Mastodon The Writing Desk: Book Launch Guest Post by Gerald Weaver, Author of The Girl and the Sword

2 March 2023

Book Launch Guest Post by Gerald Weaver, Author of The Girl and the Sword

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

First she changed England. Then she changed the world.
For all fifteen years of her life, Pauline de Pamiers has witnessed an attack on her family, friends, and faith. It’s the early thirteenth century and the Pope and King of France are conducting a Crusade against the Cathars; the only crusade on European soil and against another Christian sect. As a member of this sect in France that sits outside the dominant Roman Church, Pauline is an outsider: young, but independent and bold.

The background to The Girl and the Sword is bracketed by my two children, Harriet and Simon. It is trendy and statistically accurate to say, “The future is female.” It is my opinion that the past was quite that way as well, only that it has been obscured by the fact that history has been written by men. One could say that I am a feminist and that may be so. But I rather see my views as those of a father of an independent, strong, and intelligent daughter. I have long wondered how many brilliant women like my daughter Harriet have taken a role in shaping historical events, but we have never read about them. Women like Yolande of Aragon or Muriel Gardiner should be well known and are not. 

History has unfairly maligned other women for the fact that they were forced to resort to “women’s ways,” such as Livia Augusta who did more to create the Roman Empire than any man, or Alice Perrers, who had great influence in two separate English courts. I wanted to write a strong woman like my daughter into an important history, not so much as historical fiction, but as a way of correcting a flawed history. Pauline, the heroine of The Girl and the Sword, is that woman.

The contemporary reader can therefore identify with her. Carol McGrath (Stone Rose, etc.) has said that Pauline is a “lovely character” who carries “much of the story.” Like the Outlander heroine, Pauline seems to have a modern sensibility, but it is historically accurate and does not depend on time travel. She was a member of the persecuted Christian Cathar sect, touched upon in the Da Vinci Code, in which women were treated as equals to men. 

One of my early readers said that her intimate connection with Pauline allowed her to step into a dream and actually live the story, to be transported to the thirteenth century and travel from Occitania to Paris and from there to London and Leicester and to absorb a history that we all should already know, one that makes us who we are today as Americans, as Englishmen, as free human beings.

I like to remind people of the forgotten fact that America’s Declaration of Independence was written by Englishmen. Its Constitution was written by men born and raised in the English tradition. There is an element of English history and tradition that is the very reason America was created. I identify it early on as a kind of pragmatic individualism. 

And it runs from the first and successful resistance to the Roman conquest, through Saxon stubborn defiance of the Vikings, through the Magna Carta and the Model Parliament of Edward I, through the development of English common law and Oliver Cromwell, straight to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. And right in the middle there, is Simon de Montfort, the male protagonist of The Girl and the Sword, in between the Magna Carta and Edward I.

When I first started to read about Simon de Monfort, my jaw dropped because I could not believe I had never heard of him, when he clearly stands tallest in this Anglo-American tradition. He was an untitled French knight who landed in England, was made Earl of Leicester, and had all the other native English nobles ask him to take the lead in opposing the tyranny of Henry III. 

 This king had replaced the English nobles of the Curia with his French in-laws and half-siblings, had several times gone back on his oath to uphold the Magna Carta, had sided with England’s Gascon enemies, and who overtaxed the people and the church. During this time, Simon de Monfort had also won military campaigns in France and the Holy Land and was such a natural leader that both Jerusalem and France sought him to be their Regent. Simon de Monfort and his followers even drew up a constitution, called the Provisions of Oxford and Westminster, which guaranteed, the rights of nobles against and above the king and the rights of subjects within the courts. 

Remarkably, it was the first official document written in English, was ratified by every county in England, and even Henry even swore to it before he violated that oath and marched to fight Simon de Montfort, who defeated him. Instead of making himself king as had seven usurpers in English history, Simon set up a democratic government with elected commons, and ruled in Henry’s name. What Edward I later did with the Model Parliament was merely to emulate Simon de Montfort, who was incidentally his uncle.

I found this remarkable figure of English history only because my son is named Simon. Harriet and Simon are not nearly as popular names in America as in England. In fact, they are exceptionally rare. They are names of my nineteenth century ancestors of English descent. After years of fruitlessly searching American souvenir shops for keychains or mugs with their name on them, my children were ecstatic to wander into a shop by the British museum and find objects with their names on them. 

Even in America Harriet connotes a certain intelligence and strength. But Simon connotes the quiet, studious kid. So one day, I went searching for Simons, to give my son some pride, and I found Simon de Montfort and I was blown away. So this book is for each one of my children, even though it is dedicated to my late mother.

Finally, I wanted to tell a love story that was essentially very grown up, based on mutual respect and esteem, as in Jane Austen. I believe that almost every great individual is usually part of a couple, only we don’t get to see the other half. And we don’t get to see how love can give people the strength to change the world. But to find out more than that, one will have to read the book.

Gerald Weaver

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About the Author

Gerald Weaver is the critically acclaimed author of Gospel Prism and The First First Gentleman. Gospel Prism, his first novel, a sly tribute to Charles Dickens, was described by critic Harold Bloom as ‘remarkable’ and ‘charming but disturbing’. A former lawyer and politician, Weaver now lives between Bethesda, Maryland and the United Kingdom. He has written for The Times, the Sunday Times, the Guardian, and numerous other publications. Weaver is a graduate of Yale University where he studied under Harold Bloom and the author Gordon Lish. Find out more from Gerald's website and find him on Twitter @Gerald_Weaver_

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