Voicing the Voiceless – medieval female protagonists

Misty morning, writing in the medieval clifftop village of Saint Cirq Lapopie, France, with a view over the house of surrealist writer Andre Breton and down to the meandering River Lot

Almodis de La Marche, countess of Toulouse and Barcelona, was, according to the monk chronicler William of Malmesbury, ‘afflicted with a godless female itch’. Ah ha, I thought, she sounds like she should be the heroine of my first novel.

After that first novel on Almodis, I wrote four more novels set in early medieval Europe, based on women who garner a few sentences in the chronicles. They include Adalmode, Countess of La Marche, who was forced to marry her husband’s murderer; Emma of Segur, Viscountess of Limoges who was kidnapped by Vikings and held hostage for three years; and Nest ferch Rhys, the daughter of the last independent king of southwest Wales whose turbulent life included being mistress to the Norman king Henry I, wife of two Norman warriors, and kidnapped by the Welsh prince, Owain ap Cadwagn.

I will be talking about medieval female protagonists in historical fiction with author Katherine Mezzacappa at the Historical Novel Society conference in Durham on Sunday 4 September 12pm. The conference keynote speakers are Emma Darwin, Rachel Malik, and Graeme Macrae Burnet. You can check out the full details of the conference here.

The title image shows Nest ferch Rhys in bed with King Henry I from Matthew Paris’s illustrated manuscript in the British Library.

My print of a Viking brooch

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