Friday, February 15, 2013

Emma of Normandy - Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

Emma of Normandy

Emma of Normandy, the great-aunt of William the Conqueror, was wife to two English Kings, and mother to two others.

King Aethelred the Unready sought her hand in marriage to secure Normandy as an ally to England. Despite the fact he dislikes her, she bears him two sons, Alfred and Edward the Confessor. Because Aethelred already had sons from a previous marriage, the succession to the crown for Emma’s two sons was far from certain.   

When Aethelred died, Canute the Great showed came knocking at her door seeking marriage. This time, Emma insisted that any sons born to her from this marriage be given preference to succeed as king over Canute’s son from his previous marriage. Before he would agree, the cunning Canute demanded tit for tat – Emma must also repudiate the claims of her own sons to the crown of England in favor of their future sons. This she did, alienating her sons, shattering their trust in her, and rendering their relationship cold and distant from that day forward.

Emma reigned happily as Canute's queen for eighteen years. Together they had one son, Hardicanute. When Canute died, however, all promises made seemed to hold no weight. Discord broke out between all their sons from both marriages as they battled young Hardicanute for the crown. When Canute’s eldest son claims the throne of England, Emma is sent into exile. After much bloodshed, both sons of Canute, as well as her son Alfred, were killed. Her son Edward the Confessor, who wisely stayed out of the conflict and never sought the throne, ended up with the crown of England.

Patricia Bracewell brilliantly writes of Emma's life in the novel, Shadow on the Crown.

Book Synopsis

A rich tale of power and forbidden love revolving around a young medieval queen

In 1002, fifteen­-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son.

Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life.

Based on real events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon ChronicleShadow on the Crown introduces readers to a fascinating, overlooked period of history and an unforgettable heroine whose quest to find her place in the world will resonate with modern readers.

Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell tells the fascinating story of Emma of Normandy. With flowing narrative, Emma’s life is brought to light in great detail and foresight. From Viking attacks to deadly family conflicts, this novel is so brilliantly written that I could not put it down. I was engaged to the very end. Aethelred’s dislike and lack of respect for Emma is poignant, her unhappiness heart-wrenchingly depicted. Amid a hostile court, Emma perseveres and struggles to make her way and define her role. It is a story of love, hate, betrayal, and perseverance. Riveting from start to finish.

From History and Women

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