1066 Turned Upside Down
By Joanna Courtney, Helen Hollick, Anna Belfrage, Richard Dee, G.K. Holloway, Carol McGrath, Alison Morton, Eliza Redgold, Annie Whitehead With a foreword by C.C. Humphreys
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 Edward 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 speculative ‘what ifs?’ of England’s most famous year in history.
Today we feature another excerpt from 1066 Turned Upside Down by author Alison Morton based on her alternative Roma Nova thriller series:
A ROMAN INTERVENES
by Alison Morton
Roma Nova is an imaginary country, a remnant of the Western Roman Empire. Founded (in the author’s imagination) in AD 395 by dissident pagans when Theodosius enforced Christianity throughout the Empire, the tiny mountain state has negotiated or fought its way through the unstable, dangerous times of the Roman dusk and the Early Middle Ages.Daughters as well as sons carried weapons to defend their homeland, their gods and their way of life. Fighting danger side-by-side with brothers and fathers on equal terms reinforced women’s status and enhanced their roles in all parts of Roma Novan life, including that of ruler. But like their ancestors, the 11th century Roma Novans have determination, war-fighting skills and engineering genius. Outside the usual circles of alliances, they often act as intermediaries, overtly and covertly. They know other people’s secrets… Currently living under the shadow of the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire as we know it), Roma Nova dances carefully, but sometimes has to give in to its much larger cousin. Hence the presence of Countess Galla Mitela, chief advisor to the imperatrix of Roma Nova, at the court of William of Normandy. Could these tough, strange people negotiate between Saxon England and Normandy, appointed Harold and ambitious William? And did they have an alternative plan?
The palace built by Duke William’s father was imposing; the stone tower dominated but as we were shown into the Aula Turris, the Grande Salle, I was struck by the sheer luxury of its proportions and decoration. Here ruled a man of power indeed. At the far end on a raised dais were William and Matilda. A slim figure, her eyes were full of curiosity. Like the other women present her hair was hidden beneath a veil below a gold circlet, but of such softness it could only have been the nearly sheer silk from Constantinople. But William had none of the delicate elegance of his wife. From the heavy gold circle with a large cabochon shining from its centre on his head, down the dark crimson robe and over mantle clothing his sturdy frame, belted by gold, down to his dark boots, he exuded wealth and strength. His eyes fixed on us from the moment we stood on the threshold of the hall until we reached the two thrones where they sat.
‘Salvete dux ducissaque,’ I began. William frowned, but Matilda smiled although she said nothing. De Boscville stepped out of the lines of courtiers, his face creased in irritation. He translated my greeting into French, then turned and said in Latin, ‘Continue.’
‘Forgive me, Duke William,’ I said in French. I paused and smiled. ‘I had not realised you did not speak Latin.’
William frowned again and shot a hard look at me. I knew perfectly well he couldn’t even read or write his own native tongue. ‘I present Claudia Apulia,’ I said. ‘She brings greeting from her mother, the imperatrix of Roma Nova.’
He nodded curtly and stared her up and down like a piece of meat. She flushed slightly, but looked back steadily at him. Matilda laid her fingers on his forearm.
‘We have been asked to convey a message to you from Harold the Saxon King.’
‘The only message I want from the earl is the surrender of my rightful crown.’
‘That, Duke William, is not for negotiation.’
Some of the courtiers present murmured, and one man, another priest who I thought must be Lanfranc, his Galilean councillor, bent and whispered in the duke’s ear. I waited until the murmuring had stopped and I had their attention again. ‘Harold does not wish for warfare, but he will not hesitate to enter the field in force if England is threatened. He proposes a treaty.’
‘He is forsworn. That is an end on it. You are women but even you as Romans understand an oath is an oath.’
‘Of course, but some would say he swore under duress.’
‘You push too hard, woman.’
‘I merely state the obvious, Duke.’
‘We will think about it.’
‘All the while you are mustering your invasion fleet?’
The murmuring rose to a clamour. Somebody muttered ‘godless bitches’. Claudia took a sharp breath in at that but we stood still and waited.
‘Peace!’ the duke’s voice rang out. ‘The countess and princess are our guests. We will eat.’ He stood and beckoned me to accompany him, Matilda smiled at Claudia, took her arm and followed us, the courtiers trailing in our wake.
A hard, uncompromising man with few social manners but willing to talk of common interests, William was deeply interested in how Roma Nova had been founded and in my own early career, sword in hand. I think he almost forgot I was a woman as we discussed campaigns and tactics. His eyes gleamed when I showed him my intricately worked pugio dagger. His acquisitiveness wasn’t merely for a crown.
‘Please accept it as a gift, Duke,’ I said. ‘Whatever happens in the future, it will be a souvenir of the Romans who once visited you.’
‘I accept, most willingly.’ He gave a half-smile. ‘But you will not cozen me with your words and gifts.’
Do the Roma Novans negotiate a treaty? Read 1066 Turned Upside Down to find out!
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Meet 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 Conquest 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. 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 release, The Whirlpools of Time, a time travel romance set against the backdrop of brewing rebellion in the Scottish highlands. Anna has won several awards including various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards. 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 Mercians. 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 (Historical 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. 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 (titled 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 smugglers, 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. 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 exploits of Andorra Pett, a reluctant amateur detective. www.richarddeescifi.co.uk