In my historical romance novels, I like to include real people and events of the time the books take place. In my latest release, Warrior' Possession, I included King Edward I, who was both adored and reviled – during his time and still to this day. Many are familiar with his portrayal in "Braveheart," but while he was indeed called "Hammer of the Scots" and "Longshanks" (he was very tall for a man of the time, which is where that nickname came from), he was not evil, as he was portrayed in that film. There's a lot of huge inaccuracies in that film, but I'll save that for another time.
Yes, Edward was a brutal man – being a king at the time almost required that. Very few within the nobility of the time dared to oppose him. Those who did were met with brutal retaliation. He crushed his enemies quickly and conquered Wales and Scotland with ruthless methods. Warrior's Possession is set at the end of the Welsh wars, when the rebellion had been crushed and Wales united under the English throne. The act of drawing and quartering those convicted of crimes had not been utilized for a very long time until Edward brought it back in use. Yes, there are two ways of drawing and quartering – a lot of people are familiar with the method in which the victim's hands and feet were tied to four horses which were then driven away, causing the victim to be torn apart. But the method that Edward used is far more brutal. I portray the first time Edward used it, against the last Welsh prince, Dafydd, in Warrior's Possession. I even included some of the remarks made by Edward and the executioner, as they were recorded by the authorities of the time. I can't say for sure these are the exact spoken words, but as this was a very big event at the time, chances are they were recorded faithfully. In this drawing and quartering scenario, the victim was first dragged to the execution location, then hanged by the neck until almost dead, before being cut down. At that point, the victim was disemboweled while still alive, then beheaded. The quartering came when the body was cut into four pieces, with each one being sent to the farthest corners of the realm. Yucky stuff, I know. In Warrior's Possession, Gillian didn't handle seeing such gruesomeness very well.
But Edward was also a revered king. His Parliament is what today's Parliament is based on - he made it a permanent institution. At that time, Parliament was held wherever the king was traveling to. He loved his first wife, Queen Eleanor. Even though the marriage was arranged, the pair had a deep abiding love for each other. They were truly a "Golden Couple," tall, blonde and both very attractive, by accounts from the time. There are legends about Edward nearly dying from being stabbed with a poisoned blade during his last Crusade, with Eleanor sucking the poison from his wound, though there is no proof this actually happened. But when she died, Edward's grief was so profound, he had twelve large crosses built wherever her funeral train stopped during the journey back to London. Three still stand – in Geddington, Northampton and Waltham. Fragments of most of the others are all that remain in museums and historical societies.
In Warrior's Possession, I tried to portray Edward as that loving husband as well as the brutal king he was known to be. He was known for his generosity to those loyal to him, and ruthless toward those who dared betray him. However, his biggest mistake was marrying his eldest son, also Edward, to Princess Isabella of France (who, btw, was only 8 years old at the time of William Wallace's death). Edward adored his son but was also frustrated by him, as the younger Edward did not have his father's skill as a soldier or statesman. The political alliance Edward hoped to make with his son's marriage ended up with the younger being a weak and ineffectual king who ultimately was murdered by his wife and her lover. But that's a story for another post.