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'After Hastings' review

Christian

Well-known member
@SpanishSpy You mentioned that, unlike other novels that focus on high authorities, this one doesn't just accept power as it is, but actually takes a look and interrogates it, questioning it and examining it in close proximity. How exactly does the book do that? What are some specific scenes that make it seem like they are doing that?

Secondly, would you mind giving any specific examples of how he makes it clear just how vicious medieval combat is? I don't watch much medieval fiction, but most I've read also make it clear that combat at the time was quite dir

I don't think I can get this book, so I'll just ask for details.
 

Alexander Rooksmoor

Well-known member
Very interesting. I have, as yet, not decided how I feel about AH novels stemming from or, at least as suggested here, influenced by the style of, online discussions. I know some readers feel that they are more legitimate because they have somehow been 'tested' in an open forum rather than the author being left with (almost) all the power to decide the direction that they take.

I have long been interested in a what if? around the Battle of Hastings (and indeed the Battle of Stamford Bridge) and often think of The Time Meddler (1965) from the 'Doctor Who' series. I do think there is much capacity for looking into alternatives in the early medieval period especially with England but elsewhere too. While it might be a challenge, I would love to see one showing modern day England/Britain without having had a Norman Invasion and how different English vocabulary and pronunciation would be as a result.

Coming in at a tangent here, but has anyone on here read the 1066 Turned Upside Down collection?
 

Hendryk

Nothing ever ends
Published by SLP
Location
France
I do think there is much capacity for looking into alternatives in the early medieval period especially with England but elsewhere too.
That's what I was hoping that Harrison's The Hammer and the Cross would be when I started reading it, but the intervention of supernatural forces spoiled the story for me.
 

SpanishSpy

Well-known member
Published by SLP
@SpanishSpy You mentioned that, unlike other novels that focus on high authorities, this one doesn't just accept power as it is, but actually takes a look and interrogates it, questioning it and examining it in close proximity. How exactly does the book do that? What are some specific scenes that make it seem like they are doing that?

Secondly, would you mind giving any specific examples of how he makes it clear just how vicious medieval combat is? I don't watch much medieval fiction, but most I've read also make it clear that combat at the time was quite dir

I don't think I can get this book, so I'll just ask for details.
It comes from how Harold is never assumed to simply be the king; his position is threatened within or without constantly. A great many AH stories accept power as this unchanging thing and don't really ask what it takes to maintain it. There are many, many scenes that emphasize this.

And re: combat - one of the most vivid scenes is a character walking through a river filled with corpses.
 

Alexander Rooksmoor

Well-known member
One point is, even if Harold had seen off the Norwegians and the Normans, there was the Ætheling, Edgar, who had been elected by the Witenagemot but not crowned. Thus, there was potential for a civil war over the claims, still. Edgar was only 14 or so in 1066, but when he reached manhood this may have been a challenge for Harold. Sorry, I think now I am straying into points of divergence territory rather than a response to the article.
 

SpanishSpy

Well-known member
Published by SLP
If Robert Cowley's What If II, the hypothesis of a Norman defeat at Hastings is explored by Cecelia Holland, and her conclusion is that a surviving Saxon England would remain part of the greater Norse cultural sphere. Does Silver explore that possibility?
Not too much, no. He does, however discuss who Harold's allies on the Continent may be.
 
The headline event of the battle is one of the few of the medieval period which most readers can be assumed to have heard of , so the publishers would home in on this as the key event for any 'Alt Hist Anglo-Saxon England Survives' book. But I personally find the overall political and cultural possibilities more interesting than having too much detailed medieval combat , the latter of which seems to be dominating a lot of this sort of books - which I used to find puzzling, but now assume is linked to the derivation of the ideas from computer games and the hoped-for appeal to gamers as buyers. (There was a British TV series, on Channel Four I think, some years ago called 'Time Commanders' which had a mixture of gamers and historical enthusiasts re-enacting great battles on computer, with them in two teams for the two sides - and experts advising on tactics and weapons. Often the OTL losing side won. I found this fascinating but it was only on for a couple of years.)

In the 1066 scenario, re: Edgar Atheling (born c. 1052/4 so too young to succeed King Edward the Confessor, his great-uncle , in Jan 1066 hence Harold's election), Harold would not have stood much chance of being chosen as king by the Council (Witan)or being recommended by the dying Edward if Edgar's father , Edward 'the Exile' ( b c. 1015, d 1057) had not died in 1057 - he was the intended heir in the 1050s. He had been exiled as a threat by the Danish usurper King Cnut in 1016 as a baby, ended up in Russia, and as an adult had moved to Hungary to help an exiled prince get his throne back in 1046/7; he and his German wife were then invited back to England by King Edward in 1056 as King Edward and his wife, Harold's sister Edith, were childless. But soon after the Exile arrived home, with his young son Edgar, he died suddenly amidst rumours of poison - and either Harold or the King's Norman cousin Duke William were rumoured to have got rid of him as a potential rival. Hence Harold had a much better chance of the throne as there was only a small boy left in the Royal Family as heir (plus his sisters, one of whom, Margaret, later married Malcolm III of Scotland and was the ancestress of the kings of Scotland and mother of Henry I of England's wife). Also Harold was lucky in that his main rival among the great earls (provincial governors) of 1060s England, Earl Aelfgar of Mercia (son of Earl Leofric and Lady Godiva, yes that Lady G) , died in his 40s (?) in 1062/4 and was
succeeded by his weak son Earl Edwin, who lacked the will or aggression to stand up to Harold in 1066. Aelfgar had defied Harold in the 1050s and twice been exiled thanks to H's efforts, only to force his way back to office by in vading with an army of Welshmen on the first occasion (1055) and an army of Vikings on the second (1058). If he had been alive in 1066 he was likely to have stood in H's way - and insisted on Edgar becoming king instead?

This concentration on the combat in detail, not the politics or even the genuine and vicious court intrigues, seems to reflect a televisual centred age ; shades of the endless battles and cutting of a lot of the rest of the plot in the 'Lord of the Rings' films?
 

David Flin

Real people take priority over imaginary people
This concentration on the combat in detail, not the politics or even the genuine and vicious court intrigues, seems to reflect a televisual centred age ; shades of the endless battles and cutting of a lot of the rest of the plot in the 'Lord of the Rings' films?
For me, the concentration on the combat in detail is made worse by the fact that in the vast majority of cases - books, TV, or films - are just so bad at it.

Any resemblance to actual historical combat is purely incidental. And rare.

Spartacus, Gladiator, Robin Hood, Game of Thrones, Jackson's Lord of the Rings, and many others - I'm looking at you.
 
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