I started to write ‘The Lost King’ series of books some while ago. In fact, to my surprise, I’ve have found a draft from as far back as December 2004.
So what made me spend so long writing about this man and his history?
It goes back way beyond 2004. I’ve been fascinated by the Anglo Saxon period since childhood when I got a Ladybird Book about Alfred the Great. I can picture it still.
Later on in life I read a book by Frank McLynn called ‘1066: The Year of Three Battles’ and was fascinated to find out more had taken place in that troubled year than merely the Battle of Hastings.
The more I delved into it the more I realised the extent to which the Norman Invasion transformed the whole of English society in a truly catastrophic manner.
In the course of my reading one name came up repeatedly but always marginally; that of Edgar Atheling, the grand-nephew of King Edward the Confessor. Edgar was a footnote to history and I viewed him in much the same way. Yet Atheling is a term which meant throne-worthy and was the equivalent of the French Dauphin or British Prince of Wales. It meant that Edgar and not Harold Godwinson had been designated by King Edward as his heir. And certainly not William, Duke of Normandy.
When I read Steven Runciman’s ‘History of the Crusades’ I found Edgar cropping up again, but this time not as a mere cipher but as a skilful leader who was making an impact in a terrible war.
I began to research a little more and found out a strange discrepancy between different accounts of the Atheling. It soon became clear that his tale had been virtually erased from history.
I decided to write his story in the form of a novel.
What I found most remarkable is that although Edgar spent much of his life leading the resistance to William the Conqueror and his successors he was never punished in the way that other rebels were.
I wondered why. Was it that they feared to do him harm, that they felt guilty because he was the legitimate king, that he was very lucky or very intelligent? In the end I have come to believe that all these factors help explain the inexplicable.
So successfully did the Normans erase mention of Edgar that there is still, a thousand years later, very little information about him.
There an article called The Last Æþeling by Betty Hale, a short biography in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, short references to him in textbooks and a few entries in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. And not a lot more.
He is a gift for a novelist. A person who spent the whole of his life in the eye of the storm but with only the barest facts recorded about him. What great opportunities this offers. It was even better when I came to realise the astonishingly eventful life he led.
I hesitated a long time whether to write the novel as a third person or first person narrative. It soon became clear to me that Edgar’s voice which has been so long forgotten would be one well much worth listening to.
I have written two novels in the series and am part way through the third.
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- Attack upon York Castle. #SampleSunday #histfic An extract from The Lost King: Wasteland (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- 1066 and All That… now belongs to us! (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)