Spies and intrigues in the 12th century

HenryBlois
Henry of Blois, Abbot of Glastonbury and Bishop of Winchester

I am currently hard at work on the final book in my Conquest series about the Welsh and the Normans in the 12th century. The trilogy is centred on the life of Nest ferch Rhys, the daughter of the last Welsh king of the south-west kingdom of Deheubarth. The final book is called The Anarchy and will be published by Impress Books in 2019. I’ve been rereading the first two books to get thoroughly immersed again in the characters’ lives. The advantage of writing the final book in a trilogy is that your characters’ backstories already exist in your own previous novels. In the new book, I’m enjoying developing the role of Breri, a travelling Welsh bard and a spy, and I am writing in an intrigue involving the Vatican and the Bishop of Winchester.

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History Questions

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Bertrade de Montfort in the centre with her second husband, King Philip I of France. Her first husband, Count Fulk of Anjou is on the right, and Philip’s imprisoned first wife, Bertha of Holland, is on the left. King Philip and Bertrade were excommunicated for their adulterous relationship. From The Chronicles of Saint Denis in the British Library.

My new historical novel, The Drowned Court, is published next week and a guest post by me on writing the novel is up today on Tony Riches’ blog, The Writing Desk.

‘I approach writing all my novels by asking questions that I have, after researching the historical evidence.’ The questions that drove my writing in this new novel include:

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King Henry I’s daughter, the Empress Matilda, the first woman to claim the English throne in her own right.

Was the Welsh princess, Nest ferch Rhys, lascivious, or a victim, or is there another way to look at her colourful life?

What kind of man was King Henry I and what motivated his relationships with the numerous women in his life: his wives, mistresses, sisters, and daughters?

Why was Amaury de Montfort such a stubborn opponent to King Henry in Normandy?

What would it have been like to be a spy in the pay of the Countess of Blois (King Henry’s sister) at the great abbey of Fontevraud, which was ruled by women, and housed many illustrious, repudiated wives, including Amaury’s notorious sister, Bertrade de Montfort, the former Queen of France?