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Every once in a while, a historical novelist comes across something that makes her realize her invention is more plausible than she originally thought.

In The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar (to be rereleased in November), I made up one of the terms for the peace treaty after the 772 war between the Franks and the Saxons: free Saxons would remain free. My heroine, Leova, is betrayed by her relatives when she’s sold into slavery, and that condition makes that part of the plot possible. Otherwise, Pinabel, the Frankish count who buys them, could just grab them without any help from treacherous relatives.

Later, Pinabel grumbles to a merchant, “The priests, soft-headed fools, persuaded our king to forbid us from taking free Saxons. I argued against such idiocy, but my words only vexed him. I had to comply with the terms of the treaty, lest I lose his favor—and the bishopric I want for my sister’s son.”

At the time I wrote that, I rationalized that King Charles (Charlemagne) might agree to such a condition as a goodwill gesture that would also make the missionaries’ work easier. As I did some research for my post about slavery on Unusual Historicals, I found that if the treaty prevented enslavement, churchmen would be behind the move. To them, Saxony was not only land, it was a battlefield for souls, and they could not convert people shipped off to Muslim lands or owned by non-Christians.

Visit Unusual Historicals for more about why the clergy disapproved war captives becoming slaves.

Medieval Peasants

From A History of Medieval and Renaissance Europe for Secondary Schools, published 1920 (Internet Archive Book Images, no known copyright restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons)