Thursday 2 September 2021

The powers at play in FOR LORD AND LAND

In the eighth novel of the Bernicia Chronicles series, I not only wanted to continue Beobrand’s story in the seventh century, but also look at some of the powers at play in the early medieval period in Britain. In particular, I wanted to investigate the roles of kinship and inheritance, and how the bonds of blood and marriage could impact on the affairs of both royal dynasties and those of a more lowly station.

Much of what we know about Anglo-Saxon Britain comes from land grants and wills. We find how land was parcelled up, and what boundaries were used as markers. Things like trees and streams were commonly named as bounding the area of a piece of land. And it might come as a surprise that in a period commonly known as the ‘Dark Ages’, in which men dominated positions of authority, women were able to inherit and own land.

Of course, land can provide lucrative income. Leaders will even start wars over it, sometimes with their own kin. This is the case with Oswiu of Bernicia and his second cousin, Oswine of Deira, who in 651 led their warhosts against each other in a conflict over the southern part of Northumbria.

Apart from this clash of kings, in FOR LORD AND LAND I also describe smaller land disputes and tell the story of how a family, and one strong woman, have to deal with a particularly nasty neighbour.

Though unable to stand in the shieldwall along with Beobrand and the other warriors, women of the time could exert huge influence on events. In FOR LORD AND LAND, that influence is felt by King Oswiu, whose queen, Eanflæd, is instrumental in forcing her husband to establish a new monastery. She also becomes a patron of important Christian figures who will shape the future of the church in Britain.

By the end of the novel, it becomes clear that some things never change. Avarice can always create conflict, and no matter how closely people are related, and irrespective of gender, blood is sometime not enough to protect against greed.

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