The Forever Queen: The Lost Kingdom - 1066

The Forever Queen: The Lost Kingdom - 1066

by Helen Hollick


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A USA Today Bestseller!

"Hollick does a remarkable job of bringing to life a little known but powerful queen... an absorbing plot that never lags over the course of a fat, satisfying book."—Publishers Weekly

Sometimes, a desperate kingdom is in need of one great woman

Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom-and her crown-are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England's shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.

Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.

What Reviewers Are Saying
"Hollick is a master at making each historic scene come alive in the mind of a character with the most to lose... rich, tasty, sugary sludge of historical fiction... the best the genre has to offer."—Historical Novels Review
"Brilliant prose, historical accuracy, and rich detail bring this violent era to life. The Forever Queen stands as a well-detailed biographical account of one of England's strongest, most determined queens."— Historical Novel Review Blog
"A rich and descriptive tapestry of Anglo Saxon history, warring factions, political intrigue and betrayal, brutal violence, and yes, love."—Queen of Happy Endings

Praise for Helen Hollick
"A very talented writer."—Sharon Kay Penman, bestselling author of Devil's Brood
"If only all historical fiction could be this good." —Historical Novels Review
"Hollick juggles a large cast of characters and a bloody, tangled plot with great skill."—Publishers Weekly
"Helen Hollick has it all. She tells a great story." —Bernard Cornwell

(This book was previously published in the U.K. as THE HOLLOW CROWN.)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402240683
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 11/01/2010
Pages: 656
Sales rank: 1,155,688
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.60(d)

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

April 1002-Canterbury

Emma was uncertain whether it was a growing need to visit the privy or the remaining queasiness of mal de mer, seasickness, that was making her feel so utterly dreadful. Or was it the man assessing her with narrowed eyes from where he stood at the top of the steps? A man she had never seen until this moment, who was four and thirty years to her three and ten, spoke a language she barely understood, and who, from the morrow, was to be her wedded husband. Did he approve of what he saw? Her sun-gold hair, blue eyes, and fair skin? Maybe, but Emma was uncomfortably aware that he was more probably thinking her nose was too large, her chin too pointed, and her bosoms not yet firm and rounded.

Her eldest sister had laughed when Emma confided that this Æthelred of England might be disappointed with his bride. "Pleasure him in bed, ma chérie," had been the answer. "In bed, no husband will remain disappointed for long." Here in England, Emma remained unconvinced.

Hiding her discomfort as well as she could, she stared at this King's sun-weathered face. His blond hair, curling to his shoulders, had silver streaks running through it. His moustache trailed down each side of his mouth into a beard flecked with grey hair. He looked so old!

Her long fingers, with their bitten, uneven nails, rested with a slight tremble on her brother's left hand. Unlike her, Richard appeared unperturbed as they ascended the steps leading up to the great open-swung doors of Canterbury Cathedral. But why would he not be at ease? It was not he, after all, who was to wed a stranger and be crowned as England's anointed Queen.

She was aware that Richard of Normandy had agreed to this marriage of alliance for reasons of his own gain. He ruled Normandy and his brood of sisters with an iron will that imaged their father's ruthless determination-their father Emma had adored; her brother, who thought only of his self-advancement and little else, she did not.

The drizzling rain had eased as their Norman entourage had ridden through Canterbury's gates; the mist, hanging like ill-fitted curtaining across the Kent countryside had not deterred the common folk from running out of their hovels to inspect her. England and the English might not hold much liking for the Normans and their sea-roving Viking cousins, but still they had laughed and applauded as she passed by. They wanted peace, an end to the incessant i-víking raiding and pirating, to the killing and bloodshed. If a union between England and Normandy was the way to achieve it, then God's good blessings be upon the happy couple. Whether this marriage would be of lasting benefit and achieve that ultimate aim no one yet knew. The Northmen, with their lust for plunder, were not easy to dissuade, and the substantial wealth of England was a potent lure. For a while, though, when Richard, in consequence of this wedding denied winter access to his Norman harbours, the raiders would search elsewhere for their ill-gotten gain or stay at home. Unless, of course, they elected to offer Richard a higher incentive than the one King Æthelred of England had paid.

If Emma minded being so blatantly used for political gain, it was of no consequence to anyone. Except to Emma herself. What if I am not a pleasing wife? What if he does not like me? The questions had tumbled round and around in Emma's mind these three months since being told of the arrangement, had haunted her by night and day. She knew she had to be wed; it was a woman's duty to be a wife, to bear sons. Either that or drown in the monotonous daily misery of the nunnery, but there would be no Abbess's veil for her. Her brother needed the alliances his sisters brought, the silver and the land. Normandy was a new young duchy with no family honour or pride to fall back upon, only the hope of a future, which Richard was too impatient to wait for. This, Emma had understood from the day their father died. Richard wanted all he could get, and he wanted it not tomorrow or next year, but now. One by one his sisters had been paired to noble marriages, but they were all so much older than Emma. She had not expected to be bargained away so soon.

Æthelred was stepping forward, reaching out to take her hand, a smile on his face, crow's-foot lines wrinkling at his eyes.

She sank into a deep reverence, bending her head to hide the heat of crimson suddenly flushing into her cheeks. At her side, Richard snorted, disgruntled that she should be greeted before himself.

He had not wanted to escort her to England. On that dreadful sea crossing he had vociferously balked at meeting face to face with this Englishman, King Æthelred. "I do not trust a man who was involved in the murder of his own brother to gain the wearing of a crown," he had stated several times over. If these were his thoughts, then why, in the name of sweet Jesu, had he agreed to this marriage? Why was she here, feeling awkward and uncertain, fearing to look at the man who would soon be taking her innocence of maidenhood? Non, Richard had not wanted to come to England, but he had wanted to ensure that the agreed terms were honoured. Dieu! He needed the financial gain and the respectability, the prestige of having his youngest sister wed to one of the wealthiest Kings in all Europe.

From somewhere Emma had to gather the courage and dignity to raise her head, smile at Æthelred...She clung to the talisman of her mother's parting words: "No matter how ill, how frightened, or how angry you might be, child, censure your feelings. Smile. Hold your chin high, show only pride, nothing else. Fear and tears are to be kept private. You are to be crowned and anointed Queen of England. The wife and mother of Kings. Remember that." Emma took a breath, looked at the man who was to be her husband, and knew, instantly, that she disliked him.

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Forever Queen 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 124 reviews.
Erin_N More than 1 year ago
When 13 year old Emma arrived at the gates of the Canterbury Cathedral to do her duty by her Norman brother, little did she know that she would be marrying England for life. In 1002 the King of England, Æthelred the Unready, entered into an agreement with the Duke of Normandy. Duke Richard would provide England with a much needed alliance against the raiding Northmen while King Æthelred would provide the newly formed Norman duchy with the stability of land and coin. And Emma was the key. She would wed a king 21 years her senior and be anointed England's Queen. Unlike all the queens before her and unlike most who followed, Emma's reign outlasted two husbands, two step-sons, and two sons; all of whom shared the crown with Emma during her lifetime. Beloved by her subjects, Emma was England's heart, its strength, and its hope for the future. The only anointed Queen for 5 of the last Saxon kings and aunt to the conquering Norman kings, Emma's bloodline has run through the veins of British monarchs and nobility throughout the ages. Helen Hollick brings the story of England's perpetual queen to life in The Forever Queen. Hollick captures the political intrigue of early Medieval England and presents with some of the most colorful characters to sit on the British throne. And, despite the historical record having very little information about Queen Emma (aside from the Encomium Emmæ Reginæ, a "spin" biography commissioned by Emma to give credence to her son's claim to the thrown), Hollick manages to see past the male monarchs of the time and find the unsung tale of Emma "Ælgifu" of England.
emmi331 More than 1 year ago
I think many people who like medieval "chick lit" will enjoy reading this, which is why I'm assigning it a higher rating than I normally would. It was not really my cup of tea, though, and I could not complete the book due to the rather bland storytelling. If you prefer something more robust in this genre, read Lady MacBeth, by Susan Fraser King, or for a bit of rough-and-tumble, Bernard Cornwell's excellent Saxon Tales series.
penname96 More than 1 year ago
I'm making up a new star 3.75. The research was 5 stars, the writing 3. There aren't many historical fiction books out there about this time period. Not only was Emma's story interesting, but this not as well known part of English history is fascinating. The author is correct in her notes that history has forgotten English Kings prior to William The Conqueror. This story starts with Emma being married to Aethelred aka The Ill advised King. She then goes onto marry Cnute, who will become king. This is not a spoiler alert, it is on the back cover. Then 2 of her Sons become King. Not to mention Stepsons. This book is filled with information. It is a must read for fans of English History. My issue with the writing was that it needed some editing. I also didn't like her style of starting a chapter and you not knowing who she was talking about until 3-6 paragraphs in. If you are looking for fluff or romance, this isn't it. The story is real and cruel at times. Some pages I couldn't put down others I could skim. I just received the follow up I Am the Chosen King, which I heard is a great read. I can't wait!
gl More than 1 year ago
From sparse historical data, Hollick pieces together the story of Emma, daughter of Richard I of Normandy, just as she has been contracted to marry King Aethelred of England. We follow her life as a young girl matched with an ineffectual and quick tempered husband as she slowly comes into herself. As she makes friends and grows confident, we see the beginnings of a loyal and charismatic leader. Emma's world is full of violence, political intrigue, war and uncertainty - which makes for a gripping and fascinating novel. While the book is around 650 pages, too long for one sitting, it's hard not to stay up all night. Emma draws you in with her sense of honor, her humor and her complicated and unusual life. If you're fond of historical fiction and not squeamish about violence, war, intrigue and betrayal, do check out The Forever Queen. It's a fun, satisfying read. ISBN-10: 1402240686 - Trade Paperback Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (November 1, 2010), 656 pages. Review copy provided by the publisher.
DustymomCA More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyble read. Lovers of historicsl fiction will like this book. Not too many books on this time period (1006 on). I enjoyed the history as well as the story. Emma is a very interesting lady.
LadyLucyLehn More than 1 year ago
This book took me a while to get in to- there were so many characters introduced, the setting was always shifting, and the language and vocabulary took some time to get adjusted to and learn. But once I got the hang of it (about a hundred pages in!) I loved it. Couldn't put it down until I was done. I am looking forward to reading the next in the series. The author draws the scenes and characters so vividly, it is like you are there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just loved this book. Historically informative and rich. Great story with characters that are incredibly rounded. Seem to connect with every single one. Amazing how I just couldnt stop talking about this story the entire time and years after reading it. Can't wait until her next book!
BookLover25KH More than 1 year ago
This book was incredible and definitely one of the best books I've read in a long time! If you enjoy history of england or just want a good book, I recommend you read this. It is really long, so you will get your money's worth on this one.
allisonmacias on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is wonderful. You feel the urgency of Dane and English relations. You feel the bareness and vitality of medieval England. Emma is a wonderful character, a woman who will stop at nothing to be queen and retain her rights at such.
creighley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Intriguing look at a part of English history not very well known. Emma, a girl wedded to a tyranical, ineffective king and worse husband, falls in love with her adopted country and vows to remain forever its Queen. Lengthy, but fast-paced... Lots of court intrigue!
meldridge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While a slow read for me, I did enjoy this book. It was interesting to google "Queen Emma" and find the basic information about her life mirroring the framework of the story. The author does acknowledge that relatively little is known of the daily goings-on of her life but the fictional aspects are probably not far from the truth in many cases. For those who are interested in historical fiction this is a very interesting read, although a slow one, I would definitely recommend it.
celticlady53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was my first read by author Helen Hollick and it won't be the last. A very well written and researched novel. It tells the story of Emma of Normandy and her marriage to King Aelthred and King Cnut of Denmark.Two of her sons, one by each husband, and two stepsons, also by each husband, became kings of England, as did her great-nephew, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy. A story filled with historic detail in a time when there was a lot of fighting for control of England. Her marriage to King Aethelred was not a happy one but she does fare better with King Cnut. The author has described this turbulent era masterfully and has the reader waiting to turn the next page. Emma's marriages created a strong link to Normandy and England. The novel starts in 1002 with the marriage of Emma to King Aelthred and ends in 1042 when her son Edward ascends the throne as King of England. The only thing I did not like about the book was the names of the characters and I had a hard time keeping them all straight.
justabookreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Emma was 13 years-old when her brother, the Norman King, married her off to the English King Æthelred. Besides her being anointed Queen in her own right, it¿s a terrible match that at times humiliates and terrifies Emma. Her husband, who spent his life being ruled by his mother, has no idea what it takes to be a king let alone a decent man. When Danish invaders take control, he capitulates and later dies a sad and very lonely death. Not knowing what will become of her or her children now that the Danish king is in control of her land, Emma offers herself in marriage to Cnut, the Danish King, making him through her the new English King. Her second marriage is much happier than her first and she and her country spend many content years with Cnut as their king.When Cnut dies, Emma fears the loss of her crown and understands deeply the threat her country faces the day that Cnut¿s son from his first marriage appears to lay claim to the thrown which he believes to be rightly his. When her son with Cnut, Harthacnut, does not return to England to fight for the crown, she recalls her long abandoned sons from her first marriage, Edward and Alfred, to return with disastrous consequences forcing Emma to once again fight to keep her crown and position as Queen.I usually don¿t write such long descriptions in my reviews but I felt this one, being as long as it is (793 pages on my Nook) and the length of Emma¿s rule, deserved a longer than normal introduction. Emma, while not a likable character --- she¿s disgusted by her husband and her sons from her first marriage, isn¿t motherly, is outwardly cruel to her husband and sons (the husband deserving though), and cares in some cases more for her crown and title as Queen above all else --- is intensely interesting. Her life is anything but boring; sad yes, horrid in some cases, lonely, and when she finds happiness there is always something that threatens it (another wife, more sons). While I still don¿t know if I liked her, I couldn¿t put this book down wondering what would happen to her next.Hollick is a great writer of historical fiction and since reading her Arthurian legend trilogy last year, she¿s shot up my list of favorite authors. While there were a few slow parts and an incredible list of characters to keep track of, I still liked this book a lot. She picks subjects and characters whose parts in actual history may have been forgettable but gives them a fictional voice that makes them unforgettable.
blodeuedd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My thoughts:I loved it, the story was so rich in history and details, and it was exactly like a good historical novel should be like. Following the facts, but still inventing and creating a book utterly wonderful.Emma was a truly fascinating woman. Mother to two kings, wife to two kings, stepmother to kings, because yes England saw a lot of kings during her time there. I was enchanted by the story. The first part was about her horrible marriage to Aetheldred, not fit to be king, seeing her distancing herself from her kids was heartbreaking. The second part was about her other marriage and I do hope that it was true that they had a loving marriage. That she finally found joy with Cnut. It was certainly more romantic.This book is filled with history, what else to expect, the book spans 40 years of her life. And I could even start to tell about all the things that happened. There are vikings raiding, there is fighting over the crowns, a lot of times. Treachery, jealousy, kings dying, fighting between English earls, you get the point. There is never a dull moment. Because something is always happening, and when nothing is happening it is just nice to relax and enjoy her life for a bit.Awww, I do love good historical fiction. It just warms me right up. So fun to google later too and discovering more.Recommendation and final thoughts:I am giving this book 4,25 because I could not put it down, even though this was one big book! I would with all my heart recommend it to lovers of historical fiction, and to the rest of you, this is a woman worth reading about. It had everything, but mostly it had her, and I do wonder why not more books are written about her. She certainly deserves a spotlight for her interesting life. The book itself was well written, and was never cluttered with facts or dull. It was a joy to read.Reason for reading:Long ago I read a book by a Swedish author and that was the first time I met Queen Emma, I never forgot her and I even wrote a paper about her in uni, so when I heard about this book I jumped at the chance to read about her again.
LiterateHousewife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Emma, the youngest sister of Richard of Normandy, has been betrothed to King Aethelred of England as a means to strengthen Richard's relationship with them. She is but 13 when she makes her way by ship to a land she's never known where they speak a language completely foreign to her. Using the advice her mother gave her, Emma prepares for her destiny with as much courage as she could muster. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes apparent that she has more courage and determination than her husband. Aethelred is ineffective and listens to the wrong advisers. He's never been able to move beyond the rather smarmy circumstances that brought him to the throne. Despite the conditions, Emma learns to love her new country. As it turns out, Emma is exactly what England needed.As a lover of historical fiction, I knew early on that I was going to love Emma and enjoy The Forever Queen. Emma is truly a woman who made the most of her life. I know that no matter what was thrown her way she would come out of life victorious. From the moment she met Godwine and his dog, I cared about her and her kingdom. Emma is a gem and I'm glad I got to meet her through Helen Hollick's novel.Although this novel is entitled The Forever Queen, there is more to this story than just what Emma could have told us. I liked how the author interspersed the political intrigue throughout. It kept the story of England at that time moving and even provided a few surprises.If you're a frequent reader of historical fiction, you're familiar with all the drama surrounding giving up your virginity to a royal husband you do not love. Although I feel that Hollick did this well by not dwelling too much on Emma's worries and the "main event," I'm growing weary of them. I'm not sure how that can be avoided when reading books about women and young girls given away in marriage to foreign monarchs, though.My Final ThoughtsLongtime readers of my blog will know that I'm slightly cooler than lukewarm when it comes to fiction about the medieval times. I've often challenged myself to read books from that time period, but even with Helen Hollick's The Kingmaking, I've never been able to lose myself in those books. Both The Pillars of the Earth and The Forever Queen have changed that. They opened my eyes to what can be found in that world and I look forward to going back. I hope that my Emma grows up to be as resilient and courageous as this long ago queen.
zquilts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As most of you who have followed my reviews for any length of time know I am a real European history buff - especially British history. I have to admit, however, that I have never known much about the early history of Britain and very little about Anglo Saxon history. Therefore, I was quite happy to have been given an opportunity to read "The Forever Queen" whose time frame is 1066. Weaving a plot with many diverse characters, warring factions in areas that no longer even exist and a very involved plot takes great skill and dexterity to to well - the reader, after all, must be able to follow along. Helen Hollick has pulled this technical feat off with adroitness. The story of "The Forever Queen" recounts the history of Queen Emma, who, although her story is shrouded in a place where the life of a of women, even a queen, had little value in recounting- is a story that is fascinating, compelling and thoroughly enjoyable and instructive. When people use the word instructive it gives a sense of dryness I suppose but I use the word 'instructive' as one of living history - wonderful readability, enthralling and excellent historical story telling.The author notes that Queen Emma's history is even harder to accurately piece together that that of the later, but better know, Queen Eleanor of Aquaintaine. Emma was of Norman birth - a link between the factions of the Normans and the English. Emma's true name was Alfgifu, but she seems to have preferred to keep and use her given name of Emma for all but State and official documents.Emma was married early, in 1022, to the cruel Aethelred - as a King he was, useless. corrupt and ineffective at ruling. As a man he was even more cruel - I think all in all I would consider him a misogynist. From the author's notes we read that "....Emma is the only woman to have been an anointed, crowned and reigning queen to two different Saxon Kings, yet she is barely known in history...". After the death of King Aethelred II in 1016 Emma re-married , albeit cautiously, to the Danish King Cnut (the Great) had been born about 994 and was crowned King in 1014. His brother, Harald become the King of the Danes at this time as well. . For a fascinating historical synopsis of King Cnut see Wikipedia.For additional details on King Cnut and Queen Emma have a look here. The author, in her very well done Author's notes also comments that during the Victorian times King Cnut's name was anglicized to Canute to sound more realistically English.It is said that King Cnut - who Emma came to love, admire and respect very much had a daughter by a previous mistress that he brought to England to live at Court. Queen Emma had a son King Aetherlred, Edward, who was begotten by more of a rape than an act of love. He was known to torture small animals as a youth and was ultimately sent to the North to become King of the Danes to keep him away from Queen Emma - who he disliked - but Cnut never wanted her to know that truth. Edward ruled the Danes with the ruthlessness by which he had become known. A daughter was born to King Cnut by a earlier mistress whom he brought to England. It is said that Edward allowed her to be drowned in a mill race he watched - it was after this occurence that he was sent to Denmark. As a a side note - Queen Emma is the great aunt of the famous William the Conqueror.As you may be able to guess by now I thoroughly loved this book. It provided me with so much well researched early history of Britain that I had never known about - or had chosen not to read about I suppose. Helen Hollick is, in my opinion, a master story teller who carefully researches her subjects. Most all of her book is true from a historical point of view and, where people, places , names or events have been changed she notes that in her well done Author's notes. For a period in history that has so little factual information written about it I am astounded at what an amazing book has resulted.I think that anyone who is a fan of m
MsDollie More than 1 year ago
The Forever Queen is my first time reading something by Helen Hollick ... I will read more. This was historic fiction with a focus on character development over clothing description. The are enough descriptions of period detail to provide the setting but more emphasis on detail pertaining to what the characters thought and/or their emotions. I greatly enjoyed the read.
TaraBelle1 More than 1 year ago
Love Helen Hollick
jv-0426 More than 1 year ago
Being a fan of historical fiction this rates right up there with Weir & Gregory.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story! Masterfully told.
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I think was an extremely well researched book, so that is why the high star rating... It wasn't really a story about Emma, but more of a story about the entire period with multiple main characters. I did enjoy it and will read her other books.
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