Category : Historical Fiction

The Sons of Godwine by Mercedes Rochelle

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The Sons of Godwine is the second book of The Last Great Saxon Earls historical fiction series by Mercedes Rochelle.

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Blurb

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.




A Word from the Author

Author Mercedes Rochelle pictureThe early history of the Godwinessons has pretty much been lost to us. You could almost derive their whole known story from the last fifteen years of Harold’s life. We know little early history about his siblings either, until Godwine’s exile in 1051 (except for the troublesome Swegn, whose exploits are covered in Godwine Kingmaker). But of course, we do know the basics: Harold became Earl of East Anglia by 1045, and shortly thereafter he married a great beauty, the wealthy Edith Swanneck. It’s assumed he married her to curry favor with the local nobility, but it’s also assumed theirs was a love match.

So what was it like to become a great Earl to an unproven man about 23 years old? How did Harold come to acquire such unswerving loyalty? These are the things I wrestled with in trying to flesh out this interesting character. And it must not be forgotten that Harold married his Edith more danico—in the Danish manner, what we now call handfasted—which left him free to take a Christian wife if policy dictated it, which indeed it did when he became king. Most historians thought that Edith was probably a daughter of a wealthy Thegn, but I also stumbled across speculation that she might have been a rich widow. This appealed to me, because I could imagine that her current wealth might have been more attractive to an aspiring earl rather than future inheritance. No one knows for sure—we don’t even know who her father was.

We know virtually nothing about Tostig before he became Earl of Northumbria in 1055. What did he do while waiting for an earldom to drop into his lap? He did get married to the sister of Earl Baldwin of Flanders—a handy ally to nobles in exile. It was during their wedding celebration that Godwine was summoned from Bosham to London to deal with the incident at Dover. I believe that Tostig’s relationship with Harold, although probably plagued with sibling rivalry, didn’t flare into full-fledged hostility until the Northumbrian uprising in 1065 (in Fatal Rivalry).

(Mercedes Rochelle, June 2017)

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Godwine Kingmaker by Mercedes Rochelle

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Godwine Kingmaker is the first book of The Last Great Saxon Earls historical fiction series by Mercedes Rochelle.

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Blurb

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.




A Word from the Author

Author Mercedes Rochelle pictureThe year 2016 was quietly celebrated by medieval historians, for it marked the 1000th anniversary of King Canute’s coronation. This powerful Danish conqueror is mostly known for failing to command the ocean waves, and few stop to realize that the Vikings ruled England for almost forty years. This same anniversary saw the rise to power of Godwine—son of a Thegn in exile who threw in his lot with the invaders. Although our sources are few and far between, they tell us just enough to piece together the story of a great man’s spectacular rise to power. He became the first Earl of Wessex, the wealthiest man in the country and the father of a king: Harold Godwineson, the last Saxon monarch before the Norman Conquest. Godwine’s daughter Editha became queen and four more sons grew up to be earls.

Harold was not the eldest—in fact, he was second in line. The first, Swegn, was born under a cloud, begat in conflict and unloved by his mother who resented being forced into a marriage beneath her station. The Danish Gytha eventually reconciled and learned to love Godwine, but her feelings never changed toward her firstborn. Godwine tried to make up the difference, but Swegn turned out badly, and Godwine’s best efforts to ensure his family’s fortunes were brought down by the misdeeds of his eldest son.

Once Edward the Confessor became king—with Godwine’s help—the Norman faction rose to prominence and the old Saxon ways began to fade. Harried by the Normans who contrived his exile, Godwine walked a fine line between the demands of his peers and the needs of his family. His enemies won—for a short time—but Godwine regathered his forces and came back even stronger, only to discover that his son Harold had bypassed him in popularity, and looked destined to surpass him in renown and glory.

(Mercedes Rochelle, June 2017)

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Other Book in the Same Series

The Last Great Saxon Earls

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Lady Ruth Bromfield by Gordon Smith

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Lady Ruth Bromfield: She escaped Nazi Persecution as a child, and then grew to become an inspirational leader is a historical fiction/inspirational/romance novel by Gordon Smith.

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1935. Hitler’s Nazi’s are firmly in control in Germany and the persecution of the Jews has begun in earnest. In this desperate time of uncertainty an unmarried Jewish woman gives birth to a daughter, whom she names Ruth.
But as the clouds of war gather, and it seems that Europe will once more be engulfed in conflict, Ruth’s mother makes the heart-wrenching decision to send her to safety on one of the ‘Kindertransport’ trains.
Arriving in England, Ruth is housed with a priest who raises her in the Christian faith, but also recognises her Jewish ancestry and so employs help to also raise her according to Jewish traditions.
It soon becomes apparent that Ruth is a very special child and has the ability to build bridges between people of different backgrounds, even at an early age.
From Nazi Germany to England and then to Australia, Ruth overcomes religious and ethnic intolerance and becomes an engineer on the Snowy Mountain Hydroelectric Project, defying all the odds.
It is a story of overcoming the brutality of life, of chasing your dreams and of bringing people together. But above all it is a story of hope.




A Word from the Author

author Gordon smith pictureRuth is the young daughter of an unmarried Jewish mother in Germany. Fearing for Ruth’s safety, her mother arranges for the “kinder transport” to take Ruth to England to be raised by an English Priest. Ruth’s mother is shot by the Gestapo just after handing Ruth to the Priest.Complying with Ruth Mother’s request, Ruth is raised as both a Christian and a Jew.

We follow this young child’s world during the time that England is constantly under attack. As she grows into womanhood, she builds confidence between various groups and gains respect from all quarters, even though she is still only a child.

After peace comes, she finishes school and then on to study engineering at university.

Her career takes her to Australia to work on the Snowy River Hydro Electric project where she meets her future husband. They return to England and marry, but the marriage is short-lived, so Ruth finds employment with an Engineering Company in Australia. Shortly after meeting and marrying her new husband, Ruth is catapulted into the upper management of the multinational company where she introduces major reforms.

The company she becomes president of actually belongs to Ruths Family and the profits are all used to run a charitable trust.

In her dual role, she is able to develop a massive project over several countries that will raise the standard of living for millions of starving downtrodden families. She also develops a simple but effective program to eliminate ethnic and religious divisions.
Lady Ruth Bromfield is a truly inspirational story.

(Gordon Smith, April 2017)

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