Thanks to Amy Bruno of HFVBT, I am giving away one print copy of ‘Godwine Kingmaker’ by Mercedes Rochelle.
Genre: Historical Fiction
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.
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Gytha, wife of Earl Godwine by Mercedes Rochelle
Overshadowed by their husbands or subject to their father’s ambitions, noble medieval women had to be pretty plucky to carve out a niche in the history books. Gytha Thorkelsdóttir was related to so many famous (and mostly tragic) figures that it is amazing we know so little about her.
Raised in Denmark, she was the sister of Earl Ulf who served Canute as Regent of Denmark before his unfortunate death (reportedly killed by Canute’s order). Her father Thorkel (also known as Torkel, Torgils, or Thorgil) was said to have been the grandson of a bear and a Swedish maiden. Of course, having a bear as an ancestor is only mentioned when referring to a male (like Ulf), but I can only assume the a female of the line would absorb the same characteristics?
Ulf was married to Canute’s sister, which made Gytha part of the Royal family. So it may have been a great surprise to Gytha when King Canute married her off to his favorite, Godwine. Descended from a less than stellar background (his father was an out-of-favor Thegn in England), Godwine’s rapid rise to power was destined to make him the most important man in England after the king. But he hadn’t achieved this status yet, though he may have been Earl of Wessex when they married. I doubt whether Gytha was given a choice, and I suspect she was not the most appreciative bride. In my novel, GODWINE KINGMAKER, her new husband has quite a time bringing her around.
They did have a large family: at least 10, possibly 11 children. Among their brood was Edith, Queen of England, and Harold Godwineson, last Saxon King of England. Four more sons were Earls: Swegn, Tostig, Gyrth and Leofwine. However, it was her misfortune out outlive at least five of her children; she lost three in one day at the Battle of Hastings, for Harold died alongside his brothers Gyrth and Leofwine. And of course this was only two weeks after the death of Tostig at the Battle of Stamfordbridge. How a mother felt seeing two sons face each other as enemies across the battlefield can only be surmised.
It was written that Gytha petitioned William the Conqueror to let her take Harold’s body after Hastings and even offered to pay him its weight in gold, but William refused, fearing the Saxons would turn it into a shrine. The family estates were confiscated by the Norman King, and is believed Gytha took residence in the city of Exeter. Buoyed up the teenaged sons of King Harold, Exeter held out against King William, who laid siege to it in 1068. After 18 days, the city capitulated and she took refuge on the island of Flat Holm in the Bristol Channel where she awaited the dismal attempts of her grandsons to reassert their claims. Unsuccessful, it is thought that two of Harold’s sons and one daughter accompanied Gytha to her native Denmark, where her nephew Sweyn was King. She probably died four years later.
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. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they built themselves.
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‘Godwine Kingmaker’ by Mercedes Rochelle Blog Tour Schedule
Thursday, April 23
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Saturday, April 25
Spotlight at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Tuesday, April 28
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, April 29
Review at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, May 5
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Friday, May 8
Review at Layered Pages