Pre-Conquest England and House of Normandy

Until recently I had read very little about England in the centuries before the Plantagenet era began, but I am now developing an interest in the history of England before, during and just after the Norman Conquest. On this page I’ll be listing the books I have read that are set in that period. Feel free to add any more recommendations in the comment section!

7th Century

Hild

Hild by Nicola Griffith

Set in 7th century Britain – an island divided by warring kings, where the old pagan religions are under threat from the advance of Christianity – this is the story of Hild, the girl who would later become St Hilda of Whitby. Nicola Griffith’s writing is beautiful and poetic; this was a challenging read but one that I loved. The first in a planned trilogy.

Edwin High King of Britain

Edwin: High King of Britain by Edoardo Albert

This first volume of the Northumbrian Thrones trilogy is a fictional account of the life of Edwin, King of Northumbria. An entertaining novel filled with battles and duels, feasts and feuds, and lots of political intrigue; there was always something interesting happening or something new to learn and I was never bored.

Oswald

Oswald: Return of the King by Edoardo Albert

Edoardo Albert’s second Northumbrian Thrones novel tells the story of Oswald, who returns from exile on the island of Iona to reclaim the throne of Northumbria.

11th Century and the Norman Conquest

Gildenford

Gildenford by Valerie Anand

The first in Valerie Anand’s Norman series follows the adventures of Brand Woodcutter, a servant in the household of Godwin, Earl of Essex. This first volume concentrates on the events surrounding the betrayal and death of Alfred Atheling in the town of Gildenford. I loved this book – it really brings Anglo-Saxon England to life.

1066

1066: What Fates Impose by G.K. Holloway

The novel closely follows the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest, taking us through some key events of the period including the death of Edward the Confessor, Harold’s handfast marriage to Edyth Swan-neck, the threats from the Welsh and the Vikings, and the fates of Harold’s brothers Sweyn and Tostig Godwinson. A well-researched novel packed with historical facts; my only problem was that I struggled to connect with the characters.

Godwine Kingmaker

Godwine Kingmaker by Mercedes Rochelle

This novel tells the story of Godwine, Earl of Wessex, and his remarkable rise to become one of the most powerful men in England. I liked Godwine as a character and particularly enjoyed the portrayal of his relationship with Gytha, his wife.

The Sons of Godwine

The Sons of Godwine by Mercedes Rochelle

The second of Mercedes Rochelle’s Last Great Saxon Earls trilogy is narrated by Godwine’s sons, Harold, Tostig, Gyrth, Leofwine and Wulfnoth.

fatal-rivalry-mercedes-rochelle

Fatal Rivalry by Mercedes Rochelle

The final book in the trilogy takes us right through to the Battle of Hastings and its aftermath, exploring the rivalry between Harold Godwinson – Harold II of England – and his brother Tostig.

Shadow on the Crown

Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

This beautifully written novel covers the early life of Emma of Normandy, who comes to England in 1002 as the wife of King Aethelred II. Emma is portrayed sympathetically as she struggles with loneliness, her unhappy marriage, the hostility of her stepsons and the scheming of her jealous rival, Elgiva. The first in a trilogy.

The Chosen Queen

The Chosen Queen by Joanna Courtney

The first in the Queens of the Conquest trilogy, this is the story of Edyth of Mercia. Edyth is the wife of two kings – first Griffin, King of Wales, and then Harold Godwinson, King of England. This was a light but gripping and emotional read. However, I was disappointed with the author’s decision to modernise the names of the characters and this stopped me from becoming fully immersed in the time period.

12th Century – the House of Normandy

Lady of the English

Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick

Set during the period of civil war known as the Anarchy, this is the story of the Empress Matilda, daughter and heir of Henry I, who faces a battle with her cousin Stephen for the throne of England. Matilda’s son, Henry, will become the first Plantagenet king of England. We also follow the story of Matilda’s stepmother, Adeliza, another fascinating medieval woman.

Winter Siege

Winter Siege by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman

Again set during the Anarchy, this is an entertaining and atmospheric novel begun by Ariana Franklin before her death and completed by her daughter, Samantha Norman. With a plot involving besieged castles, evil monks, secret messages and displays of archery, this was a fun book to read.

Hammer for Princes

Hammer for Princes by Cecelia Holland

This book follows the story of Fulk, Earl of Stafford, as he fights for Prince Henry against King Stephen. Even as he leads his men in battle, besieges castles and competes in tournaments, Fulk’s biggest problems come in the form of his own family: his scheming uncle Thierry and his own son Rannulf. An atmospheric but unemotional novel with an interesting and complex protagonist.