Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Silver Branch and Carausius, Rebel Emperor of Britain

In front of me lies an unopened copy of Rosemary Sutcliff’s  The Silver Branch, the second book in The Eagle of the Ninth sequence. I’m just about to start the story and thought I’d do a little research about the period in which the book is set.

The year is 284 AD, 150 years later than the first book, The Eagle of the Ninth. Britain has been occupied by Rome since AD 43, but has now been declared a sovereign state by the military commander Marcus  Carausius, now turned renegade emperor of Britain.

Carausius is a very interesting character in Roman history.  Here’s what has to say about him.

Although he had initially earned his living at sea as a helmsman, he served with honor in the military against the Bagauda e under the Emperor Maximianus Herculius. Because of his naval background, he was commissioned by the emperor to build a fleet and clear the seas of Saxon and Frankish pirates in the autumn of 286; he operated from out of Boulogne (Bononia). Although he carried out his commission with speed, for one reason or another he did not turn over to imperial treasury all of the loot that he obtained. Due to these financial irregularities, Herculius ordered his arrest and execution. Rather than submitting to the emperor’s will, Carausius fled to Britain with his fleet and declared himself emperor. His realm included Britain and perhaps the area around Bononia (Boulogne).

So it looks like Carausius was a bit of a crook, possibly in cahoots with Saxon pirates, stealing enough loot and aquiring enough boats and crew (possibly the same Saxon Pirates) to become a significant power himself, enough indeed to create an enemy of the emperor of Rome, and then become self appointed ruler of Rome for 7 years. Wow, I can’t wait to read the book!

El Usurpador del Imperio (The Silver Branch, in Spain)

And now I am on the track of Spanish material about Rosemary Sutcliff, I have found this too about The Silver Branch (I think) . This too I have yet to translate!Read More »

Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Silver Branch | The Folio Society beautiful illustrated edition | Sutcliff re-Discovery of the Day

This beautiful illustration of Little Cullen from Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel, The Silver Branch is from The Folio Society’s 2004 edition, drawn by Roman Pisarev. (From another great comment from Anne ).

You can buy this beautiful edition of the book  from the Folio Society’s website. There is also a stunning version of The Eagle of the Ninth, probably Rosemary Sutcliff’s most famous novel which you can buy it here.

Rosemary Sutcliff cross-over book The SiIver Branch loved by Scottish Amazon customer | Rosemary Sutcliff Review of the Week

Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novel The Silver Branch was much admired and enjoyed by Amazon Scottish customer Robert Livingston, who gave it five stars a few years back.

When I was just old enough to start taking an interest in ‘real’ books, a wise librarian suggested to my mother that I might like The Silver Branch. I have loved it ever since and have read and reread it many times. Read More »

A Dolphin Ring belonging to the Aquila family provides a thread through several of the historical fiction novels of Rosemary Sutcliff


“Marcus took it from him and bent to examine it. It was a heavy signet-ring; and on the flawed emerald which formed the bezel was engraved the dolphin badge of his own family …” (The Eagle of the Ninth)

The Eagle of the Ninth was first published in 1954. Various books are linked by this Dolphin ring of the Aquila family. In TThe Silver Branch from 1957  Flavius, a descendent of Marcus, and his kinsman Justin lead a resistance movement to the Saxon attacks on Britain.Then in Frontier Wolfpublished in 1980,  Alexios (“a scion of Marcus’ blood”) leads the Frontier Wolves who manned an outpost in the far north of Roman Britain. The much earlier (1959) The Lantern Bearers was also set in Roman Britain, during the coming of Anglo-Saxon invaders. The nineteen-year-old Aquila (again, a descendant of Marcus) sees his home and family destroyed by Anglo-Saxon invaders and becomes a slave, before escaping to join the free men in Wales where he meets a young leader Artos the Bear (Rosemary Sutcliff’s interpretation of King Arthur). Sword At Sunset (1963) follows the story of Artos the Bear.

In Dawn Wind, published in 1961, Owain is fourteen when the British war-hosts gather to hold what territory they still had against the Saxons. He hopes that one day ‘the dawn wind might blow and some part of the Britain he had known might be restored.’ Owain too is descended from Marcus. The Dolphin ring turns up again in Sword Song (1991), and finally in The Shield Ring (1956) a group of Vikings, including Beorn – last descendent of the Marcus line, though now with Norse blood, lives in the Fells of Lakeland, trying to hold out against the resources of Norman England.

In summary, chronologically:

The Eagle of the Ninth (1954) – 2nd century
The Silver Branch (1957) – 3rd century
Frontier Wolf (1980) – 4th century
The Lantern Bearers (1959) – 5th century
Sword At Sunset (1963) – 5th century
Dawn Wind (1961) – 6th century
Sword Song (1997) – 10th century
The Shield Ring (1956) – 11th century
“Angharad wore around her neck a heavy golden ring, much battered and set with some dark green stone……(with a dolphin)  engraved on it” (Sword Song)