Anna Belfrage Interviews Adam de Grande from Days of Sun and Glory
Today, I’m going to interview Adam de Guirande, the hero—oops, the protagonist (he hates being called a hero seeing as he doesn’t feel he does much heroic stuff beyond surviving)—of my 14th century series, The King’s Greatest Enemy. The first few decades of the 14th century were difficult years for the people of England: the old king died, a new king took over, there was famine and war with the Scots, and to top it all off, some of the barons rebelled against the king, plunging England into further turmoil.
Adam de Guirande is stuck right in the middle of all this: his lord, Roger Mortimer, is one of the rebellious barons, and soon enough Adam’s very life is at risk. Fortunately for Adam, he has something of a remarkable wife, which is why he is still alive when Days of Sun and Glory, the second book in the series, opens.
AB: So, let’s kick this off by starting right at the beginning. Where and when were you born?
AdG: I was born at Ludlow Castle—my mother used to say I’d been in such a hurry to leave her womb it was sheer luck she didn’t birth me in the outer bailey. I know the year I was born, 1296, and I know it was some time before St John’s Eve, but more precise than that I cannot make it.
AB: What influence did your birth family have on you and your life? Explain why and how.
AdG: My early years were happy enough, but then, some years after my brother William was born, my mother died. *Adam falls silent* I can’t recall what she looked like anymore. All I remember is her hair, as fair as mine, and that she used to sing as she went about her work.
My father never recovered from her loss, and so he took to drowning his sorrows in ale and wine. And when he drank, his temper frayed. *He gnaws his lip* I thought things would change for the better when he wed again, but instead things became worse. He used to hit us—all of us, to be sure, but as the eldest lad, I bore the brunt of his rage. Sometimes he beat me, other times he threw me into the old disused well, laughing as I pleaded with him not to leave me alone in the dark. One night, he just wouldn’t stop hitting and kicking, and by the time he threw me out into the icy drizzle, I was half-dead. I’d have died that night, had it not been for Lord Roger—Lord Mortimer to you. He found me lying on the cobbles and carried me into his hall. He held my hand as his fair wife, Lady Joan, doctored me. Come morning, my heart belonged to him.
Now, in hindsight, I am grateful to my father for being the bastard he was. Aye, he left me with a permanent fear of confined spaces, but had he not mistreated me, I’d never have caught Lord Roger’s eye. And had I not caught his eye, I’d never have become a belted knight, nor have married my Kit.
AB: Talking about Kit, how did you feel when you first saw the love of your life?
AdG: Ah. Well, it wasn’t the most auspicious of beginnings. I had agreed to wed Katherine de Monmouth as a service to Lord Roger. The maiden in question was rumoured to be no maiden, this due to indulging in bed-sport with Lord Roger. And no, I was not delighted at wedding Mortimer’s little trollop, but the dowry was generous and the bride was supposed to be comely.
What I didn’t know was that sweet Katherine had no desire to yoke herself to a low-born oaf like myself—not that I am an oaf—and ran off, thereby causing her lady mother quite some distress. You see, Lord Roger had sweetened things with generous gifts of land to Katherine’s father, Sir Thomas, and by taking Katherine’s brother as his personal squire. Now, due to Katherine’s behaviour, the de Monmouth family risked losing what they had just recently gained, and Lady Cecily was not about to let that happen. So she blackmailed Kit into replacing her half-sister—as I hear it, they were eerily alike, for all that Kit was Sir Thomas’ bastard daughter.
Poor Kit, thrown into a cesspool of deceit. Even worse, the man she wed thought her used goods and was neither particularly gentle nor kind when it came to the bedding. *Adam clears his throat* I hope I have made it up to her since then.
AB: So when did you realise you’d fallen in love with her?
AdG: I loved her long before I admitted to doing so. Already some weeks into our marriage, I had this constant desire to share my time, my thoughts, my hopes and dreams with her—only with her. But then I found out she wasn’t Katherine de Monmouth, she was an impostor, and for some time I was so angry, despite my heart breaking when I caught sight of her, so wan, so drained of life because I wouldn’t talk to her or touch her. And one afternoon, I saw her on the wall walk of Wigmore, leaning over the wall as if she intended to throw herself to her death on the cliffs below. That is when I understood I loved her—but I didn’t tell her so, I just pulled her back to safety and ordered her inside.
AB: Ordered her? Does that mean you think women are the weaker sex, set on earth to obey their man?
AdG: Obey? *Adam throws his head back and laughs*. Aye, Kit is mostly a dutiful wife—as she should be, as all virtuous women should be. But should she disagree with me, she’d tell me so, and I’d not force her to do as I want against her will. And as to women being the weaker sex, only a man with little knowledge of women would ever consider them weak. Aye, physically they are, but here *he taps his head* and here *he taps his chest* they are as strong as we are. My Kit would gladly risk her life to save mine—in fact, she has—and I am eternally grateful that she did, as otherwise I’d have been rotting in a grave since years back.
AB: Yes, that would have been unfortunate, wouldn’t it? But seeing as you’re still hale and hearty, what do you want from life?
AdG: I’d like to spend more time at Tresaints, our little manor just north of the Malvern Hills. I’d like to see my children grow, teach them to ride, to train a dog. I’d like to fashion wooden swords for my lads and teach them to fight. I’d want to wake at my wife’s side every day, follow her out into the night during the lambing season and watch her help the ewes. I’d like to live far from the bustle and chaos at court, far from intrigue and conspiracy. *Adam sighs* Some peace, aye? That’s what I want, for Kit and I to sit in the gloaming, surrounded by our own little slice of the world. Not much to ask for, is it?
AB: And what is preventing you from getting it?
AdG: The king, our dearest liege, Edward II. *Adam gives me a crooked smile* I am a knight, sworn to serve Edward of Windsor, heir to the throne. And as I was until recently branded a traitor due to my years of service to Lord Roger, I must tread carefully else I end up hanging from a noose. *He rubs his neck* They suspect my heart is still with Lord Roger, and aye, they’re right: but Lord Roger is living in exile in France, and Prince Edward is a likeable lad, and I am a man of honour, so now that I am sworn to the prince, I will not fail him. Ever. But God spare me the pain of having to confront Lord Roger to keep my lordling safe.
AB: Do you think that might happen? That Lord Mortimer and Prince Edward end up on opposing sides?
AdG: I pray daily that will never happen, and as the prince’s mother is favourable to Lord Roger, I hope things will work out. Lately, Queen Isabella has become very disenchanted with her husband—for valid reasons, I might add. It’s all that serpent Lord Despenser’s fault, whispering poisonous words into the king’s ear about his foreign wife, insinuating the queen cannot be trusted—neither with her income nor her children. Pah! More fool them, for underestimating a woman like her. Mark my words, Queen Isabella will make them pay, and to do so she will need the help of Lord Roger.
AB: And where does all this leave the prince?
AdG: In the middle, torn apart by his parents. Poor lad, all of twelve, and already all too aware he is being used by them both. He needs men he can trust in his life. I try to be one of those men.
AB: Very commendable, I am sure. Does he trust you?
AdG: Aye, I think so. And I trust him. He may be a lad, but he has all the makings of becoming a great king, a very different man from his father.
AB: Trust is a tricky thing, isn’t it? So how do you decide if you can trust someone?
AdG: I’m not sure. It’s how they meet your eyes, how they grasp your hand. It’s in how they comport themselves under pressure. I rarely trust on sight—it would be a foolish thing to do in these times—so people have to earn my trust. Prince Edward’s uncle, Earl Thomas, has earned it by saving my life as has my little lordling. Had he not intervened some time back, I’d no longer have a head.
AB: I know! That was very touch and go. And such a pity on a nice head.
AdG: Not funny.
AB: No, of course not. Apologies. Right, moving on: when you walk into a room, what do you expect people to notice about you?
AdG: Notice? How do you mean notice? *He scowls* Are you referring to my limp, perhaps? This constant reminder of that vile Despenser?
AB: No, I wasn’t referring to your limp. Truth be told, I don’t think people see it, not when they’re busy taking in how tall you are, how fair, how big, how…
AdG: You are embarrassing me. *He straightens up and gives me a piercing look* Truth be told, when I walk into a room, I prefer it if I am not noticed. Likely, I won’t be. Not if the king and his fawning sycophants are present. But I reckon when they do take notice, it is my size that draws the eye. Unless it’s in the tiltyard, because then it’s my skills.
AB: Yes, you’re a good fighter.
AdG: Aye, the one thing I can thank my father for. He ensured I was taught to use everything from a sword to a lance. Skills I’ve perfected serving Lord Roger. *He looks glum* I wonder where he is, right now. Is he hale? Is he lonely? Will I ever see him again?
AB: Well, I can’t exactly tell you that, can I? (Just as I can’t tell him things will never be easy for Adam de Guirande, torn between his love for Mortimer and his new young lord)
AdG: Aye, you can. You know what happens next. You write it.
AB: True, but not true. You have a lot of control over your own character arc, you know. I mean, it’s not as if you agree to do everything I tell you to do. Same goes for Kit, by the way. It was her idea—not mine—to risk her life as she did to save you. Sheesh! She could have died!
AdG: She did it for me. *He glances over his shoulder to where Kit is sitting in a splash of sunlight, her dark red hair unbound and falling to her waist* My wife, my love. If nothing else, I owe you for her.
AB: Yup, you sure do!
And on that note, dear reader, we conclude this interview. Adam has other things to do, other places to be, more specifically he is expected to present himself at Westminster within days or risk the king’s displeasure. And with Edward II, you do not want to risk his displeasure—especially if you’re a pardoned traitor
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.
Anna has authored the acclaimed time-slip series The Graham Saga, winner of multiple awards, including the HNS Indie Award 2015. Her new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, is set in the 1320s and features Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures during Roger Mortimer’s rise to power.
About Days of Sun and Glory: https://annabelfrage.wordpress.com/my-books-the-kings-greatest-enemy/