by Elizabeth Chadwick
Many thanks for inviting me to guest blog and talk about the inspiration behind To Defy a King.
I had written two books about a great medieval knight and magnate called William Marshal. He rose from obscure beginnings to become a great jousting champion, the companion of kings and queens, and eventually regent of England after the death of King John. He married the granddaughter of an Irish King – Isabelle de Clare who was 20 years younger than he was, but it seems to have been a love match. They had 10 children – 5 boys and 5 girls.
Their eldest daughter Mahelt was born in the middle of four brothers and for the first 7 years of her life she was the only girl in the family and had her father to herself. There seems to have been a strong and loving bond between them, and although her father was a fair man, she does seem to have been his favorite. A chronicle of the time says that he ‘loved her dearly.’ However, being a fond father in the Middle Ages didn’t stop William from marrying his daughter at the age of 14 to Hugh, the son of his friend and ally Roger Bigod Earl of Norfolk. William was genuinely doing his best for Mahelt by the tenets of his time. He had to go to Ireland because he was being persecuted by King John and marrying Mahelt to Hugh Bigod, who was around 11 years her senior, was the best thing he could do to keep her safe.
I wondered what it would have been like to have to leave your family and go to a marriage with someone you didn’t know and have to come to terms with your in-laws in a strange environment with different rules and regulations. While Mahelt would have been much more prepared for this than a modern person and would have seen it as fulfilling an adult responsibility, there must have been other feelings deep inside. Also given volatile adolescent hormones (teenage girls can be a nightmare), how did she cope…and how did everyone else cope with the fallout, especially her husband who was a grown man at their marriage, but nevertheless still young.
I was interested in writing about the medieval experience of marriage at the same time as covering a turbulent historical period. Both Mahelt’s birth and marriage families were involved in bringing the Magna Carta to fruition and in their different ways of dealing with King John, so I felt there was plenty of scope to stay true to the history and still build a story.
In order to write, I don’t need much. I’ve always been able to write on the hoof. As long as I’ve got a pen that writes nicely (it can be a cheap one, the criteria is that that the ink flows smoothly) and pad, or a PC screen to hand, I’m set. I guess the main thing I need these days is the time. I’m often very pushed to find the space to actually get down to the work in progress. Once I would have said I needed chocolate, but I’ve recently given that up in the interests of a lighter me and I’m surviving!
Must have luxuries for me are good escapist films to wind down with after a day’s work. I enjoy putting my feet up and watching something like Stardust or Avatar. I like to wear perfume even if I’m not going out. I have a brilliant book titled Perfumes: The A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. It’s a wickedly funny book that star rates perfumes and comments on them very much to the point. I have begun collecting their 4 and 5 star rated choices and I’ll spritz something on depending on my mood. My signature perfume is generally Mitsouko by Guerlain although today I am wearing Paloma Picasso and tomorrow it might be Rive Gauche or Noa. Who knows?