Have you ever wondered what might have happened if William the Conqueror had been beaten at Hastings in 1066? Or if Harald Hardrada had won at Stamford Bridge? Or if Ed-ward the Confessor had died with an heir ready to take his crown? If so – here is the perfect set of short stories for you.
1066 Turned Upside Down explores a variety of ways in which that momentous year could have played out very differently.
Written by nine well-known authors the stories will take you on a journey through the specu-lative ‘what ifs?’ of England’s most famous year in history.
THE NEEDLE CAN MEND
by Eliza Redgold
One of the most famous relics of the 11th century is the Bayeux Tapestry. It is called a tapestry, but in fact it is an embroidery. It is nearly 70 metres (230ft) long, and 50 centimetres (20in) in height, and comprises of fifty scenes stitched on linen with coloured woollen yarns. It is kept, now, in a museum near Bayeux Cathedral in Normandy, where Odo, Duke William’s half-brother, was bishop. Some say it was Odo who commanded the Tapestry made, perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn’t. We don’t know. At initial glance it seems to tell a straightforward story of the events that led to the Norman Conquest, and the Battle itself. But there is so much we do not understand: why the little figures in the upper and lower borders? Who were the few people named – Turold, the dwarf, and the woman, Alfgyva? Annoyingly, the makers did not include explanatory footnotes. The Tapestry is a beautiful thing, even today its colours are bright and vibrant. It has survived wars and fires, and the skill that went into making it is as wondrous to us now, as it must have been back then, at some time soon after October 1066. The women who stitched it – for there was more than one hand responsible for its creation – put more than just thread into those scenes. There is sadness, loyalty, and love stitched there. But who designed it? Whose was the mind behind the Tapestry’s creation…?
A ghost of wind. A breath of air. That’s what changed our course. Or rather, William’s course, for his ships were stranded for months, unable to attack England’s shores.
Some said it was the work of vengeful spirits, some said it was the hand of God.
Harold waited for William on a coastal isle, ready to repel the Norman forces.
But the ghost lingered too long. Harold ran out of provisions and abandoned his defence.
The wind changed. The Normans attacked. Our lives unravelled.
‘No!’ I sobbed as I clung to him. ‘I won’t leave you!’
‘Elf.’ He stroked my face as the tears streamed down.
‘Let me stay with you. Let me fight beside you. I can’t leave you. I won’t.’
‘You’re with child,’ he said gently. ‘You must be protected. How can I fight this battle if you are not safe?’
Still my tears flowed. I sobbed, shrieked, I who was usually so strong. It was as if all restraint had left me. All that was left was fear.
He held me by the forearms. His eyes, fierce with love. ‘Edith. My Elf. I beg you. Go to sanctuary with the other women of the court. Go now.’
He fell in battle. I knew it before I reached the safety of the convent walls. I knew it before we said good-bye. As if I had always known it. As if our every embrace had been farewell.
* * *
The colours were so bright they hurt my eyes.
Blue. Like the sky on the day we wed.
Yellow. Like the korn fields of Coventry. Like my grandmother’s hair.
Green. Like the leaves in the wildwoods of Arden, where I played as a child.
Grey. Like the stones of the convent walls.
Red. I shuddered as I folded out the linen, white as a shroud, and picked up the first length of wool.
I would start with red.
Thank you, Eliza Redgold and The Coffee Pot Book Club
About the Authors
1066 Turned Upside Down is a collection of eleven alternative history short stories of a ‘what if’ nature imagined by nine well-known successful authors:
JOANNA COURTNEY Ever since Joanna sat up in her cot with a book, she’d wanted to be a writer and cut her publication teeth on short stories and serials for the women’s magazines before signing to PanMacmillan in 2014 for her three-book series The Queens of the Con-quest about the wives of the men fighting to be King of England in 1066. Her second series, written for Piatkus is Shakespeare’s Queens exploring the real history of three of the bard’s greatest female characters – Lady Macbeth, Ophelia and Cordelia.
Joanna’s fascination with historical writing is in finding the similarities between us and them –with an especial goal to provide a female take on some of the greatest stories we think we know. http://www.joannacourtney.com
ALISON MORTON writes the award-winning alternative fiction Roma Nova thriller series featuring tough, but compassionate heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, historical, adventure and thriller fiction. A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women. She has recently branched out into a contemporary crime setting with Double Identity, the first of a planned series.
ANNA BELFRAGE Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy set in 14th century England. Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. His Castilian Hawk – returning to medieval times and her most recent re-lease, The Whirlpools of Time, a time travel romance set against the backdrop of brewing re-bellion in the Scottish highlands. Anna has won several awards including various Gold, Sil-ver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards. http://www.annabelfrage.com
ANNIE WHITEHEAD is an historian and prize-winning author. Her main interest in history is the period formerly known as the ‘Dark Ages’. Her first novel, To Be A Queen, is the story of Aethelflaed (daughter of Alfred the Great), who came to be known as the Lady of the Mer-cians. Alvar the Kingmaker, tells the story of Aelfhere of Mercia, a nobleman in the time of King Edgar. Cometh the Hour goes further back in time to the seventh century, to tell the story of Penda, the last pagan king of Mercia. Annie has twice been a prizewinner in the Mail on Sunday Novel Writing competition, she won first prize for nonfiction in the new Writing Magazine Poetry and Prose competition, and was the inaugural winner of the HWA (Histori-cal Writers’ Association)/Dorothy Dunnett Society Short Story Competition and is now a judge for that same competition.
Annie has had two nonfiction books published. Mercia: The Rise and Fall of a Kingdom (Amberley Books) has been an Amazon #1 Bestseller. Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England was published by Pen & Sword Books in 2020.
CAROL McGRATH is the author of The Daughters of Hastings Trilogy. Her fifth historical novel, The Silken Rose, first in The Rose Trilogy, published by the Headline Group, is set during the High Middle Ages. It features Ailenor of Provence and was published in 2020. The Damask Rose about Eleanor of Castile was published in 2021. The Stone Rose, Isabella of France, follows in 2022. Carol has also written Historical Non-Fiction for Pen & Sword.
ELIZA REDGOLD is an author and ‘romantic academic’. Her bestselling historical fiction includes her Ladies of Legend trilogy, starting with Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva released internationally by St Martin’s Press, New York. Her historical romances are published by Harlequin Historical, London (Harper Collins). They include Playing the Duke’s Mistress, Enticing Benedict Cole, The Scandalous Suffragette and The Master’s New Governess. They
have been translated into multiple languages including Italian, Polish, Czech, Danish and Swedish, and are available internationally.
G.K. HOLLOWAY After graduating from Coventry University with an honours degree in history and politics, he worked in education in and around Bristol, England, where he now lives. After reading a biography about Harold Godwinson, he studied the late Anglo-Saxon era in detail. When he had enough material to weave together facts and fiction he produced his novel. 1066 What Fates Impose, a story of family feuds, court intrigues, assassinations, plotting and scheming, loyalty and love, all ingredients in an epic struggle for the English crown. http://www.gkholloway.co.uk
HELEN HOLLICK moved from London in 2013 and now lives on a thirteen-acre farm in North Devon, England. Born in London, Helen wrote pony stories as a teenager, moved to science fiction and fantasy, and then discovered the wonder of historical fiction. Published since 1994 with her Arthurian Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, followed by her 1066 era duo. She became a USA Today bestseller with her story of Queen Emma: The Forever Queen (ti-tled A Hollow Crown in the UK), and its companion novel, Harold the King (titled I Am the Chosen King in the U.S.A). She also writes the Sea Witch Voyages, a series of pirate-based nautical adventures with a touch of fantasy. Commissioned by Amberley Press she wrote a non-fiction book about pirates in fact, fantasy and fiction and a non-fiction book about smug-glers, published by Pen and Sword.
Recently she has ventured into the ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Mysteries, the first of which is A Mirror Murder. She runs Discovering Diamonds, an independent online review site for Historical Fiction, primarily aimed at showcasing Indie writers.
She occasionally gets time to write. http://www.helenhollick.net
RICHARD DEE was a Master Mariner and ship’s pilot, now living in Brixham, South Devon. His novels include Science Fiction and Steampunk adventures, as well as the ex-ploits of Andorra Pett, a reluctant amateur detective. http://www.richarddeescifi.co.uk
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