So begins the story of the first Eisteddfod, as told by the people of the court.
Perhaps best known as a storyteller and writer for children, Liz Whittaker has brought her lyrical skills to bear in this beautifully presented and clearly imagined tale, which she has dedicated to the town of Cardigan, her home and inspiration.
To provide a full record of the celebrations, as well as a nuanced portrayal of the Lord Rhys, Walter Map calls on three people to tell their personal stories: Father Rhygyfarch, the hunchback priest, who compares life under the monstrous Fitzstephen, former Castellan of Cardigan, with Rhys’s gentler and more generous rule; Rhys’s loving and long-suffering wife, Gwenllian, who offers a domestic view and a woman’s insights; and Hywel Sais, one of Rhys’s illegitimate sons, who has returned from the battlefield in France especially for the Christmas festivities.
creates four distinct yet coherent voices to
weave a fictional narrative that is grounded
in carefully researched historical fact and
follows in the bardic tradition of storytelling.
Her characters come gently to life on the page,
with the court, castle and town of Cardigan
standing proudly in their midst.
Court in Splendour -- what a wonderful, colourful,
informative and enjoyable read. The story of
the first Eisteddfod at Cardigan Castle is told
from several viewpoints and in distinct voices,
which brings the whole spectacle alive and leaves
you wanting more.
the voices of the individual characters we discover,
in an exciting way, a little known, fascinating,
piece of Welsh history. I particularly like
Gwenllian, as she sometimes has to put up stoically
with her husband but is not immune to a lover's
whisper, all the while looking after the business
of the castle and her children.'
'I just want to say thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to read your wonderfully crafted book. I just love your story telling and I feel you have not only delivered in making your story telling characters accessible to all, I feel you have created the kind of a warmth that very few books can offer. I have been reading the book in work this week and as I have been looking out of the window on this very cold, bleak and gloomy weather of ours your book has filled me with exiting warmth, not only for the heritage of the area but also anticipation for Christmastide events!! I feel like I now understand the passion surrounding the Bardic Chair.
I wish you every success with A Court in Splendour!!
A truly charming read!'
'It is written in Brut y Tywysogion that the
Arglwydd Rhys at Christmastide in the year 1176
held a contest in which poets and musicians
gathered together and there was for the victor’s
two chairs. This as we all know was the beginning
of what has now come to be known as the most
important event for Welsh poets and writers
the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol.
suppose I cannot blame the author for the fact
that I stayed up too late reading the first
fifty pages before I could turn off the light
but I do love the book, find it compelling and
lyrical, wonderfully immersed in a sense of
place and time.'
Whittaker`s immense talent and eye for detail
enchants and transports us to 12th century Wales,
in such a way that to read her is to be there
& to understand every aspect of life at
that time. It is a tremendous story and to know
her characters and be swept along in events
means that on finishing the book there is a
sense of loss and a void to be filled.'
Court in Splendour`, is a splendid read indeed.
Liz Whittaker uses her agile imagination to
weave a colourful tale of fiction combined with
accurate and well researched fact. Her talent
as a story-teller and her extensive cultural
knowledge are both evident in this enjoyable
insight into Welsh history. The story is told
with a personal liveliness and breathes a sense
of humour into this most important historical
event . It should be read by every competitor
and visitor to the modern Eisteddfod.