Elizabeth Ashworth accepted my invitation to present her just released novel to you readers of FLY HIGH! She has also granted a signed paperback copy of An Honourable Estate. Leave your comment + e-mail address to be entered in the contest. This giveaway is open worldwide and will end on July 10th.
Thank you for inviting me to make a guest post on your blog to mark the publication of my new novel, An Honourable Estate. The pouring rain that we’ve had recently in the north west of England seems appropriate for the launch, because the story begins in the year 1315 when the rain was also torrential. There was famine because the crops rotted in the fields and the animals were struck down with disease. People were starving and the price of food was very high. Like now, people tended to blame government for everything and Adam Banastre, a minor lord from Lancashire, decided to lead a rebellion against his overlord, Robert Holland, who was secretary to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. One of the men who joined the Banastre Rebellion was William Bradshaigh. But the rebels were defeated at a battle at Preston, on the banks of the River Ribble. They fled for their lives and, as wanted men, had no choice but to live as outlaws.
The story of what happened to William’s wife Mabel is a legend that has been told for hundreds of years in Lancashire. It’s known as the legend of Mab’s Cross. The remains of Mab’s Cross can still be seen in Wigan, outside a school named Mab’s Cross Primary School. It was to this cross that Lady Mabel walked barefoot as a penance for her adultery.
There are several versions of the story, but the plot of my novel closely follows true historical events, beginning in 1315 and ending in 1322 when Thomas, Earl of Lancaster fought King Edward II at the Battle of Boroughbridge and was defeated. My research was helped enormously by an old booklet I found in the Lancashire Authors’ Association library. It was written by Rev. T.C. Porteus in the 1930s and is called New Light on the Mab’s Cross Legend. Porteus compares the two main versions of the legend with the factual history of the time. His interpretation made a lot of sense and this is what I used as the basis for my plot development.
In his booklet, Porteus refers to William Bradshaigh as a ‘Lancashire Robin Hood' and An Honourable Estate also contains elements of the Robin Hood legend. There are sheriffs and outlaws as well as Scots and wars and rebellions. And, of course, there is also Lady Mabel de Haigh. She is left alone and vulnerable. Because William is an outlaw, their lands at Haigh are forfeit to the king and are given to another man, Sir Peter Lymesey. But Mabel won’t give up her inheritance. In a 14th century inquest into the ownership of Haigh, it is recorded that Mabel ‘intruded’ on the lands. In other words she refused to move off them. It seems she was a determined woman in real life and I hope that I’ve done her story justice in my novel.
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