Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest post from Elizabeth Chadwick, author of FOR THE KING'S FAVOR. Win TWO free copies!

Acclaimed historical fiction author Elizabeth Chadwick has carved a unique place for herself in the genre; not only does she command an intensely loyal following and an impressive list of books to her name, but she is distinguished by meticulous research and keen ability to convey the drama of the past with poignant immediacy, never resorting to anarchronisms. The London Times describes her as "an author who makes historical fiction come gloriously alive;" personally, I'm both a huge fan of her work and in awe of how effortless she makes it all seem.

In her new novel, FOR THE KING'S FAVOR , Ms Chadwick brings to compelling, bittersweet life the little-known story of Ida de Rosney, mistress to Henry II, whose passionate love for a young lord plunges her and her lover into a tumultous struggle. A captivating story, and testament to the power of sacrifice and the strength of love, this is Elizabeth Chadwick at her best. In celebration of the book's release, Elizabeth has kindly offered this guest post; in addition, her US publisher Sourcebooks is offering readers of this blog TWO free copies. Entries are available for US and Canada addresses only. Please see the bottom of this post for details to enter. Please join me in welcoming my friend, Elizabeth Chadwick, to Historical Boys.

Finding a Forgotten Royal Mistress
by Elizabeth Chadwick

What was it like to be the mistress of a king? To have the royal favour, bear the sovereign’s child and be at the hub of court life? What was it like to have power and yet be powerless when it came to the sovereign’s whim? And what happened to a mistress when she ceased to be the royal darling? For the King’s Favor tells the story of one such mistress. Her identity has only come to light in the last decade. Her name was Ida de Tosney or Toeni, and she was about fifteen years old when she caught the eye of King Henry II of England around the year 1176.

Initially I wanted to write about Ida because the firstborn son of her marriage with Roger Bigod, future Earl of Norfolk, went on to marry the eldest daughter of the great English knight, magnate and hero William Marshal whom I had written about in The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion.. Roger himself had a long and distinguished career and I was keen to follow up his family story to the point where it linked into the Marshal one. Before I began writing, I knew vaguely that he had married a former mistress of King Henry II, but once I made Ida my heroine, I had to hit the research trail and try to discover more about her.

She is elusive in the historical record. We only know her name from a few charters belonging to the time when she was married to Roger where she is referred to as “Comitisse Ida, uxoris mee,” or “Countess Ida, my wife.” We only know that she was a royal mistress before her marriage to Roger because of a French list of prisoners drawn up after the battle of Bouvines in 1214, where William Longespee, Earl of Salisbury, bastard son of King Henry II, refers to Ralph Bigod who was on the prison list, as his brother. In another charter of Bradenstoke Priory, Longespee mentions his mother, Countess Ida, but since there was more than one Countess Ida around at the time, the discovered prison list was vital in identifying the right one.

Ida was the daughter of Ralph de Tosney, lord of Flamstead, and his wife, Margaret Beaumont who was close kin to the earls of Leicester. Through various family marriages, Ida had kinship with the royal house of Scotland. When her father died, Ida became the King’s ward, with her marriage to be disposed of as he chose. Henry had a certain reputation with women and already had several bastard children by various unknown women. His long term affair with Rosamund de Clifford is notorious and has passed into legend. It would have begun when Rosamund was still very young – in her teens, and ended with her death at Godstow nunnery in 1176. By this date, Ida de Tosney would have been a nubile adolescent and she plainly caught Henry’s eye in the aftermath of his losing Rosamund. Sometime between 1177 and early 1181, she bore Henry a son who became William LongespĂ©e, Earl of Salisbury, an adventurous soul and hero of the great sea victory at Damme against the French in 1213.

If Rosamund and Ida are any indication, Henry II seems to have harboured a preference for innocent young girls as his mistresses. Perhaps he found them refreshing after doing battle with his formidable queen Eleanor of Acquitaine. As an author I am led to speculate about what this attention was like for such young women who would have had little choice but to submit to the royal will. Mistresses of kings are often portrayed as sexy women with power to wield via their ability to reach the King’s ear (and other parts!), but for young, inexperienced girls, can there really have been any pleasure and real power in their role?

They were pawns to the royal lust. When a king had had his fill, they could be retired to a nunnery or sold off in marriage. We do not know if the latter is what happened to Ida, but certainly she wed Roger Bigod, future Earl of Norfolk in December 1181 about 5 years after Henry took up with her. Ida’s and Roger’s first son was born before the end of the following year and they went on to have another 3 boys and 2 girls at least, so it was certainly a fruitful match in the bedchamber. But what of Ida’s first child, William FitzRoy who became LongespĂ©e? His childhood is unknown, but by the early 1190’s as an adolescent, he was being given lands and duties to bring in an income and it seems that he was raised either at court, or in a household closely attached to the court. Certainly his mother did not bring him with her to her marriage. What she felt about this and what effect it had on her, I can only imagine – with a little help from my delvings. Ida’s reactions are a theme I explore in detail in For the King’s Favor. The same with her husband, Roger. What were his thoughts and feelings when he married a still very young woman who had shared the King’s bed and had borne a son of that liaison? How did it affect him, especially when he desperately needed to keep the king’s favor? There must have been some very tricky shoals to negotiate, both the diplomatic and the emotional, and for all concerned.

Authors of historical fiction know that the past is another country and that attitudes were often different, and very alien to the way society functions now, but I also take the view that it is us as we were then, and like clothes, while fashions and appearances change, people don’t. I hope that Ida de Tosney and Roger Bigod are people of their time, but I also hope that a modern audience will recognise their dilemmas and empathise.
Many thanks to C.W. for inviting me to post on his excellent blog!

Elizabeth Chadwick lives near Nottingham with her husband and two sons. She is the author of 18 historical novels, including The Greatest Knight, The Scarlet Lion, A Place Beyond Courage, Lords of the White Castle, Shadows and Strongholds, the Winter Mantle, and The Falcons of Montabard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Awards. Much of her research is carried out as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval re-enactment society with the emphasis on accurately re-creating the past. She won a Betty Trask Award for The Wild Hunt, her first novel. To learn more about her and her work please visit her website.

To win one of two free copies of For The King's Favor: You must be a follower of this blog AND leave a comment below. Winners will be selected on September 30 and notified; you must have a valid postal address for the book to be mailed directly to you by the publisher. Good luck!


L.;Gunther said...

As an American and a recharged enthusist of the historical novel, I am increasingly impressed with the amount of energy and personal dedication that goes into the human portrait. Putting snatches of history together that is both suthenic and pleasureble to read is an exercise of discipline and insight. I have not read any of Elizabeth Chadwick's novels as of this date, but very much look forward to filling in my own reader's gap. Also, am delighted that she participates in re-enactment projects and believes the vague images from the past have the human elements that we have today.

Linda said...

Thanks for this very interesting post. Eliz. Chadwick is a favorite author; William Marshal is a true hero. I follow your blog through Google Reader, and I'd love to win a copy of For the King's Favor. Thanks.

Amy said...

Oohhh this one sounds good! I am wanting to expand my reading and I would love to know more about Henry and Ida. Please enter me in the giveaway. I am a follower and I love Ms. Chadwick's novels! Thanks!

tiger_fan_1997 AT yahoo DOT com

Marg said...

I am loving reading all these guest posts, reminding me how much I enjoyed reading this book!

No need to enter me in to the contest.

4everQueen said...

Ms. Chadwick is definitely the Historian to help us understand and live the Middle Ages as if we were there at the moment. I love her Marshall's novels and I am hoping to get For The King's Favor in my hands soon and devour it!

Thanks for hosting great authors, Mr. Gortner.

nunezbella at hotmail dotcom

Audra said...

Thank you for this delightful guest post! I'm really so excited to see historical novels focusing on less popular historical figures.

I was particularly struck by Ms Chadwick's observation: ...but for young, inexperienced girls, can there really have been any pleasure and real power in their role?

I'd love to be entered in the giveaway -- thank you!

thesibylqueen at

Anne Gilbert said...

I'd really like to see what you have to say about a "young, inexperienced girl" like Ida de Tosny at the time she "caught Henry II's eye". Please enter me in the giveaway(if can find a way to follow this blog, if I haven't been following it already).
Anne G

Shannon said...

I'm a new follower. Thank you for including me in the giveaway. =)
tiredwkids at live dot com

Lori Carter said...

C.W. and Elizabeth,
As an ardent fan of your works, I was thrilled to read this article/post. I am truly fascinated by the processes my favorite writers use when writing of times so far removed from our own. It amazes me how talented authors can make these times and people so alive and real to readers. I truly feel I know your characters. Thanks so much for sharing your talents with lovers of historical fiction.

Lori Carter

CherryBlossomMJ said...

Thank you for this. I took a break from reading to read about this, and this post brings the characters even more to life to see where she was coming from and wanting to go with the book. I love "getting in an author's head".

- MJ

johnluis said...

i like your blog.thanks for sharing this post....