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Historical Note, Under the Approaching Dark

Historical Note, Under the Approaching Dark

In February of 1327, a very young Edward III was crowned, thereby beginning what would become one of the longer and more successful reigns in English history. But the early years were difficult, especially as the former king, Edward II, was still alive, if imprisoned. Being only fourteen, Edward was not considered old enough to rule in his own name, and so his mother Queen Isabella, and her favourite, Roger Mortimer, became regents – in itself a situation that caused disquiet and unrest among the rest of the English barons.

One of the first matters to sort were the Scots. Mortimer and Isabella had treated with the Scots prior to invading in 1326, and once they were safely installed, the Scots demanded that the promises made be fulfilled, notably that a peace treaty be struck recognising Scotland as a sovereign state. To reinforce the message, James Douglas led men over the border to burn and pillage, a not-so-subtle reminder that Scotland was a power to be reckoned with. As described in this book, the young king and various of his nobles were eager to teach the Scots a lesson, and so began the debacle that ended with an almost successful attempt by the Scots to abduct Edward III. Ultimately, this paved the way for the treaty that was further cemented by marrying little Princess Joan to the equally young Prince David. Edward III never wanted the treaty and would go on to make war on the Scots some years later.

When it comes to the matter of Edward II’s fate, I have gone out on a limb: while various historians these days believe that Edward II did not die in September of 1327, many still insist he did. For the purpose of my story – and also because I find the arguments put forwards by historians such as Kathryn Warner and Ian Mortimer feasible and intriguing – I have chosen to allow Edward II an extended lease on life. The man, it seems to me, deserves it.

As to Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer, I have painted a picture of a couple very much in love – not only with power but also with each other. Two strong and ambitious people, alike enough that they would ultimately reinforce their respective flaws and cause their downfall. I have chosen to depict Isabella as a strong woman, fully in charge of her own destiny. Others have presented her as Mortimer’s victim, but that rings very false with me – this was a well-educated lady fully aware of her lineage, raised to fill the role of Queen Consort. Such women were rarely milksops. When this book closes, Isabella and Mortimer are very much in control of things, but Edward III has no intention of remaining forever under their thumbs. What happens next will be revealed in the next book in the series, The Cold Light of Dawn, due out early 2018.

I have allowed Thomas of Brotherton a lot of space in this book. For a man born to power and wealth in times of great upheaval, this Earl of Norfolk is a surprisingly invisible character, relegated as being an unimportant and weak man. I have chosen to make something more out of him, finding it difficult to believe that any child born to Edward I and his rather impressive second wife, Princess Marguerite of France, would be so…so…beige. Besides, my Adam needed a friend with some clout.

As always, I must remind my readers that Adam de Guirande is an invented character (unfortunately) as are his wife, his family, the people who serve him. However, his brother-in-law, Richard de Monmouth, did exist, even if he’d have been more than surprised at meeting the family I’ve given him.

Likewise, now and then I take some liberties with location, albeit that I have attempted to place king and court where they’re supposed to be as per the records.

For those among you who know the history of the Hansa inside out, I’d like to say that yes, I am using the term Hanseatic League a bit prematurely, as this name was not established until the 1350’s. However, the various Hansa organisations were most certainly a power to be reckoned with – had been since the 12 th century – and instead of mentioning the Lübeck Hansa or the Hamburg Hansa, I have chosen to go with the Hanseatic League.