How a Medieval Queen Helped Me Get My Groove Back

Thursday’s Children, 25 July 2013

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My latest obsession and inspiration is Emma of Normandy. Born in 985 CE in Normandy (now part of France), she was sent to England when only a young girl of 12 or 13 as part of a bargain made between her brother, the Duke of Normandy, and Aethelred the Unready, the King of England. (Side note: the ‘unready’ part of his name doesn’t mean he was unprepared, it’s an Anglo-Saxon play on words meaning that he was ill-advised by his councilors). Her marriage to a man 20 years her senior sealed a pact that would prevent Danish invaders using the ports of Normandy to prepare for attacks on England.

Emma

Emma receiving a book about her life that she had commissioned (Encomium Emmae Reginae). Her two kingly sons look on.

Of course, like many political accords of the time, someone renegged and, being close to hand, much of the blame fell on Emma. She was still a teenager and living amongst foreigners, barely able to speak the language of her adopted country and with few friends or allies. She was advised to quickly provide Aethelred with a son in order to strengthen her position at Court and this she did, two in fact, and a girl. But the King had had a first wife who gave him at least 10 children and the odds of Emma’s boys rising to the throne were slim.

ethelred-the-unready

King Aethelred the Unready, Emma’s first husband.

After her husband was killed by Danish invaders, Emma, instead of rushing home to her brother or hiding away in a convent, actually married the leader of the ‘viking’ invaders, Cnut. For a second time she was Queen. She provided heirs for Cnut, again, two boys. But, also again, there was a first wife who had had many children and who was actually still alive and ruling Denmark on behalf of Cnut. When Cnut died, his first wife, quite a she-wolf by all accounts, forced Emma into exile and pushed her own son onto the throne. When the she-wolf’s son died, Emma’s son by Cnut was invited to take the throne. He lasted a short time and made Emma’s son from Aethelred his heir.

cnut

King Cnut, Emma’s second husband.

So, wife of two kings. Mother of two sons and two step-sons who became king. And great aunt of William the Conqueror, the bastard son of her nephew who swept in in 1066 and changed England’s history forever.

What an amazing woman!

I love history, anyone who has read my previous posts (and seen my twitter comments) will know this. I love the people, the events, and both the differences and similarities to our own culture. And obviously my muse enjoys a bit of history as well. She’s been away for a few months now, as a result I’ve had no new ideas or no words. But when I started to read about this inspirational woman and the times she lived in, my brain sqweee’d in delight. The ideas started flowing once more, leading to a new book I’m currently researching.

Sometimes taking a break from writing is a Good Thing. I look at it like this: I have two wells, one for input and one for output. The input, or inspiration well, had completely run dry. The output, or story well, kept running for a while but soon also dried up. It took a few months of reading everything I got my hands on, watching movies, tv shows and documentaries and reviewing (mainly historical) research sites on the internet but finally, one day, the inspiration well filled up again. A valuable lesson learned and one I’ve known from my IT days for years: garbage in, garbage out. Or, in my case, nothing in, nothing out.

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8 comments on “How a Medieval Queen Helped Me Get My Groove Back

  1. Pat Esden says:

    I can see how she’d inspire you. It doesn’t take much digging into history to find some pretty freaking amazing women.

    • kellyewrites says:

      And I gave the short version! She did SO much, unbelievable how strong she was. Sadly another writer has started a 3 part book on her life, otherwise I’d SO be in there.

  2. Suzanne Warr says:

    I recently came out of an input time as well–and firmly believe in them as a part of our creative process. Congrats on the new ideas flowing, and huzzah for an inspirational queen!

    • kellyewrites says:

      Thank you! My input phase included, I’m embarrassed to say, all sorts of really bad tv and movies. Including Sharknado. But it’s all storytelling really so… 🙂

  3. sugaropal says:

    She does sound fascinating! Kind of like the much more famous Eleanor. What a disappointment that someone’s beaten you to writing her story – to paraphrase Dory “Just keep digging…”

  4. You had me at medieval queen. Poor Aethelred really does receive short shrift. I think my favorite foreign queen might still be Isabella the She-Wolf of France who married Edward III and had him executed so she and her lover could rule.

    • kellyewrites says:

      Edward II, but I’m sure it was a typo! 🙂 I love history, just have to find a wonderful female character and tell her tale before anyone else gets to her!

  5. It sounds weird, but gosh, there are some amazing people who lived before we did! Who had so much bravado and smarts and…awesomeness!

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