The Ravenfeast Series: Tales of the 'Conquest Era' from an Anglo-Danish perspective as told by Ivar Ulfsson
Battle Abbey weekends, over nine hundred and fifty years on. Mark Harold's stand at the English Heritage site this year, 2019
Battle Abbey 1066 re-enactment
The ENGLISH HERITAGE link through Battle Abbey to re-enactments on the nearest Saturday to week ending date 14th/15th October annually...
English Heritage stages a re-enactment of the battle that cost Harold his life in a calculated gamble that did not pay off. His first defeat since becoming Earl of Wessex thirteen years earlier on the death of his father Earl Godwin would prove fatal in the long run for the kingdom. William's victory here did not mean an easy rule over his newly acquired kingdom. Far from it. As you will discover in the historically accurate RAVENFEAST saga series, William's rule over England was no easy ride for him or his lieutenants. Invasion from Denmark threatened until AD1086, and from Scotland until his Treaty of Abernethy was forced on King Malcolm III in AD 1074. The border with Wales was not altogether secure throughout his reign, and there was always the threat of invasion by the Dublin Danes.
English Heritage, Battle Abbey near Hastings, East Sussex
- English Heritage Home Page | English Heritage
History was made here on 14th October, 1066 - 950 years gone! A king fell with his brothers and huscarls, an uncrowned king, Eadgar would stand with the Middlesex fyrd at London Bridge and send the duke back into Kent with his tail between his legs!
Author Event: We were at the Dormitory Range until 2017. In October 2018 we were moved to the Abbot's Hall
Battle Abbey 13th-14th October 2018. Another good year for historical groups who took part in the re-enactment of the Battle in which Harold lost his crown and
This year we had some new authors when we were moved to the Abbot's Hall, some who came back after an absence last year - such as Joanna Courteney, Keith Foord and his near neighbour Neil Clephane-Cameron. The new faces were Trevor Rowley who brought his wife, and as Sam Williams was at another event his parents stood in for him with his books. A volunteer, Thomas Croft had written a book on the events in 1066. The dogged regulars were James Aitcheson and myself (due to extenuating circumstances Joanna was unable to attend last year)
2017's Battle Abbey re-enactment marked the fighting on Saturday, 14th October (and Sunday, 15th), marking Harold's heroic stand, 951 years on to the day that the day-long struggle ended on Caldbec Hill, known to posterity as the 'Battle of Hastings'.
2016 saw more authors than usual at Battle Abbey on 15th-16th October to mark the battle's 950th year, give short talks about their books and sign copies. Seated together on the stage we also took questions from the floor on both days and - hopefully - satisfied queries. With me over the two days as usual were Joanna Courtney, James Aitcheson, Glynn Holloway and Marc Morris. Additionally we had Clare Mulley, Justin Hill, Roy Porter, Neil Clephane-Cameron, Christopher Gravett and Keith Ford to give their insights. Justin had brought his young family all the way from Brandsby, north of York near Easingwold.
Marc Morris, being a busy lad, was there for the Sunday only to do his thing and had to rush off again on family business. [One day I'll button him down for some interesting conversation]. The event this year was a sell-out, with ticket-only admission and masses of traders as well as the accommodation tents for the re-enactors from several different countries besides England and France. There was a large contingent of Italians who came to swell Harold's number as well as Germans and others who 'invaded'. Most re-enactors did well with their war gear.
I was invited the first time by Tracy Osborn of English Heritage in 2014. Authors at the event had a couple of slots both on the Saturday and Sunday as guests of English Heritage, for a short talk and to sign books in the authors' marquee.
As before I talked about Ivar, his place in the scheme of things. He may be fiction, the books weaved around him 'modified fact', yet he has a solid founding (see below how he came about) and there are gaps in history, unknown factors where he would fit in. From seeing a question mark in place of a name for a younger sister of Knut in his family tree, Ivar's mother was 'created' and named Gunnlaug, (the series of stories began here on Hub-pages about a Dane named Hunding who might also not be complete fiction, the foot of page for details).
**RAVENFEAST, OVERTHROWN, OUTCAST and BETRAYED are now out of print therefore no new copies will be printed. Copies are available through Amazon (see the link to Amazon UK below), and there are signed and dated copies of these books available, including bookmarks through the Battle Abbey Shop.
Contact Thomas Trickey-Roberts for signed copies of these books if you can't make it to the event: Thomas.TrickeyRoberts@english-heritage.org.uk There are still a number of copies of each book available from the Battle Abbey shop you can order by phone or e-mail.
If you can't find what you want, try the US Amazon books site on amazon.com.
The RAVENFEAST series of books is available from Amazon, the first four are also available from the shop at Battle Abbey - see above.
Search amazon.com for books available through the American outlet, or amazon.co.uk for those on the British market - you might find some are unavailable on the UK site that are on sale on amazon.com
RAVENFEAST begins in earnest near Jorvik - York - where Harald Sigurdsson, Tostig and their men made a spirited stand after the giant on the bridge gained time
"The Norwegian Invasion of England in 1066", Kelly DeVries, Boydell Press, ISBN 1-84383-027-2
Kelly DeVries' book outlines background to the invasion in the North of England, the reasons why Harald Sigurdsson, 'Hardradi' came to England in September, 1066, sailing south to and along the coast of Northumbria from St Abb's Head with King Harold Godwinson's younger brother Tostig. Read what fate awaited them all after the Norse king's initial successes, and the implications it had on Harold's later campaign in the south after returning to London by way of Waltham.
Hindsight: Sunday, 11th October, 2015, on the field of battle
'In the turmoil some will not be trodden underfoot'
Beginnings of the RAVENFEAST SAGA series
[Some time in 2007 as I thumbed through one of our national tabloids I came across a story I thought could be of use to me. I'd been 'angling' for an idea for a book, maybe a series. What caught my eye was an interview with the singer James Blunt in which he told reporters Martel Maxwell and Elise Jenkins about one of his forefathers, a Danish noble of royal blood who fought beside King Harold at Hastings. He could not specify this man's name, but suggested his family name was 'Blond'. That name could easily cover a majority of Danes, so I went into the family histories of King Harold and Svein 'Forkbeard', unearthing interesting facts. Thus was 'born' Ivar Ulfsson]:
IVAR ULFSSON, a close kinsman of King Harold Godwinson, is one of his trusted huscarls - personal bodyguards chosen for skills and social ties to their lord. Although true to his kinsman the king, he is torn through recent events by his friendship with the king's brother Tostig, former Earl of Northanhymbra (Northumbria).
Asked by Harold to ensure Tostig's safety in the slaughter to come at Staenfordes Brycg (Stamford Bridge, east of York), Ivar must feign distrust in the king's willingness to help his brother for the sake of unity in the kingdom. After the fighting Ivar must see Tostig leaves England for Flanders. First, however, the woman Braenda he met years before (after the defeat of Gruffyd ap Llewellyn in Gwynedd, northern Wales) seeks him out at the Earlsburh. Her bullying husband Sigurd rouses them from their slumbers but Braenda eludes him.
Before he takes the road south with two friends from Wealtham (Waltham) one of Ivar's armed escorts, Braenda's husband Sigurd is slain by an unknown attacker. Ivar is accused by Morkere's huscarls who have ridden with them of the murder and must return to York with them to clear his name. Whilst in the Earlsburh, on his way to seeking out Sigurd's widow Braenda one of the two friends, Beorhtwulf, is killed by the drunkard Garwulf. In turn Beorhtwulf's brother Saeward slays Garwulf and is taken back to Eoferwic/Jorvik to face the Thrijungar court. Meanwhile Ivar rides on south to Lunden with an old friend, the dispossessed Hrothulf, his woman Aethel and his son Theodolf, hopeful of catching up with Harold before he leaves for the south coast.
Thus opens the RAVENFEAST saga series. The saga is not just about the battles in 1066 from September onward, you read about Ivar's part in the struggle against William his barons and underlings over the coming years, the friends he makes and loses in combat, and those who come through the fighting with an unquenchable thirst for revenge.
The beginning of Aengla Land's woes... Long into the day Harold's shieldwall held on Caldbec Hill. Even as daylight waned men came onto the hill from the Weald
On Caldbec Hill - 'Sanguelac' to Norman chroniclers - Hrothulf held the foe at bay throughout the day. He fell not long before Harold. What went through his tho
Book one of the RAVENFEAST saga - see the link to my amazon.com Author Page below to secure copies of each book in paperback or KDP format
"RAVENFEAST: Farewell to Legend"
is no longer available through the publisher New Generation Publishing although you can get bargain paperback copies on-line from Amazon or Waterstones. ISBN number is 978-1-910053-71-3, publisher's price £8.99 for around 380 pages (9" X 6"/ 230 X 155 mm) with readable annotated map, glossary, pronunciation guide and historical notes at the rear. The book is on Kindle KDP at around £3.50 or $5.67 - take a look at my Amazon Author Page link below or go to the Northworld Saga Site, to the Books/Contact page, the link is after the BETRAYED entry).
There are copies of the first four books available at the Battle Abbey shop and I will be there to sign copies on 13th and 14th October in the author area. See English Heritage web site above for details.
RAVENFEAST Chapter 14: Saturday, October 14th dawned fair for the Aenglish on Caldbdec Beorg (Caldbec Hill)...
mid-Chapter 15, p274 (fourth to last paragraph)
Ivar and friends have come through the Andredesleag (the Andreds Weald) to the Hoar Apple Tree near Caldbec Beorg (Caldbec Hill, below the present town of Battle six miles inland above Hastings). They have spent the night on the hill with the rest of Harold's army - huscarls and fyrdmen from around Kent and East Sussex and further afield - ready to bar the Lunden road to the duke. Willelm's scouts reported them as being there and he moved from Hastings to prevent his forces being held at the coast. Harold's shieldwall has rebuffed the first attack by the Bretons led by Alan 'Rufus', a close friend of the duke. A new assault is awaited.
"... Everyone laughs. The high feeling is eased by light-hearted banter. There should be more of it, but many fyrdmen must be still fearful of the outlanders. As we watch the Northmen's mounts cantering back down the hill the jeering starts again and is taken up by the whole shieldwall,
'Ut! Ut! U-ut! Take your fool Celt friends with you!'
'Get your arses off those saddles! Just let us at you on your own two feet', Aelfwin calls out on behalf of us all and shakes his fist at the outlanders, 'man to man, then we shall prove we are the better fighters!'
'I am glad to hear you again, Aelfwin. I thought you had been struck dumb!' Thorfinn claps his friend on the shoulder, 'Where are the other two?'
'Aelfwig and Burhred are amongst Ansgar's men, to stiffen them, so I was told. His men have not seen much fighting lately and need to be shown how', Aelfwin glibly answers.
'Well perhaps they have, only it was with their good wives when they came home drunk in the morning after hearing they would be away from them for a week', Thorfinn's aside brings a guffaw from the fellow behind him.
'If this is Thorfinn of Saewardstanbyrig speaking, he has a nerve. All his men have seen of late were their women's closets!'
Thorfinn turns and quietens the fellow with a baleful stare.
'At least we saw off Tostig's men lately', Aelfwin snorts, 'even if we had done nothing since!'
'That is about as ', Theorvard does not finish telling us what he wants to say before the order is shouted to raise our shields again for another arrow hail. Arrows thud quickly into my shield, one of them splitting the mid-left join above the boss.
'God, what sort of arrows are they using here?' Karl asks when the arrows have stopped falling.
'They are not the usual arrow type, but thicker, fired off from a cross-bow', Thorfinn tells him. I scan the line of their bowmen and see on the left perhaps a score of them with odd-looking bows. Commonly a bow* could never send an arrow as deadly and as fast as a crossbow.
Our shields will be tested!
*Not until later in the Middle Ages under Edward III could English bowmen hold their own against the French, their Genoan allies and their crossbows at Crecy, with the Welsh longbow
A strategy stymied
Harold's haste lay in the hope of bottling William's force on the Hastings peninsula...
...With marsh, water and dense woodland either side of the London road. William's scouts reported the presence of a large English force to the south of the Andreds Weald - having assembled at the Hoar Apple Tree and marched to the crest of Caldbec Hill. Harold was forestalled in his bid to pass onto Telham Hill where he could have fulfilled his aim. William's only recourse would have been retreat - out of the question - or a narrowed front with a steep angle of attack.
All the same Harold's shieldwall could have held William's force until evening, when more men arrived to swell his number. Without adequate supplies, and feed for his horses, William might easily have been 'dealt with' by his own barons when their way to London was barred. More men were on the way from around the south-east to block, and hem in the Normans with their allies on the peninsula around the Normans' landing area. Many of the Normans may have stayed loyal, maybe even the Breton lords under Alan 'Rufus', William's kinsman through marriage. Some of the Norman lords, the mercenaries and Frankish allies owed him nothing. He had promised riches and land, the reason after all for their being with him on this risky venture...
As it was the lack of discipline amongst the South Saxon fyrdmen played into William's hand. Seeing the way they chased his Breton allies after their aborted first assault, he knew how to exploit this weakness. Harold had not even called them back. Had the weeks on the road and the hard-won fight against the Norsemen near York sapped his resolve?
Odo rallied the faltering Normans to show them that despite rumours to the contrary their duke was still alive
Duke William was unhorsed twice, and rebuffed by Eustace of Boulogne for the loan of a third horse
Several times in the heat of the battle, Duke William was unhorsed. The prestigious gift of a black Andalusian stallion from the king of Aragon proudly paraded before the battle did not survive the battle. Many of the Norman lords lost horses at Caldbec Hill, dubbed 'Sanguelac' by their chroniclers, 'Lake of blood', remembered popularly by school-children as 'Senlac'. Harold's huscarls got amongst the cavalry, hewing with their long-handled Dane axes at the mounts, shattering legs of mounted men against their horses' flanks or cutting into the horses' hocks to disable them.
By the afternoon of 14th October, 1066 the hill ran with the gore of men and horses, men slithering, trying to stay on their feet and evading friends' and foes' weapons alike. No quarter was called for, none would have been given. William had lost two mounts by the afternoon, his spare cut down from under him. He wanted to borrow one of Eustace's but the Count of Boulogne.refused, earning himself a place in the duke's 'black books'.
A picture essay: The Battle Abbey experience, autumn 2016
On October 15th-16th I wandered around with the trusty camera to catch a few images. Take a look at 'HERITAGE - 37: DAY TO THINK BACK, 950 Years On...' (click on my name, top right, and scroll down a short way to view)
Lunden Brycg (pronounced as: London Bridge) late October/early November, 1066
OVERTHROWN and OUTCAST
OVERTHROWN, the second in the RAVENFEAST series is no longer available through New Generation Publishing. ISBN 978-1-909039-89-6 if you order online at Amazon - see also price comparison site Book Butler for the best bargains.
The 'dream' in the subtitle is for one part the wish of Eadgar 'the aetheling' to take the crown as is his due. It is also the wish of Ivar Ulfsson to convince Eadgar that his dream is attainable, to realise his own wish for land in England as a king's thegn or higher, as Harold had promised.
The plan unravels as Earnald, the Frankish monk Ivar needs as interpreter, dies on them on the way to the south coast. Calamity follows hard on the heels of catastrophe as the mission seems doomed to failure. On reaching London again a Norman knight sent by Odo tells Ivar he must ride back to Rochester under escort, to give himself up to William's half-brother Bishop Odo. Otherwise one of his friends and a number of Kentish folk are to be hanged. His friend is saved from the noose, as are the other hostages at the expense of others killed saving them. In London Ivar rides to see Eadgar, who tells him the Witan have 'sold out' to William and that he is no longer king. Absolving Ivar from his oath of loyalty, Eadgar also aids his escape from the young Norman noble Gilbert de Warenne who follows him through the old burh. Ivar eludes him. Back at the 'Eel Trap' inn Ivar meets Harold's son Eadmund, who takes him and friends to meet his brothers Godwin and Magnus at Leagatun (Leyton). You'll need to buy the book for more...
There are the historical notes and glossary of terms as well as explanations of place names at the back of the book with pronunciation guide.
July 2013: The third in the 'RAVENFEAST' series, 'OUTCAST - Storm in the Kingdom',(New Generation Publishing) is also out of print. Order online through Amazon, see either link (ISBN 978-1-909740-99-0), 371 pages + historical notes and glossary.
Under pressure from Cutha, his family priest, Godwin Haroldson sends Ivar away because Ivar will not repudiate his lover, the witch Braenda. Ivar is not alone. Oslac and Cyneweard ride west with him. The three are captured by Ivar's nemesis Gilbert de Warenne with his posse of Norman cavalry and a weaselly Oxford thegn. Theodolf and Saeward come to their rescue. Freed again they send de Warenne packing along with the thegn back to Oxford. Ivar punishes the grasping innkeeper Bruning and sets off once more to look for Eadric in Wales.
Ivar and his friends meet Thegn Osgod's Northumbrians on their way west to join Eadric 'Cild'. Unable to see them properly from a distance, Ivar and friends take them to be Normans until a troop of Normans shows from the west, lances held upright, 'gonfalons' fluttering in the wind,. A summer of hard raiding on Norman strongholds beckons, beginning with William fitzOsbern's stronghold at Hereford.
Follow the background tapestry to this saga on the Northworld Saga Site. Look up the background to these stories on the page titled 'Sunset', which takes you from the time of Knut/Canute's successors by way of Edward II, 'the Confessor' to Harold and the aetheling Eadgar, the last of the Saxon royal blood-line.
'BETRAYED - The Net Tightens
'BETRAYED - The Net Tightens', ISBN number 978-1-910266. Also out of print, although still available on Amazon and signed copies from Natasha Williams (see above) at the Battle Abbey shop. Historical background and notes, plus map with main town names as in the 11th Century precede body copy.
Ivar's travels this time range between Exanceaster (Exeter) in the south of Defna (Devon) to Barnestapla (Barnstaple) in North Devon. On to Dyflin (Dublin) to ask King Diarmuid for men and ships, Diarmuid is only too willing to oblige, as Ivar had gone a decade and a half before with Godwin's father Harold and uncle Leofwin to ask for help to reinstate Earl Godwin after the stand-off with King Eadward. Abortive raids are made on the Seoferna (Severn) shore and the West Country. Magnus is badly wounded near Tatherstoche (Tavistock) and begs to be taken to Bosanham (Bosham in West Sussex) to die. Nonetheless he is still alive when Ivar moves on with Braenda, Saeward and Hemming to Rhosgoch again before riding through Wealas (Wales) to Ceaster (Chester) and on to Jorvik (York).
Of course he meets Braenda once again near Jorvik in odd circumstances. She has even stranger news for him the second time they meet!
"The English Resistance: The Underground War Against the Normans", Peter Rex, Tempus Publishing Ltd., ISBN 0-7524-3733-X
Outlining the many rebellions in England after Harold's death near Hastings, Peter Rex's book deserves a 'plug' here. The book deals with an overlooked era in English history. The Hereward chapters explain the period well, with the 'green men' forming bands of outlaws based in the wildwoods (there were many areas of extensive woodland aside from the Shire Wood - better known as 'Sherwood Forest', or that were claimed by the followers of William I for hunting). With each rebellion the reaction from the 'Tanner's Grandson' became more savage.
This is subject matter you're not likely to have encountered in history lessons at school or college.
'WAYFARER' sees Ivar seek men and ships from Svein Estrithsson in Roskilde before heading to Scotland to tell Eadgar the Danes would come to help
'WAYFARER - Long Road North'.
ISBN 978-1-78507-123-2 - now also out of print
Ivar has gone to his half-brothers, the Danish king Svein and Jarl Osbeorn, for men and ships to aid the cause of Eadgar 'the aetheling'.
He does not know what he can offer in return for Danish help against King William and his allies that will be honoured. What is more Svein knows, but Ivar is flesh and blood. The details will be hammered out when the Northmen (Normans) are thrown out of the kingdom and Eadgar installed as king.
Meanwhile one of his 'uncle' Hunding's old friends has asked Ivar to sail with him to the fishing hamlet of Soenderstrand where Hunding started out into the big wide world. Don't want to give too much away, but trouble beckons when Ivar lands at Hviteby (Whitby), from where he expects to ride to Scotland to tell Eadgar of Svein's promised fleet. The promise is that there will be action in ample supply, close escapes, clashes, skirmishes, full-blown battles... and a few close calls of the personal kind.
What I can tell you is there's lots of action in this book, as with the others, and more forecast. Ivar never disappoints. Wherever he goes, trouble is never far away, usually within the length of a Norman lance or within range of a crossbow..
The Harrying of the North - William is the LANDWASTER, sensored by his one-time ally, the pontiff Alexander who provided his papal banner for William's 'crusade
'LANDWASTER - Cry In The Wilderness', ISBN 978-1-78507-754-2, RRP £9.99
There will be life, death and hell on earth for Ivar and his friends in the kingdom where the king's cronies ride rough-shod over a largely defenceless populace.
April, 2016 'LANDWASTER - Cry In The Wilderness' At just short of 700 MS pages, around 370 in its printed form has been available since April, 2016.
This part of the saga begins around the 'Harrying of the North' by Willelm's underlings, 'the Tanner's Grandson' (or 'the Bastard') to his many enemies - English and Norman - around the time the 'Green Men' emerged from the wildwood to attack his underlings on moor, in dale and woodland. The Danes must stay near Humber's shore due to the winds being out of the wrong quarter for sailing home, chased back and forth across the river by the king's brother Rodberht of Mortain who lacked the ships to corner them, due to the Danes having destroyed them on their way north along the coast.
Cannibalism enters the story. After crops are destroyed, beasts and swine run off, homes burnt or levelled all over the North, in Mercia and Northumbria (Cheshire, Lincolnshire, Shropshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire) on Willelm's orders. Folk are wary of travelling lest they be preyed on. Even being armed is no guarantee of safety from the butcher's knife if you do not have your wits about you! Lots of action and another member of the de Warenne clan is unceremoniously dealt with in the North Sea off Skagen (northern Jutland).
Book 7: 'FENMAN'
FENMAN - Last Stronghold
'FENMAN' features William's siege of Elige (Ely), 'flash' raids on William's followers in the Fens by Hereward of Burna (Bourne, Lincolnshire), the king's men charge across a hastily built causeway and all but one are lost to the deep channel, the marsh and 'black water' or lodes. Attack, counter-attack and daring raids are the central themes in this eventful - and sometimes uncanny - seventh book of the series.
With Braenda and their offspring safe in Roskilde, Ivar has no distractions - well maybe, there is still the youthful Ingirid, although she now has her sights set on being an earl's wife in being wed to Morkere, the young earl now sinking to new depths in drink with boredom. All the efforts of Ivar, Hereward, friends and kinsmen are channelled into wreaking havoc amongst the Normans and their allies - there are also Englishmen the king has recruited or pushed into service with his fleet. A hard Fenland winter awaits William and his Normans, unused to the harsh climate with easterly winds that gnaw at their bones, far from home. Yet something is in the air when Abbot Thurstan takes longer to return from visiting fellow abbots...Uncanny things happen.
Each book stands on its own, although there are references to other books in the series to keep you on your toes and take you through a misunderstood era. The 'Conquest' is a misnomer, and it was not until William's English-born (Selby, Yorkshire) third son Henry 'Beauclerc' came to the throne that everyone breathed out again after the excesses of the early Norman occupation.
Stirring times in the Fens around Ely...
Eerie and bone-chillingly cold are the winter mists that enshroud the sea and Fenland isles... Hereward and friends know how to use them
Parallel to these books is the CONQUEST series on this site, that ends with William's demise at Mantes whilst delivering a punitive blow to its citizens
From 1066 when the RAVENFEAST saga series begins, the CONQUEST series charts the course of the years to 1087, with the key figures and their careers outlined - also covered in GODWIN'S CLAN and SWORDFLASH 1066. Follow through the events of each year and compare them with characters and events in RAVENFEAST, OVERTHROWN, OUTCAST, BETRAYED, WAYFARER, LANDWASTER and FENMAN. There's a treat in store on both counts, historical and fictional!
You might also like to follow HUNDING'S SAGA on Hub-pages...
Another parallel feature here on Hub-pages is a series of episodes titled 'HUNDING'S SAGA' for you to gain an insight into the Northern Europe and Scandinavia of the late 10th - 11th Century that Hunding would have known, look first at the page titled 'HUNDING'S SAGA: Mapping his exploits between Jorvik and Miklagard';
There's also an overview of the series: 'HUNDING'S WORLD - Places, People... Purpose'. See the Profile page and scroll down.
The episodes themselves begin with: 'HUNDING'S SAGA - 1: Unfolding the Saga', where Hunding as a boy in eastern Jutland witnesses a raid on his fishing settlement, his father and grandfather slain and his mother taken as a slave together with his childhood sweetheart.
The current and last (foreseeable) episode is 52: 'Cornered On Lake Ilmen', where Hunding meets Harald Sigurdsson on his way south to Koenungagard (Kiev/Kyiv).