Lady of the English
Author:Elizabeth Chadwick

Epilogue

Abbey of Afflighem, Belgium, Spring 1149

A deliza sat in the garden at Afflighem, enjoying the spring warmth. From her bench in a sheltered corner, she could admire the spring bulbs she had planted in the autumn.

She had not known if she would live to see them as she buried them, alive but dormant under the soil; she had thought they might push into the light and bloom when her physical body was in the grave. But by God’s grace she was still here to enjoy the cheerful gold of daffodils and hold a posy of violets, their delicate petals clad in spiritual purple. Her health was as fragile as this pale sunshine, but she had the peace to pray and be at one with God, and today she had a modicum of strength. The French Cistercian monk Bernard of Clairvaux claimed to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary at Afflighem, and Adeliza found it easy to believe; she had not seen but she was certain that at times she felt the radiant presence at her side, giving her strength and light.

Raising the posy of violets to inhale their delicate scent, she looked beyond the beds and felt a sudden jolt as she saw a man walking along the path towards her. “Will?” Her heart began to pound and all the feelings she had put aside as she absorbed herself into a life of prayer and contemplation came flooding back. He had lost some of his robust vigour and looked careworn with more grey in his hair, but his expression and bearing LadyofEnglish.indd 495

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were calm and, as he reached her, there was even a slight curve to his lips.

He knelt on one knee in salute and bowed his head. “Adeliza,” he said. “My queen, my wife, my reason.” Then he rose stiffly and kissed her on either cheek, but did not seek her lips.

“Will.” Her voice was hoarse with shock. “What are you doing here?”

He gave her a sidelong look, guarding against rebuff. “Is it not permitted to visit my wife?”

“I thought…I thought one set of farewells was grief enough.” She had neither expected him to do so, nor prepared herself.

“I am ready to endure the heartache in order to have the joy of seeing you,” he said. “If you are not, tell me, and I will go.” She made a wordless gesture indicating he should stay.

He gazed around. “The gardens are beautiful. There is no such tranquillity in England.”

“I did not expect to see another spring,” she said. “But God has granted me His grace to do so.” She bit her lip. “How are the children?”

“They do well,” he said. “They miss you, but they have their nurses and they have your letters even if they do not have you.

They know this is your home for now and that you have an important task to do.”

“And you, Will?”

He looked away for a moment, then back at her. “I manage, but there will always be an empty and aching place at my side.

I do everything in your name and God’s. Every coin I give, every charter, every act and deed of charity is for you.” She hoped he was not going to ask her to return with him because it was impossible, and she did not want to wound him further.

Something of her anxiety must have conveyed itself to him because he said, “I think I must always have known our time 496

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was borrowed from God. I came to tell you that I have built a leper house at Wymondham and that Rising is now a palace fit for a queen, even if I know she will never hold court there.” She had to swallow before she could speak. “Then fill these places with love and life, Will, in my name; do not make shrines of them. I will send you bulbs to plant in the autumn and they will flower this time next year for you and our children.” He shook his head and cuffed his eyes and for a moment they sat in silence. Then he said, “I have been talking to men from both sides of the divide, and we all agree that Henry FitzEmpress will be our next king. Stephen does not see it now, but it will happen before Wilkin is old enough to grow a beard—I know it.”

“Then I must believe you,” she said.

“I have always spoken the truth to you.”

“Yes, you have.”

The abbey bell tolled for the service of nones. Adeliza rose from the bench and so did Will. Their arms clasped, they entered beneath the decorated arch of the abbey door and walked up the nave to kneel together before the altar as the monks filed in for the service. Between the great candles and beside the cross, the crown that Adeliza had worn to her marriage with Will and upon her wedding night gleamed with soft points of reflected light. Sunshine rayed through the windows, lighting Adeliza and Will where they knelt, and her sense of tranquillity returned. She felt peace settling over Will too, as if, side by side, they had received a joint blessing from the angels that were said to spread their divine light over Afflighem.

When the service was over, Adeliza laid her bunch of violets on the altar step, and went out with Will into the quiet warmth of the afternoon sun, and neither of them spoke, because the things unsaid were already known.

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Author’s Note

E mpress Matilda, as one of the strongest female personalities of twelfth-century English history, has often been the subject of historical fact and fiction. She is frequently portrayed in a less than complimentary light and I was curious to investigate her story and find out if she really was the termagant that some chroniclers and historians have made her out to be—or was there more to her than that?

The empress, as she liked to be known, seems to have been her own worst enemy at times. The Gesta Stephani reports that after Stephen’s capture, she was “headstrong in all that she did” and that she insulted and threatened men who came to submit to her. She did not rise to acknowledge men who bowed to her, and she refused to listen to their advice, “ rebuffing them by an arrogant answer and refusing to hearken to their words…

she no longer relied on their advice as she should have and had promised them, but arranged everything as she herself thought fit and according to her own arbitrary will.” From this I read that she had a strong will and did not suffer fools gladly, but I also think she was kicking against a society that had rigid conceptions about the spheres of female roles and female power. I also have a notion (that I can’t prove) that Matilda suffered from acute premenstrual tension and this LadyofEnglish.indd 499

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might account for some of her sharp behaviour. A fraught political situation and a certain time of the month may just have combined to create disaster for her.

Despite her prickly relations with her cousin Henry of Winchester, she was on excellent terms with the Church and a monk, Stephen of Rouen, praised her greatly, saying that she was much loved by the poor and the nobility alike. She was, according to him, “wise and pious, merciful to the poor, generous to monks, the refuge of the wretched, and a lover of peace.” (It is ironic how hard she had to fight and how much misery and mayhem was created before any sort of peace came about.) Marjorie Chibnall in her biography of the empress also states that the Cistercian monks of Le Valasse remembered her as “a woman of intelligence and sense.” There has been modern speculation that Matilda and the baron Brian FitzCount were lovers, but that notion comes from a misreading of a piece in the Gesta Stephani about the flight from Winchester. The text says in translation: “But she and Brien gained by this a title to boundless fame, since as their affection for each other had before been unbroken, so even in adversity, great though the obstacle that danger might be, they were in no wise divided.” There is no other reference to their closeness and this comment should be read in terms of a bond of service and friendship and not physical intimacy. Had there been even a hint of such, the chroniclers hostile to Matilda, including the Gesta Stephani, would have run with it for all it was worth. My own belief is that there was a powerful attraction between Brian and Matilda, but that it remained unspoken and was never acted upon.

No one knows for certain what happened to Brian. The most likely scenario is that he became a monk at Reading Abbey shortly after Matilda returned to Normandy. Certainly he disappears from the historical record at about this time. A 500

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suggestion that he went on crusade can be discounted as a fabrication. I have a strong feeling that Brian was not cut out for warfare and fought because he had to. Wallingford was one of the strongest fortresses on the empress’s side, but Brian was travelling with Matilda’s court for much of the time and the heroic defence of the place fell mostly to its castellan William Boterel. I suspect when Matilda left for Normandy, it was the last straw and Brian retired to a religious life. Since Reading Abbey had responsibility for the chapel on the Isle of May off the coast of Scotland in the twelfth century, I chose to send him there to end his days in peace.

In the matter of Matilda’s troubled marriage to Geoffrey of Anjou, I was interested to find out how long it took for her to become pregnant with the future Henry II, and it’s the reason I have introduced the contraceptive thread into the story. She married Geoffrey in 1128 and returned to Normandy a year later, not going back to her husband until September 1131. It was to be another nine months before Henry was conceived.

She went on to have two more sons in swift succession. Was this just chance, or was there something else going on? I think it well within the bounds of possibility that there was, and perhaps she hoped for an annulment.

Matilda did indeed escape from Oxford Castle during a severe and bitter winter, crossing the frozen moat and the Thames to reach Abingdon and eventually the safety of Wallingford. The chronicles differ in her method of escape. Once source says she escaped via a postern door, another that it was via a rope from a window.

When Matilda went to Normandy in 1148, she continued to work behind the scenes to help her son win England’s throne.

She sought in particular to foster relations with the Church and was a respected benefactor of numerous religious houses, to which she donated a considerable treasure in her will. When 501

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she died in 1167 her son Henry was a king reigning over a vast European empire that stretched from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees. As she had wished many years earlier, she was buried at the priory of Bec-Hellouin. Sadly, her bones were disturbed during various religious and political upheavals and her remains were eventually gathered up and buried in Rouen Cathedral, burial place of the Dukes of Normandy. So in the end her father got his way!

In fiction, the empress is usually paired with Stephen’s wife in the struggle for England. Matilda of Boulogne (she is called Maheut in the story to avoid confusion as it is another medieval form of the name) was Matilda’s cousin and shared the same maternal bloodline and thus a link to the English royal house.

She was the rod in Stephen’s spine and although sometimes portrayed as a gentle sort, she had an underlying toughness and was an excellent negotiator. She also had the advantage of being able to function in a deputy’s role and not be seen as a threat to the natural order by taking power of her own volition.

The above pairing has often been written about before and I wanted to take a different slant. During my research, I became very drawn to Henry I’s second queen, Adeliza of Louvain, who is less well known.

Adeliza’s story, which runs parallel to Matilda’s, is an interesting one. Negotiations to marry Henry were already under way before the disaster of the sinking of the White Ship in 1121

robbed him of his only legitimate son. Adeliza was born circa 1103 and the chronicler Henry of Huntingdon praised her beauty and said that gold and jewels paled beside it. The fact that she did not bear Henry any children although they were together for fifteen years was a source of deep distress to her.

She wrote to a friend, the churchman Hildebert of Lavardin, bishop of Le Mans, seeking his counsel on the matter and he told her:

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…if it has not been granted to you from Heaven that you should bear a child to the King of the English, in these (the poor) you will bring forth the King of the Angels, with no damage to your modesty. Perhaps the Lord has closed up your womb so that you might adopt immortal offspring…it is more blessed to be fertile in the spirit than in the flesh.

Henry, meanwhile, continued to beget bastard offspring on other women on a regular basis.

When Henry died, Adeliza retired to the nunnery at Wilton, near to which she had founded a leper hospice. Although she didn’t entirely seclude herself there (there are charters from her witnessed at Arundel and she was present at Reading Abbey on the anniversary of Henry’s death to give a hundred marks), she did spend much of her time at Wilton until the autumn of 1138 when she married William D’Albini, whose family were baronial officers in the royal household. They began a family immediately and in the next ten years Adeliza produced at least six children, thus confounding all her years of barrenness.

Adeliza seems to have formed a strong bond with Matilda and they would have come to know each other well in the years when Matilda was at court before her marriage and then in the intervening years when she was estranged from Geoffrey. Certainly Adeliza welcomed Matilda to Arundel in 1139, despite Adeliza’s husband being staunchly Stephen’s man.

Although very different women, they were close in age and had plenty in common by way of family ties, social standing, and their dedication to religion and religious benefaction.

In 1148, Adeliza entered the monastery at Afflighem in modern-day Belgium, of which her family were patrons, and died there in 1151. I suggest in the novel that she had contracted some form of wasting illness, because she retired to a religious life (but did not take vows) when her youngest children would 503

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still have been little more than babies and her eldest son only nine years old. William D’Albini did not remarry, although he outlived his wife by twenty-five years.

Adeliza has two places of burial recorded: Afflighem and Reading Abbey. I suspect one house received her heart and the other her body, but I cannot say for sure. Descendants of William D’Albini and Adeliza of Louvain own Castle Rising in Norfolk to this day, and the innovative latrine arrangements mentioned in the novel can still be seen by the interested visitor!

William D’Albini was one of the barons foremost in brokering the peace agreement between the future Henry II and King Stephen whereby Henry was to receive the throne when Stephen died. This came about in 1154, outside the scope of this novel. D’Albini was favoured by the new young king; Adeliza’s determination in permitting her stepdaughter the empress to land in England in 1139 paid its dividend fifteen years later.

Readers will notice I have made frequent reference to crowns in the novel. Other than the obvious reason that the story involves the fight for a crown, I wanted to mention them because the empress set great store by hers and brought several from Germany. One was of solid gold set with gemstones and was worn by Henry II at his coronation. It was so heavy that it had to be supported by two silver rods and the front of it held a jewel of great size and worth with a gold cross superimposed on it. She also had another smaller crown of gold belonging to the emperor, and one that was decorated with gold flowers.

Crowns at this time were often made in hinged sections so they could be packed flat when not in use.

Matilda also set great store by nice tents. When the emperor of Germany asked for the return of the hand of Saint James, Matilda declined to oblige, but did send him a magnificent 504

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travelling tent instead, made of rich fabrics and so large that it had to be raised mechanically. That was part of the inspiration for including the windy tent scene near the beginning of the novel, the other part being research garnered from my strand of research involving the Akashic Records, a belief that the past can be accessed by someone with the skills to tune into its imprint.

Readers can find more information and links on my website.

Concerning other sundry details that interested me and might interest readers: the Latin on page 354, “Matilidis Imperatrice, Domina Angliea, Regina Anglia. Wallig,” translates to “Empress Matilda, Lady of the English, Queen of England. Wallingford,” and is based on actual (rare) coinage minted at Wallingford.

The name of Will’s warhorse Forcilez translates into English from the original Anglo-Norman as “Little Fortress.” I have my Akashic Consultant Alison King to thank for coming across his name at one of our sessions.

It has been a fascinating journey, following part of the lives of these two linked but very different women and observing their struggles to survive, and be heard in a world where the odds were stacked against them. Yet each in her own way, despite setbacks, succeeded in the end and they have my deepest respect.

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Select

Bibliography

Bradbury, Jim, Stephen and Matilda: The Civil War of 1139–53

(Sutton, 2005, ISBN 0 7509 3793 9).

Chibnall, Marjorie, The Empress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the English (Blackwell, 1999 edn, ISBN

0 631 19028 7).

The Chronicle of John of Worcester, vol. III, ed. and trans. by P. McGurk (Oxford Medieval Texts, Clarendon Press, 1998, ISBN 0 19 820702 6).

Crouch, David, The Reign of King Stephen 1135–1154 (Longman, 2000, ISBN 0 582 22657 0).

Davis, Michael R., Henry of Blois: Prince Bishop of the Twelfth Century Renaissance (PublishAmerica, 2009, ISBN 978 1

60749 753 0).

Gesta Stephani, ed. and trans. by K. R. Potter (Oxford Medieval Texts, Clarendon Press, 1976, ISBN 0 19 822234 3).

Green, Judith A., The Government of England under Henry I (Cambridge University Press, 1989 edn, ISBN 0 521 37586 X).

Green, Judith A., Henry I: King of England and Duke of Normandy (Cambridge University Press, 2009, ISBN 978 0 521 74452 2).

Hilton, Lisa, Queens Consort: England’s Medieval Queens (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008, ISBN 978 0 297 85261 2).

The Historia Novella of William of Malmesbury, ed. by K. R.

Potter (Nelson, 1955).

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Hollister, C. Warren, Henry 1 (Yale University Press, 2001, ISBN 0 300 08858 2).

Huntingdon, Henry of, The History of the English People 1000–

1154, trans. from the Latin by Diana Greenway (Oxford University Press, 2002 edn, ISBN 0 19284075 4).

The Letters and Charters of Gilbert Foliot, ed. by Adrian Morey and C. N. L. Brooke (Cambridge University Press, 1967).

Norgate, Kate, England under the Angevin Kings, Volume 1

(Elibron Classics, ISBN 1 4212 5984 2).

Tyerman, Christopher, Who’s Who in Early Medieval England (Shepheard Walwyn, 1996, ISBN 0 85683 132 8).

Warren, W. L., Henry II (Eyre Methuen, 1977 edn, ISBN 0

413 38390 3).

Articles and Related Items

Brown, R. Allen, Castle Rising Castle (guide book, English Heritage, ISBN 1 85074 159 X).

King, Alison, Akashic Record Consultant.

King, Edmund, “The Memory of Brian FitzCount,” The Haskins Society Journal, Vol. 13, 1999 (Boydell, 2002, ISBN

184383 050 7).

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an excerpt from

The Greatest

Knight

W hen William entered the Queen’s chambers in Poitiers, he was immediately struck by the familiar scents of cedar and sandalwood and by the opulent shades that Eleanor so loved: crimson and purple and gold. He drew a deep, savouring breath; he was home. Eleanor had been standing near the window talking to Guillaume de Tancarville but, on seeing William, she ceased the conversation and hastened across the chamber.

Somewhat stiffly, William knelt and bowed his head. Clara had shorn his hair close to his scalp to help rid him of the remainder of the lice and the air was cold on the back of his neck.

“William, God save you!” Eleanor stooped, took his hands and raised him to his feet, her tawny eyes full of concern.

“You’re as thin as a lance, and I was told that you had been grievously injured.”

“A spear in the thigh; it is almost healed, madam,” William replied, not wanting to dwell on his injury. “I am for ever in your debt for ransoming me.”

Eleanor shook her head. “There will be no talk of debt unless it is on my part. You and your uncle sacrificed yourselves for my freedom and I can never repay that. Patrick of Salisbury was my husband’s man, and did his bidding first, but he was honourable and courteous and I grieve his death. His murderers LadyofEnglish.indd 509

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will be brought to justice, I promise you that.” Behind Eleanor, de Tancarville made a sound of concurrence.

“Yes, madam,” William agreed, his mouth twisting. He had sworn an oath on his sword on the matter. Until the Lusignan brothers had taught him the meaning of hatred, he had harboured strong grudges against no man. Now he had that burden and it was as if something light had been taken from him and replaced with a hot lead weight.

“You have no lord now, William.” Eleanor drew him further into the room and bade him sit on a cushioned bench.

He did so gratefully for his leg was paining him and he had yet to regain his stamina.

“No, madam.” William glanced at Guillaume de Tancarville, who was watching him with an enigmatic smile on his lips.

William had half expected the Chamberlain to invite him to rejoin his household, but the older man remained silent. “It is the tourney season, and I still have Blancart. I can make my way in the world.”

De Tancarville’s smile deepened. “Are you sure about that?

You seem to have an unfortunate skill for losing destriers and putting yourself in jeopardy.”

“I would have done the same for you, my lord, were you in my uncle’s place,” William replied with quiet dignity, thereby wiping the humour from de Tancarville’s face.

“I’m sorry, lad. I should not have jested. Perhaps it’s because I know more about your future than you do. You won’t need to ride the tourney roads or accept a place in my mesnie.”

“My lord?” William gave him a baffled look; Eleanor shot him an irritated one, as if de Tancarville had given too much away.

“What my lord Tancarville is saying in his clumsy fashion is that I am offering you a place among my own household guard,” Eleanor said. “I will furnish you with whatever you need in the way of clothing and equipment…and horses should 510

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the need arise,” she added with a twitch of her lips. “It is more than charity. I would be a fool of the greatest order not to take you into my service. My children adore you, we have missed your company, and you have proven your loyalty and valour to the edge of death.”

Her compliments washed over William’s head in a hot wave and he felt his face burning with pleasure and embarrassment.

“Lost for words?” she teased, her voice throaty with laughter.

William swallowed. “I have often dreamed of such a post but I never thought…” He shook his head. “It is an ill wind,” he said and suddenly a sweeping feeling of loss and sadness overtook his euphoria. He put his right hand over his face, striving to hold himself together. He had managed it for four months under the most difficult of circumstances. He wouldn’t break now, not in front of the Queen.

“William, I understand,” Eleanor said in a gentler voice than was her wont. “Take what time you need and report to me as soon as you are ready. Speak to my steward. He will see that you are provided with anything you lack. Go to.” She gave him a gentle push.

“Madam.” William bowed from her presence.

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Acknowledgments

M y thanks to the many individuals and groups of people who have worked behind the scenes to enable me to bring Lady of the English to fruition.

Carole Blake—my long-term agent and dear friend.

Rebecca Saunders, Joanne Dickinson, Manpreet Grewal, and Barbara Daniel at Little Brown—my enthusiastic editors and teamworkers.

Richenda Todd—also part of the editorial team and catcher of the continuity errors and surplus children. Any that remain are down to me.

Dominique Raccah, Shana Drehs, Beth Pehlke, Danielle Jackson, and Regan Fisher—my dynamic publisher and team at Sourcebooks.

The Romantic Novelists Association, where I have made many lasting friends and who offer such excellent support to their members.

The Historical Novel Society, which has done so much to promote the historical fiction genre.

The members of Historical Fiction online, who have created a forum where it’s fun to talk about all sorts of historical fiction, life, the world, and everything.

The many good friends I have made on Twitter across a diversity of interests.

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Thea Vincent—my Web designer at Phoenix Web Designs.

Roger, my husband—driver, companion dogsbody (or so our dogs inform me), soul mate, and champion ironer!

And last but first as well, my lovely readers!

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About the Author

E lizabeth Chadwick lives in

Nottingham with her husband

and two sons. Much of her research

is carried out as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval reen-actment society with the emphasis

on accurately re-creating the past.

She also tutors in the skill of writing historical and romantic fiction. Her first novel, The Wild Hunt, won a Betty Trask award. She was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Award in Charlie Hopkinson

1998 for The Champion, in 2001 for Lords of the White Castle, in 2002 for The Winter Mantle, and in 2003 for The Falcons of Montabard. Her sixteenth novel, The Scarlet Lion, was nominated by Richard Lee, the founder of the Historical Novel Society, as one of the top ten historical novels of the last decade, and To Defy a King won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Historical Fiction Prize in 2011.

For more details on Elizabeth Chadwick or her books, visit www.elizabethchadwick.com.

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A Forgotten Hero

in a Time of Turmoil

“An author who makes

historical fiction come

gloriously alive.”

—Times of London



“Elizabeth Chadwick is

to medieval England what

Philippa Gregory is to the

Tudors and the Stuarts,

and Bernard Cornwell is

to the Dark Ages.”

—Books Monthly, UK

A penniless young knight with few prospects, William Marshal blazes into history on the strength of his sword and the depth of his honor.

Marshal’s integrity sets him apart in the turbulent court of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, bringing fame and the promise of a wealthy heiress as well as enemies eager to plot his downfall. Elizabeth Chadwick has crafted a spellbinding tale about a forgotten hero, an ancestor of George Washington, an architect of the Magna Carta, and a legend of chivalry—

the greatest knight of the Middle Ages.



The Legend of the

Greatest Knight Lives On

“One of the landmark

historical novels of the

last ten years.”

—Richard Lee, Historical

Novel Society



“I rank Elizabeth

Chadwick with such

historical novelist stars

as Dorothy Dunnett and

Anya Seton. Read The

Scarlet Lion and see why.”

—Sharon Kay Penman,

New York Times bestselling author of Devil’s Brood

William Marshal’s skill with a sword and loyalty to his word have earned him the company of kings, the lands of a magnate, and the hand of Isabelle de Clare, one of England’s wealthiest heiresses. But he is thrust back into the chaos of court when King Richard dies. Vindictive King John clashes with William, claims the family lands for the Crown—and takes two of the Marshal sons hostage. The conflict between obeying his king and rebelling over the royal injustices threatens the very heart of William and Isabelle’s family. Fiercely intelligent and courageous, fearing for the man and marriage that light her life, Isabelle plunges with her husband down a precarious path that will lead William to more power than he ever expected.



A Bittersweet Tale

of Love, Loss, and the

Power of a king

“The best writer

of medieval fiction...”

—Richard Lee,

Historical Novel Society



“Everyone who has raved

about Elizabeth Chadwick

as an author of historical

novels is right.”

—Devourer of Books

When Roger Bigod arrives at King Henry II’s court to settle a bitter inheritance dispute, he becomes enchanted with Ida de Tosney, young mistress to the powerful king. A victim of Henry’s seduction and the mother of his son, Ida sees in Roger a chance to begin a new life. But Ida pays an agonizing price when she leaves the king, and as Roger’s importance grows and he gains an earldom, their marriage comes under increasing strain.

Based on the true story of a royal mistress and the young lord she chose to marry, For the King’s Favor is Elizabeth Chadwick at her best.



Spirited Daughter.

Rebellious Wife.

Powerful Woman.

“Chadwick’s great strength

lies in her attention to

detail—she brings to life

all the daily humdrum of

the medieval age but also

seduces with the romance

of her characters and the

raw excitement of their

times. To Defy a King is Chadwick on top form.”

—Lancashire Evening Post



“You don’t just read a

Chadwick book; you

experience it.”

—Shelf and Stuff

The adored and spirited daughter of England’s greatest knight, Mahelt Marshal lives a privileged life. But when her beloved father falls foul of the volatile and dangerous King John, her world is shattered. The king takes her brothers hostage and Mahelt’s planned marriage to Hugh Bigod, son of the Earl of Norfolk, takes place sooner than she expected. When more harsh demands from King John threaten to tear the couple’s lives apart, Mahelt finds herself facing her worst fears alone, not knowing if she—or her marriage—will survive.