normandy. For two generations, Godwine and his sons were a mighty force, but their power faded away as the Anglo-Saxon era came to a close.
Customer Book Review: A Great End To A Fascinating Trilogy
Review by Helen Son: March 4, 2017
“This is the final novel in Mercedes Rochelle’s Last Great Saxon Earls trilogy, completing the story begun in Godwine Kingmaker and The Sons of Godwine and describing the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
As the novel opens in 1064, Edward the Confessor is still on the throne of England, but the question of his successor is on everybody’s minds. Harold, Earl of Wessex and brother of Edward’s wife Editha, has recently returned from Normandy, where he was made to swear an oath to support the claim of Duke William – not an oath Harold will keep, because he believes there is a better candidate for the throne: himself. History tells us that Harold will become king in 1066, only to be defeated by William at Hastings just a few months later. Fatal Rivalry explores one theory as to why things went so disastrously wrong.
In The Sons of Godwine, we saw how Harold and his younger brother Tostig had been rivals since they were children; in this book the rivalry intensifies. Believing that his brother has betrayed him, Tostig searches for new alliances overseas, finally joining forces with the Norwegian king, Harald Hardrada, and setting in motion a chain of events which contribute to Harold’s downfall.
Fatal Rivalry is an interesting read and probably my favourite of the three books in this trilogy. Like the previous novel, this one is presented as the memoirs of the Godwineson brothers, with each one given a chance to narrate his own parts of the story. We hear from Leofwine, Gyrth and Wulfnoth, but understandably, it’s Harold and Tostig who get most of the attention. I’ve never read about Tostig in this much depth before and I did have some sympathy for him. Because the novel covers a relatively short period of time, it allows the author to go into a lot of detail in exploring the relationship between Harold and Tostig, the motivation behind their actions and how their rivalry could have been the reason why Harold was fighting a battle in the north of the country when William invaded from the south.
I think the Norman Conquest is fascinating to read about and, like many periods of history, there is so much left open to interpretation and debate. I will continue to look for more fiction set in this period and will also be interested to see what Mercedes Rochelle writes about next.”
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Historical Fiction
Shakespeare’s Witches tell Banquo, “Thou Shalt ‘Get Kings Though Thou Be None”. Though Banquo is murdered, his son Fleance gets away. What happened to Fleance? What Kings? As Shakespeare’s audience apparently knew, Banquo was the ancestor of the royal Stewart line. But the road to kingship had a most inauspicious beginning, and we follow Fleance into exile and death, bestowing the Witches’ prophecy on his illegitimate son Walter. Born in Wales and raised in disgrace, Walter’s efforts to understand Banquo’s murder and honor his lineage take him on a long and treacherous journey through England and France before facing his destiny in Scotland.
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Historical Fiction, Scottish, Military
Cold Coffee Press Spotlight Interview With Author Mercedes Rochelle
Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.
What makes you proud to be a writer from Sergeantsville NJ? Our county has just celebrated its 300th anniversary, which is pretty good for the US. There is a great sense of history here, as many families can trace their ancestry all the way back to the early settlers. Although I am a relative newcomer, I am pleased to be surrounded by old stone houses and historic sites.
What or who inspired you to become a writer? I remember reading my first historical novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame when I was in college. It was quite a revelation to me and set me on my course. I didn’t know stories could be told like that!
When did you begin writing with the intention of becoming published? After I became a reenactor, I saw how everyday life could be incorporated into a story. I all started to make sense to me.
Did your environment or upbringing play a major role in your writing and did you use it to your advantage? Even as a kid I used books for escapism.
Do you come up with your title before or after you write the manuscript? It seems like my title comes first, although my first book started its life with a title I later discarded!
Please introduce your genre and why you prefer to write in that genre? I absolutely love historical fiction. To be honest, I can’t seem to devise an original plot to save my life, but history is so full of interesting stories I only need to stumble across an event to find my inspiration. Once I have settled on an event or person, I fill in the blanks with my imagination. The farther back in history, the more filling-in is required. And there is a piece of me that feels a responsibility to bring history to life in the most painless way possible for the reading public.
What has been your most rewarding experience with your writing process? I discovered that I was a better researcher than a writer. I absolutely loved diving into the basements of university libraries and blowing dust off the books that had been sitting untouched for years. These days, with the internet, I don’t do that anymore and I miss those days (even though my choices were more limited).
What has been your most rewarding experience in your publishing journey? My first five-star book review was a tremendous vindication.
What one positive piece of advice would you give to other authors? It is so important to develop a “thick skin”. Not everyone is going to love your work. Not everyone is going to appreciate how hard you try. It took me ten years in the Real Estate business to learn how to deal with rejection! Just like Real Estate, the rejection is not at all personal. You just have to pick yourself up and keep going.
Who is your favorite author and why? My favorite author is and has always been Alexandre Dumas. I had such a personal relationship with “The Three Musketeers” I learned French to read it in the original language. I found his characters to be so alive, so three-dimensional that they have stuck with me all these years.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us? I think art (and literature) must enhance real life, not just mimic it. I want to be enriched by a book, not merely entertained. I hope to learn something from every book I read, and I hope to teach something in every book I write. But the teaching needs to be hidden inside the story.
Please add questions and the answers to any questions that you believe your readers would like to know.
Q: What were Macbeth’s Witches Up To? A: The Witches were predicting the eventual rise of the Stewart dynasty in Scotland, of which Banquo was the ancestor. James I was the reigning king when Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, so the play may have been a nod to his ancestry.
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