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A Story Buried for 1000 Years
By: Martin Lake
written all my life but fifteen years ago I decided to combine my love of
writing and history and try my hand at writing historical fiction.
a couple of novels and started and put down a few more as well. Then I discovered a subject which has kept me
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.
made me spend so long writing about this man and his history?
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.
in life I read a book by Frank McLynn called ’1066: The Year of Three Battles’
and was fascinated to find out that more had taken place in that troubled year
than merely the Battle of Hastings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
decided to write his story in the form of a novel.
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.
wondered why. Was it that the Norman Kings feared to do him harm, that
they felt guilty because he was the legitimate king or that he was very lucky
or very intelligent? In the end I have come to believe that all these
factors help explain the inexplicable.
successfully did the Normans erase mention of Edgar that there is still, a
thousand years later, very little information about him.
article called The Last Æþeling by Betty Hale, a short biography in the Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography, passing 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.
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.
written two novels in the series (‘The Lost King: Resistance’ and ‘Wasteland’)
and am about to publish the third: ‘The Quality of Kings’. They are all available as e-books world-wide.
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