Selling ‘Alina’ at the Castle

I have now met with the chairman of The Friends of Oystermouth Castle and made arrangements for Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth to be sold at Oystermouth Castle.

I am dropping off my entire stock (currently 85 books) with the treasurer the night before the grand re-opening, so it can be taken to the castle in the morning and laid out with all their other stock on a table in the castle gateway. I am going to be there within an hour of the opening, and walk round the grounds wearing my Alina t-shirt and handing out postcards advertising the book.

I can’t sell the book myself, as I don’t have permission from the council, who are running the day. But I can point people to the table where the Friends are selling it. My daughter Aggi and her boyfriend Al are taking me down, and she has offered to help too.

I’m actually concerned that I might not have enough books! Wouldn’t that be great! And then it will be sold by the Friends every day until the castle closes at the end of September. And then again next year, I hope. Who knows, by then, there might be a second book!

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Planning for the Re-opening of Oystermouth Castle

As the Council’s event announcement says, on 16th June:

Celebrate the castle’s official re-opening with our spectacular medieval tournament and re-enactments. Let the children explore the castle and its grounds, complete with medieval sports, live music, fire juggling, storytelling and arts and crafts. Guided tours of the castle available.

The castle has had a £3.1 million conservation project, which has seen the Visitor’s Centre put inside the chapel, and a glass bridge constructed so that visitors can access the chapel top floor, but still have a clear view from below. Much restoration and conservation work has been done, including improvements to the grounds, and better access.

The chapel has been named ‘Alina’s chapel’, but until now there was no detailed information about who Alina was. My book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth fills that need, and will be sold inside the castle. I have produced a poster linking the book to the re-opening, which will be distributed in the next week to all local outlets selling the book.

News and Reviews

I am shocked to find that I haven’t posted here for a month – my apologies if you’re following. It doesn’t mean nothing has been happening, but I have taken the opportunity to return to my sci-fi writing, before the next push.

The great news is that my initial print run of 200 has sold out! There are still books out in the shops, but I have only a couple of copies at home, so I have to work out how many to print on the second run. The major factor in this is the re-opening of Oystermouth Castle.

As reported on the council web site, Oystermouth Castle has had a major refurbishment, and will have a grand re-opening on 16th June, with a medieval tournament and re-enactment. I plan to be there and advertise the book to the public, and either sell copies, or point customers to the stall where they can buy it. Final details will be worked out in a meeting with the chairman of the Friends of Oystermouth Castle, Roger Parmiter, on 1st June.

I’m producing a poster to tie my book in with the re-opening, which I’ll distribute to the shops in the next week or two. I’ve also ordered postcards to hand out.

As for reviews: there aren’t any. I haven’t sold many ebooks, where people are likely to be prompted to review it, and the people who buy print books, aren’t necessarily ones who are web-savvy. So a plea to all my friends and followers – please review the book. I’m not asking for falsely good reviews – please be honest – but I hope you genuinely liked it, and it would be great to tell the world.

You can review the ebook on Smashwords.

You can review the ebook and the print book on Amazon.

Thanks.

Llewelyn Bren

Llewelyn Bren, or Llewelyn ap Gruffudd ap Rhys, was a Welsh nobleman of Senghenydd who led a revolt in Wales against King Edward II, in 1316. This was one of the last serious revolts of the Welsh against their English (Norman) rulers. His seven sons took part in the revolt too.

When Gilbert de Clare, Lord of Glamorgan, died at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, it left a power vacuum. The various people who took over treated the Welsh very badly, at a time when they were already suffering with a famine. Llewelyn appealed to the king, but the king accused him of treason, and he rose in revolt, attacking Caerphilly Castle.

Unable to capture the castle, Llewelyn and his men started a seige. They burned the town and slaughtered some of the inhabitants. As the revolt spread, Kenfig and Llantrisant castles were sacked and many other castles attacked. Towns like Cardiff were raided and buildings burned throughout Glamorgan and Gwent. The king called on Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Lord of Brecon, to put down the uprising. He gathered troops from a wide area, and the support of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster and Roger Mortimer. (These three figure large in the story of Alina and the rebellion of her husband in 1320 in my book Alina: The White Lady of Oystermouth).

The forces were so overwhelming that Llewelyn surrendered to Hereford and begged that his followers not be punished, taking all the blame on himself. This earned the respect of Hereford and Mortimer, who pleaded his case with the king. Most of his followers were indeed pardoned, and Hereford and Mortimer promised to intercede with the king on his behalf.

He was sent with his family to the Tower of London, but then became a prisoner of Hugh le Despenser the Younger, the king’s favourite and rapacious land-grabber. In 1317 he had become the Lord of Glamorgan and the largest land owner in the Welsh Marches. Without consulting the king, Despenser moved Llewelyn to Cardiff Castle and had him hung, drawn and quartered without trial. He also imprisoned Llewelyn’s wife Lleucu and some of her sons in Cardiff Castle.

Despenser’s treatment of Llewelyn enraged both the Welsh and Marcher Lords, who joined together to petition the king against Despenser. When the heir to the Lordship of Gower rebelled against the king, the other Lords joined him. The rebellion which followed managed to free Llewelyn’s family and get Despenser and his father exiled, until the king was able to raise a large enough force to counter-attack and put the rebellion down.

However, when the queen and Roger Mortimer landed in 1326 with an army of mercenaries the king, unable to command the loyalty of the barons, fled to Despenser’s lands in Wales. There they were understandably unable to raise any forces and were captured. Despenser suffered the same fate he had inflicted on Llewelyn and was hung, drawn and quartered. One of the charges against him at his trial was the murder of Llewelyn Bren. Lleucu and her sons had their estates restored to them.

No Takers

Well, two publishers asked to see my manuscript, and I was hopeful. After three months I got in touch to ask about it, and one said ‘Thanks but no thanks’ but suggested some other publishers who might be interested. I contacted them and didn’t even get a reply. The other one said they were still looking at it. After another two months, the other publisher said they liked it but they had had their funding cut and could no longer afford to publish such books.

I tried contacting the Gower Society, who publish books on local issues, and wrote to the editor of their Journal, since I couldn’t find a submissions address. I asked if he could point me to the right person. He didn’t even acknowledge me. I tried contacting the councillor who gave me his business card and offered support, and got no reply. So now I am full of doubt about the quality of the book, and don’t know what to do next.

And to rub it in, the grand opening of Alina’s chapel is in two weeks. It would have been the perfect opportunity to market the book, since it is Alina’s chapel and there are no books about Alina.

Next week is the Swansea Writers Circle meeting, so I am going too ask for help there. Perhaps someone can advise me and offer to read it.

Alina Timeline

I spent some time last night creating a timeline for Alina’s life, and noticed some things I hadn’t noticed before. Here’s the first part of the timeline, and my comments afterwards. See if you spot them too.

1291 Born to William & Agnes de Breos, same year he inherited. Named after William’s mother. Older brother William, older sister Joan.
Father served the king in many wars – so away a lot.
1295 Joan married James de Bohun of Midhurst.
1297 Betrothed to William’s ward, John de Mowbray.
1298 Married John de Mowbray in Swansea Castle – he was 12, she was 7. Marriage never paid for by her father.
Father unpaid debts and law suits etc. 1305 he was sent briefly to the Tower.
1310 Son John born (Alina 19), William fighting in Scotland.
1315 William had installed his son William in Landimore in north Gower.
1316 William obtained royal licence to settle all but one of his English manors on Alina & John – did not include Gower.
1317 Mother dead by now, father marries heiress Elizabeth de Sully. (Alina 26).
1318/19 William selling off Gower to several people to raise money.
1320 Husband John seizes Gower to protect Alina’s inheritance. King sends men to take it back, John leads rebellion against the king, many barons join. Rebellion defeated.
1320 Brother William dies.
1321 King pardons de Mowbray.

Already you can begin to see what a life she led – it certainly wasn’t boring. Lots more happened later, but I won’t give it away yet.

Anyway, the first thing that surprised me was that, although her brother William would have been the heir, her father arranged to settle most of his English manors on Alina and her husband. Presumably, her brother would inherit Gower, but why not everything?

And what about her older sister Joan? She doesn’t seem to have been promised anything. Even when her brother dies, Joan still isn’t mentioned. Maybe her marriage gave her a great land-holding, and she didn’t need anything from her father. I haven’t looked into her husband, but it’s probably not worth it, as she probably moved away to her husband’s estates, and died in 1323.

I intend to look into the English estates, but they were worth something, as Alina later sold them when she was in desperate straits. Would the lordship of Gower outweigh them, or was Alina being given a greater inheritance than her brother? Alina’s husband, John de Mowbray, was William’s ward, so maybe her felt he was keeping it in the family by leaving the estates to them.

When her brother William died, Alina and John became heirs to Gower as well, which was highly prized and fought over in the following years. More on that later.

There was another curiosity. Alina later married Richard de Peschale, and assuming she didn’t have his children before they married, she appears to have had four children in three years – quite and achievement! I’ll keep you posted on my research.

The White Lady of Oystermouth

Alina de Breos (also spelled de Braose) was born about 1291 and her father William de Breos was Lord of Gower. The administrative centre for Gower was at Swansea Castle, but they preferred to live at Oystermouth Castle. Alina was married to John de Mowbray when she was only seven, and led an eventful life. She is regarded as being responsible for the building of the chapel at Oystermouth Castle, and is said to haunt it, being known as the White Lady of Oystermouth.

I first discovered Alina when researching Swansea Castle for a fantasy story idea about travelling back in time to the castle in its heyday. Its heyday turned out to be the late 13th and early 14th century. All that remains of the castle is one corner at the top of a steep bank above The Strand, which used to run along the River Tawe. Apart from being a major port, I always assumed that Swansea was an insignificant town, but as I researched I found that it was part of a rebellion which toppled a king.

The fantasy story receded further into the background as I got more and more interested in this period in history. In this blog I aim to share my research and my thoughts as I plan to write a historical novel about Alina. In a novel, certain things have to be made up – the details of daily life, conversations etc. – but the historical facts must be accurate. I need to find out as much as I can, and make decisions about how to portray the rest. I hope you’ll join me for the journey, and maybe learn a few things along the way.