Last week, I participated in a celebration of Helen Hollick’s thiry years as a published writer. Seeing as I am rather intrigued by her take on the Arthurian legend as depicted in her trilogy, Pendragon’s Banner, I asked her to write a post about her perception of the fair Guinevere. Well, I already knew her version of this lady has little in common with the somewhat retiring “heroine” (in quotation marks because a woman who wreaks such destruction by betraying her husband with his most trusted man is not quite made of the stuff that heroes make) of the medieval Arthurian legends, so her post did not exactly come as a surprise.
I have always been seriously irritated by the depiction of Arthur et al in full 14th century armour. Which may be why I laughed out loud at Helen’s last sentence in the below. So as not to have you all dying with suspense, I immediately hand things over to Helen. Enjoy!
King Arthur’s queen – Guinevere
Anyone interested in British legends and the many stories of King Arthur will know that Guinevere was his young wife who betrayed him by conducting an affair with Sir Lancelot. She first appeared in a her role in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s pseudo-historical chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae when Mordred seduces her during his ill-fated rebellion against Arthur. In the later medieval romance that stem from France, her love affair changes to Lancelot and appears in Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, an affair which consequently causes rebellion, the death of Arthur, the breaking up of his glorious round table and the final destruction of the kingdom. Many modern authors and scriptwriters follow Malory, typically portraying Guinevere in her illicit relationship with Lancelot.
I have never liked those familiar Arthurian tales, the ones with knights clonking around in armour, the Holy Grail, chivalric deeds and courtly love. Probably because they are post-Norman Conquest tales. (And anyone who knows me is well aware that I am most definitely not a fan of the Norman Conquest, Duke William of Normandy or any of his descendants.)
Anna says: Ha! I would never have guessed – wink, wink 😊
Nor, I am sorry to say to those who remain her fans, did I enjoy Marian Zimmer Bradley’s Mists Of Avalon. That is the only book I’ve ever thrown across a room in utter exasperation. Her Guinevere so annoyed me in a scene where she was in a boat and screaming in fear.
“Oh for heaven’s sake, you’re the Queen! Pull yourself together, you stupid woman!” (My exact words – I remember them clearly.)
By then, I had discovered, in the 1970s through Mary Stewart’s The Hollow Hills/The Crystal Cave, that if Arthur had existed (and that’s a very big IF!) he would more likely to have been a post-Roman British warlord from the 5th/6th-century.
Getting rid of those tin-clad knights, the awful Lancelot and co., and the wimpled and simpering Guinevere absolutely delighted me. I had also found the early Welsh legends which were far more plausible, believable and story-worthy. This Gwenhwyfar had given Arthur three sons. This Gwenhwyfar was a feisty, capable woman who knew exactly what she wanted – to be Arthur’s Queen and remain his Queen, on equal terms!
Bradley’s soppy Guinevere infuriated me. I decided that I could do better, and thus my Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy was ‘born’. It took me more than ten years to write what turned out to be the first two books of the Trilogy, and William Heinemann (now a part of Random House UK) snapped them up one week after my 40th birthday in April 1993. So I am celebrating my 70th birthday AND 30 years as a published author AND thebeautiful new editions published by my own Taw River press.
Set in the mid-400s my Gwenhwyfar is the only daughter of Cunedda of Gwynedd, North Wales. He was a real person, as were his nine sons, so I didn’t think an extra daughter would be out of place. At first she is contemptuous of the illegitimate boy, Arthur, but things change and they become lovers… I can’t really say much more as that would mean giving away huge spoilers, suffice to say that two highly passionate people who very much love each other often fall out. My Arthur is a leader, a warlord who puts his men (his cavalry, the Artoriani) his country and his determination above all else. My Gwenhwyfar is equally as capable – she has a sword and knows how to use it. She is loyal, fearless and spirited.
Frankly, if she’d met someone like Lancelot she would have probably shoved him down the nearest well and left him there to rust.
Anna says: I still can’t stop laughing! “Yoo-hoo! Anyone up there? Can you plesase help me out before my precious armour becomes irreparably damaged? Yoo-hoo!” At the continued silence, Lancelot sits back, sets his hand to his forehead and says “Oh, me!”
Right, after hijacking Helen’s post like that, let us move on to present the book(s) in question
ABOUT THE KINGMAKING (Book 1)
The Boy Who became a Man:
Who became a King:
Who became a Legend… KING ARTHUR
There is no Merlin, no sword in the stone, and no Lancelot.
Instead, the man who became our most enduring hero.
All knew the oath of allegiance:
‘To you, lord, I give my sword and shield, my heart and soul. To you, my Lord Pendragon, I give my life, to command as you will.’
This is the tale of Arthur made flesh and bone. Of the shaping of the man who became the legendary king; a man with dreams, ambitions and human flaws.
A man, a warlord, who united the collapsing province of post-Roman Britain,
who held the heart of the love of his life, Gwenhwyfar
– and who emerged as the most enduring hero of all time.
A different telling of the later Medieval tales.
This is the story of King Arthur as it might have really happened…
“Helen Hollick has it all! She tells a great story and writes consistently readable books”
“If only all historical fiction could be this good.” Historical Novels Review
“… Juggles a large cast of characters and a bloody, tangled plot with great skill. ” Publishers Weekly
“Hollick’s writing is one of the best I’ve come across – her descriptions are so vivid it seems as if there’s a movie screen in front of you, playing out the scenes.” Passages To The Past
“Hollick adds her own unique twists and turns to the familiar mythology” Booklist
“Uniquely compelling… bound to have a lasting and resounding impact on Arthurian literature.” Books Magazine
The Kingmaking: Book One
Pendragon’s Banner: Book Two
Shadow of the King: Book Three
(contains scenes of an adult nature)
Helen’s new, self-published, editions with beautiful covers designed by Cathy Helms of www.avalongraphics.org are, alas, only available outside of USA and Canada, where the same books are published by Sourcebooks Inc. (The new covers were offered – free – to Sourcebooks, but the offer was declined.)
Buy The Books:
THE PENDRAGON’s BANNER TRILOGY
New Editions available worldwide except USA/Canada
ABOUT HELEN: First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She has also branched out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.
Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She lives with her family in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon and occasionally gets time to write…
All Helen’s books are available on Amazon:
Subscribe to Helen’s Newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/HelenHollick
Her Blog: https://ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @HelenHollick https://twitter.com/HelenHollick
Follow Helen’s Celebration Tour https://www.helenhollick.net/