Monday, 29 December 2014

Fascinating Facts: King Stephen

This is evidence that Britain has had some really useless kings!

Fascinating Facts: Stephen [1135-1154]

  • Nephew of William I and cousin of William Rufus and Henry I, he was a lovely man but a useless king.
  • When his father died, Henry was a surrogate father to him, and everyone thought Stephen would be his heir. But, knowing he was not aggressive or tough enough to rule, Henry named his daughter Matilda and forced all his barons to swear loyalty to her.
  • When Henry died Stephen rushed to gather the support of the barons and the clergy, and was crowned only a few weeks later.
  • When the Scots rebelled and Geoffrey of Anjou threatened Normandy, instead of fighting them, Stephen bought them off.
  • When Matilda landed in England, he made no attempt to stop her gathering an army, which led to civil war. Stephen was a great soldier, but in 1141 he was captured, deposed, and Matilda took the throne.
  • The barons would not accept a queen and the civil war continued. Stephen's reign is often called 'the Anarchy'. The government fell apart and every landowner built a castle to protect his own interests.
  • When Matilda's fourteen-year-old son Henry came to England to fight for his mother, he didn't have the money to pay his soldiers – so Stephen paid his debts and helped him return home!
  • Henry grew up to hold vast lands in France and have great skill in war, so in 1153 Stephen agreed to make Henry his heir as long as Stephen could continue to reign. Stephen died only a year later.


Monday, 22 December 2014

News and Season's Greetings

Over the last few weeks there have been some interesting developments, in the local history area.

I gave a talk to the Gower Society that went down very well. As a result, I was put in touch with two people. The first was a teacher from Oystermouth Primary School. She wants me to give a talk to her class next term about Alina. I went to meet her and we got on well. Two things came out of that.

The class has an interactive whiteboard, where I can display PowerPoint slides. I have a display book of images that I flip through during my talks, and have intended putting them into Powerpoint, but never got around to it. This is the incentive I need to get it done.

The other thing, is that the teacher said, if my talk to her class goes well, the other teachers may want talks too, and the school can help me get my name in front of the other schools in the area who might also be interested in local history.

Going back to my Gower Society talk, the secretary put me in touch with a lovely man who wanted to show me a book he has that includes Alina. My husband took me to his house and we had tea and cake with him and his wife while he showed me this book.

It turns out to be a hand-written novel by John Dillwyn Llywelyn (a famous family in this area), written in the 1840s. Among the pages of the 4 notebooks it fills are delightful pencil sketches and occasional watercolours. The handwriting is beautiful copperplate and the style is reminiscent of other novels of that era. Whether it is actually any good, I have yet to discover. The best thing is that he gave me a transcript, complete with copies of the pictures!

So I have a Powerpoint (or several) to make, and a novel to read. I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, have a very happy Christmas and a blessed New Year.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

This Blog is Expanding!

Today I have some exciting news! Over the coming months this blog will be expanding to cover the other part of my writing: science fiction.

Don't be alarmed, the fun and fascinating facts about history will still be here, and all the news about my local history books as well as my new project on Magna Carta.

Those who have followed me for a while will know that I run two blogs. This one is my official author blog, and the other one, Ann Marie Thinking Out Loud, is my personal blog. So far, my only claim to authorship is my two local history books, stories from medieval Gower. All my other writing has been talked about on my personal blog.

For many years I have been writing a science fiction series called Flight of the Kestrel. The first book is called Intruders, the second and third books are only in rough draft form, waiting to be worked on. Well, I have just sent Intruders to a professional editor, who will work on it during January. So I am preparing to publish it.

For that reason, this blog needs to cater for future readers of that book too.

I will also be launching a mailing list, where you can subscribe as a reader of my books. There will be options for my history readers and my science fiction readers, so you won't get information you aren't interested in.

So - watch this space!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Fascinating Facts: Henry I

We've all heard of William the Conqueror, didn't know about William Rufus, might have a vague idea about Henry. After all there was Henry VIII wasn't there? So there must have been a Henry I to start off the Henrys. Did you know he was another son of William the Conqueror? We aren't finished with that family yet!

 Fascinating Facts: Henry I [1100-1135]


  • Brother of William II, who had made a pact with their brother Robert Curthose (Duke of Normandy) to exclude Henry from the succession of both England and Normandy. When William died, Robert was out of the country, so Henry seized control.
  • He was cold-blooded and cruel. He once tore out a captive's eyes with his bare hands.
  • Unlike other Norman kings, he could read and write.
  • He was constantly engaged in intrigue, devious and deceitful and broke faith with nearly everyone.
  • When Robert proved weak in Normandy, Henry campaigned to take control, captured his brother, and imprisoned him for life.
  • He loved hawks and had hundreds at court and would go hunting at dawn. He preferred rare white falcons.
  • In 1120 Henry and his whole family sailed from France to England. The White Ship carrying the young people, children of the king and many nobles, delayed leaving while they partied. When it eventually sailed it struck a rock and sank. Only one man survived.
  • In 1135, aged 67, Henry died from eating too many lamprey eels. As the famous book 1066 and All That said, he died of a surfeit.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Hello again!

In my last post I explained that I was taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) so I wouldn't be posting. Well, it's over, so I'm back.

The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I didn't make it.


I'm a bit sad, mainly because the winners tee-shirt has a dragon on it, and I love dragons.


But I learned some valuable lessons, which I'll be blogging about on my personal blog, and I have 35,000 words of a novel that I can work on in the future. More importantly, I wrote at least several hundred words every day, which is a great habit to nurture, and I intend to continue.

So, normal service will be resumed, both on my blogs and with my other writing. The main project is my book on Magna Carta, which will be out early next year in time for the 800th anniversary celebrations. I hope you'll drop by.