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Blog Tour and Book Excerpt for "The Last Great Saxon Earls"

Book Title: Godwine Kingmaker

Series: The Last Great Saxon Earls

Author: Mercedes Rochelle

Publication Date: April 4, 2015

Publisher: Sergeant Press

Page Length: 351

Genre: Historical Fiction



by Mercedes Rochelle


They showed so much promise. What happened to the Godwines? How did they lose their grip? Who was this Godwine anyway, 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.

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This series is available on Kindle Unlimited

Author Bio:

Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history, and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. She believes that good Historical Fiction, or Faction as it’s coming to be known, is an excellent way to introduce the subject to curious readers. She also writes a blog: to explore the history behind the story.

Born in St. Louis, MO, she received by BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St.Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world”. The search hasn’t ended!

Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.

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Book Excerpt:

The isle of Olney was little more than a long sandbank with willow trees growing unsteadily on its shore. The two Kings and their followers disembarked on opposite sides at the same time. They made their way to the center, where an enclosure was quickly roped off.

Godwine was even more impressed by Edmund's great size from close up, and he understood Canute's reluctance to meet him in single combat. The man was intent—nay, grim—and there was no evidence of any softness or weakness about him. Edmund's mouth was set and his black eyes were steady as he scrutinized his antagonist, looking for shortcomings. He motioned with his head for the man beside him to step forward.

Tearing his eyes from Edmund, Godwine assumed he was facing Eadric who walked to the center, acknowledging both opponents with a glance and a nod, as though he ruled the assembly. Godwine was surprised at the man's ugliness; his bulging blue eyes so pale they seemed empty. For just a second Eadric's eyes met with Godwine's, and the Saxon couldn't suppress a shudder; how could such a loathsome creature inspire such confidence?

And then Eadric spoke, clearing up the little mystery. His voice was so melodic that it was a delight just to listen to him. Godwine had heard that Eadric was of common ancestry and had risen in Aethelred's favor by way of his own abilities. It was no wonder, he thought to himself. One could get lost in that man's voice.

"We are gathered here," Eadric was saying, "to decide the fate of the kingdom by single combat. Canute claims the crown by right of his father, Swegn Forkbeard." He bowed to the Dane.

"And Edmund Ironside claims the kingship by right of his inheritance from King Aethelred." He bowed to the Saxon. "Both men have good and valid claims; and yet, it stands to reason that the misery wrought on our good country should come to an end. Let God in heaven make the decision for us, and grace the rightful King with a victory this day."

Pleased with this little speech, Eadric moved back, waving for the assembled to give the combatants more room.

Canute and Edmund moved into the center of the clearing, their eyes locked. The Saxon was armored in chain mail like Canute, his choice of weapon broadsword and shield against the Dane's axe and shield.

No one in the crowd made a sound.

The two Kings circled, each looking for an opening, then suddenly they both dashed together, shattering the silence with a deafening crash of steel against wood. Both men had aimed a blow for the head; both easily stopped the blade with their shield.

Canute was transformed by the first encounter. He lost all of his uncertainty when the fighting began. Crouching so that Edmund had a smaller target, Canute began concentrating on the Saxon's timing, and forgot about his overwhelming size.

Edmund followed quickly with a series of well-aimed blows—first high, then low—and pushed forward, trying to overcome his enemy with brute force.

Quickly recognizing Edmund's reliance on his strength, Canute began to weave and duck, cutting in and out of his opponent's range. He struck quickly, more to weaken Edmund and draw blood than to maim him; Canute realized that one solid blow from the Saxon could easily finish him.

The chain links began to burst and fly off Edmund's armor, displaying Canute's skill. Edmund was forced back momentarily and stopped, gasping for breath. The Dane straightened up, seeing his difficulty, and said in a loud voice, "Edmund, you are too short-winded."

Stung, the Saxon jumped forward, responding with a stunning wrap-around blow to Canute's head; the Dane fell to the ground.

"Not too short-winded if I can bring so great a King to his knees.”

Smiling grimly, Edmund stood back for a moment, allowing his opponent to recover; then he moved in again, chopping so heavily at the Dane's shield that huge splinters flew in every direction.

Canute stepped back, then again, and realized that he was not going to hold up much longer. His shield arm was growing numb; frenziedly defending himself, he couldn't return any of the blows.

Then, with a gasp, the Dane was forced again to one knee. "Bravest of youths," he cried out, "why should either of us risk his life for the sake of a crown?"

Edmund stopped his hammering and stood back, waiting for Canute to continue.

"Let us be brothers by adoption," Canute went on, staying on one knee, "and divide the kingdom, governing so that I may rule your affairs, and you mine."

The Saxon looked at Canute with lowering brows; he seemed unconvinced.

"Even the government of Denmark I submit to your disposal."

These last words came out more reluctantly; they cost Canute dear. Edmund knew that. He dropped his shield, passed the sword to his left hand, and gave Canute his right, helping him up.

"I hope he knows what he is doing," Ulf growled to Godwine. "This is more than the rest of us bargained for."

Godwine glanced at Ulf, worried at his tone.

King Edmund ceremoniously held Canute at arm's length, then gave him the kiss of peace; as though they were brothers, the Dane returned his gesture, amid the cheers of the Saxons. Canute's followers were less vociferous in their enthusiasm, but out of regard for their chief, they raised no objection.

Edmund seemed to have come prepared; releasing Canute, he motioned for his scribes to advance, and record all that was to be decided. It seemed that the division was going to take place in that very spot.

"He must want witnesses," Godwine said, nodding, "so that there will be no questions later. It seems that Edmund wants to be rid of our presence at the soonest."

Canute did not react to this hasty gesture, nor did he give any indication that he suffered humiliation from his defeat. His first demands were for the Danish fleet to be paid a certain amount of money, as a matter of course. Edmund agreed without demurring, so habitual was this method of dealing with the Danes. Then, the actual division was decided upon. Edmund was to have all the land south of the Thames: the earldom of Wessex. In addition to this, East Anglia, Essex, and London. Canute was agreeable. "Done. Those last belong to you anyway, even with my troops all over them. Wessex has always been yours."

Canute was to have all of Mercia and Northumbria: a sizable portion of England, if somewhat less populous. It was agreed that each would succeed to the territories of the other in case of death; Edmund's two children were very young, and therefore given little consideration for the moment.

Both Kings appeared content, though Godwine wondered how deep that satisfaction went. But when all was finished and Canute came nearer, an angry glint in his eye gave the Saxon his answer.

However, Ulf didn't seem to notice. "Why did you do that?" the Jarl said angrily. "You should not have included Denmark in the bargain."

Canute turned on him furiously. "What business is it of yours, what I do with my kingdom?"

Ulf stepped back, but he was too committed to stop now. Nor did he want to. "It is very much my business. Do not forget the rest of your Jarls. Without our support, where would you be?"

Canute's face tuned red, but he restrained his temper. He said icily, "I would watch what I say, if I were you."

His manner made Godwine more nervous than if he were to explode in anger. But still Ulf did not heed his wrath. "You had just better watch yourself, Canute. We will have no foreign king telling us what to do."

"You will do as I say!" Canute turned to the field, observing the last of the Saxons. When he looked at Ulf again, his eyes were shuttered, his voice even. "Do not worry, Ulf. What you fear will never happen." Then he spun on his heels and strode off, motioning for his Danes to follow.

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1 comentario

Cathie Dunn
Cathie Dunn
15 feb 2023

Thanks so much for hosting Mercedes Rochelle today. xx

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