While I have a soft spot for my Arthurian trilogy, The Kingmaking
was, after all, my first adult novel, in my view Harold The King
is probably the best. My writing style had improved, and my confidence had increased. It was also easier to research.
We have documentation for the 11th Century, many written accounts of 1066, of Harold himself and the events that surrounded his life. In addition, the town of Waltham Abbey is a fifteen minute drive from where I live on the outskirts of London. It was wonderfully inspiring to actually walk where Harold may have stood. He founded the Abbey, and would have been present at various stages of its building.
There are also many places near Waltham Abbey named for Harold, from the years when he was Earl of Essex; Harold Wood, Harold Hill, Harold's Park Farm. It is not known whether he lived at this last location or whether he merely owned the property, but I am convinced that it was one of his manor houses. I have placed it in my novel as the home of Edyth Swanneck, who became his common law wife of over twenty years, the mother of his children.
The present day Harold's Park Farm perches on a ridge, the buildings clustered at the top of a steep hill. I am a frequent visitor to the place as it is now an equestrian centre and Kathy goes there to compete. I can confirm that from a defensive point of view, building your house on top of a hill is ideal. The views of the Lea and Roding Valleys are incredible - but the practicalities are dreadful. The persistent wind, from personal experience, can be vicious and biting!
The River Lea has always been an important communication link for it is a tributary of the River Thames. There have been settlements along its banks since the Stone Age. An Iron Age fort was situated on the first noticeable high ground here in Walthamstow where I live, and a Roman Road trudged along the ridge above the valley from London to Colchester.
In A Hollow Crown
, I touch on the extensive raiding by Sven Forkbeard and his son Cnut (Canute) along the Essex coast. The Vikings, which means víking
- to go raiding, were expert seamen. They could navigate their flat-keeled longboats inland along shallow rivers, including the Lea, for the Vikings raided Waltham Abbey. The children's nursery rhyme "London Bridge is falling down"
probably comes from another raid when the Norse, attacking London, hacked through the supporting wooden pillars and caused the bridge to collapse.
The hoped-for film "1066
" is still a viable possibility. Various people in the movie business are showing an interest, but we are still at the fingers crossed stage. Hopefully I may have more news in October.
Life is a series of adventures, wrapped around the boring bits.