Novel inspired by research in Highlands

Austin Hernon's first novel.
Austin Hernon's first novel.

A Huthwaite author has published his first novel about the life of Robert II of Normandy, the eldest son of William the Conqueror.

‘Robert, the Wayward Prince’, by Austin Hernon, is the first book in a projected trilogy about the thwarted heir to the throne which aims to rescue the forgotten figure from the footnotes of history.

The fictionalised biography, told from Robert’s point of view, seeks to restore the reputation of a man who was a sound military thinker, strategist and cavalryman, and who ‘virtually singlehandedly prevented the retaking of Jerusalem right after the Crusaders took it.’

Austin, of Bonser Crescent, said: “Robert’s story is one of a man who never quite achieved his potential. He didn’t inherit the crown of England as would be expected of the eldest son, and his own sons never got the chance to become kings. He lost the dukedom of Normandy in 1106, nearly 20 years before his death. “He excelled at military action, enjoyed the skirmishes and wars and would have enjoyed a powerful reputation as a young man, following his exploits in the First Crusade. He was a great strategist too, and took Norman warfare beyond Hastings. And he proved skilled at diplomacy... and was a huge success with women. He might not have been conventionally handsome but he was strong.

“Yet Robert II remains a footnote. Unless you visit his resting place at Gloucester Cathedral and see his effigy, or perhaps ferret out the history of Newcastle-on-Tyne – or find reference to him at Cardiff Castle, you’re unlikely to ever hear of the Conqueror’s first-born.”

Historians have characterised Robert to a weak, ineffectual son who wasn’t interested in his inheritance and who made the scandalous mistake of not making it to his father’s deathbed at Rouen in 1087.

“We still don’t know whether this was because he wasn’t told in time or whether he decided it was best to stay away, but history has put the worst interpretation on it,” said Austin. “Perhaps the fate of England would have been changed if Robert had been able to rush to the dying Conqueror’s side?” Perhaps William would have forgiven him utterly for not being made in his image and gifted him the English crown, as was his birthright? Who knows.”

The e-book is published by Troubadour and costs £2.99. It can bought at Amazon, Tesco and Kobo.

Austin intends to follow the Wayward Prince with Book Two: The Warriors of the Cross and Book Three: William, The Renegade Prince