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Of the Ring of Earls by Juliet Dymoke

Posted: Mon June 5th, 2017, 3:12 pm
by Rowan
I suppose that one can blame the history taught in schools for glossing over most of the relevant facts in any given situation and so I do. Those of us lucky enough to have had a history class which even mentions the date 1066 know the significance of that year in British history. William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, sailed across the English Channel and took what he saw as his rightful place on the throne of England. And then we jump to the next significant moment in history, ten, fifty, a hundred years later, leaving things just that William became king. Simple as that, but in reality it was far from simple.

In her book, Of the Ring of Earls, Juliet Dymoke explores the life of one of the earls who stood with Harold, the rightful king of England, against William. We see through the eyes of Earl Waltheof that it was not, in fact, a cut and dry situation that everyone simply changed their ways. For an entire year post winning, William kept the remaining English earls with him in Normandy where they were free, but not free. There, Waltheof befriends a young Norman whose life he'd spared on the battlefield that fateful day. There, too, he falls in love with William's niece, Judith. So hard does this young man fall in love that he refuses to even consider another that William has in mind for him. Much to his everlasting regret.

When William finally allows the English earls to return to England, there is an uprising almost immediately, involving Waltheof and the others. They invite the Danish King Sweyn to come take the crown as the men feel they are more Danish than any other. However, the king doesn't come himself and the results are disastrous. William generously allows Waltheof to retain his lands and even expands his earldom, for which Waltheof swears to never rise against William again.

In the end it is an Englishman's greatest weakness – wine – that brings Waltheof down. While attending a wedding party, Waltheof gets exceedingly drunk and is then confronted by the other earls of the North in an attempt to coerce him into joining yet another uprising. He resists, knowing that William would not forgive another breach of trust, but later he's unable to recall detail due to his drunkenness. Despite being innocent of rising against William yet again and despite being spiritually reconciled regarding the taking of an oath, there are many who hate Waltheof enough to stand against him. Waltheof becomes known to history as the only earl put to death by William the Conqueror, King William I of England.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this man, even though in the end he died at a relatively young age. I found myself sympathetic toward him and at times even frustrated with his naïveté. In the end, the man I felt sorriest for was one who ended his own life after Waltheof was put to death: his lifelong companion, essentially his man-servant Outy.

I will definitely read the books that follow.

Re: Of the Ring of Earls by Juliet Dymoke

Posted: Tue June 6th, 2017, 11:22 pm
by Misfit
I think I own this. Somewhere...

Have you read EC's The Winter Mantle? And IIRC, Waltheoff makes an appearance in Valerie Anand's Norman Conquest series.

Re: Of the Ring of Earls by Juliet Dymoke

Posted: Wed June 7th, 2017, 4:25 pm
by Rowan
I think I've read The Winter Mantle, but I'm not 100% sure. :oops: