It's 1066, the last time that England will ever be invaded by foreign troops. King Edward the Confessor has just died, and Anglo-Saxon England will never be the same.
On his deathbed, the venerable Edward has bequeathed the crown to young Harold Godwineson. Harold is eager to assume the royal mantel and for a few moments, it appears as if the sovereign state leadership will pass easily from one to another. Alas, as history and as Laurence J. Brown have it, it is not to be. For across the Channel another awaits the call. William the Bastard, later to be called the Conqueror, had also been promised the crown by Edward. Thus begins perhaps one of the most famous years and military events in Western Civilization-the Norman Invasion.
Brown, however, makes "Housecarl" more than a history lesson. The title is the name of the king's specially-trained and favorite warriors ("the cream of the English army") and Harold's personal champion Ranulf Redbeard sets out to recruit others, as he knows that Harold will need all the help he can get. The author presents expertly and candidly the complexities of this famous year, from Harold and William on down to the peasant stock. Everyone is involved in the impending invasion from Normandy. Even with a myriad of personal intrigues among the two central powers, yet there are others. The King of Norway also feels he should be king of England (through a convoluted network of genealogy) and even Harold's own brother Tostig seeks the crown.
Ah, what a tangled web we weave. Graphic and colorful, suspenseful and atmospheric, "Housecarl" not only gives us a very readable accounting of 1066 but of the individuals involved, real or otherwise. It is a book not easily forgotten. And a good read!
An Amazon customer from Texas