The Coronation: The Coffee Pot Blog Tour
It is 1761. Prussia is at war with Russia and Austria. As the Russian army occupies East Prussia, King Frederick the Great and his men fight hard to win back their homeland.
In Ludwigshain, a Junker estate in East Prussia, Countess Marion von Adler celebrates an exceptional harvest. But it is requisitioned by Russian troops. When Marion tries to stop them, a Russian captain strikes her. His lieutenant, Ian Fermor, defends Marion’s honour and is stabbed for his insubordination. Abandoned by the Russians, Fermor becomes a divisive figure on the estate.
Close to death, Fermor dreams of the Adler, a numinous eagle entity, whose territory extends across the lands of Northern Europe and which is mysteriously connected to the Enlightenment. What happens next will change of the course of human history…
From Chapter 7, The Nativity of Our Lady.
It’s from the point of view of Marion, Grafin (meaning Countess) von Adler (which means eagle). Sisi is her daughter, Hans her son, and Christoph is her estate manager.
Fifteen days after the visit from General von Fermor, Marion was walking along the tree-lined boulevard between Schloss Ludwigshain and the village of Löwenhagen. She was going to the church there to celebrate the Nativity of Our Lady, a feast day she particularly enjoyed, not least because she shared the same name as the Mother of Our Lord. Arm in arm with Sisi, who was as ebullient as the rays of the sun on this warm mid-September day. Ursula was with them. Hans opened the creaky old wooden gate to let them pass.
“Thank you,” Marion said. As she stepped into the churchyard, a pain crashed through her head. Feeling dizzy, she slumped against the wall of the porch.
“Mama, what’s the matter?” Sisi asked.
“Oh, it’s another attack of the vapours.” Ursula’s voice was even more anxious than usual.
“You never told me,” Sisi grumbled.
“It’s nothing of the kind, it’s just the glare of the sun and the stifling heat,” Marion protested, waving them away. Hans helped to steady her.
Christoph arrived with his walking stick; his hunchback more prominent than ever. “Your Excellency, go home to rest,” he suggested.
Sisi had a better one. “Hans, run and find von Ottenhagen.”
“No! That won’t be necessary. The doctor is a very busy man; I don’t want to waste his time on unimportant matters.” She shook her head and thankfully the waves of pain receded. “Give me a moment to recuperate. You worry needlessly about me, all of you.”
“For good reason, Mama.” Sisi was adamant. “You never stop working. You’re awake before the birds are tweeting and don’t sleep until the owls are hooting. It’s too much. You’re overwrought.”
“I’ve recovered now,” she said, taking a tentative step. “Please calm down. We’re here to celebrate the birth of Our Lady. Let’s do that as a family.”
Brushing away their demands to return home, she stumbled into the church. It was packed, everyone in their allotted places according to the seven Heerschilde. These were the Shields of Knighthood, the divinely-given ordering of society. In practice, it meant that she, as a free lord or lady, sat at the front, her vassals sat behind her, their vassals behind them, and so on, until at the back were people like Manfred, the local skinner. As an unclean member of society, he was Unehrliche Leute or a dishonourable person.
Konstantin wafted the incense censer up and down the aisle, lingering for a long while around the pews at the back, presumably to disguise the stagnant odours emanating from them and mask his own breath.
An air of anticipation swelled in the church. Three rings on the bell and Pastor Leopold emerged from the sacristy dressed in vestments of pale blue, as befitted a service in honour of Our Lady.
Marion’s heart was beating like a hussar’s drum, because she was about to play a part in the ceremony that had intrigued and excited her for many years. Its centrepiece was a statue in its own chapel in the south transept, concealed behind a pale blue curtain edged in silver.
As he emerged from the vestibule, the pastor was studying a letter. He stood by the eagle lectern and looked at them with withering disdain. With forehead deeply furrowed, he growled, “This morning, I received this letter from the bishop. It seems that in their foolish desperation, people are summoning demons to help them conjure food from the air itself. I’m ashamed to say that these acts were not committed by Unehrliche Leute, but by members of the Heerschilde proper, respectable people who should know better than dabble with evil spirits. These demons appear with angels’ wings, but behind their benign facade, they are treacherous. I warn you all. Beware of false prophets!”
Everyone bowed their heads. This was serious: her own people selling their souls to the Devil.
The pastor tucked the letter into his vestments and tried to break into what passed for a smile, saying, “Now, to the business of the day: it is my honour to invite the Gräfin von Adler to reveal to us, for today only, the mysterious statue of Our Lady von Adler.”
Marion bowed to the altar and edged towards the curtain where Konstantin stood waiting for her. Standing next to him was like balancing on a dinghy in a rough sea, because he was swaying this way and that, guided at each turn by the vapours of intoxication. He eventually managed to hand her the pull-cord for the curtain, which she grasped in hands moist with nervous energy.
She recalled the first time she had performed this ceremony. It was soon after her marriage, some seventeen years ago. Then, when unveiling the statue, she nearly fainted with the shock of seeing it. Over the years since, the aura of mystery surrounding the statue had never diminished. An enthralled silence descended on the church.
Pulling the cord revealed the strange and incongruous statue of Our Lady von Adler.
The congregation let out a collective gasp. They always did.
There was the statue in all its glory – a traditional interpretation of Our Lady dressed in a pale blue upper garment and white surplice, palms flat on her thighs, staring through the walls and out into the depths of the universe. With her other-worldly gaze, she was stealing a furtive glance into the sacred, tremulous core of life itself.
While from the neck down the rendering of the statue was entirely conventional, what was perched on her head was anything but.
There, with its talons buried in Our Lady’s head, was an adler – an eagle, a double-headed golden eagle. The sculptor had captured the moment when the King of the birds was about to take off, its huge wings spread wide, its beak open. Its claws were buried deep in her scalp.
With a life-size eagle perched unceremoniously on her head, the marriage of bird and human was an incongruous enigma.
Her own head was aching again. She couldn’t move.
She closed her eyes, opened and then quickly closed them. In that moment, she got a vivid impression. The Virgin Mary’s head was an egg. An egg! And the eagle was going to rip it off Our Lady’s neck and fly off with it.
Then she realised. The eagle was taking it off to its nest.
It was going to keep it by its brood patch to incubate.
The head of the Virgin Mary was an egg, a womb!
When she opened her eyes, the impression had vanished – and was replaced by a tidal wave of pain gushing through her own head.
Twitter Handle: @matadorbooks @maryanneyarde
Instagram Handle: @drjustinnewland @coffeepotbookclub
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Book Title and Author Name:
By Justin Newland
Author’s Website (buyers can enter a dedication to be signed by the author): https://www.justinnewland.com/the-coronation~102
Publisher’s Website: https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/fantasy-and-horror/the-coronation/
Bookswagon (India): https://www.bookswagon.com/book/coronation-justin-newland/9781838591885
Exclusive Books (SA): https://www.exclusivebooks.co.za/product/9781838591885
Justin Newland is an author of historical fantasy and secret history thrillers – that’s history with a supernatural twist. His stories feature known events and real people from history which are re-told and examined through the lens of the supernatural. He gives author talks and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio Bristol’s Thought for the Day. He lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.
The Genes of Isis is a tale of love, destruction and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt. A re-telling of the Biblical story of the flood, it reveals the mystery of the genes of Isis – or genesis – of mankind. ISBN 9781789014860.
“The novel is creative, sophisticated, and downright brilliant! I couldn’t ask more of an Egyptian-esque book!” – Lauren, Books Beyond the Story.
The Old Dragon’s Head is a historical fantasy and supernatural thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and played out in the shadows the Great Wall of China. It explores the secret history of the influences that shaped the beginnings of modern times. ISBN 9781789015829.
‘The author is an excellent storyteller.” – British Fantasy Society.
Set during the Great Enlightenment, The Coronation reveals the secret history of the Industrial Revolution. ISBN 9781838591885.
“The novel explores the themes of belonging, outsiders… religion and war… filtered through the lens of the other-worldly.” – A. Deane, Page Farer Book Blog.
His latest, The Abdication (July, 2021), is a suspense thriller, a journey of destiny, wisdom and self-discovery. ISBN 9781800463950.
“In Topeth, Tula confronts the truth, her faith in herself, faith in a higher purpose, and ultimately, what it means to abdicate that faith.”
- Triola, Coast to Coast.
Social Media Links:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B06WRQVLT8