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THE GIRL OF MANY CROWNS - Historical Fiction - by D.H. Morris


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HOOK LINE

One young princess stood at the crossroads of the founding of three nations: France, England, and Belgium.  Her story, and the story of the knight she loved, has never been told – until now.

 

PITCH

 

The Girl of Many Crowns is a 110,000-word historical fiction with international appeal. Based on the true story of a rebellious princess and a brave knight who defy the king and overcome treachery, murder, and Vikings, to build a life--and a new country--together.

Princess Judith, daughter of King Charles of France, is raised in a protected and nurturing environment. Her father arranges her marriage at the tender age of 12 to elderly Aethelwulf, King of Wessex – father of young Alfred the Great. Widowed at age 14, Judith is forced to marry her former stepson, proud and selfish King Aethelbald. Judith finds the strength to stand up to her emotionally abusive husband and survive. Judith is unexpectedly widowed again at age 15. 

No longer an innocent child bride, Queen Judith returns to France at age 16, determined never again to wear a queen’s crown. When she refuses to agree to another arranged marriage, her father imprisons her in the palace to force her agreement.

Count Baldwin “Iron Arm” is a brave knight of Flanders who faithfully serves King Charles of France as companion and protector of Judith’s brother, Prince Louis.  He is loyal to the king amid Viking attacks, war, treachery, and murder - until he falls in love with the king’s imprisoned daughter. Now he must choose between honoring his oath to serve the king or risking everything to protect the king’s daughter from the king himself.

Judith and Baldwin plan a daring escape from the palace. Their flight and the king’s pursuit will take them eventually to Rome to plead their case before the pope. The pope sides with the couple, pressuring Judith’s father into a reconciliation. Judith and Baldwin return to France and marry in the cathedral at Auxerre.  However, King Charles refuses to attend the wedding and sends the couple to Flanders to defend France’s borders against the Vikings.  The book ends with Baldwin and Judith expecting their first child and planning their building of the city of Bruges.

 

COMPARABLE WORKS

Comparable #1: Like a ninth-century version of the Netflix series The Crown, this true story is based on seven years in the life of a princess of France.

Comparable #2: Set in the same era as Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom series, this story also portrays a knight of France and the constant danger of war, treachery and Viking attacks facing the kingdom. 

Comparable #3:: Similar to Alison Weir's Six Tudor Queens series, the story illustrates the political intrigue rampant throughout early medieval Europe and England, and the problems unique to royal female historical characters. 

 

PROSE SAMPLE

Judith took Aethelberht’s arm as they stepped through the massive oaken cathedral doors, pausing in the entry way.  King Aethelbald waited at the end of the nave to lead Judith to the chancel. Her grandmother’s crown lay upon the altar.

“God give me strength,” Judith whispered.

“Are you going to be alright, Judith?” Aethelberht whispered back.

Not knowing how to respond, Judith remained silent while the rest of her entourage took their places within the cathedral.  The ceremony was thankfully short.  King Aethelbald had instructed Archbishop Eahlstan that they would not be kneeling to pray and that they would forego celebrating mass.  Before Judith barely had time to realize it, they had repeated the vows and Judith felt the weight of a heavy golden ring upon her finger. The marriage had been accomplished.

King Aethelbald motioned for Judith to sit upon the throne nearest the altar.  With trembling hands Archbishop Eahlstan removed the glittering crown from the altar and handed it to Aethelbald, standing behind Judith.  King Aethelbald raised the crown high above Judith’s head for all to see.

“Judith, Regina,” King Aethelbald pronounced while lowering the crown upon Judith’s head. “By my sovereign power and authority, I declare you to be Queen of Wessex.”

Then raising Judith by the hand, Aethelbald led the procession out of the cathedral and back to the palace.

 

The feast which followed the wedding rivaled any Judith had experienced in the amount of food and wine offered.  Judith’s nerves, which had not allowed her to do more than peck at her food, were even more on edge when King Aethelbald noticed her lack of appetite.

“Not to your liking?” Aethelbald remarked after servants removed Judith’s third course barely touched.

King Aethelbald’s sneering voice reached the far end of the table.  “Perhaps Queen Judith finds the food in Wessex inferior to that of Francia.”

He grabbed the arm of the serving maid presenting a platter of roast pheasant.  “Inform the kitchen the queen is displeased with the first three courses.  If the remaining courses do not please her, there will be the devil to pay.”

Watching the maid rush off to the kitchen, King Aethelbald drained his cup and laughed.

Judith found her voice, “I do not dislike the food, King Aethelbald.  I am only feeling unwell.”

“She speaks!” Aethelbald roared.  “What a relief.  I thought, perhaps, I had married a mute.”

Aethelberht attempted to calm his brother. However, no amount of reasoning had any effect upon the King of Wessex who grew louder and more obnoxious with every course and every cup of wine. 

Judith rose from the table. “I shall retire for the evening.”

As she left the hall, King Aethelbald called after her, “Eager, are you? No fear.  I will join you presently.”

 

Judith hurried upstairs to her bedchamber where Hemma tended a fire to remove the evening chill.  “I do not know what to do, Hemma,” Judith cried, throwing herself upon her bed.  “I cannot abide his very looks.  If he touches me this night, I shall die.”

Hemma’s face filled with concern. “Then I shall not allow him to touch you!” she declared boldly.

“There is nothing you can do.  There is nothing I can do,” Judith moaned.

“The church’s penitential list prohibits intimacy for up to one week following the marriage,” Hemma reminded her.

“King Aethelbald cares nothing for that. He is king and his will is law.” Then Judith whispered, “I feel ill.”

Hemma was determined. “Then, that is what I shall tell King Aethelbald should he come to your door.  I will not let him in.  I will tell him you are ill.”

“I pray it works,” Judith said miserably.

“It will,” Hemma assured her. “But I do not know for how long.”

 

BIO

D.H. Morris is a descendant of Judith and Baldwin of Flanders, the "first couple" of Belgium.  She began researching their story thirty years ago and has extensive author's notes and bibliography which could be shared with readers on social media platforms. She has a degree in Theater and Music and pursued a master's degree in English.  She has published one play which has been performed at two universities and a summer stock theater company.

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