‘The only plagues of London are the immoderate drinking of fools and the frequency of fires’ wrote William Fitz Stephen in his account of the city in the 12th century.
On a recent trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts I came across a little book called Norman London in a second-hand bookshop. The book contained Fitz Stephen’s account of London written sometime before 1183, together with an essay by Frank Stenton and map research on 12th century London by Marjorie B. Honeybourne. The book was a silvermine for my research as a historical novelist and it is ironic that I travelled to a second-hand bookshop in Massachusetts (the wonderful Raven Books) to find it.
Last year my novel, Conquest: Daughter of the Last King, was published by Impress Books. It is the first in the trilogy charting the life of Nest ferch Rhys who was a potent symbol in the struggles between the Normans and the Welsh. The second book in the trilogy, Conquest: The Drowned Court, will be published this autumn. Nest was one of the many mistresses of the Norman king Henry I and parts of the novels are set in London.
The complicated business of the great 12th century city was conducted by the aldermen of London in the Husting which met in the Guildhall every Monday. Husting is a Scandinavian word and it is likely that this city institution had its origin during the Scandinavian occupation of London in the time of King Alfred. The Husting was the court of civil business hearing pleas on debts, land disputes, land gifts, regulating foreign merchants, controlling weights and measures.
Stepping into Medieval Worlds is an illustrated talk on Norman London that I will be presenting at The Guildhall Library on 8 June. It will address the literary sources for my fiction, including Fitz Stephen’s account. It is exciting to be speaking on this topic at the site of the 12th century Husting in the Guildhall which is on a street, Aldermanbury, named after those aldermen in Norman London. I will talk about the range of medieval literary sources I employ to construct the fictional worlds of my novels including Orderic Vitalis’ chronicle of the ‘extremely unrestrained’ Normans, viking poems, recipe books, maps, and medical manuals from the Middle Ages, the songs of the female troubadours, and the lascivious writings of medieval archbishops and dukes.
Stepping into Medieval Worlds
Thursday 8 June 2017, 6-8pm
Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, London EC2V 7HH
Tickets: £5.90 includes wine reception. Book at:
I have more author talks coming up soon in Wales:
Fri 28 July 11am Victoria Books, Haverfordwest
Sun 30 July 1pm Carew Castle
Sat 23 September 10am-4pm Narberth Book Fair
Sat 30 September 11am Tenby Library in Tenby Arts Festival
Sat 14 Sept 10.30am Pembroke Dock Library for National Book Month.
The Dunstable Swan Jewel in the British Museum (Wikimedia photo by Ealdgyth)
The Guildhall, engraved by E.Shirt after a drawing by Prattent, c.1805 (Wikimedia)
Carew Castle, Wales (Wikimedia photo by Nilfanion).