This book is an account of the Battle of Fulford Gate, the first major conflict of 1066. In most historical pieces on the period that I have read, both before and after writing the novel, this engagement barely gets a mention. I always thought that this was peculiar. King Harold was down in the south of England awaiting the expected Norman invasion, but it was King Hardrada of Norway who stole the initiative and landed in the north. What occurred at Fulford Gate would determine King Harold’s reaction and, as someone interested in history, I cannot help but be fascinated by the events, and the possible reasons behind them, that were to have such an important influence of the fate of Anglo-Saxon England.
The moments immediately preceding the battle gave me an opportunity to describe the equipment and tactics that both the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings shared. They used the same weapons, straight swords, spears, and axes, as well as large wooden shields made to a circular pattern and often decorated with painted designs. I undertook a lot of research on this subject, a fact that more than one reviewer has congratulated me for.
Another aspect that I found interesting was imagining what it must have been like for the people who were to fight? The battle is only moments away, but the armies have to gather, arrange their formation, and prepare to meet. Even for seasoned warriors this must have been a time of some anxiety. Huscarls like Sigbert and Hereric had families living in York to worry about. Losing the battle would mean putting the people whom they loved at the mercy of their enemies. For the theigns this was a chance to display themselves before their eorls. Many a man had won both great fame and fortune on the battlefield. The coerls, were there by obligation and they would be equipped with the least amount of armour and the least effective weapons.
Although Coenred is not an eorl, in their absence he fulfils his appointment as captain of huscarls. He is responsible for organising them according to the directions of Edwin and Morcar. The huscarls are the elite of the Saxon army, their composure would have had an influence on the lesser warriors so it was always necessary that they appeared in the best of spirits as well as in the best of equipment.
Below is a PDF file of the chapter under discussion. Please, click on the link and enjoy.