The amazing Elizabeth Chadwick
Author of THE OUTLAW KNIGHT
is here today with an insightful post!
Elizabeth Chadwick's Guest post highlighting the character of Maud Walter
THE OUTLAW KNIGHT (Titled Lords of the White Castle in the UK) is the story of Fulke FitzWarin, a knight and baron living on the Welsh borders in 13th century England. His family had been dispossessed of their lands by King John, and Fulke turned outlaw and rebelled so successfully, that John eventually restored his estates to him in order to have peace. Some historians believe that Fulke’s outlaw career was the basis for the Robin Hood legends. Soon after his death a chronicle was written, celebrating his exploits and his life and purporting to be a family history. Sometimes it stays close to the known facts, and sometimes it flies off into fantasy, but I found it a terrific primary source and it was the original inspiration for the novel.
Fulke lived a long and eventful life, and in the course of it married an heiress of some standing, Lady Maud le Vavasour, widow of Theobald Walter who was a royal official of high reputation and whose brother was Hubert Walter, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor of England.
In history, Maude came from a family who were royal foresters by tradition with lands in Yorkshire and the North of England. She was an only child and heiress to her father’s estates. Aged 12 she married Theobald Walter. 12 was the age of consent in the medieval period. It didn’t always mean that the marriage was consummated (although it might be) but it meant that it was the official age when the young person was considered an adult. Theobald was considerably older than his young bride, being well into his forties. We don’t know what they thought of each other. In THE OUTLAW KNIGHT I have portrayed them as fond of each other, and tried to keep within the cultural mindset of the late 12th century.
Maud would have spent some time with Theobald in Ireland where he had estates granted to him by John Count of Mortain, later to become King John, so she would have had the experience of travel and sea-crossing. Even on a calm day, the Irish Sea is no picnic, and there would have been the cultural differences of life in Ireland where the influences were Celtic overlaid by a generation of Anglo Norman settlers.
Being much older than her, Theobald died within a few years and Maud became a young, wealthy and desirable widow. According to the FitzWarin family chronicle, it was at this time that King John set his sights on her. She had returned to England and was staying at Canterbury under the protection of her Archbishop brother in law, who summoned the outlawed Fulke to come to him, saying: “King John desires her so much because of her beauty that she can scarcely protect herself from him. I have her here and you will see her. I beg you, dear friend Fulke, and command with my blessing to take her for your wife.”
Which Fulke duly did. Nothing is said of Maud’s character, but she must have had a strong will to match a personality as virile and vibrant as Fulke’s, and to cope with being the wife of an outlaw. The family chronicle tells us that King John continued to pursue and harass her after her marriage to Fulke. He had her spied upon wherever she stayed and several times tried to ambush her and steal her from Fulke. At one point, on the run, the heavily pregnant Maud ‘had a son, who was born on a mountain in Wales and baptized in a stream. The lady and child were very weak, for the child was born two months prematurely, and when the child was confirmed by the bishop he was called Fulke The lady and the child were taken from the mountain to a grange, which was at Carreg-y-nant.’
How much of this is true and how much is in the interests of making a fine tale for the thirteenth century reader is down to speculation. However, it’s an interesting story line to follow for a modern historical novelist and where King John is concerned, there is usually no smoke without fire. He was known to lustfully pursue the wives and daughters of his barons. Also the mention of Maud bearing a premature child on a Welsh mountainside is not a usual literary trope of the Middle Ages, so could well have the ring of truth. At one point Fulke went into exile in Wales, and perhaps she followed him there.
Maud appears very little in the historical record. Like most women of the period she tends to be invisible except in the moments where her lands are mentioned or in how she pertains to her husband, or how many children she bore – in Maud’s case two sons and four daughters. And yet she spoke to me across the centuries and I crafted her story from detailed research about the life and times of medieval aristocratic women, from the details in the family chronicle, and from what I knew about some of the other main players in the story, including her second husband and King John. To hold her own with them, her spirit must have been indomitable.
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