Queen Hereafter: A Novel of Margaret of Scotland

Queen Hereafter: A Novel of Margaret of Scotland

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by Susan Fraser King
     
 

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Refugee. Queen. Saint. In eleventh-century Scotland, a young woman strives to fulfill her destiny despite the risks . . .
 
Shipwrecked on the Scottish coast, a young Saxon princess and her family—including the outlawed Edgar of England—ask sanctuary of the warrior-king Malcolm Canmore, who shrewdly sees the political advantage. He promises

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Overview

Refugee. Queen. Saint. In eleventh-century Scotland, a young woman strives to fulfill her destiny despite the risks . . .
 
Shipwrecked on the Scottish coast, a young Saxon princess and her family—including the outlawed Edgar of England—ask sanctuary of the warrior-king Malcolm Canmore, who shrewdly sees the political advantage. He promises to aid Edgar and the Saxon cause in return for the hand of Edgar’s sister, Margaret, in marriage.

A foreign queen in a strange land, Margaret adapts to life among the barbarian Scots, bears princes, and shapes the fierce warrior Malcolm into a sophisticated ruler. Yet even as the king and queen build a passionate and tempestuous partnership, the Scots distrust her. When her husband brings Eva, a Celtic bard, to court as a hostage for the good behavior of the formidable Lady Macbeth, Margaret expects trouble. Instead, an unlikely friendship grows between the queen and her bard, though one has a wild Celtic nature and the other follows the demanding path of obligation.
Torn between old and new loyalties, Eva is bound by a vow to betray the king and his Saxon queen. Soon imprisoned and charged with witchcraft and treason, Eva learns that Queen Margaret—counseled by the furious king and his powerful priests—will decide her fate and that of her kinswoman Lady Macbeth. But can the proud queen forgive such deep treachery?

Impeccably researched, a dramatic page-turner, Queen Hereafter is an unforgettable story of shifting alliances and the tension between fear and trust as a young woman finds her way in a dangerous world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In King's follow-up to Lady Macbeth, Queen Margaret feeds the hungry and clothes the poor while war rages at home and abroad in 11th-century Scotland. Margaret transforms from devout exile into devout yet savvy queen when she marries King Malcolm Canmore, 18 years her senior and famous for killing Macbeth and his heir to the Scottish thrown. Newlywed Margaret first hears of Macbeth's unrepentant widow, Lady Gruadh, who has just sent her gifted granddaughter Eva to Malcolm's court to serve as bard, confidant, and spy. With Eva by her side, an emboldened Margaret embraces both Celtic and Latin religious traditions, aids the poor, frees prisoners, introduces the Scots to English manners, and helps negotiate peace. As she matures, Margaret's love for her husband and his people deepens and their relationship comes richly to life. Though clichés often plague the prose ("Tension and turbulence rode the air like dark clouds before a storm"), King's blend of historical figures and fictional characters turns a medieval icon into a believable mother, wife, and ruler. Quotes from original sources offer context and insight as to where the record ends and imagination begins. (Dec.)
Library Journal
King's second historical novel about medieval Scotland (after Lady Macbeth) continues the story from the point of view of another female, Queen Margaret (1045–93). The daughter of Edward, an heir to the throne of England, she's shipwrecked on Scottish shores with her mother, sister, and brother while escaping enemies after her father's death. Malcolm, the warrior king of Shakespeare's Macbeth, takes them in and eventually marries her. King creates a fictitious character, Eva, an illegitimate granddaughter of Macbeth. Malcolm holds her hostage to ensure the loyalty of Lady Macbeth, and this character presents Macbeth's side of the story. This is historical fiction that makes you want to find out more about the time and people of this period. VERDICT With graduate degrees in both art and history, King knows the medieval era well. She's meticulous in her treatment of the facts and makes her characters strong and likable. Highly recommended where historical fiction is popular.—Susan Hayes, Chattahoochee Valley Libs., Columbus, GA
From the Publisher
“Powerful and lyrically written . . . with riveting authenticity, King weaves a tapestry of love, friendship, and the eternal search for truth.” —Mary Jo Putney, New York Times bestselling author of Never Less Than a Lady
 
“King is adept at pulling the reader into uncharted historical territory and making it real.  A story of love, women’s friendship, and suspense—this epic tale and its larger-than-life characters linger in the mind and heart.” —Karen Harper, author of Mistress Shakespeare
 
“A captivating tale of the devout girl forced by fate to become queen to a passionate king.  As successor to Lady Macbeth and the most powerful woman in Scotland, Margaret earns love, hate—and lasting friendships. Susan Fraser King carries her readers through the Scots courts as if she’d lived there herself.” —Patricia Rice, New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Wyckerly
 
“Through a combination of assured scholarship and powerful storytelling, Susan Fraser King brings alive the complex, vivid world of Margaret of Scotland. With vibrant characters and lyrical description, this is a wonderful evocation of eleventh-century Britain in all its fierce splendor.” —Nicola Cornick, USA Today bestselling author
 
“She: a pious, educated foreigner; he: a hirsute warrior king—yoked together in matrimony for political expedience. Based on actual events, Susan Fraser King paints a vivid portrait of Margaret and Malcolm, a forced royal marriage that beat all odds and developed into one of mutual love and respect.” —Leslie Carroll, author of Notorious Royal Marriages
 
“Susan Fraser King’s books, Lady Macbeth and now Queen Hereafter, are such delights—she lets us explore where normally we historians are not permitted to go. And what a wonderful pleasure that is, for she brings the scholar’s eye for authentic detail and evokes all the smoky atmosphere of medieval Scotland. Oh, I am jealous—and grateful.” —John C. Hartsock, professor of literary journalism and author of Seasons of a Finger Lakes Winery
 
“Susan Fraser King’s Queen Hereafter transports the reader back to through the mists of Celtic history to the people behind the legends. In this story, as in the historical reality, love and romance jostle side by side with political manipulation and the horrors of war.  Ms. King presents a human Queen Margaret of Scotland and places her believably in a world known to us only through brief anecdotes in ancient manuscripts. Based on her extensive research, the author takes us back to early Scotland with its royal court, habitués, and their schemes.” —Ben Hudson, Ph.D., professor of Celtic and medieval studies, Penn State

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307452795
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/07/2010
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
1,052,430
Product dimensions:
9.78(w) x 11.70(h) x 1.21(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One  

My lady mother was so sure the English king planned to be rid of us the moment we set foot on his Saxon shores that she refused to sail there from Denmark. But we had been journeying for months after leaving Hungary, the lot of us: Papa, Mama, my sister and small brother, and a few servants. We were exhausted and sore in need of a home. Papa said we belonged in England, after all. I heard my parents arguing it at night.  

My father, born a prince of England, had been exiled to the kingdom of Hungary as a small boy. Lately King Edward, his royal andchildless uncle, had summoned Papa-another Edward-home to England to restore his birthright and name him heir to the throne. Mama groused that while our uncle-king had beckoned, he would not pay our traveling costs, and she feared he might lay claim to the priceless treasures we hauled about in crates and chests. My mother, Agatha, was Russian and Hungarian by birth and blood, and little liked the English. Her warrior husband she excused; he had left England at a young age.  

My father was Saxon royalty of the old Wessex line, and so were his children, harking back to wise King Alfred, to unready Aethelred and stubborn Edmund Ironside, my grandfather. Our brighter future lay in England. Lady Agatha would be queen there, according to both Edwards. Dignified if stubborn, she acquiesced.  

The year I turned ten, we left Hungary, where my two siblings and I had been born. Traveling with a Magyar escort over high mountains into Russia, carrying heavy packed chests in carts the whole way, we stayed weeks in Kiev with my mother's kin, then sailed northward to winter among the Danes, my father's cousins. That place was dull and smoky indoors, but splendid outside. I saw how much we resembled the Danes and the Rus, too, for we were long limbed and golden fair, with taut cheekbones and sky-colored eyes. Only my sister Cristina took after the dark and stocky Magyars, the tough bloodline of our mother's maternal kin; she had a bold temperament, too, outspoken where I was acquiescent, hot and impulsive where I was cool and devout as I tried to emulate my pious mother and grandmother.  

We crossed the wide, pitching North Sea, while my mother murmured of impending doom and prayed over her black-beaded rosary. Despite her worrying, the Danish vessel skimmed the waves like a winged dragon and brought us swiftly to English shores.  

In London town, we were welcomed by lords who spoke the Saxon language that my father knew and we did not. The king was away, but we were housed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who spoke German, our preferred tongue, with us. We were dined, entertained, and assessed by a parade ofbishops, priests, and notable lords and ladies; servants, too, I suppose. Assured that he would be king eventually, my father gently teased his wife that her fears were unfounded.  

A week after our arrival, he fell dead at my feet.  

A few of us were walking in the archbishop's gardens after supper with some of England's earls and thanes when my father collapsed on a path. We could not rouse him. To this day, years on, I can recall my disbelief and shock, my father's gray face, my mother's paleness, and the scents of calendula and thyme.  

Poison was the rumor, denied and dismissed. The king's physician said Edward Aetheling had a weak heart, though my father had been a lion of a warrior, with spare habits and good health. Tainted food was suggested by others, though no one else had fallen sick that night.  

Taint or poison, I alone knew the truth: I had killed him.  

At my insistence, he had eaten sweetmeats from a golden tray set on the table before him. At first he had refused, intent on his discussion with a Saxon bishop. But with girlish silliness, I pushed the tray toward him, saying he must obey Princess Margaret. Distracted, smiling, he downed the treats in a fistful or two. Within the half hour, he was dead. Likely there was strong poison in those honeyed almonds and hazelnuts-and my father would not have eaten them that night but for my urging.  

Mea culpa, mea culpa, but I never confessed my deed to a priest, only adding to the heinous sin. Fear kept me silent. I wore bruises into my knees praying self-imposed penances, while my lady mother approved my pious grieving, mistaking what moved me so. I could not tell her and hurt her even more.  

At court, some whispered of the ambitious men who would have benefitted from the death of Edward the Exile: Harold Godwinson was one, brother of the queen and son of an ambitious Saxon earl, and William of Normandy was another. King Edward, rumor said, had bargained his crown to both men secretly and then gave the heir's right to my father. Whether one of them had ordered Edward the Exile killed or some other had done it, my own hand had aided the killer. I shared the sin.  

That gnawed at me, crept into my dreams, perched on my shoulder like a demon.  

Overnight we transformed from exalted royal family to the foreign wards of a king who took little interest in us yet would not permit usto return to Hungary. My siblings and I were educated as befitted our status in that formal, refined court. But we were in effect hostages housed as king's wards, our little freedom spent witnessing the hunt, hawking, or taking the short and frequent journey between the London and Winchester palaces. Often my sister and I refused to ride in the canopied van that carried the women, delighting in a chance for the saddle. We had been partly raised by Magyar kin,after all.  

At five years old, my brother Edgar was named king's heir in a ceremony, while the other claimants for the English throne remained avid and interested. The year I turned twenty and Edgar thirteen, our aged royal uncle died, leaving Edgar the Aetheling, Harold Godwinson, and William of Normandy each believing in his own right to be king.  

Harold was quickly chosen by the witanagemot and duly crowned. England needed a warrior-king, not a stripling boy, that year. Had Harold taken hawk's wings to soar over the cliffs of England, he would have seen two threats at once: the Danes sweeping in from the east and the Normans coming from the south.  

Within months, in the autumn of anno domini 1066, the mail-clad warriors of Normandy slid their boats, silent and lethal, onto our English shore. Harold died on Hastings field and William took us for his wards-but as soon as we could get away, my kin and I fled.  

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