Tuesday, March 15, 2011

British History Week: Helen Hollick on British History

Why is British History so fascinating to authors and readers" perhaps with a general answer to the question and then more specifically their particular area of interest.

I think the fascination with history is because it is a part of us – each and every one of us has a link to the past through our ancestors. That link goes back, and back and back to the first humans - to Mitochondrial Eve, the first known DNA mother who’s daughters eventually walked out of what is now Africa. The maternal line of DNA is a single unbroken thread for every woman, passing from mother to daughter to mother through thousands of generations.

The DNA that controls breathing and the lungs has barely changed in all those years – so I am breathing virtually the same as my grandmother did back in the year 1066 – and I know I had a grandmother who lived then because I am here now to prove it!

What she did, who she was, where she lived, I have no knowing. Except she had a daughter….. who had a daughter….

I often wonder what draws people to specific periods, though. I have no interest whatsoever in the Tudor or Victorian period, yet my daughter is fascinated by Elizabeth I. My interest is Roman and Anglo Saxon Britain, and seafaring history, especially the early 1700’s.

I think events of the past leave their echo, a sort of energy, that we can still feel – like warmth clings to a sandy beach or to a stone wall. I also think our memories are passed down along with our DNA – how else to explain instinct (how do we, and animals, know to suck milk, to get up and walk?)

For I Am The Chosen King (Harold the King is its UK title) I needed to write something after I had finished my Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy – I chose to write King Harold II’s story because he is a local “hero” to where I live. As Earl of Essex he founded the Abbey at Waltham Abbey a fifteen minute drive from my home, and his common law wife, Edith Swanneck lived a few miles further at Nazeing. He would have ridden and hunted in Epping Forest, where I used to ride, but now walk my dog nearly every day. He would have sailed up the River Lea, where I also walk. Strolling along the riverside path on a tranquil evening it is so easy to imagine a Longship coming upriver….

It was rather nice researching about a man who possibly walked in the same places as I could walk!

I am also interested in writing historical novels along the lines of “what might have really happened”. I was sick and tired of British History in the majority of history books starting at 1066 with the “glorious” Norman Conquest, the general belief that William had the right to be King, and that Harold was a useless commander – all Norman propaganda.

I decided to write about Harold and the Battle of Hastings from the English point of view because I thought it was about time that something nearer the truth was told.

Helen Hollick's latest book I am the Chosen King has just been released in the US by Sourcebooks. It was previously published in the UK under the title Harold the King


  1. This sounds like a great story; thanks for blogging about it :)

  2. The walks you took sound wonderful, especially imagining the historical figures who might have gone the same route and what they might have been thinking about at the time.

    I am the Chosen King sounds like a great book.

  3. Your book sounds fascinating. There are always two sides to events like 1066,and I'm looking forward to reading 'the other side'.

  4. I am just starting to dig into this novel now. I have never read anything about this period (other than The Forever Queen) and I am loving learning about this period in history.

  5. Apologies for the late reply - thank you for inviting me here to Historical Tapestry. I hope you all enjoy the read - I think you will!