Q is for... (To Be A) Queen

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To Be A Queen








Throughout April I have invited 26 authors who had been selected as Editor's Choice by the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews
 to help me out with the 2016 A-Z Blog Challenge...

Except to be a little different I interviewed 
their leading Character/s...

Today's Character is from :




HH : Hello! I believe you exist in Annie Whitehead's  novel – what is the title of the book, and would you like to introduce yourself - who you are, what you do etc?
My name is Aethelflaed, although my family (via my author!) gave me the nickname “Teasel”. My father was King Alfred of Wessex (you might know him as Alfred the Great,) and I’m married to the leading lord in the neighbouring kingdom of Mercia. Annie’s book, To Be A Queen, tells the story of my life.


HH : Where and when are you? Are you a real historical person or did your author create you?
I am a real historical person. I was born in about AD869 and I died in 918. Although my father was king of Wessex in the Southwest, I was fostered by my aunt in Mercia in the Midlands and spent almost all of my life in Mercia. I was born into a turbulent time in English history; my father seems to have spent his whole life fighting to saving Wessex and Mercia from the encroaching Vikings, who had already subjugated the other English kingdoms.

HH. In a few brief sentences: what is the novel you feature in about?
To Be a Queen is the book of my life - from my early days as a foster-child in Mercia when the Vikings deposed my uncle the king, to my arranged marriage to Ethelred, who became Lord of Mercia and ally of my father, and then to the time when circumstances saw my having to lead Mercia against the Vikings. I became a queen in all but name as I battled to save Mercia from the Vikings, and from the ambitions of my own brother.

HH :  I ‘met’ my pirate, Jesamiah Acorne on a beach in Dorset, England -  how did your author meet up with you? 
She met my husband first. When she was a student her tutor mentioned Ethelred and said that nobody knew exactly where he came from. This intrigued her. She decided she wanted one day to write his story but of course she realised that the real drama was in my life, so she wrote about me (although of course, he still does feature rather heavily in the book!)

HH : Tell me about one or two of the other characters who feature with you - husband, wife, family? Who are some of the nice characters and who is the nastiest one?
I have a brother, Edward, who will one day be king of Wessex and we have a close but difficult relationship. My mother is very frail, having worried about my father and his battles for too long. My cousin thinks that the crown is his by right and is very envious of my brother. Over in Mercia there is a similar character, Brihtsige, who believes he should be the king and that my husband has no authority. He will stop at nothing, not even murder, to get what he wants. One of the nicest characters is the Lord Frith (or Aethelfrith to give him his proper name) - he has lands in both kingdoms and is fiercely loyal to me, and is a great friend when I move back to Mercia to marry and I encounter hostility there.

HH : What is your favourite scene in the book?
Hmm, I have a few, but if I told you about them it might spoil it for those who haven’t yet read the book. I can tell you, though, that one of my favourites is when I save my pregnant friend from a charge by a wild boar. What follows is one of the most affirming moments of my life story.

HH : What is your least favourite? Maybe a frightening or sad moment that your author wrote.
Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but the least favourite moments are the ones - and they are too many - where I experience loss. It makes me and my author tearful just to think about them. Even the place names, Derby, Tettenhall, make me shudder. One of the unkindest blows, which I can probably tell you about, was when an abbot, a friend of mine, and dear to my husband, was senselessly killed. I got rather angry about that, and took an army into Wales to wreak revenge.

HH : What are you most proud of about your author?
That she thought my story worth telling, and that she fought to make it known. Some people promised to make it happen and then let her down, but I’m proud that she didn’t give up on me.

Mistress Annie Whitehead
HH : Has your author written  other books about you? If not, about other characters?
How do you feel about your author going off with someone else!
She has written another two stories and she’s published one of them, which  features some of the descendants of the characters in my story, but it’s not a sequel. I’m not too jealous, because I know that she actually wrote “Alvar the Kingmaker” before she wrote my story and that she’s known Alvar, (or Aelfhere to give him his proper name,) as long as she’s known my husband.


HH : As a character if you could travel to a time and place different to your own fictional setting  where and when would you go?
I’ve heard about a time in the future where a woman really does reign as queen in her own right. I think her name is Elizabeth, her father was a famous king like mine, and she also has a bit of bother with a seaborne invasion, although in her case I believe the enemy are Spanish rather than Danish. I’d like to visit her, to discuss the problems and heartache of being a lonely female leader in a man’s world.
Thank you that was really interesting!

Now where can readers of this A-Z Blog Challenge find out more about you and your author?

Here is the company we will be keeping on this 
A-Z Blog Challenge!

APRIL
A 1st  Friday - Aurelia  - Alison Morton
B 2nd Saturday  - Bloodie Bones - Lucienne Boyce
C 4th Monday - Man in the Canary Waistcoat Susan Grossey
D 5th Tuesday - Dubh-Linn  - James Nelson
F 7th Thursday - Fortune’s Fool- David Blixt
H 9th Saturday - The Love Letter of John Henry Holliday - Mary Fancher
K 13th Wednesday - Khamsin- Inge Borg
L 14th Thursday - Luck Bringer   - Nick Brown
N 16th Saturday - A Newfound Land  - Anna Belfrage
O 18th Monday - Out Of Time  - Loretta Livingstone
P 19th Tuesday  - Pirate Code  - Helen Hollick
Q 20th Wednesday - To Be A Queen – Annie Whitehead
R 21st Thursday  - The Spirit Room - Marschel Paul
U 25th Monday  - A Just And Upright Man - John Lynch
W 27th Wednesday  - WhenSorrows Come  - Maria Dziedzan
X 28th Thursday – The FlaX flower – AmandaMaclean

So call back tomorrow 
To meet the next exciting Character! 
(unless it is Sunday - in which case, I'll have something different 
but just as interesting !)

37 comments:

  1. Thank you Helen, on behalf of Aethelflaed. She was delighted to be given a chance to speak, after so many years shut away in the dark cupboard of obscurity. But she did ask me to check whether or not your lovely Jesemiah is captain of a Viking longboat. I assured her that he is not!

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    1. Jesamiah (from P for Pirate Code) answers : Madam, I am the Captain of a beautiful three-masted ship - much faster and bigger than those Viking things. I don't wear a horned helmet and I don't do raping and pillaging. What's that? (my author is talking to me...) Oh, I see, she says that Viking long ships were big, the men didn't wear horned helmets, and as a pirate I do pillaging: i-viking means to go raiding, and that's what I do.
      Hrrmph - well I don't do the raping bit and I only pillage from fat, wealthy, East Indiamen merchants or the Spanish. Or the French. Does that make a difference?

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    2. I think that as long as you keep within your own job description my lady nearly-Queen has nothing to fear!

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  2. Fascinating post - and nice to see a Midlands connection! Also it's interesting how often we start writing about one character but realise it's another whose story we should actually be telling.

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    1. Its fascinating how these characters take over our lives isn't it?

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  3. Fascinating. Very interesting to think of a woman ruling at a time when power came from winning battles and leading an army. What are the main sources for the period you write about?

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    1. I'd like to know how many women ruled who we don't know about - we only get to hear of the 'top' ones (Boudicca etc)

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  5. Lucienne - I have to confess that I am still a little in love with Ethelred, for all I realised that his was not the main story!
    Victoria - There are few sources for Aethelflaed's life. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is the main primary source, but that was commissioned by her father, Alfred, and written by monks from Wessex, who tended to emphasise the history of Wessex and didn't have much to say about Mercia, especially once it was absorbed into Wessex. There are other annals: 'The Three Fragments' (difficult to interpret and somewhat spurious) and the Welsh and Irish chronicles. We have a lot of charters still extant, which show where she was at certain points, and that she and her husband were granting land rights etc in their own names, which give a clue as to their status at particular times, too. The Welsh and the Irish both call her 'queen' so they must have thought highly of her. The Mercians were running out of kings, and therefore options, but they chose her rather than become part of Wessex - they were proud and fiercely independent. In my second novel I explore the circumstances which rose to them rebelling against Wessex later on in the tenth-century.

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    1. Lovely interview, Annie.
      Was The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle difficult to read and interpret? Was it written in Middle, or Older, English and transcribed? (British readers / authors probably already know this but being an American this is new territory for me.) I ask because my sources were only two and a half centuries old and there were times when transcribing handwritten script was a challenge, even though I enjoyed doing so.

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    2. Hi Alexandra - thanks so much, I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. In answer to your question, the Chronicle I use is a translated version,and it's my copy from student days, so it's very well annotated! The chronicles were originally written in Old English - the legal charters tended to be mixture of both OE and Latin (the formal legal wording being in Latin and then the individual terms being in OE) King Alfred, who commissioned the chronicle, wanted to encourage the use of 'English'. There are several different versions, and I was taught, when a student, how to interpret them, and to watch out for individual bias!I did learn a bit of OE, but it is handy to have the translations already done for me!

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    3. Ah, I see — thank you for explaining that to me. :)

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  6. i went back and read some interviews, great getting to know authors and discovering these interesting historical novels!

    happy q day
    http://reallyrealhousewives.blogspot.com

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    1. Tara - thank you! I think my idea of interviewing characters not authors has gone down well! (I hope!)

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  7. I just realised, Annie, this won't be on my TBR list - I already read it and enjoyed it. I found you on the long list. :-) I didn't remember the title, but I remember the unforgettable Teasel. I love to read stuff about that era and I didn't know Aethelflaed's story before

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    1. Loretta - thank you, I'm really glad you enjoyed it. I gave Teasel the nickname because some of the Old English names are hard to pronounce and not very easy on the eye. And they did have a tradition of nicknames so I knew it wouldn't be too unusual :)

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  8. Still on my TBR. Funny thing: my hubby is addicted to that UK TV show where people do three day digs, and is absorbing history like a sponge. One day, it was about your "teasel". Says hubby. "What a lady! Someone should write a book about her!" Says I to hubby. "Someone already has. And guess what? She's a friend of mine."

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    2. As to the TBR, it is moving upwards :)

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    3. Anna, that made me smile! I still can't understand why so little has been written about her, except for two obstacles: the sources are very limited, and when beginning research, the first thing an author is going to come across is fifty names beginning with Aethel/Aelf. It was certainly a challenge to come up with some different names!

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  9. There is a lot of vying for Jesamiah's favors going on around here! What a lucky pirate; too bad some of us are too long gone by the time he comes along and pillages, ahem, I mean casts his charms at us fictional and/or historically real gals.

    Annie: With all the turmoil going on over the centuries, isn't it amazing there was still something left for you to research; didn't make it any easier, I know, but what a great subject your Aethelflaed makes.

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    1. I'm so pleased that all the interviews have been so very different - even though the questions have all been the same!

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    2. Inge - a very good point: it always amazes me how many documents are still extant - especially considering the Viking penchant for burning down churches!

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  10. Yes, like Loretta, I got half-way through the interview and kept thinking it was familiar - then realised I'd read it too! Kindle version, I think. But loved it. Loved the opening - Aethelflaed's nightmare images of the Danish raiders. Congratulations, Annie!

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    1. Thank you so much, David. It seemed to me that this had to be the starting point - event though we have few details, she was a small child at the height of the Viking attacks and it must have been terrifying - especially when to her, those attackers were largely unseen.

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  11. Such an amazing and impressive amount of research. I hope Jesamiah appreciates what these writers go through just to amuse him!

    @Kathleen01930
    Meet My Imaginary Friends
    #AtoZchallenge

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    1. Jesamiah : *laughs* oh I do ma'am, but do not let 'her indoors' know that - I don't want to spoil my illusion of being a don't care whats-it!

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  12. There are some strong women coming through from history in this blog series - great to see them getting a bit of air-time!

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    1. Helen (and Jesemiah!) have been wonderful hosts!

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  13. Thanks, Annie. It's nice to know when someone has researched all there is to know, before they start to "fill in the gaps." I find it hard to suspend disbelief, but when I know I am in the hands of an expert I can just sit back and enjoy the ride. Good to see a strong woman as a protagonist, too: balancing all these fellas' swashing and buckling

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    1. Thanks Steve - it's the historian in me; I can't fill in a gap until I know (as far as it's possible to know) that there is a gap! The greater challenge is knowing what to leave out - again, the historian wants to include every detail, the novelist needs to say "But is it part of the story?"

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    2. Absolutely. That's spot on.

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  14. What a lovely interview. I really felt like I got to know Aethelflaed well. She sure sounds like she had an interesting and exciting life!

    What made it even cooler is that Annie gathered as many facts about this woman's life as she could first, like Steve said.

    Annie, what was the most surprising thing you learned about Aethelflaed's life during your research?

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Lydia - I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview with Aethelflaed :) Probably the most surprising thing, and one which, if I'm honest, still intrigues me, is that the Mercians were ultimately so loyal to her, and that she was allowed to 'rule' - there was no 'kingship' up for grabs, so plenty of noblemen could have steamed in and taken over, and yet they didn't. Although the Anglo-Saxons women were not as 'downtrodden' as in some other cultures, it's still staggering that the men of Mercia were prepared to follow her. What an amazing lady she must have been!

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    2. That is so interesting, Annie. :)

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    3. Thanks Lydia - as you can probably tell, I need very little prompting to talk about her!! :)

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