Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Beginning: Wulfhere the Warrior



Late Summer 1054

Wulfhere rode wearily through the great lush forest, once known to the ancient Britons and their Roman conquerors as Anderida. It was now called Andredeswald by the Englisc, descendants of the Southern Saxons who had come to these lands to settle in the dark days that followed the death of Rome. His companion Esegar, his shield bearer and right hand man rode beside him, half asleep in the saddle, eyes all but closed and his head nodding as he fought to stay awake. The horses too were tired, heads low, pace no more than a lumbering amble. Their destination was home, Horstede, in the heart of Sussex on the marshy slopes of a shallow valley. They’d been travelling many days along the ancient trackways, which for centuries had witnessed the various comings and goings of the many different peoples of these lands.  Wearing their armour so as not to unnecessarily encumber the pack horses, the feel of it against their skin was perhaps somewhat uncomfortable, but nonetheless familiar. It was a feeling they had got used to over the last few months, campaigning in the north.
Displaying the stern expression of a warrior, Wulfhere looked formidable to all who would have encountered him on the journey home. Beneath his gleaming helm, strands of sun-bleached hair blew in the cool breeze. The mail shirt that hugged his torso emphasised strong broad shoulders upon which was strapped his battle-scarred shield. The chips, dents and holes in its facing had been made by Scottish spear tips, a testimony to the recent bloody encounter with Macbeth’s army. Even the shield’s deadly metal boss had not escaped damage and was now crushed beyond repair. His sword, the most precious weapon he possessed, hung in a decorative scabbard secured to a leather belt worn around his waist. The pommel, inlaid with gold banding, rested against his upper thigh, the silver lobe at the end of the grip was impressively decorated with the figure of two intertwined wolves; it had been in his family for many years, handed down to first sons through the march of generations.  Its name, Hildbana, meaning battle slayer, was etched along the broad blade, for warriors were inclined to give their weapons such fierce names to enhance the reputations of their owners. For a fighting man, a sword or an axe was more than a battlefield tool; a sword was a companion, a lover, a life-giver and a death bringer. For Wulfhere, Hildbana was like an extension of himself, another limb into which his heart pumped his life’s blood.
            The men were returning home after more than two months of brutal campaigning with the Earl of Northumbria against the Scottish king, MacBeth. Although he had not been eager to travel so far north away from his family, Wulfhere accepted his duty with the unquestioning loyalty of a king’s faithful servant.            It had been a hard won battle with many lives lost on both sides. It was natural for a man such as Wulfhere to take up the mantle of warrior, for he came from a long line of such men. However nothing could have prepared him for the carnage that he had witnessed that day on Dunsinane Hill. Death in battle had not been a stranger to him, but never had he seen it on such a scale as this.
Wulfhere was proud of his ancestry, able to recite an abundance of tales about the prowess of his forefathers in battle, but despite his magnificent weapons and polished war attire, he was more a man of reasonable means than a man of great wealth and land holdings. He held roughly five hides of village and pastoral lands, the minimum amount a thegn might possess. It had been endowed to his ancestors by subsequent royal lines in return for both official and military services

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Welcome to my Blog

Hi there thanks for dropping by. I am Paula Wilcox and I write using my maiden name of Lofting. I also go by Lofting-Wilcox on Facebook. Welcome to my blog Sons of the Wolf. Sons, as I fondly call it, is a fictional novel set in 11thc England and is one of a planned trilogy about the fortunes of a king’s thegn’s family in the lead up to the conquest of William of Normandy. So far it is in the pre-edit stage and coming along nicely. It is a novel that has taken me 5 years + to complete in its present stage. Its fiction, but has many historical characters that are woven into the story and facts blend nicely within the setting. Wulfhere, my thegn was a true character, a man of the Doomsday book owning the land that is present day Little Horsted in East Sussex. His character, appearance and the members of his family are all my invention because all we have of him in history is his name and his landholding.  As for the other historical characters, I have done my best to research them and the events of the time as accurately as I can and have some knowledge of how they live through my participation of a re-enactment society of whom I am a proud member, Regia Anglorum.
On here you will find lots of interesting facts about the history of the time I am writing about and character biogs. I update as often as I can when I am not busy working at my day job. My brother recently said to me that you find a job and then you pursue your career. I try to live that way at the moment! Please feel free to leave comments on my posts. Constructive criticism is always welcome and thoroughly desired! Also I am open to any ideas on relevant topics that you might want me to write about.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Aelfgyva, the mystery woman of Bayeux: Part One, 2nd ed.

Aelfgifu, or as it was sometimes spelt Aelfgyva, must have been a popular name and one of some significance, for when Emma of Normandy was espoused to Aethelred, the witan insisted that she be called Aelfgifu, which incidentally had been the name of a couple of Aethelred's previous consorts, though none of those women had been given the title of queen, unlike Emma. Perhaps they had been so used to referring to their king’s women by the same name they thought it more expedient to refer to Emma as Aelfgifu too, lest they forget themselves and mistakenly call her  Aelfgifu anyway.   I say this tongue in cheek, but it is unclear as to why the name Emma was objectionable to them, after all, it was not unlike the English version of Ymma. But changing a queen's name is not an unheard of phenomenon; later Queen Edith, great-granddaughter of Edmund Ironside, was sneered at for her Saxon name and was forced to become Queen Mathilda when she wed Henry the first.
There were so many Aelfgyvas/ Aelfgifus amongst the women of the 11thc that it must have become quite confusing at times. Even Cnut's first consort was called Aelfgifu, mother of Cnut's sons Harold and Sweyn. She was known as Aelfgifu of Northampton whose father had been killed during Aethelred’s reign. So one can see that if anyone called Emma, Aelfgifu, by mistake, it would not have mattered as they could be referring to either of them! Even Cnut would not have been caught out by this one.
There was a story about Cnut's Aelfgifu,  that she had been unable to produce her own off-spring and  involved a monk to help her pass off a serving maid's illigitemate babies as her sons by Cnut. In another version, it was said that the monk himself had fathered them.  Were they a monk's children fathered on a serving maid so that Aelfgifu could present them as hers and Cnut's? Or, were they lovers themselves, the monk and Aelfgifu? These are questions that, after reading the evidence, I am pondering upon. However, Emma, it is said, hated Aelfgifu and the two women were at odds with each other for many years until Aelfgifu died. It would not be implausable that these tales, rumours, chinese whispers if you may, could have been put about by the Queen to destroy her rival's reputation.
Which leads me now to the mystery of Aelfgyva on the Bayeux tapestry. Aelfgyva is the same name as Aeflgifu, just a different spelling, much like Edith and Eadgyth. For centuries people must have pondered over this scene, where a slim figure, clad in what would appear to be the clothing of a well-bred woman, stands in a door way, her hands are palm upwards as if she could be explaining something to a monk, apparently behind a doorway.  He is reaching out to touch the side of her face whilst his other hand rests on his hip in a stance of dominance and he looks as if he might be touching her face in a fatherly way, perhaps admonishing her for some misdeed, or perhaps he is slapping her?  On the other hand he could be caressing her face. The text sewn into the tapestry merely states ‘where a priest and Aelfgyva...’ and the onlooker is left with no more than this to dwell on. So just what is the author alluding to? Why did he/she not finish the sentence? Perhaps they were referring to a well known scandal of the time and they had no reason to describe the events because everyone would have known about it anyway. Who knows what the truth is? It seems the answer to the questions of the lady’s identity and the relevance the scene has to the story of the downfall of  Harold Godwinson, died with the creators of the tapestry long ago. Those who presented it to the owner must have given a satisfactory explanation to him about the scene. One can only wonder as to what it might have been and was it a truthful explanation, or did it have a hidden story?
This brings me to my burning question. Was this scene depicting the scandal of Aelfgifu of Northampton and the monk and if so why and what did it have to do with the tapestry? What was its creator  alluding to? Or had someone woven them into the tapestry, mistakenly confusing Cnut's Aelfgifu/Aelfgyva with a similar story that did have some legitimacy with the story of the conquest? I have an interpretation, but it is just that, and most likely the fanciful ramblings of my imagination, although it could perhaps be close. I will attempt to explain my idea further sometime in part two soon. Watch this space as the mystery unfolds!