Women, how they do haunt this tale.
When I began writing Arthur’s story I thought it would be a tale of men; a chronicle of swords and spears, of battles won and frontiers made, of ruined treaties and broken kings, for is that not how history itself is told? When we recite the genealogy of our kings we do not name their mothers and grandmothers, but say Mordred ap Mordred ap Uther ap Kustennin al Kynnar and so on all the way back to the great Beli Mawr who is the father of us all. History is a story told by men and of men’s making, but in this tale of Arthur, like the glimmer of salmon in peat-dark water, the women do shine.
Men do make history, and I cannot deny that it was men who brought Britain low. There were hundreds of us, and all of us were armed in leather and iron, and hung with shield and sword and spear, and we thought Britain lay at our command for we were warriors, but it took both a man and a woman to bring Britain low, and of the two it was the woman who did the greater damage. She made one curse and an army died, and this is her tale now for she was Arthur’s enemy.
– Bernard Cornwell, Excalibur
I am obviously a huge Cornwell fan and admire his beginnings because they hit all the targets. But this is your last chance to agree or disagree. So let me know – does the opening of Excalibur have the making of a great beginning?