Book review - Queen Emma and the Vikings
review by Becky
Emma, one of England's most remarkable queens, made her mark on a nation beset by Viking raiders at the end of the Dark Ages. At the center of a triangle of Anglo Saxons, Vikings, and Normans all jostling for control of England, Emma was a political pawn who became an unscrupulous manipulator. Regarded by her contemporaries as a generous Christian patron, an admired regent, and a Machiavellian mother, Emma was, above all, a survivor: hers was a life marked by dramatic reversals of fortune, all of which she overcame.
Available on Amazon.com: Queen Emma: A History of Power, Love, and Greed in 11th-Century England
This non-fiction book starts off on a suprisingly narrative and almost fictional note in that it sets the scene of how young Emma, daughter of the Duke Richard of Normandy was set upon a ship to England to marrie a man double her age and seal a strategic alliance against the growing strength of the Vikings. Some people may not like this narrative introduction but I think it adds that extra sparkle and almost depth to the text as it helps the reader imagine what Emma must have been like as each chapter and section goes through the key areas of history and introduce key characters that had a major influence not just on Emma's own life but of course the very history of English rule.
Emma is one of those forgotten queens who sadly reigned not once but twice (as well as strongly in the background of two of her son's reigns - Harthacnut and Edward (the confessor's early rule)) but also in a period of history not often talked about or featured in historical literature both non-fiction and fiction. That is the period before 1066, when King Ethelred the Unready (ill-counciled) was in power and the time when England was actually under Danish rule and formed part of a large scandinavian empire under King Cnut (or Canute if you prefer).
The reader will learn an awful lot not just about Emma but about the world and society she grew up in and will realise that Emma show's the inner strength, cunning and social survival skills that shone through in Queen Elizabeth 1st in the sixteenth century and equally Queen Victoria in the nineteenth century. But I am pleased to say that not one jot of this book is dry or boring. Each chapter is interesting, enriching, enlightening and even entertaining as the first.
If you wish to understand better the background behind 1066 well why not start from where it truly all began, with a similar battle of wills for the throne of England - before Godwinesone vs Hardrada vs Duke William ..... it was Swein/Cnut vs Edmund Ironside and the current King Ethelred who held a shakey stability. And weaving between these great men was one woman who was a foreigner herself - Emma of Normandy who outlived them all.
Want to adventure throught the lands of the Vikings? The height of the Vikings is an amazing period of time and there is a lot of great fiction that is based on historical facts from that period and place. Rebecca Wilson has written a guide to the genre and to some of the best works in the genre.
If you are fascinated by the subject of Vikings you should check out her blog at: http://www.soulchaserbecky.blogspot.com/
You can follow her on Twitter @soulchaserbecky.
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