Friday, 6 December 2013

A historical backdrop To Whorl

What does Whorl refer to in my soon to be published Celtic Fervour Novel
why have I chosen to write about northern Celtic tribes - specifically Brigante? 

(After Whorl: Bran Reborn due 16th Dec 2013)
In reverse - the main reasons, I suppose, are that I’ve personally come across very few novels set in northern Britannia during the period around AD 71. Those I’ve read have tended to be centred on the rule of Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes and her husbands, and have involved the political machinations she got entangled in. The locations of those novels have mostly been located in the south of Britannia where Cartimandua spent time for political reasons. In those southern areas the Roman Empire had long settled and had already begun a construction programme of splendid buildings.

Great fodder for novels, but this was not what I wanted to write about.

Although the historical facts of Queen Cartimandua's reign, as we know them from written Latin sources, do have direct bearing on what I did want to include in my own novels.

What was recorded by the Roman historian Tacitus seems to indicate that a Roman infiltration into southern Brigantia happened around AD 69, prompted by the breakdown of negotiations between Queen Cartimandua and Rome. During the earlier part of Cartimandua's longish reign, her agreements with Rome were such that the Brigante territories were largely free of heavy Roman presence. So long as her Brigantes did not make war on Roman troops they had been mostly left alone. By AD 68/69 things had changed. Unrest had broken out, many dissenters no longer in favour of what Cartimandua was arranging with Rome.

At that point in time, Queen Cartimandua's husband was Vellocatus, but her former husband Venutius was stirring up some degree of unrest amongst the northern tribes- a direct backlash against Cartimandua. Formerly a supporter of Cartimandua, ostensibly at least during the earlier part of their marriage, by the late AD 60s Venutius had changed his allegiances. In AD 69, Venutius wasn’t only warring against Rome- he was at loggerheads with his ex- wife Cartimandua.
Therefore AD 69 was a turning point in Brigante history. Cartimandua had totally lost favour amongst her own tribespeople, and it appeared she no longer had any support from the Roman Emperor either. Whether dead, or gone elsewhere, Cartimandua disappears from Latin recorded sources around this time. Venutius claimed kingship of the Brigantes and by AD 71 had a good following, hence my Brigante confrontation with the forces of Rome. 

I’ve chosen to begin my Celtic Fervour series in AD 71 and I'm writing about tribespeople a few levels down from the Brigante high queen.

I'm specifically writing about the offspring of a fictitious chief of a Brigante tribe who are from a large settlement I’ve named Garrigill in northern Brigantia, an area closer to what we now term the border areas between Scotland and England. For the plot of Book 1 of my Celtic Fervour series, The Beltane Choice, I focused on the advancing threat that Rome made into southern Brigante territory during the time that Venutius is King and when Quintus Petilius Cerialis Cesius Rufus was Governor of Britannia.
Although the invasion of Roman troops tended to remain in southern Brigante territory during the governorship of Cerialis, the conflict drew in my Brigante warriors from Garrigill and their allies, in support of King Venutius. The gathering of those Brigantes culminated in my fictitious battle at Whorl in Book 1 The Beltane Choice.

Exactly where the main battles of Cerialis’ troops and the Brigantes were I have no evidence for, but I chose a location which was west of Stanwick for the site of my battle of Whorl.

Facts seem to indicate that the favoured site of a Celtic battle was a location which included a low hill for amassing the troops, set above a flat plain where the Celtic charioteers and spearmen could threaten and mingle, along with mounted warriors who would advance from side flanks. (I believe there is a low-hilled area named Whorlton if anyone should care to look closely at a current map of England!)

My books do include battles, some a little bloodier than others, but in essence those battles are not the main focus of any of the first three books in the series. 

The settlement of Roman troops after the battle of Whorl, and the building of many small forts and some larger fortresses in Brigante territories is a large part of the plot in the second novel, After Whorl: Bran Reborn.
The Lunt Roman Fort- Wikimedia Commons

In Book 2, After Whorl: Bran Reborn, I found myself moving the action around the large territory of Brigantia, mainly during the years AD 71- AD 73 when it appears (Tacitus) that there were some large confrontations between the forces of Rome and King Venutius of the Brigantes. Written evidence being scant, it seems that like his ex-wife Cartimandua, King Venutius was either killed at one of these engagements with Roman troops or that he chose to disappear, never to be written about again. Stanwick, to the east of Whorl, is a site which archaeologists believe to have held a large congregation of Brigantes during the reign of King Venutius. In After Whorl: Bran Reborn I have briefly mentioned the fall of Venutius - a dire day for the Brigantes - though my protagonist Brennus of Garrigill is elsewhere at the time of these battles, king Venutius having given him other duties to perform.

Looking beyond my December release of  After Whorl: Bran Reborn...
In Book 3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks (coming around Spring 2013) the action with Brennus of Garrigill moves northwards over the border hills and all the way up to present-day north-east Scotland where I've set another battle which my Brigantes are involved in.

The battle in Book 3, After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks, is likely the most famous of all that Gneus Julius Agricola, the then Governor of Britannia, may have been involved in during his governorship of Britannia, during the period of approximately AD 78 though to AD 84. It is certainly thought, by historians, that it was this battle in north east Scotland (against Calgacus of the Caledons  - Tacitus) which gained Agricola significant honours when he returned to Rome.

The battle I refer to was named 'The Battle of Mons Graupius' many centuries later by historians of the time.

My blogs on my Celtic Fervour novels will continue... Look out for them if you're interested in the history of Celtic Britannia around AD 71.

After Whorl: Bran Reborn will be available in ebook formats from the 16th Dec 2013.
Paperback may be available for pre-order from Amazon. 

Buy The Beltane Choice from: 

Barnes and Noble

W. H. Smith

Youtube trailer 


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