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Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Fascination of Anglo-Saxon Britain

The mere thought of Anglo-Saxon Britain is enough to send me scurrying to my keyboard, ready to write. I focus exclusively on novels during this era for a number of reasons.

Dark Age Britain stretches from roughly the time when the Romans left our country in 450 AD through to the Norman period directly following on
from the Conquest in 1066. During these centuries, Britain experienced tumultuous times and myriad peoples. The Romano-British and Celtic tribes were eventually subsumed and vanquished by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who came over in the 5th and 6th centuries. Major kingdoms emerged, each seeking superiority over the other. By the 800s, the Viking threat reached Britain, with repeated raids eventually leading to wars, settlement and rule. Then, in 1066, the Normans took over the country and the Anglo-Saxons became a conquered people.

Stories thrive on conflict and the era is full of it. It was a time of contrasts: early paganism vs. the spread of Christianity, peace vs. warfare, tribe against tribe, people against people. The Anglo-Saxons were a rural folk who shunned the Roman towns and villas (believing them to be the work of giants). Many of them were farmers. Yet the kingdoms held their own courts and hierarchies, with kings, ealdormen and thegns administrating the countryside. It was a time of hard work and harder play, with fires roaring in mead halls and warriors drinking ale while listening to poets recite the great stories of Beowulf and his contemporaries.

Historical romance stories work best when there's a deep division keeping the hero and heroine apart. A mere glance at this era offers numerous possibilities for conflict and romance: perhaps between a Brittanic princess and Saxon raider; or an Anglian woman and Viking invader; maybe a Norman lord and the Anglo-Saxon woman under his yoke. The possibilities are boundless.

Let the adventures begin.


Màiri Norris said...

Sue and Gray, I ran across your blog today while researching Anglo-Saxon towns. Nice to meet more historical romance authors who love that period (my current WIP is set in southern England in 882 and involves a tale of a Viking and a Saxon maid).
Wishing you both the best of luck with your books!