I Am the Chosen King

I Am the Chosen King

4.2 33
by Helen Hollick

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"A very talented writer." —Sharon Kay Penman, NYT bestselling author of Devil's Brood

England, 1044. Harold Godwineson, a young, respected Earl, falls in love with an ordinary but beautiful woman. He marries Edyth despite her lack of pedigree, pitting him against his turbulent family and his selfish King, Edward. In France, William, the bastard son


"A very talented writer." —Sharon Kay Penman, NYT bestselling author of Devil's Brood

England, 1044. Harold Godwineson, a young, respected Earl, falls in love with an ordinary but beautiful woman. He marries Edyth despite her lack of pedigree, pitting him against his turbulent family and his selfish King, Edward. In France, William, the bastard son of a duke, falls in love with power. Brutal and dangerously smart, William sets his sights on England, finding ambition a difficult lust to conquer.

In 1066, with the old King Edward dying, England falls vulnerable to the winds of fate-and the stubborn will of these two powerful men. In this beautifully crafted tale, Helen Hollick sets aside the propaganda of the Norman Conquest and brings to life the English version of the story of the last Saxon King, revealing his tender love, determination, and proud loyalty, all shattered by the unforgiving needs of a Kingdom. Forced to give up his wife and risk his life for England, the chosen King led his army into the great Battle of Hastings in October 1066 with all the honor and dignity that history remembers of its fallen heroes.

"A novel of enormous emotional power...Helen Hollick is a fabulous writer of historical fiction." -Elizabeth Chadwick, author of To Defy a King

What Readers Are Saying:

"We all know the ending! But Helen Hollick's masterful and moving account of Pre-Conquest England still carries the reader along on an enthralling journey to that moment...it made me cry in all the right places. Helen Hollick is a consummate storyteller."

"An epic work, grand and sweeping. I've read many versions of the events of 1066 but this is one of the best."

(This book was previously published in the U.K. as HAROLD THE KING)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hollick (A Hollow Crown) constructs a magnificent epic in this unabashedly pro-Saxon recounting of a turning point in Englishhistory. Twenty-two years before the Battle of Hastings, Harold Godwinesson lives happily with his wife in the turbulent era of Edward the Confessor, but as a member of the most powerful noble family in England, Harold is drawn into a political drama that will eventually lead him to assume the rule of England as the last of the Saxon kings. While Edward's Norman associates stir resentment inEngland, an enemy is consolidating his positionacross the channel: the ruthless William, dukeof Normandy, who considers himself heir to Edward's throne. Hollick's enormous castand meticulous research combine to create a convincing account ofthe destructive reign of the hapless Edward and theinternecine warfare that weakens England as Williamprepares to invade. Thanks to Hollick's masterful storytelling, Harold'snobility and heroism enthrall to the point of engendering hope for a different ending to the famous battle of 1066. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
" Hollick's enormous cast and meticulous research combine to create a convincing account of the destructive reign of the hapless Edward and the internecine warfare that weakens England as William prepares to invade. Thanks to Hollick's masterful storytelling, Harold's nobility and heroism enthrall to the point of engendering hope for a different ending to the famous battle of 1066." - Publishers Weekly

"Shut off the phones, order takeaway, and have beverages at hand because once begun, this book is close to impossible to set down. I adored I Am the Chosen King and highly recommend it to all readers, do not be put off by the size of this book for in the end I fancy the reader will have wished it longer." - Rundpinne

"This was a book that was very hard for me to put down. I found myself immersed in time and place and just about felt like I was THERE. Ms. Hollick is a master at delivering a tale that you don't want to end." - The Broken Teepee

"One thing for certain, reading a historical novel by Helen Hollick will leave you feeling satisfied if a little sad that the novel has ended. Even though you basically know the ending before you start the novel, it is in the telling of the story in between that will captivate you and keep you reading." - Peeking Between the Pages

"In the days when I was reading I Am the Chosen King, I felt I was kidnapped by this story of the Saxon England. When I couldn't read the book, I thought about it during the day, I researched what I didn't know online and when sleeping, I dreamed about the characters. I think it will not be an exaggeration when I say that Helen cast a spell on me, the one that made me fully absorbed in the world of I Am the Chosen King." - Reading Extravaganza

"The descriptions of the Battle of Hastings were breathtaking, and heartbreaking, I had goosebumps reading these scenes. Hollick's author notes were a wonderful addition and much appreciated by this reader. All up, another winner for Helen Hollick and fans of historical fiction." - Queen of Happy Endings

"The genius of Hollick's writing is her rare ability to combine accurate historical fact with damned good storytelling." - A Reader's Respite

"Helen Hollick is an author who is conquering the world one country at a time with her intricate way of bringing the past to life, especially through the historical fiction favorite; I am the Chosen King." - Suite 101 Romance

"I really enjoyed this book and I know that historical fiction fans will absolutely love it. Hollick has the ability to take a very detailed historical account and give it life. Her style is very approachable and leaves the reader feeling like they have learned a lot, while still being entertained." - Deb's Book Bag

"Like Beethoven's Symphony Number 7, I am the Chosen King starts out quiet and touching and then slowly, almost without you realizing it, it moves to a stunning and powerful conclusion. For the last two hundred or so pages, I found myself totally obsessed with the book. " - Laura's Reviews

Product Details

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6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Emma, twice married, twice widowed, Dowager Queen of England, watched her only surviving son dance, tripping and prancing with dainty steps among the boisterous twirl of men and women. With the solemnity of the coronation ritual completed, and the pomp of the banquet ended, this evening's celebration and merry-making came most welcome to the guests here within the King's Hall at Winchester. A pity that the crowned king had to be Edward.

Emma sipped at her wine to disguise the flare of contempt. Edward, her firstborn son, crowned and anointed this day as King of England. She would have to learn to accept it. She took another sip, savouring the richness of the red grape as it warmed her throat, overcoming the taste of bile that rose from her stomach. Accept it, maybe, but she would never come to like it! Edward was as weak and shallow as his incompetent father, Æthelred, had been. How well had the clerics who wrote the history of these things mocked that name! Æthelred, Noble-Counsel-and how soon into his dithering, floundering reign had that been altered to un-raed, ill-counselled?

A thunder of laughter from the far end of the crowded Hall drew her attention. Godwine's two eldest sons, Swegn and Harold, stood among a group of fine-dressed young men sharing some, no doubt lewd, jest between them. For all their faults-and where the Earl and his brood were concerned, there were faults a-plenty-they were sons to be proud of. Swegn might be wild, more interested in the pursuit of enjoyment rather than the demands of decisionmaking, but these faults were outweighed by better traits. All Earl Godwine's sons were strong, courageous and manly, aye, even young Leofwine, who was but seven years of age. Where was the manliness in her son Edward?

Unable to keep her thoughts to herself, Emma spoke to the man sitting beside her, his hand tapping out the merry rhythm-beat of the dance on his knee.

"I have been wife, and queen, to two men who have ruled England." Her wordsoozed contempt.

"You would have thought one of them could have sired upon me a man worthy to be called son."

"Harthacnut, your last-born-" Godwine began, but Emma irritably waved him silent.

"My second husband, Cnut, gave me a child of each sex, both of whom had the constitution and life-span of a mayfly." Briefly, an expression of regret clouded Emma's face. To be queen for over two score years, to rule as regent, survive attempts of murder and the harsh bitterness of exile: such a woman needed to shield her weaknesses from those who would, at the drop of an autumn leaf, oppose her. But Godwine knew Emma well, better perhaps than either of her husbands. Harthacnut, her youngest son, she had genuinely adored. A boy like his father, wise and disciplined, with a sense of duty and purpose; strong of body and mind. How much had she endured for that lad! And for what? For him to die of a seizure when he was but three and twenty and crowned king for less than two short years.

"The life of the wrong son was ended," she said softly. Godwine assumed she referred to Harthacnut's untimely death, winced as she murmured, "It ought have been Edward killed, not Alfred."

Godwine made no comment to that. Emma had borne two sons to Æthelred: Edward and Alfred, and Alfred was a name that still conjured difficult memories that brought the blood stealing into Godwine's cheeks. As young men, exiled from England, the brothers had tried and failed in a pathetic attempt to claim their right of succession after Cnut's death. Captured, the boy Alfred had been placed in Godwine's care. It had not been good care for the lad had fallen into the murdering clutch of Cnut's illegitimate son, Harold Harefoot. Imprisoned and cruelly blinded, Alfred had not survived the torture. Ever since, Godwine had carried the blame for that wicked death.

But such was the fate of young men who tried to take by force a crown from the one who was already, rightly or wrongly, wearing it.

Earl Godwine's hawk-sighted blue eyes followed Emma's narrowed gaze. Edward was an elegant fine-featured man, two years short of forty years of age, tall and slender, dressed in bright-coloured, extravagant clothing.

Disdainfully, Emma snorted. "A pious weakling with neither brain nor balls." "Give him time, my Lady. He has been almost thirty years an exile. He was but eight when forced to flee to your birthplace in Normandy."

Aye, it must have been hard for the lad and his brother Alfred, when they left London, muffled by the concealing darkness of night, bundled into a boat and taken, alone and frightened, across the sea to live among those of a foreign tongue and way of life. Never knowing when they would return to their mother, and England. Knowing, later, that when she agreed marriage with their father's usurper, Cnut, that the "when" would not come until the Danish conqueror met with death. And even then, only if their place had not been superseded by other sons.

"Look at his hands! Too delicate to wield a sword," Emma announced with scorn. "I pity England if she is ever again faced with invasion. At least Alfred, for all his childhood mewling and whimpering, had the stomach for a fight once he was grown."

Godwine refrained from answering. Alfred, as king, would not have survived beyond the turn of a season, not against experienced, battle-hardened men such as Magnus of Norway or Svein Estrithson of Denmark-those two Viking seafarers had always been far too concerned with England's affairs. But at least the roving greed of their ancestral cousins, Emma's kindred the dukes of Normandy, were of no consequence to England's future. The present Duke, William, was yet a boy. He would have problems enough keeping his head attached to his shoulders. With tact, Godwine commented, "Edward is amenable. He listens to his elders and accepts the wisdom of the Witan, his council."

"He does not listen to me! I came into this world nigh on four and fifty years past. I have been Queen of England from the age of thirteen when I was wed to that weak fool Æthelred. I ruled as regent for Cnut, when his duties as king of Denmark and Norway took him across the seas. I guided Harthacnut through his brief but glorious reign-yet this whelp Edward, the first-born son of my womb, publicly spits on me and calls me an interfering hag!"

She glared at Godwine, but fell silent as the whirling dance finished amid laughter and excited applause. She watched as Godwine's sons were joined by a few of the breathless dancers, Harold swirling a fair-haired young girl into his arms.

His sister laughed back at him, her eyes bright with youth and excitement, her cheeks flushed pink from exertion and the heat of the crowded Hall. Edith was a resourceful girl, determined to enjoy herself whenever opportunity presented itself. Watching her, one eyebrow raised, Emma had a suspicion that she might also have high-reaching ambitions, and the shrewdness to take full advantage of those offered opportunities. Pride was as ripe in the daughter as it was in the sons. Edith would make a good wife for some power-seeking young earl.

Or...Emma sucked the inside of her cheek, then sipped again from her silvered goblet. Or perhaps Edith, only daughter of the noble lord Earl Godwine of Wessex, would marry higher?

Meet the Author

Helen Hollick lives in northeast London with her husband, daughter and a variety of pets, which include several horses, cats, and two dogs. She has two major interests: Roman/Saxon Britain and the Golden Age of Piracy-the early eighteenth century. Visit www.helenhollick.net

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I Am the Chosen King 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
ZQuilts More than 1 year ago
I find Helen Hollick's writing to be magical. As a confirmed lover of all things European ,and of the 15th and 16th centuries, I didn't think that I would have much interest in the earlier history of Britain, let alone 11th century Saxon Britain------ that is until I read "The Forever Queen". "I Am The Chosen King" begins in England in 1044 and follows the time line and lineage put forth in "The Forever Queen". The first chapter begins as Queen Emma "The Forever Queen" still powerful at 54 years of age, watches as her firstborn, recently returned from exiled, son, Edward, is crowned King of England. Emma doesn't believe that the rather too delicate Edward (known as the Confessor) is fit to be King. She believes that he is as "as shallow and incompetent as his father, Athelred (Emma's first husband) had been.." . In this chapter we are also introduced to a young Earl, Harold Godwineson....thus begins the story of King Harold - the chosen King; the last Saxon King of England. In this wickedly good read, Helen Hollick brings to life the Battle of Hastings from the English point of view "....and brings to life ... the story of the last Saxon King, revealing his ... love, determination and proud loyalty...shattered by the unforgiving needs of a Kingdom. Forced to give up his wife and risk his life for England, the chosen king led his army into the great Battle of Hastings in October 1066 with all the honor and dignity that history remembers of its fallen heroes...." . This last sentence is from the endpapers on the book and, I think, spells out the theme of the book better than I could paraphrase it! Much of the action in this book is centered around battle preparations for the Norman invasion and the Battle of Hastings in October 1066. Harold, who became King after the death of Edward in January 1066, is married a beautiful commoner named Edyth. Because this is not a politically advantageous marriage he becomes pitted against his powerful family. In France, a bastard duke's son, William of Normandy, has become besotted with power and has set his sight on conquering England. This book is historically based and I think that Helen Hollick can well be called an expert on this time period. It has totally opened my eyes to this pivotal period in history when the shaping of England was, truly, in the balance. This is also a book that weaves history with romance and warfare in nearly equal measure. It's a book's that I simply have to re-read. That's how much I like it. It is, perhaps, not as much of a romance as "The Forever Queen" but, then again, the times surrounding the Battle of Hastings (fought at Senlac Hill near Hastings, East Sussex, England) were difficult and romances would have been, I think, been forced to a back burner as preparations for war were made. I am now a confirmed fan of Saxon England! I am grateful to Ms. Hollick for bringing this fascinating period of history to lovers of great historical fiction. I will eagerly await more from this gifted writer. This book will, I think, appeal widely to fans of historical fiction, romance and, more to the point, those interested in the history behind the historic Battle of Hastings. There is much to be enjoyed in this book - and much history to read about on the side!
smhopkins More than 1 year ago
I first discovered Helen Hollick on Goodreads. When I read Forever Queen I was captivated by the story of Queen Emma. The story was so beautifully written, I wanted to continue on to the sequel as soon as I could. In the sequel the story moves on to Harold Godwinsson. Who becomes King of England after Edward dies. Harold was the last Saxon King of England. The horrid Duke William of Normandy wants England for himself. He invades England, which leads up to the Battle of Hastings. Needless to say... I was devastated when Harold died, especially in such a horrific way. But I understand Helen wanting to stay true as possible to the historic events that took place. It has taken me a while to write this review due to the fact the story is so good I wanted it to do the story justice. Helen said to me, “Just be honest, even the “didn’t like” bits. Constructive criticism is always welcome.” I reply,“ In my little fantasy world if I were to change anything. It would be that my love king Harold would have crushed Duke William and his army, taken all his lands and live happily after with me.” Throughout reading this amazing story, I kept on thinking how Helen describes the politics and drama of the royal court. She describes it as if she lived during that time to see it all unfold with her very eyes. That is how wonderful and intriguing the story is. One can tell that Helen does extensive research on her subjects and history, which is inspiring. I could only dream of becoming as good a writer as she and I mean that with the utmost sincerity. -Stephanie
HistoryKim More than 1 year ago
As an avid history lover, and particularly early Saxon british history and the Arthurian legend...this story is very vivid and illustrates how history allows its heros and heroines to live and seemingly breathe forever in masterful storytelling. An inspirational yet heartbreaking portrayal of King Harold, a much forgotten British king. Love the author and this is her best story yet. When you end up feeling completely heartbroken for such a distant historical figure and his wife even though you know its outcome, you know you've done your job as a storyteller! Well done.
Erin_N More than 1 year ago
In the 11th Century, the celibate and highly religious Saxon King Edward sat on the throne of England. The only surviving son of Queen Emma "Ælgifu", Edward came to the throne he never wanted harboring resentment against the mother that forced him to grow up abandoned in exile and baring a fierce loyalty to the Norman nobles and clerics who raised and protected him in his mother's stead. Edward played a wicked game of politics to force his mother out of power and to cow her supporters among the Earls of England. But was he too much in bed with Normandy for the comfort of the Saxon Earls? Did he really promise the Saxon throne to the Norman bastard Duke William? King Edward's choices and decisions set the stage for one of the shortest reigns in English history: the last Saxon King Harold. Son of Earl Godwin, Harold devoted himself to England as his father had done before him. When King Edward died without an heir, the council of Earls elected Harold to the throne of England in the hopes that he could defend her from the growing Norman threat. His anointment, though, had quite the opposite effect. Duke William "the bastard" launched a military campaign so immense against England that it changed the history of English royalty forever. Helen Hollick does a superb job of continuing her story of the final years of Saxon ruled England. In the first book of this series, The Forever Queen, Helen brings to life the reign of the Queen Emma, the only queen to keep her crown through 5 kings. In I Am the Chosen King, Helen picks up where she left off and follows the sons of Emma and her champion, Godwin as they lead England to the seat of the last Saxon King.
carpe_librum More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book not long after finishing Hollick's "Forever Queen," the first in this Saxon Series. Having read very little about England's pre-Conquest history, I did enjoy learning about this time period, and the portions that I looked up to delve deeper into did show that the book is written about as accurately as anything about that time can be at this point. As with the first book, I felt that too much time was spent on details and events that did not seem to add to much to moving the story along. Though I enjoy epic novels, I do not so much like drudging through unnecessary side plots. I assume that Hollick was attempting to give a broad picture of the political maneuvering and historical backstory, but sometimes there was just too much. For example, the descriptions of Godwine's exile, Harold's time in Normandy, and Edward the Exile's decision to come to England all seemed to have little to add to the overall story. That being said, I did greatly enjoy this book. Having only basic knowledge of the events of 1066, I was enthralled with the people and events that led to the Battle of Hastings. All of the what-if's and if-only's are expertly taken advantage of in Hollick's writing to keep the reader on the edge of their seat, even knowing that Harold's demise is eminent. Since I did not previously know much about Harold, I do not know if his characterization is accurate, but it seems unlikely that he was as smart, caring, personable, and all-around wonderful as he is painted in this narrative. About the only dislikable thing about him is his apparent love for two women at the same time which is explained away as being necessary for his status (explained a few too many times as we are constantly reminded that he will eventually have to take a "real" wife). William of Normandy, on the other hand, is the evil, selfish, ambitious man that is loved only by his wife, and only by her because her other choice is a miserable life and marriage. The stereotypical good versus evil of Harold and William was a little over the top, which was a shame since the historical facts were so well presented, a more balanced and realistic personification of these two men would have been nice. The way this was written and the turn of events reminded me of the many Ricardian slanted novels that I have read about Richard III. Both the last Saxon king and last Plantagenet king were killed by usurpers with little claim to the throne, and many authors would have us believe that these doomed kings would have been England's greatest blessing had they reigned for more time. Whether it was actually true of either Harold or Richard, I suppose we can only conjecture. Overall, I found this a very worthwhile read that has opened me to another very interesting part of history. I would definitely recommend this and "Forever Queen" to any fan of English historical fiction.
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