Wednesday, May 28, 2014

History’s Greatest Knight: William Marshal

A French poem called L’Historie de Guilaume le MarĂ©chal, with over 19,000 lines exists and details the colorful account of one of the greatest knights of the middle ages —William Marshal.
Likely the poem glorifies the man and maybe even embellishes his accomplishments, but there is no doubt that this warrior was a self-made man. He was the fourth son of a minor lord and despite a bleak future, he rose to become a trusted servant of kings and ranked as one of the wealthiest knights of his time.
William Marshal unhorses Baldwin Guisnes during a joust.
(From Matthew Paris' the Historia Major) *
Apparently, though, his road to greatness was hard-won.
In 1152, when he was only six years old, he was captured by King Stephen and was used as a pawn to force John Marshal, his father, to surrender a castle in Newbury, England. You see, John Marshal once served under the English king, but he later changed loyalties to Empress Matilda. William’s father made a deal with King Stephen, promising that he would release the besieged Newbury Castle in exchange for his son. But the elder Marshal broke his promise and sent reinforcements through the town gates, making it abundantly clear that he had no intentions of surrendering the castle. When William’s life was threatened, his father merely scoffed and declared “"I still have the hammer and the anvil with which to forge still more and better sons!" The king, fortunately, was only bluffing and couldn’t bring himself to kill an innocent child.
Eventually William was returned to his father, but by then he probably knew that his father held little regard for him. Boys of his status were typically sent away to train as a knight when they were six years old. William’s father, however, didn’t bother to send him away until he was almost thirteen.
So in 1159, he arrived in Tancarville, Normandy to train under his cousin William de Tancarville. While there, he essentially honed all the combat skills he needed to become a full-fledged knight.
In 1167, the English and French kings were at war with one another. William’s cousin was sent to Drincourt to defend the Normandy borders against the French. It was at this location where William became knighted.
The following day news reached them that the French had crossed the border, causing havoc as they marched toward Drincourt. So when the enemies arrived at the town, William enthusiastically threw himself into the skirmish. They successfully defeated the enemies, and the newly minted knight was able to boast that he had warded off thirteen knights and unhorsed many more. His “victory” however was mocked by his peers since he had come away from his first battle with nothing to show for his efforts except for a torn vest and a dead horse.
A few months later, after France and England declared peace, William’s cousin asked him to fight under his banner at a prominent tournament in Le Mans, Normandy. At this tournament, his reputation soared. News spread about his amazing strength and bravery, and how he single-handedly killed five knights who had ambushed him. He also captured enough prisoners for ransom, and obtained many fine horses and equipment from his opponents. Needless to say, he loved participating in tournaments and winning.
The following year, before the new tournament season began, William accompanied his Uncle Patrick, the Earl of Salisbury. They had the task of escorting Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine to her new holding in Lusignan. Unfortunately they were ambushed, and while the queen was able to get away, his uncle was killed. And even though he was seriously outnumbered, William fought his attackers. In the end, he managed to kill six of their horses before he was finally subdued and taken for ransom. The queen was impressed enough by her champion that she paid the ransom, and bestowed upon him the honor of mentoring Prince Henry, her 15 year old eldest son and heir to the throne. William’s service to the young prince proved to be unwavering, which later sent him on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the time of the Crusades.
In his long and eventful life, William served four kings, married one of the wealthiest heiresses in England, and acquired holdings in England, Ireland, Normandy and Wales. At one point, he was even chosen as a regent, and was in charge of running the kingdom until his young king came of age. He finally died on May 14, 1219 at the age of 72. And at his burial, the Archbishop of Canterbury proclaimed William Marshal as “the best knight who ever lived.”
* Public domain image

Monday, May 12, 2014

My Writing Process

Thank you to my friend Ria Cantrell for inviting me on this My Writing Process Blog Tour. She writes Scottish historical romances with an interesting and strong focus on the paranormal. You can check out her writing process at

What am I working on?

Right now I'm working on "Fallen Knight", book 3 of the Knight's of Honor Trilogy. In this story we explore charged emotional themes of love, revenge, and redemption. Readers will recognize some of the characters from books 1 and 2, and will also become acquainted with new ones.
The main skeleton of the story is done although I still have some minor details to take care of before it's ready to launch.

Then, after this book is released, I'm off to start other exciting projects that are waiting in the wing :)

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

While my works have aspects of truth in them, they are mainly based on a medieval world that I've made up. At its core, my stories are romances, although I mix and experiment with different elements from other genres such as fantasy, action, adventure and suspense. I also enjoy exploring intense emotions like love, loyalty, trust, jealousy, betrayal, anger, fear, etc.

And while I write about these difficult themes, I stay true to the genre - there absolutely has to be chemistry and romance, and the story must have a happily ever after for my main characters. A story that ends badly just makes you feel crappy, and I can't bring myself to finish off a story with doom and gloom.

Why do I write what I do?

It all started when I began reading romance books again when my second child was born.

You see, my daughter was a very fussy baby, and I desperately needed a break from her. Of course with a baby tied to you and another young child running around, where can you go? No where. So I thought disappearing into books was a good way to regain my sanity. That was when I picked up an old Johanna Lindsay book and became obsessed with trying to capture that magical feeling of entering into a world not your own.
Time flew by and soon enough my daughter was about to start kindergarten. Of course I didn't want to return to the work force. Going over my options, I decided that I'd enjoy writing romances as a career.

How does my writing process work?

My writing process is pretty typical, I think.

I usually outline the plot so that I have a good idea of what the story is about. Once the outline is done, I run the storyline by my husband, who gives me an outsider's perspective.

When I'm finally satisfied with the outline, I set it aside. Then keeping the general plot direction in mind, I allow the story to unfold as I type. Oftentimes, the characters reveal themselves to me and force me off the original plot path, so in these instances, I have to refine the story direction and patch up any inconsistencies.

Next Week:

Amber Dane loves all things Medieval and is the author of the bestselling series The Northern Knights. When not writing about the middle ages and Norman knights, you will find her penning romantic suspense. Though her grand passion will forever be – old-style bodice rippers, charging knights, and strapping alpha males. Find out more about Amber below:


Amy Mullen is a freelance writer and romance author living in Corning, NY, with her husband, Patrick, her two children, and an orange cat named Steve. She is the author of A Stormy Knight and Redefining Rayne.

Amy has been writing about love both lost and regained since she was old enough to have her first broken heart. Her love of history and her intermittent jaunts into amateur genealogy led her to a love affair with writing historical fiction. When not writing, she snaps pictures, enjoys the company of her children, and when time allows, loves to bury her nose in a good book.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Who is the Green Man?

The medieval times were rife with superstition and dread. There were simply some things that couldn't be explained, and people came up with ideas that made sense to them.

Most of the beliefs of the time were heavily based on the fear of the supernatural. And to ward off the pervading sense of evil, people used protective measures such as herbal plants like rosemary, potions, spells, and incantations.

One interesting belief I came across (and one which I incorporated into my story Heart of a Knight) was about the Green Man.


Some scholars believed that the forest spirit was neither good nor evil. In fact, they argued that because of his coloring, the Green Man symbolized vitality as well as the unpredictable and fearful force of nature.

According to these historians, the color green represented rebirth, nature, fertility, and the phase of growth each spring. Therefore, the Green Man had the ability to be benevolent, to perpetuate growth and promote good crops. But the supernatural entity had a malevolent side as well, since the color green was also associated with witchcraft, devilry, fairies and spirits. In British folklore, for example, the devil was sometimes depicted as having a green tinge to his skin.

In terms of the Green Man’s physical appearance, he was usually described as having either a head entirely covered in green leaves; a head with vegetation ejecting from his mouth; or a head with foliage growing out from his eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Sometimes the forest spirit was shown as having antlers and at other times, he sported horns.

As you can see, the actual appearance of the supernatural entity is indefinite and debatable. And because of this ambiguity, scholars have attempted to make different kinds of associations. Some historians for example theorize that the green colored knight in the 14th century Arthurian poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was in fact the Green Man portrayed in medieval myths.

Nowadays, many of us don’t know who the Green Man is or what he represents. But even with this being the case, there is no disputing that his presence is still prevalent in our society today. In fact, you’ll find his sculpted head, with the leaves and vegetation sprouting from his visage, appearing on many of Europe’s cathedrals and public buildings. And because the Europeans brought their beliefs with them when they colonized the world, the Green Man motifs can also be found everywhere, even integrated into American architecture.
So next time you’re visiting Europe or maybe even somewhere closer to home like Portland, Oregon, look up. Chances are you’ll see the Green Man staring down at you. But really take a look at him and decide — is the expression on his face one of pain or of resentment?