Saturday, November 6, 2010
The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick
In the newly released novel, The Forever Queen, Hellen Hollick vividly recreates the life of Emma of Normandy.
The daughter of the Richard I, Duke of Normandy and the sister of Richard II, Emma was raised to take her place as a royal queen one day. At a young age, she was married to King Æthelred of England, a political alliance struck to bring peace between their two countries. Stoically, Emma embraced her new role and swore her loyalty to England with heart and soul. It was a promise she upheld with her every action and to her dying breath.
As the second wife of King Æthelred, Emma soon discovered her husband was nothing more than a bungling, ineffectual man whom she instantly disliked. Despite his ineptitude as king and his occasional brutal treatment of her, Emma bore him two sons, Edward and Alfred, and a daughter named Goda. At the Danish invasion of England, Emma and her children fled to the safety of Normandy.
While Æthelred unsuccessfully fought the Danes, Edmund, his son by his first marriage, challenged his throne. But Æthelred was ill and when he died, Edmund became king and continued the battle for control of England against King Cnut of the Danes. After a brutal battle, Cnut and Edmund agreed to peace and divided England so that each would rule half. Unfortunately, Edmund died, and Cnut inherited all of England, thereby putting Emma's wealth and landholdings at risk of loss.
Emma suddenly found herself with no rank and in a most precarious position. She faced a dim future. No longer queen, if she returned to Normandy, she would be forced to abandon everything she owned and would become wholly dependent on her brother once more. He would likely arrange another marriage for her.
Faced with such a dilemma, the ever courageous Emma took matters into her own hands and approached Cnut the now King of England to marry her. Her boldness impressed Cnut and he was quick to see the advantages of their union. He readily agreed. As part of their betrothal contract, Cnut pledged that any sons born out of their union would also be heirs to his Danish sovereignty. Emma was more than pleased. Not only were they content with each other in their marriage, but it united their two realms and ended any hostility. She was the only woman in history to reign as queen to two kings, mother to two others, and was the great aunt of William the Conqueror.
Helen Hollick has created an epic tale of a shrewd queen who learned to wield her power through influence, manipulation, and force in order to maintain England's peace and prosperity. In this sweeping book, Hollick has included all the important personages of the time; a mix of antagonists and protaganists that will keep the reader turning the pages. Rich with violence, love, and betrayal, Emma's story does not disappoint. Brilliant prose, historical accuracy, and rich detail bring this violent era to life. The Forever Queen stands as a well-detailed biographical account of one of England's strongest, most determined queens.