What comes first – the book or the title?

A question was posed recently on a writing group from someone wanting to write a book but unable come up with a title. The general advice – which I would agree with – was not to delay writing just because you didn’t have a title but to get started and hopefully the title will come. But eventually, if a book is to be put on sale, it has to have a title and these can be tricky things. How can you sum up the essence of 80 – 100,000 words in just a few?

For me, the title often comes very early on, sometimes while still at the research stage. The Girl from BrittiaThree Times the Lady, and The Saxon Marriage all got their titles at this point.
The Girl from Brittia (4)              Judith of Flanders Judith of West Francia                Eadgyth of Wessex and Otto the Great Cover image by Gali Estrange/shutterstock.com


Kenneth’s Queen actually started out as The Nameless Queen and remained that way for the whole of the first draft. The folder where I keep all documents to do with this book still has that title. It seemed to be a title which summed up the themes of identity which ran through that book as well as describing the main character and reflecting on the fact that this woman who was present at this tumultuous time and undoubtedly participated in the events, helping to found a dynasty which would rule Scotland, did not even have her name recorded. However I abandoned that title upon finding another book with that name. So the name was changed to Kenneth’s Queen which I think was the right choice. As well as the alliterative sound, it does at least give to that unknown woman the one bit of her identity we can be sure of.

Kenneth mac Alpin Cinaed mac Alpin


The title of my most recent book had a much more awkward history. The original title was The Italian Marriage, a nice follow up to The Saxon Marriage. But there were a few problems with this. Firstly, the Saxon Marriage got its title because it was the marriage uniting two Saxon dynasties – the ancient line of Wessex with the upstart royal family of Saxony. Eadgyth and Otto were both Saxons. But what would The Italian Marriage have been? For Adelheid, it would have been her first, fairly short marriage to Lothair of Italy. Her more significant marriage should surely be called The German Marriage. Secondly, I did not want this book as a sequel to The Saxon Marriage. Yes, it contains a lot of the same characters but Eadgyth and Adelheid were two individual women and the fact they married the same man should not take that away from them.

The next title was ‘All Roads’ as in all roads lead to Rome. But I never warmed to that title. Of course they had roads but even so, the word seemed too modern for a historical novel. Besides, the drive to Rome was Otto’s ambition not Adelheid’s. The first draft was completed but I was no nearer my title.

So, the next title was The Three Crowns referring to the crown of Italy, the crown of Germany and (spoiler!) maybe there would be a third crown Adelheid would gain. This summed up the story, it has a medieval feel to it but something was not quite right. Does anyone else enjoy the fabulous ghost stories of M. R. James? If so, they will be familiar with the three crowns in ‘A Warning to the Curious’. These are Dark Age crowns but they belong to an earlier period and a different dynasty – that of the East Angles, the Wuffingas. For me, those are the three crowns, not Adelheid’s. And I may want to use that title if (when?) I return to the Wuffingas.

I had set myself the deadline of having a cover to reveal for this book on Otto’s birthday and that was now fast approaching. The book was finished, barring a few final read-throughs. But there was still no title. So, I went back to my research and found a quote, the words Adelheid used to describe herself. “Adelheid, by God’s gift an ******* (spoiler!) and by herself a poor sinner and God’s maidservant.” So, at last, I had my title and could add it to the cover.

Sinner12But something about that title just didn’t seem right. A long time ago, I read Leonard Nimoy’s autobiography and he referred to an earlier work which he had titled ‘I am not Spock’ and his publisher tried to dissuade it from him, saying it was a negative title. This title too seemed negative. And was it even fair to call her a poor sinner? Yes, she is a bit pre-occupied with sin and certainly, she was no saint… oh. Well, ok, she was a saint… So ‘a poor sinner’ did seem a bit harsh. It’s fine if that is what she wants to call herself, but is it really fair for me to call her that?

With just days to spare I looked at the second part of that quote. God’s Maidservant and this seemed a much better description. One which sums up in a couple of words a devout tenth-century woman, devoted to charities, who may have made some mistakes but whose unwavering faith sustained her through some dark and dangerous times.

Adelaide of Italy Empress Adelaide

But this throws up an interesting answer to the question, what comes first, the book or the title? I was aware of that quote before writing a word of the book and it strongly influenced how I saw her. So perhaps, even in this book, the title came first.

Or is the answer stranger still? These are Adelheid’s own words, a medieval woman speaking across the ages. Did this book, in fact, get its title more than a thousand years before it was written?


2017 – a strange year

2017 was a strange year. The sort of year, where if the events were used in a political drama, you would have said it was far-fetched. Here in the UK we had a general election. polling-station-2643466_1920We did not have to have a general election. The government had a majority, but they wanted to increase it. Instead they lost it. During the campaign the prime minister, who called the election, announced she was too busy with Brexit to join in the debate. Afterwards she blamed the loss of the majority on the fact they were not prepared for a surprise election – even though she was the one who called it! fake-2355686_1920Over in the USA things were no more sensible as Donald Trump’s rants fascinated Twitter, but became increasingly bizarre as the year went on and fake news became the order of the day. We tend to think of the past as more corrupt and less democratic but I don’t think we have much to feel superior about anymore.

A year ago in 2016 – the year I lost a continent but gained a whole world I speculated on whether 2017 might bring a turning of the tide, so do I feel more hopeful than this time last year? I’m not sure. There have been far too many tragic events this year across the world. cooperation-1301790_1280However the pro-EU movement has had some victories and to me feels more energised. Will that be enough to stop the slide into right-wing nationalism? I don’t know. The direction of 2018 seems impossible to predict. Anything could happen.

For me personally, 2017 has been less strange and mostly positive. I saw one of my sons complete the gruelling Dartmoor Ten Tors challenge and another perform in The Tempest at our local theatre. ScotlandHighlights of the year included a wonderful trip to Scotland which you can read about In the footsteps of Kenneth Mac Alpin as well as catching up with friends in Suffolk and London. I even took on a cameo role in a film! Minyons! The year was not all happy. In May I lost my last grandparent, just a month short of her 100th birthday.Family day out at Bicton Park  A reminder to us all, even as we look to the future, to cherish those links to the past.



Next year is likely to be dominated by my eldest son’s exams – please think of me on results day in August. I suspect I will have no fingernails left by then!

For Women of the Dark Ages, 2017 saw two new books The Saxon Marriage and God’s Maidservant, both about the same family. emperor-566485_1920The Ottonians – a family so fascinating it would be possible to fill a whole bookshelf with just the stories of the women alone. The stories of Eadgyth and Adelheid are my most ‘historical’ novels to date FotoFlexer_PhotoBannerOttowhich brought its own set of challenges as well as rewards.

Where will 2018 take Women of the Dark Ages? Shall I stay with the Ottonians, telling more of the stories of the courageous and often formidable women who were born or married into this family? The answer to that is no, at least not yet. God’s Maidservant was emotionally very difficult to write. As a writer, I will often draw on my own experiences when possible. So, as a mother of three sons it was probably inevitable that in any babies born in my books and particularly the boys, I would see my own children. This is fine if they grow and prosper, but what if they do not?

So, where next? The answer to that is backwards – in time that is. The saintly Ottonians completely broke my heart, so I shall be spending the next book with some thoroughly and delightfully immoral Franks. This next one is going to be fun!

But as 2017 draws to a close, all that remains for me to do is to wish everyone, whether you are readers, fellow writers or simply passing by, a peaceful new year and every happiness for 2018!


Women of the Dark Ages – the series so far!

The novels in the Women of the Dark Ages historical fiction series

Kenneth’s Queen                                                                                 Three Times the Lady

The Girl from Brittia                                                         The Saxon Marriage

                                                       God’s Maidservant


The wives of Otto the Great

Otto the great – King of Germany 936 – 973 and Holy Roman Emperor from 962 – 973 – had two wives. The first was Eadgyth of Wessex, the second Adelheid of Italy. The point of this post is not to look at their lives. emperor-566485_1920Firstly because there are far more scholarly articles on them and secondly because I have already told their stories in The Saxon Marriage and God’s Maidservant! What I have often pondered while writing these books was which woman was most significant, both to Otto himself and to history.

As to which one was most significant to Otto, there can be no answer. They entered his life at two very different points and the man who married Adelheid must have been a very different one from the man – boy? – who married Eadgyth. Yet all the evidence is that they were happy marriages and he enjoyed a close bond with them both.

In history, on the face of it, there can be no comparison. Adelheid was one of the most influential women of her age. She wielded considerable influence in Otto’s reign, helping and advising her husband as he moved throughout his realm. She remained influential in the early years of the reign of Otto II. Too influential for some people! And she was a key figure in securing the succession of Otto III and ruled as regent for him after the death of his mother until he came of age.

Eadgyth, on the other hand, is a more shadowy figure with less known about her. She does not appear to have influenced Otto in political matters and never wielded power herself. Her main importance to Ottonian history seems to have lain in the prestige the marriage brought to Otto. He was of an upstart Saxon dynasty, but she had a much more impressive pedigree. Alfred the GreatToday, her grandfather, Alfred the Great would be the best known of her ancestors, but in the 10th century, they were more interested in an ancestry which could boast the early Wessex kings and Saint Oswald. Such a family tree boosted Otto’s position, making the German nobility more willing to accept him as their sole king.

But was that the limit of Eadgyth’s influence? Looking back at Otto’s reign from the 21st century it is easy to focus on the triumphs – his glorious victory at Lechfeld and the imperial title. It is hard to remember that at one point these triumphs were in the future and there was simply a young king, trying to maintain control over his rebellious nobles and no doubt wondering if he would still be the king or even alive in a years time.

Otto is described in the records as a restless and vocal sleeper, a detail which gives us a glimpse into his character. Yes, an overactive mind, but perhaps also a man with fears and regrets to haunt him. And who would have been beside him on those dark nights, offering comfort and support, giving the young Otto the strength to keep going?

There are two problems with this. Firstly, history is evidence-based and we have no idea what words might have passed between Otto and Eadgyth during those difficult nights or what impact they had on him. The second is more disturbing. Even if we did know, would that increase Eadgyth’s position in history? Care has become devalued in our society. If you don’t believe me, simply pop down to your local care home and see how little those people who provide such a vital service are paid. See how easy it is for governments to cut funding to health and welfare. There is almost a belief that no one should ever really need care and those who do – refugees, the disabled, the homeless, the mentally ill – are all too easily demonised by our society. It would seem laughable to us that Eadgyth could be at all significant to history simply by caring.

Yet all of us in our lives can identify moments where someone who cared has made a difference – perhaps to a day, perhaps to a year, perhaps to our whole lives. Was Otto really so different?

We shall never know whether Eadgyth in her own way was as influential in the reign of Otto as Adelheid and the man who could have told us died over a thousand years ago. But did he leave us one clue? Like many medieval kings, Otto prepared his burial place in advance. magdeburg-1578869_1920Where did he lie? Beside his empress, the woman who welcomed him back after his victory at Lechfeld, the one who he was married to for more than two decades? No, he lay beside Eadgyth, the woman who had died more than a quarter of a century before him, the one who knew him first not as a king, but as a boy of 17.

Perhaps this was Otto’s way of saying, “This woman was very important to me. I never forgot it and nor should anyone else.”



Eadgyth of Wessex and Otto the Great Cover image by Gali Estrange/shutterstock.com The Saxon Marriage                              Adelaide of Italy Empress Adelaide God’s Maidservant


The latest addition

The novels in the Women of the Dark Ages historical fiction series

‘Women of the Dark Ages’ is to be joined by its newest member very soon! ‘God’s Maidservant’ will be available on Amazon, initially just in eBook format, with a paperback to follow in the new year. It’s all looking good for a 16th December 2017 release date!


And, double hooray – Otto is back! emperor-566485_1920But it is a different Otto from the one we met in The Saxon Marriage. It’s an Otto who has lost the two great stabilising influences on his life. His old friend, ally and faithful advisor, Duke Hermann of Swabia has died. And even worse than that, he’s lost his beloved Eadgyth.

What will this mean for his children, brothers and all the other characters of ‘The Saxon Marriage’? But most of all, what will this mean for Adelheid, the young Italian widow when she seeks Otto’s aid?

Tissues at the ready – It’s God’s Maidservant

Adelaide of Italy Empress Adelaide

As a daughter of the King of Burgundy, Adelheid’s destiny has been decided at the age of two. She will marry the son of her father’s rival, the King of Italy, taking her place one day as its queen.

As Adelheid grows up, she dreads her impending marriage, longing instead for a life of contemplation and devotion in an abbey. But aware it is her duty, she and Lothair, the King of Italy are wed.

The marriage is as unhappy as it is brief, their lives dominated by Berengar, the true ruler of Italy and his vicious wife, Willa. Widowed young, Adelheid hopes she can at last take up the religious life she has always dreamed of.

But Tenth Century Italy proves to be a treacherous land for the beautiful young queen. Berengar, now the King of Italy, is jealous of Adelheid’s popularity with the people. He plots to marry her to his own son, the odious Adalbert and he will not take no for an answer.

Only one man can help – Otto, the King of Germany and the most powerful man in Christendom. But Otto’s help will come at a price. A widower, whose heart lies in the grave with his beloved wife, he demands Adelheid’s lands and her beauty for his own…


Like all the books in the ‘Women of the Dark Ages’ series, this is a standalone novel. But to discover the early years of Otto’s reign, to meet the younger versions of some of the characters of ‘God’s Maidservant’ and to hear the tale of the woman whose memory haunts the pages,Eadgyth of Wessex and Otto the Great Cover image by Gali Estrange/shutterstock.com The Saxon Marriage is available on Amazon in eBook and paperback.

Scotland’s patron saint

Celebrating St Andrew’s Day again!

Dark Age Voices

In England’s patron saint I considered whether Saint George was the best patron saint for England and in many ways I could make a similar argument for Scotland. Like Saint George, Saint Andrew never came to Scotland and like England, Scotland has other options – Saint Columba and Saint Margaret are two examples that immediately spring to mind. Yet somehow, Saint Andrew feels like he belongs to Scotland. Perhaps because his association originates from a time when the nation of Scotland was in its gestation.

There are a number of legends, but the most popular one is that the Picts and the Scots had come together to raid the Angles, but were chased away, finally having to face their foes at Athelstaneford. When all seemed hopeless Saint Andrew appeared to the Pict king, Angus, promising him victory and when the Picts and the Scots faced the Angles the next day…

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England’s patron saint

Happy St Edmund’s Day!

Dark Age Voices

Today is the feast of Saint Edmund, England’s original patron saint. In many ways he has more to offer than Saint George. He was a King of East Anglia, who fought alongside Alfred the Great, unlike Saint George who never came here. Saint George is also rather a busy patron saint, with many other places to consider. George became the patron saint of England on the order of Edward III, but his unfortunate links with the crusaders (he was said to have appeared to the crusader army at Antioch in 1098) makes him a difficult saint for all English to get behind.

While Saint Edmund, a man who died rather than betray his country, is an excellent possibility for a new patron saint, he is not the only candidate. Others could include

  • Saint Alban – The first recorded British martyr, predating Saint Edmund the Marty by (possibly) over 600 years

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Ghosts of the Dark Age

Dark Age Voices

It’s the 31st of October, so what better time to tell of some peculiar goings-on from more than 1000 years ago! Back in the Dark Ages people too must have told stories at this time of year, as the harvest was completed, travel became harder and the nights became darker…

The Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in AD 451 was a bloody and brutal one by anyone’s standards. Attila  and the Huns fought against the combined Roman and Visigothic forces under the command of the Roman general Flavius Aetius and the Visigothic King Theoderic. The result of the battle was uncertain, as although Attila was defeated he escaped and continued his campaigns against Rome. It is also not known how many fought and died, but casualties may well have gone into the thousands or even tens of thousands. The battle was fought in the evening and so it was not until the next…

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Making a YouTube book trailer

Judith of Flanders

First of all this is definitely not a ‘how to make a YouTube Book trailer’. I think in this I proved a complete amateur, but I did have a lot of fun, learnt lots and hopefully you’ll think the end result is not too bad!

Every amateur needs a good mentor and I was lucky enough to have a good source of advice in my second son, someone capable of rather more professional results than me. Of course, every good mentor would benefit from a proficient student who actually pays attention…

Question one: What software do you use to make your videos?


So, my first stumbling block came when I realised I couldn’t remember the answer to that question. “No problem,” I think. “It’s on the computer somewhere.”

Can I find it? Of course not. I do, however, come across Movie Maker. So I get stuck in.

Movie Maker is fortunately fairly easy to use. It has some interesting effects for each new screen and the text. While Clever Son is capable of editing video footage and linking it seamlessly together, that one is a bit beyond me. So I’ve stuck with a series of stills. Pixabay is a good source of images for every situation and combined with some pictures of my own and some title screens I soon had a good series and had lots of fun with the different effects.

I used text rather than reading anything myself – probably a wise move. I hate the sound of my own voice on tape!

Question two: What do you think?

So, I proudly show off my progress so far. “Hmmm, it’s not very centered, is it?” pebbles-2020100_1920Ok, who is this kid? How does any child of mine become such a perfectionist?


But at least he confirms that all screens have sufficient time to be read. Phew. He also asks if I am going to add a backing track. Ha! I’ve already thought of this one.

Question three: Where will I find a backing track which fits?

“Oh, YouTube has plenty of public domain music.” “Yes,” say I, feeling superior at last, because I know medieval things and he doesn’t. “I want something medieval or chanting monks. They won’t have that will they?” “They have all sorts,” he replies. And he’s right. I find this. medieval tune It’s not 9th century, but with drums and flutes, it’s only using instruments which could have been used.

Question four: How do you download music from YouTube?

I consulted Google for this one. Yes, even I can do that. Feeling very clever I download the tune. I click on the button to add backing track. Easy! Unfortunately what turns up is a quiet screen. Then the YouTube video I’ve downloaded, then the rest of my video continues in silence. comic-1583655_1920

Question five: How do you convert MP4 to MP3?

“You could layer it so the download plays underneath, but can’t be seen.” Whaaaat? Layering? What is that? computer-problem-152211_1280Fortunately, before I panic too much, I get given the look of contempt which only a near teen can give and he says, “You could just use an online MP4 to 3 converter.” Phew.

This goes well. I get my backing track on, tweak the timings of the video, make sure everything is centered. Watch it several times. Done. Movie Maker has a nice handy upload to YouTube button which even I can click on. It invites me to make a channel and I decide I’ll set up one from a new account. Here it is: Dark Age Voices Youtube Channel So I click again on the Moviemaker upload button. Answer. “Bad response from YouTube” or something like that. What does that mean?

Question six: How do you upload videos to Youtube?

I consult Google again. It helpfully tells me to log into Youtube and click on the upload button… yes, it really is that easy! Glad I didn’t ask Clever Son for that one. After that it was easy. Description, keywords, choose a thumbnail for the cover. Publish!

So, I watch it a few times, including from my other YouTube account and use that one to subscribe and like the video. Then I put some of the keywords into the search. I have a result fairly near the top, but it’s a link to the channel, rather than the actual video.

Question seven: How do I get the thumbnail to appear?

Ha. This time Son is stumped. He suggests a few things. Nothing works. I google the problem, but it seems no one else has that problem. I ask the question on a forum. It is ignored. Yes, I finally have a problem no one can solve, not even Clever Son! Good! I have just dashed off some feedback to YouTube when the penny drops. The thumbnail does appear – it just appears further down the list than my channel. Yep, I really am that stupid. (Although to be fair Clever Son didn’t consider this possibility either!)

So, here it is! Any views (and likes!) would be much appreciated, so it appears further up in the searches!

For the book: Three Times the Lady

To see some really good videos, check out my son’s channel Arbor. You even get to see me in one of the videos! And I will make a cameo appearance, reading one of my own books, in the upcoming film!

If you’ve made a book trailer, please share the link in the comments – I’d love to see them. Especially if you are, like me, an amateur! Also any tips. I’ve still got lots to learn – and I do have another three books to make trailers for. And hopefully, soon, a fourth…

In the footsteps of Kenneth Mac Alpin

Dunadd Footprint

This summer my family holiday was a long-anticipated one to Scotland. In between heading up mountains, Nessie hunting and kayaking on lochs I was fortunate enough to visit some of the locations of Kenneth’s Queen and perhaps some of the places truly visited by Kenneth (Cinaed) Mac Alpin more than a thousand years ago.


Because we were based in the west the later locations of the book – Forteviot, Scone and Dunkeld will have to wait for another visit, but the two key early locations of the book were very much on our itinerary.

The island of Mull is referred to only in passing in the book, but off Mull is the sacred Isle of Iona. In the days of CinaedIona Mac Alpin, despite Viking raids, this was an important abbey and undoubtedly the centre of pilgrimage. In Kenneth’s Queen the family spend a few idyllic years there, while Cinaed starts some dodgy Viking deals. Was the real Cinaed Mac Alpin ever there? Iona is traditionally considered his birthplace, although I often wonder if this is really true. When upstarts rise up to take the throne, there is often an attempt by their successors to give them additional credence. Was placing his birth on such a sacred location part of that? We shall never know. He must have been born somewhere – why not Iona?

The abbey there today is on the site of the abbey founded by Saint Columba hundreds of years before the days of Cinaed Mac Alpin. Iona AbbeyAs such as important centre it seems inevitable that a member of the ruling class such as Cinaed would have at least visited it on occasion.  He certainly had enough clout with the abbey to eventually bring the relics of Saint Columba from this island to keep them safe from Norse raids.

Iona is believed to be the resting place of the early Scottish kings, including Cinaed and Domnall.  We visited the burial ground on Iona and to describe it as an emotional experience is an understatement. Iona burial groundIn Historical fiction vs Historical fact, I wrote how strange it feels to view Cinaed and Domnall as anything other than young men. For a long time those young men lived in my head. In that burial ground on Iona I was perhaps at last truly in their presence, but they are no longer alive.

A few days later we visited the fort of Dunadd – one of the great power centres of Dal Riata. Despite the lack of records, it is a near certainty that Cinaed and his family must have spent some time there. In Kenneth’s Queen it is where he first brings Baena, his young bride and later returns for some of the most momentous events of his life.

Dunadd Fort

My first thoughts on arrival at Dunadd was that it seemed smaller than I expected. But as we climbed, this proved to be deceptive.

Dunadd Fort

And looking down from the top it was far easier to imagine the King looking down on all he owned with perhaps the troops amassing in the plain beneath just as I described in the book. Dunadd Fort




We found the sacred symbols, the bowl and the footprint where we had a friendly dispute over which one of us could be King of Dal Riata! My foot fitted best, but only, as my eldest son pointed out, because I was wearing an old pair of his walking boots which are at least two sizes too big for me! Did Cinaed once place his own foot into a print on the rock to declare himself king?

Dunadd footprint                    Dunadd Footprint

At the top it was exciting to sit in a place where Cinaed, his wife, or Domnall might have once sat. Dunadd FortPerhaps this was the hall where so many of the key scenes of Kenneth’s Queen took place –  an announcement of the death of a chief, the selection of a king and the arrival of a Pict messenger bearing bad news all took place there.

Despite a gap of centuries this trip to Scotland brought me a new connection with those characters and an even deeper love for their land. However it also made me aware of a glaring error in Kenneth’s Queen which I would now like to apologise for. How did I write more than 90,000 words on Scotland without once mentioning the midges? Those young warriors out on campaign must surely have been eaten alive!

beautiful Scotland

Travel to 9th century Scotland yourself in Kenneth’s Queen available on Amazon in paperback and eBook.

KB5_Photo  Kenneth’s Queen



Creating a great character

Alfred the Great

I always feel a sense of responsibility when creating my characters to get them right. I can never forget these were real people, who lived their lives, ate, drank, fell in love and, yes, made mistakes just as we do. In all honesty it is probably an impossible dream to get them completely right. The history of these Dark Age people is often incomplete and even when it is not, it is open to interpretation. Really the best I can hope for is that I have at least created characters they would be pleased with.*

However when I have to create a character who has become known as The Great, the responsibility seems very much bigger. The first time I needed to do this was in Three Times the Lady, when we are introduced to Athelwulf’s young son, Alfred. Judith of FlandersCreating this character was a lot of fun, mainly because this was an Alfred who was not yet Great. This was a child, already wise beyond his years, but still a child who could get excited about being on a boat and behave in a stroppy fashion with his guardians. It was also enjoyable to plant the seeds of his greatness in his intelligence, his quiet, watchful ways and in the way “when he speaks, everyone listens”, hinting at his natural leadership. He also seemed to be someone who even at his tender years, made an impression on those he met. Hopefully it is no surprise he later became known as Alfred the Great. (and yes, I couldn’t resist a few opportunities to describe him as Great in the book!)

In The Saxon Marriage I have two characters who would become known as The Great. For the younger of the two, Bruno, creating him was not dissimilar to Alfred. This was a child, slightly mischievous, and a long way from his greatness. Over the course of the book he starts to grow into his reputation as a scholar of some repute, but even at the end he is still a teenager. However creating Otto was a very different story. For the first time I have a main character who becomes known as The Great. Eadgyth of Wessex and Otto the Great Cover image by Gali Estrange/shutterstock.comYet at the beginning it was not so different, for this was an Otto who was not yet Great. At the beginning of the book he is, as the historian, Michael Wood describes him in this excellent article, a “17-year-old toughie”. Over the course of the book, he grows in experience and wisdom. Is he Great by the end of the book? Well, I shall let the readers decide, but he surely is at least getting there! But perhaps the question is also to who else does he owe his greatness? His father, Henry the Fowler, whose role I looked at in Great Dads of the Dark Age? His close advisors and allies such as Duke Hermann of Swabia? But most of all the book looks at the role of his first wife, Eadgyth. Like so many of the women of this era, much about her remains unknown. But she was at his side from the age of seventeen, as he took his first steps to power, through the troubles of the early years of his reign. How much of his greatness does he owe to her?


*Charles the Bald, I don’t care if you’re not pleased with how you’re portrayed. You shouldn’t have put your son’s eyes out.