I’d like to thank Eliza Redgold for this guest post about Lady Godiva. Eliza is an author, academic and unashamed romantic. Her new novel Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva will be released by St Martin’s Press on Bastille Day (July 14, 2015) but is already available for pre-order here. Her ‘Romance your Senses’ series of contemporary romances are published by Harlequin (MIRA) Australia and Escape Publishing. They include Black Diamonds (taste), Hide and Seek (sight) and Wild Flower (scent, 2015 release). Eliza Redgold is based upon the old, Gaelic meaning of her name, Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd. English folklore has it that if you help a fairy, you will be rewarded with red gold. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter.
In NAKED, Godiva’s story is set in 1023 in Anglo-Saxon ‘Engla-lond’. It was a tough time and place for a woman, with constant invasion by Vikings, but historical records suggest that Godiva was more than equal to the challenges of her day. Her name appears in the Domesday Book as the only female landowner who retained her lands not only against the Danes but also later against the Norman invasion of 1066, and her status as a landowner indicates that she inherited her own estate.
Like Godiva, Saxon noblewomen could inherit and govern property and some were certainly warriors. Many were peace weavers or in old Anglo-Saxon fripwebba, women who married men from an opposing tribe to establish peace or end war. Queen Wealtheow in Beowulf was such a woman. To be a peace weaver was a mantle of honor worn by any Saxon wife who kept the peace in her home, brave and loyal.
I enjoy research (which is lucky because in my ‘other life’ I’m an academic!). I discovered the work of Dr Megan Cavell at Durham University in the UK, who shared some of her fascinating papers on peace weavers with me. She also ended up kindly translating from old English some ancient riddles that appear in the novel. She runs the Riddle Ages website. Saxon riddles are hilarious – and rather bawdy too.
I loved the idea of Godiva as a peace weaver. As you’ll discover in NAKED she was skilled with both needle and sword, a battle-maid with a passion all her own. To find out how Godiva’s marriage worked out with Lord Leofric of Mercia … well, you’ll have to read the book!
In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek:
Rushing into my bower I threw myself down by the fire. Heaves wracked my body. Too many emotions. Anger. Shock. Exhaustion. Passion.
… Aine came in and hurried to my side. “Lady Godiva! What is it?”
“Oh, Aine!” I gulped mouthfuls of air.
She smoothed my hair. “Tell me.”
Pacing the room, I recounted what had happened.
“So Lord Leofric seeks to marry you?”
“He believes the Danish peril is too great for the Middle Lands.”
Aine pursed her lips. “There doesn’t seem to be a lie in that.”
“He didn’t tell me he would try to over-lord me,” I said tartly.
“Mercia is far mightier than Coventry and the Middle Lands,” Aine pointed out. “Lord Leofric is your overlord already.”
Aine pressed on. “This fighting has to end. Your mother would have wanted you to put what’s happened behind you. To be brave. To move on. That takes real courage. Many Saxon women have done what you are being called to do. You know the name such women are given, those who marry to end war. They are the fripwebba.”
“Peace weavers.” I bit my lip. “I know Saxon women pride themselves on keeping the peace. But that’s not the path I was raised for. I’m a warrior.”
“But why do you fight, my lady? You fight to bring peace to your lands.” Aine said shrewdly. “It’s not battle you truly seek. It’s peace.”
Aine picked up her sewing, lying nearby, and began to darn a hole in my tunic. The stitches, even and fine. “The needle can mend. The sword cannot.”
Doesn’t this sound fascinating!