Happy Wednesday, I know its been a while since I’ve posted on A Splash of Romance. I’ve been in the writing cave, preparing for 2016. I’m thrilled to have Regan Walker here today, she’s a great source for historical treasures, and a talented author. So let’s get to it, how can I resist Vikings?
The Raven Banner of the Vikings
by Regan Walker
In the course of my research for Rogue Knight, my latest medieval romance, I delved into the Danish warfare practices, their weapons and their longships. In 1069, the Danes sailed up the Humber River heading toward York, England with 240 of their longships, intending to do battle with William the Conqueror for control of the North. It was highly likely their longships carried the raven banner with them.
The first known Danish banner was the “banner of the raven”, a piece of red cloth with a black raven. As depicted in Norse artwork, it was roughly triangular with a rounded outside edge from which hung a series of tabs or tassels. It bore a resemblance to ornately carved “weather-vanes” used aboard Viking longships. The banner was feared and well known as the rallying place of the Vikings. It was during the time of the Danish raids against the Normans in the early 11th century that the banner of the raven became the national symbol.
It is believed that the raven banner flag was a symbol of Odin, the Norse god who was often depicted accompanied by his two ravens named Huginn and Muninn (“thought” and “memory”). The raven banner was believed to instill fear into the Vikings’ enemies and convey victory to whoever carried it into battle. The raven were also linked to the Valkyries who chose who would live and who would die.
The raven banner was a flag that had been flown by various chieftains and Scandinavian rulers during the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries. Cnut the Great, King of England, Denmark and Norway, carried it into battle. So did King Sweyn II (King Swein is a character in my story). They were not alone.
If you remember that the Normans who came to England in 1066 descended from the Norsemen, raiding Vikings who conquered the north of France, it is not surprising that they, too, held the symbol of the raven in high regard. William the Conqueror was, after all, descended from the Viking Rolf the Ganger. Although the Normans spoke French and considered themselves to be Frenchmen (the Conqueror referred to his men as such), they were only a little removed from their Norse ancestors.
Indicative of their beginnings, a raven is included in the Bayeux Tapestry, which records the events of the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Tapestry, which is actually embroidery, was commissioned by Bishop Odo, William the Conqueror’s half brother, who would have been familiar with the standards his brother carried. In one of the Tapestry’s panels, a charging Norman knight is shown with a semicircular banner emblazoned with a standing black bird. This despite the fact William the Conqueror was a Christian, loyal to and endorsed by the Pope in Rome, he carried the raven banner into the Battle of Hastings. Some traditions live on.
York, England 1069… three years after the Norman Conquest
The North of England seethes with discontent under the heavy hand of William the Conqueror, who unleashes his fury on the rebels who dare to defy him. Amid the ensuing devastation, love blooms in the heart of a gallant Norman knight for a Yorkshire widow.
A LOVE NEITHER CAN DENY, A PASSION NEITHER CAN RESIST
Angry at the cruelty she has witnessed at the Normans’ hands, Emma of York is torn between her loyalty to her noble Danish father, a leader of the rebels, and her growing passion for an honorable French knight.
Loyal to King William, Sir Geoffroi de Tournai has no idea Emma hides a secret that could mean death for him and his fellow knights.
WAR DREW THEM TOGETHER, WAR WOULD TEAR THEM APART
War erupts, tearing asunder the tentative love growing between them, leaving each the enemy of the other. Will Sir Geoffroi, convinced Emma has betrayed him, defy his king to save her?
She crossed herself and covered her mouth, fighting the urge to spew at the sight of so much blood and so many bodies strewn about the clearing, blood congealed on their clothing, their vacant eyes staring into space. Some of the blood had pooled on the ground to catch the rays of the sun. The metallic scent of it, carried by the wind, rose in her nostrils.
At her side, the hound whimpered.
Until the Normans had come, Yorkshire had been a place of gentle hills, forests and thatched cottages circling a glistening jewel of a city set between two winding rivers. A place of children’s voices at play, some of those voices now silenced forever, for among the bodies lying on the cold ground were mere boys, their corpses cast aside like broken playthings.
At the sound of heavy footfalls on the snow-crusted ground, she jerked her head around, her heart pounding in her chest.
A figure emerged from the trees, so close she could have touched him.
She cringed. A Norman.
A tall giant of a knight, his blood-splattered mail a dull gray in the weak winter sun, ripped off his silvered helm and expelled an oath as he surveyed the dozens of dead. The sword in his hand still dripped the blood of those he had slain. He was no youth this one, at least thirty. His fair appearance made her think of Lucifer, the fallen angel of light. A seasoned warrior of death who has taken many lives.
Had he killed people she knew? Her heart raced as fear rose in her chest.
Would she be next?
Love the cover and excerpt, Regan, thank you for sharing!
Amazon buy link: http://www.amazon.com/Rogue-Knight-Medieval-Warriors-Book-ebook/dp/B014ZCMWZ4
On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26237656-rogue-knight
Author website: http://www.reganwalkerauthor.com/