Interviews with the authors – The books just published
The Author Ornella Albanese – The Falconer of the Kings
by Andira Vitale
Known by the nickname “stupor mundi” Frederick II was endowed with a multifaceted and fascinating personality who, since his time, has polarized the attention of historians and the people, also producing a long series of myths and popular legends, for good and for bad. The charisma of Frederick II was such that in the aftermath of his death, which took place in Fiorentino di Puglia, his son Manfredi, future king of Sicily, in a letter addressed to his brother Corrado IV quoted these words: “The sun of the world has asleep, he who shone on the peoples, the sun of the just, the asylum of peace “.
His reign was mainly characterized by a strong moralizing legislative activity and artistic and cultural innovation, aimed at unifying lands and peoples. His court was a meeting place between Greek, Latin, Germanic, Arab and Jewish cultures. Federico was an appreciable man of letters, a convinced protector of artists and scholars. He spoke six languages (Latin, Sicilian, German, French, Greek and Arabic) and played an important role in promoting literature through the poetry of the Sicilian School. His Sicilian royal court in Palermo saw one of the first literary uses of a Romance language, the Sicilian. The poetry that was produced by the Sicilian School had a notable influence on literature and on what was to become the modern Italian language. The school and its poetry were greeted with enthusiasm by Dante and his contemporaries, and anticipated the use of the Tuscan language as the language of the literary elite of Italy by at least a century.
An extraordinarily cultured and energetic man, he established in Sicily and southern Italy a political structure very similar to a modern kingdom, centrally governed and with an efficient administration but strongly opposed by the Church, whose temporal power questioned by the sovereign. In fact, he had two excommunications from Pope Gregory IX, who came to see him as the antichrist.
Such an interesting and important historical personality relives in the hands of the writer Ornella Albanese. Let’s go to the spirit of the time, that is to Puglia, in December 1250. The emperor Frederick of Swabia is hunting in his lands. He is accompanied by a young falconer, Matthias, who will collect Frederick II’s last words on his deathbed in Florentinum. He thus decides to put himself at the service of the emperor’s sons, Corrado, Manfredi and Enzo and will witness the culminating moments of their lives, moments of glory and tragedy. Next to him, an equally passionate woman that Matthias has always believed unattainable, Lucretia di Torre Ventosa, noble and beautiful. The novel also tells of Matthias’ strong bond with the majestic falcon that the emperor gave him.
– Mrs Albanese, Your book deals with both historical reality and historical personalities. It is compelling. Is there a special reason why you wrote about such a difficult person and period?
Ornella Albanese – A story can arise from an image that strikes us, from a landscape, from a painting. Or from an idea that has been living in it for a long time and that finally finds a way to come true, as happened with Il Falconere dei Re. It was a complex idea, I wanted to create a link between my places of the heart, which were the scene of the events of the Swabian kings: Puglia where I lived for a long time, Abruzzo where I was born, Bologna where I live and Sicily which I love very much.
– We see that Federico’s influential personality and life are also reflected in the book.
Ornella Albanese – When he was orphaned at the age of four, Federico had no money, no army, and no authority. He only had a glorious name on which to build his future and the idea of the empire that flowed along with his blood. From that starting point, he managed to realize many of his visions, waging an epic war against the Papacy and revealing himself to be far more enlightened than the rulers of his time. The Middle Ages is a dark age, but most of its lights, in art and knowledge, were the merit of Frederick II. Blood is transmitted to children and so he also transmitted, with blood, his idea of sovereignty to his heirs, who collected it and paid hard for it.
– But there is much more in the book. As we travel through the book, we also learn a lot about the Suebi. And we can see what is happening in the power struggle…
Ornella Albanese – My primary goal was to make known the main events of Emperor Frederick II of Swabia and his sons: the cruel King Conrad, the valiant King Manfredi and the Enzo. Federico’s last days, his memories, and what happens next to his children are observed by two characters I invented who give life to a story in history. They are the falconer Matthias and the noble Lucrezia of Torre Ventosa, who tells the life of the Swabians through their acute testimonies.
Ornella Albanese – My primary goal was to make known the main events of Emperor Frederick II of Swabia and his sons: the cruel King Conrad, the valiant King Manfredi and the prisoner King Enzo. Federico’s last days, his memories, and what happens next to his children are observed by two characters I invented who gives life to a story in history. They are the falconer Matthias and the noble Lucrezia of Torre Ventosa, who tells the life of the Swabians through their acute testimonies.
– It is normal for each reader to have a different perception. Especially on such multifaceted and historically specific issues. Is there a primary message in your book that you want to give to society?
Ornella Albanese – The historical novel is a message in itself. History, paradoxically, is a mirror that reflects us. I’m thrilled to dig into historical characters and find fragments of universality. Of course, time is a filter, civilization operates a kind of mediation, but human nature has remained fundamentally unchanged over the centuries, feelings, passion, emotions. History also tells us what human mistakes have been. If we are far-sighted enough, we find the key to not repeating them, but this rarely happens. And if we look for a specific message, it is certainly a warning not to give up. Fighting to the end to make your dreams come true because it can happen to see them come true.
– How long did it take to write this historical novel? Was there a particular place that you preferred while writing?
Ornella Albanese – In 2020 we were in lockdown, so I spent most of the days at home, and I had plenty of time to calmly tackle this complex job. The basic drafting of The Falconer of the Kings took about eight months, and the documentation work was very long. I wrote for the most part in the summer, in my country house in Abruzzo, so a quiet atmosphere, very suitable for immersing myself in a novel that completely involved me. I like to say that this story has possessed me, I felt it inside me, I couldn’t get away from it until I finished the book.
– Mrs Ornella Albanese You tell us one of the most important moments in Italian history with a very important personality. We thank you …
Ornella Albanes – And I thank you for the nice hospitality.