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This is part one of a series about the last Saxon Lords of England – the Godwine family, the most famous of whom was Harold Godwineson, King Harold II of 1066 fame. This first episode, however, is the tale of Godwine, the ‘founder’ of the dynasty, Harold II’s father.
We follow Godwine through his youth, his rise to power and downfall into exile. As a Saxon shepherd with no prospects he gives aid to the invading Danish, seizing an unexpected opportunity to make something better of himself. Wise choice, because Canute of Denmark became King of England and Godwine is duly rewarded by being granted the Earldom of Wessex and a Danish lady of rank as his wife.
Through the untimely death of Canute, the troublesome times of Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut, to the eventual reign of Edward the Confessor, we tread with Godwine, sometimes on firm, but most times on treacherous ground. His fall from power is as spectacular as his previous rise.
The story was a little slow to get going, but soon picked up pace. I was a little confused by some of the story – Godwine, I thought was the son of a seafarer, not a shepherd, but then, this is fiction and Godwine’s early life is very hazy when it comes to factual history. I would have liked a little more depth to the character himself particularly in understanding his political motivations and the modern American English occasionally jarred a little (i.e ‘gotten lost’) which may be an issue for UK readers, although not for US.
However, the author has obviously taken a lot of trouble with the research required for the customs and life in general during these early to mid 11th Century England is brought very vividly to life.
© Anne Holt