Read Knight's Honor Online

Authors: Roberta Gellis

Tags: #fantasy

Knight's Honor

BOOK: Knight's Honor
10.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Knight's Honor

Roberta Gellis


A part-time bacteriologist and scientific editor, Roberta Gellis began the study of medieval literature as a diversion. Her interest sparked a talent that has made her one of today's best-loved historical novelists. She lives in Lafayette, Indiana, with her husband and a too-plump Scottie.

Other books by






Copyright © 1964 by Roberta Gellis

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by an electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording means or otherwise without prior written permission of the author.

ISBN: 0-867-21187-3


As ever, for being there and making my work possible


When Baen approached my agent about the possibility of republishing some of my work in e-format, I was delighted. Although at the moment I do not own an e-reader (I use a netbook for its ability to deal with many formats), I am one of the early addicts of that form of personal library. I owned and used with great pleasure a RocketeBook, and I would still be using it if the company were still in business to make repairs.

Thus I gave considerable thought to which of my out of print works I wanted to be available and I decided that my earliest work, because it held my own fresh wonder of creation, should get precedence.

Early work or late work, all my historical novels are medieval. I have no idea why I was enchanted by the history of the middle ages, but when I was a little girl there was no television. (Yes, I am that old.) What one did for entertainment– at least what my family did for entertainment–was read. My father used to say that Christians went to church on Sunday; Jewish people went to temple on Saturday; and the Jacobs family went to the library on Friday night (which was the night the library was open late).

No one told me what to read, and I sampled everything, I suppose, but it was the books of High Romance that caught my attention. I never cared for the books about my contemporaries. Nancy Drew (even driving her car) or the visiting nurse (who’s name I’m afraid I’ve forgotten) could hold my attention only briefly and I never remembered their stories. It was the tales of knights in shining armor that I read and reread.

The fascination scarcely ebbed as I grew older, although I soon realized Howard Pyle’s books were equivalent to fairy tales (if not so grim). I moved on to more adult versions of medieval myth. But then I began to wonder if, like other myths, there was some basis to the stories. The histories were dry bones, but further research into the period brought me to the chronicles written at the time.

I soon discovered that, although there were indeed knights, their armor didn’t shine and the knights themselves stank to high heaven. But I also learned that the men inside that stinking armor were fascinating individuals and that their real adventures in real history were far more exciting than Howard Pyle’s or other novelists’ stories.

So I hope these books will transmit to their readers my personal delight in the true events of one of the most exciting centuries in history and my new found creative joy in peopling those events with characters that are true to the time in which they lived.


Because of the length of time that separates us from the period of this novel and the lack of extensive written records, it is very difficult to write a perfectly accurate historical novel about the twelfth century. The principal character of this book, Roger, Earl of Hereford, did exist, and the military activities in which he engaged in the company of Henry of Anjou, later to become Henry II of England, are historical facts.
Most of the information regarding the actual events comes from the
Gesta Stephani
, one of the few chronicles written in England during the period of the reign of Stephen of Blois and the best source of information about it.
Unfortunately, like most chronicles—and, indeed, like most purely historical material except biography—the
makes virtually no reference to the personalities or appearances of the characters mentioned, all being called, according, probably, to the author's feelings, brave and energetic or barbarous and wicked.
Equally, no mention is made of the personal affairs of the individual.
Under these circumstances, and within the limits of making no alteration in any truly historical event or personality, the author has considered herself free to invent a suitable wife, character, and family for her hero.

Where any historical information is available about the characters mentioned in the book, it has been followed faithfully. About the hero of the book, the
has only to say, "Roger, Miles's son then succeeded him as Earl of Hereford, a young man but distinguished for exceptional prowess."
William, Earl of Gloucester is briefly characterized as "a man already advanced in years but effeminate and more devoted to amorous intrigue than war."
And the Earl of Chester was said to have "devoted himself wholly to the cunning devices of his accustomed bad faith."

Henry of Anjou's personality and appearance are treated much more fully in several other works,
De Nugis Curialium
of Walter Map, the
of Bernard of Clairvaux, and
De Principis Instructione
by Giraldus Cambriensus, to name the most important. Within the limits of disagreements among these authors themselves, an accurate reproduction of his person and character has been attempted.

The author has taken some liberty in marrying Hereford to a daughter of Chester (who may never have existed), but the long and faithful association between those two houses may indeed betoken some close blood ties between them. Another liberty has been taken in introducing into the book Hereford's private feud with de Caldoet and with Peverel, Constable of Nottingham (for which there is no historical evidence whatsoever, although the initial event—the poisoning of Chester's vassals—did take place). No disruption of the actual historical events is caused by this intrusion of fiction into fact, however, and such events were common enough in the terribly disrupted period of Stephen's reign. Certain characters aside from those already mentioned, are purely fictional—the entire Gaunt family and Alan of Evesham, for example, and they are introduced solely for the purpose of the plot and character contrast.

For the rest of the material of the book, descriptions of food, clothing and armor, of dwelling places and forms of amusement, of methods of warfare and siege engines, as well as for the more important concept of homage and the attitudes regarding duty, honor, and personal relationships, the author has been as accurate as possible within the range of about one hundred years. As a final explanation for the well-informed reader who may be somewhat surprised to read of a baron of the twelfth century crying out for peace and feel that this is a false note for the period, the following points must be made. It is to be understood, firstly, that the barons who desire peace mean peace as we know it today; that is, a condition of many minor wars and no major ones—except that the area in which the wars take place is small rather than global. Secondly, the condition to which England was reduced during the reign of Stephen was so pitiable that even men who considered war as a pleasant if rather rough sport began to look for a king who would have some measure of control over the barony. According to
The Peterborough Chronicle,
under the year 1137:

. . . then (they) perceived that he (Stephen) was a mild man and soft and good, and did no justice, then they did all atrocities. They had done him homage and sworn oaths; but no man held his troth. They were all perjured and their honor worthless, for every lord made castles and held against him and filled the land full of castles. They oppressed the miserable people of the land very much with castle works. When the castles were made they filled them with devils and evil men. Then they took the men, those whom they believed had any goods, both by nights and by days, men and women, and cast them in prison to get gold and silver, and tortured them with indescribable pains, for never were martyrs so tortured as they were . . .

A long passage follows in which the individual types of torture used are described, and then the commentator continues:

I cannot nor may I tell all the horrors nor all the pain that they caused the miserable people of this land and that lasted the 19 winters while Stephen was king, and ever it was worse and worse. They imposed forced payments on towns at all times and called it protection for the miserable people. When they understood they had no more to give, then they burned all the towns so that you might travel a full day's travel and you might never find a man living in a town nor land tilled . . .

Under such conditions it is understandable that even a warlike man who considered fighting with his neighbor his right and his chief form of amusement might crave at least a temporary cessation of hostilities, especially when it is considered that there was no industrialization and all wealth came from the agricultural products of the land.

Gesta Stephani
Deeds of Stephen
), K. R. Potter, ed. and trans., Thomas Nelson and Sons, LTD., London, 1955, pp. 135–148

Ibid., p. 106.

pp. 139–40.

p. 128.

The Peterborough Chronicle,
under the year 1137. Translation by the author.


without warmth, turned the narrow strip of beach into a scintillating ribbon, beautiful but uninviting. The frothy breakers before the bow of the small ship had lost their summer look of soft lace and glittered with hard sparks like ice. Roger of Hereford removed his leather gauntlets sewn with steel and tucked them under his arm so that he could blow on his fingers. He repressed a shudder at the thought that he would have to get down into that water in a few minutes to wade ashore; he could see the party waiting for him clearly now. But the wetting would bring him home—home to England. It had been a long time.

The young man who looked across the narrowing band of water to the shore was dressed in the latest fashion for a man of war in 1149. Over the hauberk, which was a continuous garment of double—and triple—linked metal rings that covered him completely from the hood for his head to his knees, he wore a peacock-blue surcoat lavishly embroidered down the front and around the cuffs and hem with golden leaves. The surcoat, which fell nearly to his ankles, hid the fact that the hauberk was split from crotch to hem to permit him to sit astride a horse. Through the splits, when the surcoat blew open, one could see bits of the white wool tunic under the gambeson that protected his body somewhat from the gall of the steel. Leather shoes, soft and pliable to make foothold and stirrup hold more secure, were cut low and exposed brilliant red chausses which did service as both stockings and underpants, cross-gartered to make them fit smoothly with the same peacock blue as the robe.

One would have thought that such a combination of brilliance would have obscured the wearer, but Roger of Hereford could wear anything. So far in his life, for he had just passed his twenty-second year, no amount of exposure had been able to do more than lightly tan his complexion, untroubled as yet with much growth of beard. Unlike most of his contemporaries, his face was unmarked by scars of war. This was not due to lack of fighting experience but to good fortune, almost as if Fortuna herself could not bear to mar that great beauty. Fine brows, sufficiently darker than his yellow-gold hair to lend character to his face, arched smoothly above large, almond-shaped eyes of a particularly changeable shade of blue. Thought, sorrow, or passion could make them almost black; anger and laughter could make them the blue of a hot coal flame; and they could burn with an almost white incandescence when their owner's spirit was lifted to enthusiasm. The straight, sharply modeled nose might have been a trifle short for perfection, but no one could cavil at the mouth which had the ideal classical contour, even to the faint smiling upturn at the corners.

To say that the young Earl of Hereford was unconscious of these beauties was untrue; he used them, particularly on women, rather ruthlessly to gain his ends. However it was true that he was not vain, merely accepting the gift of personal beauty as he accepted the fact of his important social position and substantial wealth. Certainly at the moment he would have bartered every scrap of his good looks for the assurance that the enterprise he was setting out upon would have a successful conclusion. This enterprise was no less than treason, although Roger of Hereford called it by other names, for Hereford had returned to England to take part in a rebellion that would wrest the crown of England from Stephen of Blois and set it upon Henry of Anjou's head.

BOOK: Knight's Honor
10.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster by Stephanie Laurens
My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley
Story Time by Edward Bloor
Hot & Humid by Tatum Throne
Stolen Petals by Katherine McIntyre
Marmee & Louisa by Eve LaPlante