IT IS HARD TO think now of that dreary time. I lived through it only because of Hope. I told myself it could not last. He could not keep me thus forever. At first I thought he planned to kill me, but later I guessed he did not want my death on his conscience as Becket’s was. I was not ill treated, and after the first weeks I ceased to think of assassins who would come in the night and put an end to my life; I no longer wondered if every sip of liquid, every mouthful of food, would poison me.
He did not intend me to die. I had to live, deprived of everything I enjoyed. I have no doubt that he derived some joy from that.
Winter was with us. It was cold in my fortress but I had fur rugs to keep me warm. I was given food. But everything else I was deprived of. He just wanted to keep me alive, so that I suffered in my misery.
There was no news. My guards were silent. They had been ordered to tell me nothing, and they obeyed their orders.
How long? I used to ask myself. How long shall I be incarcerated here? It could be for years. What was he doing now? He had subdued his enemies, I was sure. What of my children? Where were they? I hoped they had not been misguided enough to take up arms against him afresh. They would never defeat him. He was undefeatable.
Winter passed—the longest and most dreary winter of my life. He could not have thought of anything that would have been more unacceptable for me.
Christmas came. How different from other Christmases! Where was Richard? What was he thinking now? And Henry and Geoffrey and the girls? They would surely think of their mother at Christmastime. And he . . . my enemy . . . he would gloat the more. He would be saying: “Now she will see what happens to those who defy me.”
I hated him. I was sorry that he had not been utterly defeated and yet I was admiring him in a way because he would always win.
Spring had come. Each day was like another. I hoped for something to happen . . . anything rather than this dreary monotony. The days seemed long, and yet when I looked back I could hardly believe I had been here all that time.
Long summer days. I looked out at the green fields and felt more of a prisoner than I had during the dark days of winter. Could I have been here a year?
How long could I endure it? I should have to do something . . . find a way of escape.
It was a morning in July when I awoke to change. They were lowering the drawbridge, and there was activity everywhere. My door was opened. My sullen guards stood there. I was to prepare for a journey, they indicated.
My heart leaped with excitement. It was over then . . . this wearisome imprisonment. At last I was going to move. Where were we going? I wanted to know. They could not tell me. I should find out soon enough.
We were traveling north. Was he sending me to England? Perhaps, because he knew how much I loved my own country and he would want to take me away from it. Perhaps I should hear news of what was happening to my children. The hardest part of all was to be in ignorance of what was happening to them. I, who had been so much at the center of events, to be shut away like this, a prisoner of a vindictive husband!
How I hated him! I would kill him if I had a chance. I hoped my sons would go on fighting him, let him know what an inhuman monster he was to me.
We were traveling north. We were almost certainly going to England. Barfleur. Right on he coast. This could mean only one thing.
Forty vessels lay in the Channel. I remembered the first time I had been here . . . an eager bride with a husband who, I had thought, loved me as I loved him. But even at that time he had been unfaithful.
How rough the sea was! The wind was lashing the waves fully. No one could put to sea in such weather . . . except Henry. He did not care for the weather. He could not bear inactivity.
I heard a little now of what was going on. There was more freedom. A woman called Amaria was given to me to look after my needs and act as maid. I liked her immediately, and she was to prove a great comfort to me. She was alert-minded, a gossipy woman with a talent for remembering and recording details. She was vitally interested in everything that was going on around her, and she had a capacity for disarming those with whom she came in contact so that she was able to extract confidences. She quickly grew fond of me and, understanding my craving for news, determined to supply all she could.
We traveled down to Salisbury, one of the most strongly fortified castles in the country. Henry was taking no chances on my escaping.
I settled into my new prison. It was an improvement on the old, particularly so because I had Amaria as my maid-companion and informant.
It was from her that I learned of Henry’s penance. The whole country was talking of it, said Amaria. The King, dressed as a humble pilgrim, had walked barefoot over the cobbles, making his way to the cathedral.
“They say his feet were bleeding, my lady, and he did not complain. It was what he wanted . . . to suffer to make up for what had happened to the Archbishop. The Bishop of London was there to receive him.”
The Bishop of London! That would be Gilbert Foliot. That was interesting for Foliot had been no friend to Becket. He had always been jealous of him. I supposed he was penitent now.
“The King asked to be taken to the very place where the Archbishop had been struck down,” went on Amaria, “and when they took him there, he lay on the stones and wept bitterly . . . so that his tears could fall where Thomas Becket’s blood had fallen. Then the Bishop went into the pulpit and told everyone why the King had come. He said that King Henry was praying for the salvation of his soul. He wanted it known that he did not order the death of the martyr but feared the murderers had misunderstood some words he had imprudently uttered and for that reason he sought chastisement and would bare his back to receive the discipline of the rod. That the King should act so! Nobody could believe their eyes, but it is true, my lady.”
“I understand him well. He knew this was the only way for him to escape from the burden which the death of this man had attached to him. He was guilt-ridden . . . and impatient of it. So he took this step . . . drastic as it is and unprecedented. What king has ever humbled himself so before? But it does not surprise me. He feels that the stigma of Becket’s death is impeding his progress. Therefore he will take any step, however demeaning, to get this obstacle out of his way. And what was the King’s reply to the Bishop?”
“That what the Bishop had said was what he had commanded him to, and he hoped his humble penance would be acceptable to God and the dead Archbishop. He said he had paid for lights to be set up at the tomb of the martyr and to be kept burning there. He had ordered that a hospital be built in honor of God and the blessed martyr. The Bishop then said that he would help with the building of the hospital and grant indulgences to all those who contributed to it. He himself should be joining in the King’s penance, for he had said when the body of the martyr lay on the stones of the cathedral that it should be thrown into a dunghill or hung on a gibbet. Greatly he regretted that and repented of it.”
“The old hypocrite!” I cried. “He certainly should have bared his back to the rod. What else did you glean, Amaria?”
“That the King went into the crypt, removed his top garments and knelt by the tomb, and each of the monks in the convent took a whip and struck the King three blows saying, ‘As thy Redeemer was scourged for the sin of man, so be thou scourged for thy own sin.’ The King then prayed to Thomas Becket and went around the cathedral stopping at the shrine to say prayers and ask forgiveness for his sins. He stayed there all day and the next night.”
“He would do it thoroughly,” I said.
“The next day he heard Mass and drank holy water which contained a drop of Thomas’s blood which they had saved while he lay bleeding on the stones. Then the King left Canterbury.”
I could imagine him. The tiresome business had had to be enacted; he had had to humble himself; but he had not really done that. He would never humble himself. Any who thought he would must be mistaken. He had had to perform this unpleasant task, so with his usual energy he had performed it . . . thoroughly and efficiently. From now on the matter of Becket’s murder was over for him.
Amaria, free to go where she liked, was often in the town; she talked to the guards; she was a mine of information. Naturally curious and interested in people, she quickly understood that one of the hardest things I had to bear was being cut off from events. I believed she had an affection for me and was eager to please me, so she made this gleaning of information her greatest task and pleasure.
Soon after she had so graphically described Henry’s penance, she came in with the news that the Scottish King, who had been making trouble, had been captured and made a prisoner at Alnwick. It had happened while Henry was doing his penance.
After his ordeal he had retired to bed. He spent a day there. He must have been feeling very weak to do that. I expected the monks had laid on rather hard with their whips. It must have been an opportunity too good to be missed. I wished I had been one of them. I would have given him a few sharp strokes.
The news of the Scottish King’s capture was brought to him while he was in bed.
“They say, my lady, that he leaped out of bed,” was Amaria’s version. “He said it was a sign from Heaven . . . from Thomas Becket up there. ‘We are friends once more,’ cried the King. ‘Now you will work for me. I shall go from victory to victory. We shall be friends as we were in the beginning.’”
I laughed. Amaria amused me. But I think it must have happened something like that. Henry used everything to advantage. Did he really believe that the capture of the King of Scotland was due to Becket’s help? One thing he would know was that the people would think so; and that would be important to Henry. What a combination—Thomas in Heaven, Henry on Earth. They would be invincible.
I knew he would be smiling to himself. The humiliation of walking barefoot, the sore back, the humble confession of guilt . . . it was all worthwhile. Now the people would believe that Henry was at peace with Heaven, and Thomas was on his side. Let his enemies beware.
I was moved from Salisbury to Winchester, where life was a little easier. I lived in comparative comfort. Of course I missed the fine clothes which I had always had in abundance; I missed my musicians and my Court of Poitiers.
My jailer for a while was Ranulf de Glanville, which showed how important I was to the King, for he was one of his most trusted subjects. He was the Chief Justiciar of England and a man of many gifts. He was Sheriff of Lancashire and during the recent Scottish invasion had led the men of Lancashire into the attack which had resulted in the capture of the King of Scotland. It was Ranulf who had taken the news to the King. He had Henry’s complete trust. I did not believe I would get any concessions from him.
Another of my jailers was William FitzStephen, who was to write a biography of Becket, with whom he had been in close contact for ten years. During the time of his intimacy with Becket, Henry must have come to know FitzStephen very well. He had been a subdeacon in Becket’s chapel and entrusted with special duties.
I viewed Henry’s choice of jailers with mixed feelings. In the first place, I felt it a mark of respect for me that he would not give the post to any but those he trusted absolutely; but secondly it meant that my chances of escape were slight—or, more accurately, nonexistent.
I had been in England over a year when I had a visitor, a Cardinal who had come to England and found himself drawn into a matter which Henry was considering.
He was very suave, friendly and compassionate.
“My lady,” he said, “how different this life must be from that to which you have been accustomed in the past.” I could agree with him on that. “I know you have always been interested in the Abbey of Fontevrault.”
“Yes,” I said, now very alert.
“How would you feel about going there and living a life of peace?”
“I have never thought I was suited to the cloistered existence. It is not in my nature to be.”
“But here you are . . . cloistered. You are a prisoner. There you would be free.”
“Has the King sent you here?”
He lowered his eyes. “The King has suggested that I visit you.”
“With a purpose in mind, I see. To get rid of me by sending me to Fontevrault. I retire . . . and my retirement means that a divorce can be arranged for the King. Is that it? There is no need to mince words with me, Cardinal.”
“My lady, the King thinks of your welfare.”
“Not forgetting his own.”
“It seems this would be beneficial to you both. You are . . .” He hesitated. “ . . . my lady, you are no longer young.”
“I am fifty-three years of age. Time, you suggest, for me to retire from the world?”
“You would find a life of meditation and prayer most satisfactory.”
“And if I took to it, so would Henry. A divorce would be easy, would it not? A wife who has retired from the world is as good as dead. And a divorce? Does he plan to marry again? Whom would he marry? His mistress, Rosamund Clifford? He lives with her openly now, does he not? Does he plan to have sons by her and replace my sons? I would never agree to that.”
“All the King wishes is to give you a life of peace where you can meditate on the past and earn remission of your sins.”
“He would do well to behave in like manner.”
“None of us is without sin, my lady.”
“And some are more overburdened by it than others. Let us be plain about this. I will not go to Fontevrault Abbey.”
“You would be Abbess of course . . . mistress of your world . . . the ruler of the abbey as you have been of the duchy.”
I laughed. “You are trying to tempt me, Cardinal. The King has sent you and paid you well for it, I doubt not. You have come here to get my consent to go into a nunnery, giving him reasons for divorce, so making him free to take a new wife and get more sons . . . those whom he would mold to his way of thinking, unlike those who love their mother well and hate their father. Does he really think to marry Rosamund Clifford? It is impossible! But then he is a man who refuses to see anything as impossible. You will have to go back to the King and tell him no, no, no. I will not be forced into a convent . . . even Fontevrault. I will stay here, his prisoner, to plague him, a barrier between him and his fair Rosamund. Go back to him and tell him that he will have to think of another way of ridding himself of me.”
When he had gone, I found myself thinking of Fontevrault.
I might be fifty-three years old but I was not yet at that stage when I wished to think of the life to come. I believed I had a few more years ahead of me, and something told me that I should not be a prisoner forever. I would not shut myself away from the world. I wanted to know what my boys were doing. Henry, too. He must think that I saw no release in sight and might as well shut myself away in Fontevrault where I should at least have the dignity of ruling my own little world. He did not realize that I should never give up and that my spirit was as indomitable as his.
Moreover, following his exploits, hating him fiercely, was a rather enjoyable occupation.
A year passed uneventfully for me. I heard that there had been a reconciliation between the King and young Henry. My son had been with the King of France; there he had raged against his father for imprisoning me and saying that he would like to do the same to him.
I was afraid that he swayed this way and that, wondering which way would be to his advantage. What he wanted more than anything, I was sure, was the crown of England; and Louis could not give him that. I often wondered how differently everything would have turned out if Henry had not made that vital mistake of crowning his son King while he lived.
Young Henry eventually decided that his father had more to offer than Louis and he went to him at Bures and fell on his knees before him—the prodigal son returned to the bosom of his family, having seen the error of his ways, and begging for forgiveness.
I was amazed at Henry’s softness where young Henry was concerned. He loved that boy dearly. He could see only good in him. He had long assured himself that all that had gone wrong between them was due to my influence; he would not have been so gentle with Richard or Geoffrey. Delighted to have him back docile, playing the obedient son for a while, Henry promised him money and let him see how overjoyed he was to be friends with him.
I could have told him that the amity between them would not last.
People smiled at the softness of the King toward his son. They ate at the same table, slept in the same bedchamber. I guessed this was because Henry wished to keep an eye on the boy. I wondered how long it would last.
These little pieces of information came to me at intervals and I had to piece them together to get the picture, but knowing both my son and my husband so well, I was able to do this with ease.
I was amused when I heard that young Henry was planning to go on a pilgrimage during Lent of the next year to St. James of Compostela. This idea was too much for the King to accept. He said very firmly that there would be no pilgrimage. I can imagine how young Henry sulked. The happy reunion was coming to the end; the King must surely understand by now that he could never make his son into another such as himself. What was strange was that he should have been so devoted to him. I should have thought Richard would have appealed to him more.
I was proud of my favorite son. He was already showing himself to possess unusual military skill. He was not quite nineteen years old but he was proving a resourceful ruler. At this time there was a great deal of trouble in Aquitaine. The people were disgruntled because they knew I was Henry’s prisoner, and that made them very angry with him. They knew I had made Richard my heir. He was more like me than any other of my children. He loved music; he would fill his Court with troubadours. But there were always rebels to raise trouble, and Richard had not won the love which they gave to me.
Young Henry was becoming more and more dissatisfied, and finally the King gave him permission to go to Aquitaine to help Richard, who could do with some assistance.
The opportunity was apparently seized with eagerness. Anything to get away from his father’s stern rule. What use would young Henry be to Richard? I had no idea, but it did occur to me that he might dally on the way.
So young Henry set out. His father had insisted that a man in whom he had great faith—a certain Adam Churchdown—should travel with the entourage, and secretly I expect Adam had instructions to report on the young King’s conduct to his father.
I was at Winchester when, to my great delight, Amaria came to me one day to tell me that my daughter Joanna was in the castle.
I was overcome with joy. Joanna, my youngest daughter, was very dear to me, as were all my daughters. I may not have mentioned them as frequently as my sons, but that is because, as girls in this man-governed world, they were not at the center of events as my sons were.
Richard, of course, would always be first in my thoughts, and Henry and Geoffrey were a source of some anxiety, but my daughters had been docile and loving, and my joy at knowing Joanna was under the same roof was intense.
Amaria, in whom I had confided to some extent, was well aware of my feelings, and with a little conspiring had arranged that my daughter’s guardian should bring her just below my window so that I could look out and see her.
What joy it was to behold my daughter! She looked up at me, and I could sense her happiness at seeing me. Poor child, she was about to be sent away to a strange land and an unknown husband. It was the fate of princesses, but at such a time she should have had her mother with her.
Each day Joanna would be brought to that spot and we would gaze at each other. I was dreading the time when she would leave.
Then came a day which I remember now with an uplifting of my spirits. I was to be temporarily released from my prison. I was to join my daughter to help her prepare for her wedding to the King of Sicily. We should remain at Winchester and after my daughter had left the country, I should once again be confined.
I did not care. For the time being I was free and I was to be with my beloved daughter. With what joy we embraced!
“My child,” I said. “I feared you had forgotten me.”
“I never would,” she declared fervently, and I was so happy.
She was afraid, she told me; she did not know what her husband would be like; she did not know what Sicily would be like. I soothed her. All would be well, I said. She was beautiful and talented and her husband must surely love her dearly.
She said: “He has not yet decided that he will have me. He is sending his ambassadors to inspect me.”
“Assuredly they will tell their master that you are completely lovable.” I took her face in my hands. “That is what you want, is it not?”
“I don’t know,” she answered. “I should not want him to turn from me. On the other hand if he did, I should stay here.”
We were able to smile together.
The ambassadors arrived. She was with me before she met them. I told her she had nothing to fear.
“Just be yourself,” I said. “That is the best way to please them.”
I must have inspired her with confidence, for they thought her not only beautiful but dignified and delightful in every way.
She told me that when she had seen me at the window she remembered so much of the times we had together. She had missed me sadly and had implored the King to allow me to be with her. At first he had refused, but she had wept and told him how frightened she was, how lonely and sad, and how much she wanted to be with her mother. And at last he said yes. “He said you would after all know what I should wear.”
“Well, we are together,” I said. “And you will be happy, I promise you, for you are of a nature to be so. I have heard that your bridegroom is very handsome . . . and good, I am sure. I have seen a picture of him. He has long curling hair and a very fine complexion. He looked very impressive in his armor. It is said he is liberal to the poor, which shows a gentle and kindly nature. They are already calling him ‘William the Good.’”
They were busy and happy days for me . . . like an oasis in a dreary desert. The Bishop of Winchester was appointed to entertain the Sicilian embassy, and I gave myself up to planning Joanna’s wardrobe. Henry had arranged for his half-brother, an illegitimate son of Geoffrey le Bel, to be her principal escort. Henry always brought forward members of the family, even though they were illegitimate. Others who would join in the escort were the Archbishops of Canterbury, York, Rouen and Bordeaux.
Henry came to Winchester and I took my place in the Court celebration in honor of Joanna’s departure. I could not help feeling a thrill of excitement at seeing him again. My feelings for him could never be negative . . . and I fancy he felt the same toward me. I noticed his eyes often on me. There was a certain triumph in them. He must have been thinking that I now understood that he was the master. It was true. He had the power to make me a prisoner. But if ever I escaped it would be a different matter.
He had aged considerably, I was gratified to notice. The disaffection of his sons, wars, state matters, penance . . . all this had taken a bigger toll of him than imprisonment had of me.
I wondered if he still found the fair Rosamund so delectable. She was still with him. It must have been something more than physical attraction there . . . as I suppose it had been with me. But that had not prevented his having mistresses all over the country. He still did that, from what gossip I heard, and I had no doubt that he would go on behaving so in the years to come. When he was tired of women, he would be tired of life.
Now we kept up the faade of convention for this important occasion.
Finally, we took leave of Joanna. She clung to me and I murmured words of comfort. We should meet again. She would come to England. I would be free someday and then, if that were possible, I should come to see her.
One fair August day she embarked and with a squadron of seven ships set sail for her new home.
I went back to my prison. But I felt refreshed. My daughter had begged that I should have a brief period of freedom. One day my sons would make sure that I was released altogether.
I heard gossip concerning the King and Rosamund Clifford. Everyone knew of her existence now. In spite of the fact that she was the King’s mistress, she was meek and mild—so different from the Queen, they said, and so beautiful (they could not say that she was different from the Queen in that respect) that they accepted her. They said the Queen had been put away because she had plotted against the King, so it was natural that he should turn to Fair Rosamund for comfort. And to many others, they might have been told.
Amaria brought the news. “Rosamund is very ill. She has gone into a convent. She wants to repent of her sins before she dies.”
“So she and the King are no longer together?”
“They say she is near death, and she does not want to die with all her sins upon her. She has gone into Godstow Nunnery, and there she practices the severest penances imaginable. They say she is very sad and afraid that she has come too late to repentance.”
“She should imitate the King. He very quickly achieved his reward. A flogging and Heaven makes the King of Scotland his captive.”
I believe Amaria thought that somewhat irreverent.
Soon after that I heard that Rosamund had died at Godstow and that she had so despaired of her sin in becoming the King’s mistress that she had declared on her deathbed that only when a certain tree in the gardens turned to stone would they know that her soul had been received into Heaven.
Poor Rosamund! I had railed against her, but now I could feel sorry for her. It had not been her fault. The King had desired her and he expected his subjects to obey him. Rosamund had obeyed. I expected she had been fond of him. There was something lovable about him . . . though his children failed to see it. I had found it once, and if I were truthful I would admit that, hating him as I did, he still had some fascination for me.
However, he had lost Rosamund and she had been my greatest rival.
And still I remained his prisoner.
I often wondered how I was able to endure the restriction in which I was placed. Perhaps it was because I was getting old. I was at an age when most women would have considered their lives over; I was not like that. I was too vitally interested in what was going on. My hatred for my husband was a spur to my vitality. I wanted to live long enough to see what would happen in this battle between him and his family.
I had grown mellow with age—philosophical. That was why I was able to endure my prison and look on life with analytical cynicism. After all, I lived comfortably. I was not treated like a prisoner. Everyone about me remembered that I was Queen. Life was unpredictable. Those who were down one day could be up the next. I never let them forget for a moment who I was; nor did they.
I listened; I absorbed the news, fitting it together as I heard it, like pieces in a puzzle. I had time to consider it and perhaps because of that I was able to make a clearer picture than those who were in the thick of it.
There was always going to be trouble between Henry and his sons. They all had their grievances—young Henry chief among them because he felt the golden crown on his head and could not bear to see his father in possession of it. He did little in Aquitaine except find those who had rebelled against his father. Never far from his mind was the plan to oust his father and rule himself, alone. It was an ambitious plan, the elder Henry being the man he was; but if his son could get the strong battalions on his side, who knew?
I was very shocked to hear how he had treated Adam Churchdown. The man was only doing his duty. Young Henry spent most of his time organizing tournaments—mock battles where his safety was assured and in which he was always the victor because those about him knew that was how he wanted it to be. This would not have been dangerous if the foolish young man had not gone about speaking against his father, plotting with his cronies as to how they could get an army together and take the crown from the old man and put it on the young head where it belonged.
Adam had, in duty bound, found it necessary to report to the King what was happening. Alas for Adam, his letters were intercepted and instead of going to the old King were taken to the young one.
My son should have had more respect for an honorable man. He knew that Adam was his father’s servant. What he did was cruel and foolish. He wanted Adam to be humiliated and ordered that he be stripped naked, paraded through the streets—they were in Poitiers at the time—and whipped as he went.
I was horrified. Henry must have been too. He would never have done such a thing in his wildest rages. He must have despaired and realized that he could never make the king he wanted of his son. He might have been proud of Richard, but Richard had shown little affection for him. All his three elder sons were ready to turn against him.
There was only one, as yet untried because he was so young: John.
He could not say that John had come under my influence. Here was one son whom he might mold as he wished. He sent for John.
From then on, the young boy replaced Henry in his affections. John lacked Henry’s good looks—he was smaller and darker—but he was young and therefore malleable.
The King made plans for his youngest son. The proposed marriage with Humbert’s daughter had come to nothing; but William of Gloucester, one of the richest and most powerful men in England, agreed that his daughter, Hadwisa, should marry John, who would then become heir to all his lands in the west of England and Glamorgan, a considerable inheritance.
John was then declared King of Ireland—John “Lackland” no longer.
Rumors were coming to my ears.
Amaria said: “They say the Princess Alais is very attractive.”
“Yes. I am glad,” I said. “I daresay it will not be long before she marries my son Richard. It is time he had a wife.”
“They say the King is very fond of her.”
“The King!” Something in Amaria’s expression gave me a hint of what she might have heard. “What do you know?” I asked.
She shrugged her shoulders. “They say that now the Lady Rosamund is dead . . . that the King has taken up with the Princess Alais.”
“But she is to be his daughter-in-law.”
“I only know what I hear, my lady.”
I pondered this. Alais . . . and Henry. What would Louis have to say? How far had Henry gone in this? Surely he did not think he could seduce a daughter of the King of France as he might such as Rosamund Clifford?
But Henry would never consider such things. Moreover he despised Louis. She was very young. And Richard? What of Richard?
I could see a storm blowing up here.
Each day I hoped for news. It came sparsely. I could not believe how time was passing. Often I asked myself: Was I to spend the rest of my life a prisoner?
Was Henry hoping I would die? I had refused to go to Fontevrault, which would have given him his divorce. Did he want to marry again? Who this time? Alais? How would that affect her betrothal to his son Richard? What did he want to do? Raise a family? He was rather old for that. But I had no doubt that he saw himself as immortal. He would make up his mind that he would not depart this life until he saw his successor ready to take on the burden of kingship and not fritter away all the advantages he had brought to the country.
Our destiny was closely linked with that of France because our sway extended so far over that country. Philip Augustus was growing up. He must be fourteen or fifteen years old. The years of my captivity went by so fast that I lost count of them.
Louis had changed since the birth of the God-Given. He had become more statesmanlike and, after having waited so long and tried so hard, he was especially proud to have provided the heir of the Capetian dynasty.
At this time he decided Philip Augustus should be crowned. One might have thought he would have seen what had happened in Henry’s case. Two kings in one kingdom made a dangerous situation. However, it did happen in France, and it might have been that Philip Augustus was a more docile son; in any case Louis had never valued his kingship as Henry had.
Having been so close to Louis at one time, I was always eager to hear news of him; moreover, what happened to him affected Henry closely. I heard that the coronation was going to take place at Rheims on August 5 of that year 1179.
How unpredictable life is! We make our plans and then Fate decides to change them.
Louis had commanded all the nobles of the land to make their way to the cathedral of Rheims. Philip Augustus led his own party and, as always on such occasions when there was an opportunity to hunt, it was taken with alacrity. This was what happened on the way. Philip Augustus, rather like my son Henry, must have been gratified to think he would soon be crowned King. How could they be so foolish as to put crowns on the heads of young boys and expect to withhold the power that went with them? It might be that it would work in this case, but I had heard recently that Philip Augustus was a boy with a will of his own, and if he had any talent for ruling he would wish to work differently from the way his father had.
He showed his independence on this occasion. They were following the deer in the forest and Philip Augustus naturally decided that his should be the arrow which killed the hunted creature. He spurred on his horse and galloped ahead. His followers, I suppose, understood his desire and, not wanting to offend him, fell back, with the result that in due course they lost sight of him. There was consternation: the heir to the throne of France was lost in the forest.
Meanwhile Philip Augustus rode on. He realized he had lost the quarry, was himself lost and was out of earshot of the hunting party. All was silent in the forest. A mist arose; he was wet and cold. One can imagine his fear among the damp foliage and the tall trees; nature did not care whether he was a peasant or a king about to be crowned. After all the adulation he was accustomed to receive, the indifference of nature must have filled him with apprehension.
He began to feel dizzy and hot. He was not strong and they had had great trouble in raising him. When he was very young, his father had lived in terror that he would lose him.
He went deeper into the forest. He was lost and he was going to be ill. It was getting dark. It would be eerie in the forest and he had been accustomed to having people always around him. Now he was alone, alone in the forest which cared nothing for kings.
I have no doubt that he prayed. Who does not remember God when one’s need is great? I suppose he thought God had answered his prayers when he came upon the charcoal-burners’ hut. They took him into their hovel; they put him by the fire and forced some hot broth between his lips. He was fainting but he was conscious enough to tell them to go at once to the King.
Poor humble people, how bewildered they must have been! But the old man’s son set off, and so well did he carry out his mission that by the next day men came to take Philip Augustus away.
I hope the charcoal-burners were amply rewarded. I am sure Louis would not forget to do that.
They took Philip Augustus to the nearest castle but by this time the fever had a hold on him and he was delirious. He had become very ill indeed and there was consternation throughout France. His life was despaired of, and it was feared that God was about to take back what He had given.
Louis’s distress must have been great. The story was that he was so beside himself that he could neither eat nor sleep. Fearing that he would die as well as his son, the doctors gave him something to make him rest. He must keep up his strength so that he would be able to bear the blow which it seemed must inevitably come.
He dozed and it was then that he had a vision. He thought that Thomas Becket came to him and told him that, if he repented of his sins and humbled himself at the shrine in Canterbury Cathedral, his son’s life would be saved.
The consternation must have been great when Louis announced his intention of visiting Canterbury. Go into the heart of enemy territory? It must never be! But Louis was adamant. This was a message from God, and everyone must know that he was on special terms with the Almighty. Moreover, what would happen to France if his son died? He himself was a fast-aging man.
He must go to Canterbury. God—through Thomas Becket—would not have told him to go if it had not been for his own good. He had to save his son’s life, no matter what happened to him.
They tried to put up obstacles. None of them believed in the vision. If Philip Augustus was going to die, nothing would save him. Could the King endure the hazardous journey? Everyone knew what the Channel could be like—and at his age . . . and in his health . . .
I wondered what Henry thought when he heard of Louis’s proposed visit. If rumors were true and he had indeed seduced Louis’s daughter, he must be feeling rather uneasy for Louis would surely expect to see the girl when he was in England.
I wondered how far Henry’s relationship with Alais had gone, and if she were in love with him. Was it possible? He was hardly a romantic figure, apart from his power, but power I believe is one of the most effective aphrodisiacs. I could imagine his storming into the nursery . . . shouting orders . . . laughing . . . standing there, fascinating the beautiful little girl and inspiring her with awe. Would he be able to impress on her that she must betray nothing of their relationship to her father? And Louis? Would he have heard? If he had not, it would never occur to him to suspect. I was very eager to hear the outcome of the meeting.
Henry sent a letter of warm welcome to Louis. He would be honored to receive him, and he would join his prayers to those of Louis for the recovery of Philip Augustus. He would make himself personally responsible for Louis’s comfort and safety while he was in England.
I imagined their meeting. Poor Louis, how did he look now? Particularly old and ill, I guessed, after the sea crossing. Steeped in religious fervor, frantic with anxiety, without the slightest fear of what would happen to himself. Louis had never, at least, been a coward. His hatred of war had had nothing to do with fears for his own safety.
Henry took a brilliant assembly to Dover to await Louis’s arrival. This would give him an advantage, for he would see Louis immediately he disembarked, racked with sorrow and probably ill after the crossing. Henry would be vital, glowing with health . . . a little patronizing to his rival. After all, he was opening his country to an old enemy; he was allowing him the benefit of praying at the Archbishop’s shrine. Henry was always one to seize an advantage.
I could picture it so well, remembering Henry as I had last seen him. Although he was showing signs of age, he could still ride through the day without fatigue and his immense vitality had not abated, whereas Louis would look like an old man. Henry would gloat over the contrast. Louis was considerably older than Henry in any case—as I was. A fact of which he had enjoyed reminding me. How I wished I could have seen that meeting!
Together they went to Canterbury. Louis would be talking of his only son and envying Henry, who had several. Henry had suffered every bit as much as Louis but this was due to the perfidy of his sons. Did they talk of their children? Did Louis mention Alais? If so, I was sure Henry would skirt around the subject adroitly. He was such an adept at amorous intrigue. I would never forget how he had kept Rosamund Clifford’s existence a secret for so long.
There was a great welcome for Louis in Canterbury. Henry had ordered that the bells of the city ring out as the French King entered it. The Kings rode side by side to the cathedral amid the crowds, silent, not because they did not welcome Louis but because this was a solemn occasion and all wanted to give the impression that they were praying silently that the life of the heir to the French throne might be saved.
In the crypt Louis knelt at the tomb of Thomas Becket. He remained there all through the day and night, begging Thomas to plead with God to spare the life of his son. When he left the crypt, I heard that he looked like a corpse himself. Stricken with sorrow, fear and old age, it seemed that it was for the King of France people should be praying as well as for his son.
Henry’s mind would be working fast. If Louis died, if Philip Augustus died, young Henry, married to Marguerite, could be King of France. Once that was what he had strived for, but did he pause to think now? His son would indeed be powerful; and he had already shown his father what he could do in his present state. Henry’s mind must have been very busy with possibilities as he joined in Louis’s prayers for his son.
Louis expressed his gratitude by promising the Convent of Canterbury free French wine every year and exemption from customs for goods exported for their use.
He was then ready to return to France, but Henry would not hear of it. The journey had exhausted Louis, as had the day-and-night vigil at the tomb. Henry would take him to Winchester and there entertain him in a manner fitting his rank.
Louis saw the wisdom of this. There was nothing else he could do. He was a man of faith. He believed that his son’s life would now be spared.
In order to impress Louis with his friendship—and perhaps fearing that he might have heard rumors about Alais and himself—Henry took Louis to visit churches, where, I have no doubt, there was more praying; he also showed him the treasury vaults and begged him to take some precious object as a mark of the amity between them. How amused I should have been! If I had been Louis, I should have selected the most valuable object I could find, for I knew how Henry hated to lose anything of value. I believe he would have regretted the gesture as soon as he had made it. But there was little malice in Louis. He had never been interested in earthly possessions and took the smallest object he could find.
Louis declined further hospitality and declared he was sufficiently rested to make the journey back across the sea and return to his son for he was sure Thomas Becket would not have failed him and that God would have answered his prayers by now.
And sure enough, when he returned to France, he found that Philip Augustus had completely recovered. Everyone was sure that his return to health had begun at that moment when Louis was on his knees at the tomb of the martyr.
It was a miracle.
It was of great importance now to go ahead with the coronation. My son Henry was at the French Court with Marguerite. He would be dismayed at the recovery of Philip Augustus, which had put the French crown out of his reach. I hoped he was not foolish enough to show it.
Before anything else there had to be a thanksgiving service at St. Denis. The whole French nation must show its gratitude for the heir’s return to health.
My son was to ride beside the King of France in the procession. Louis had been delighted by the show of friendship which had been given him in England and the fact that the King had prayed with him so earnestly for the recovery of Philip Augustus when the latter’s death could have brought such power to his own son. Louis’s faith in human nature was almost equal to his faith in God. It was nave of him, but rather lovable in a way, and there was so little that was lovable about Louis that I wanted to remember it.
There was an incident during the journey to the abbey.
Louis had been looking ill apparently soon after his return. His wan looks had been commented on, and as they came near the abbey, one of the knights near to him saw him sway sidewards. He was just in time to catch him before he fell. He was carried back to the castle and the doctors were sent for. They diagnosed a seizure and thought he had not long to live.
Louis was paralyzed in his arm and leg, but he did not die immediately.
Now the coronation of Philip Augustus was very necessary. Louis sent for the Count of Flanders and put the care of his son in his hands. The Count of Flanders had been one of those who had joined with young Henry against his father. I wondered what my husband thought to see him in such a position, guiding the new King of France, for with Louis incapacitated, that was what Philip Augustus would soon be. So poor sick Louis—unwise as ever—chose the Count of Flanders to guide his son through the coronation and after. My son with his wife Marguerite was present at this impressive occasion. What bitterness he must have been feeling! I knew my son well. He had come very close to winning the crown, and Thomas Becket had intervened.
The old King had undoubtedly shortened his life by crossing the seas to get assistance.
So Philip Augustus went to Rheims while his father was in bed, and the boy’s uncle, who was his mother’s brother and Archbishop of Rheims, crowned him.
Louis would be praying, of course, for his son’s welfare. In his mind he would see it all: his son-in-law Henry holding the crown which his brother-in-law would place on his son’s head, and the Count of Flanders carrying the golden sword.
And there he lay in his bed, a broken man, worn out by a way of life which had been thrust upon him because of the antics of a wayward pig.
So he lingered on.
The situation in France was now more interesting to me than that in England. It was not so easy to hear gossip of another country, but messengers were always coming to and from the Courts and news slipped through. Amaria was an avid gleaner of such items. It may be that they were not entirely accurate, but with my knowledge of the two countries I was often able to sift the truth from the distortions, and that gave me a very good picture of what was going on.
What a mistake to crown young boys!
Louis, of course, had had no alternative; Henry was the fool. Every turn in events seemed to point to the greatness of this mistake. So now there was a young King of England—although there was an old one still very much in possession of the throne, and an even younger one in France with a man, still the King, lying paralyzed in his bed. The menace of youth was greater in France than it was in England.
From what I knew of the Count of Flanders, he was flamboyant and extravagant, although with the means to indulge his tastes. He was hungry for power, just the man to appeal to a boy as young as Philip Augustus, as he had to my son Henry.
Louis had been lucky in his wife Adela. She was a wise woman and anxious to protect her son. Seeing the effect the Count was having, she wanted to call in her brothers to help guide her son. These were Henry, Count of Champagne, and Thibault, Count of Blois, and each of them had married a daughter of mine—Marie and Alix. It was reasonable that Adela should call in members of her family, but it was not difficult to picture the fury of the Count of Flanders at such a suggestion.
The information came to me in such scraps that I could not see the whole picture until later . . . years later in fact, but I tell now the story as I have been able to piece it together long after it happened.
The Count of Flanders was, as was to be expected, a very ambitious man and he saw himself in a unique position. He knew exactly how to flatter the two young Kings and by carefully manipulating them he could become the ruler of the two countries. It was not easy in the case of England, where the elder Henry was very much in command, but the Count was building for the future. How different it was with the King of France! But first he must prevent the arrival at Court of the King’s uncles.
How could he do this? Adela would have told Louis of her decision, and Louis was still King. Philip Augustus, like his young friend Henry, was King in name only while his father lived. But Louis was only half alive, Henry entirely so.
Young Philip Augustus was at odds with his mother, and when she told him she had asked his uncles to come and help him rule, the boy, egged on by the Count of Flanders, told her that he would not have them, at which she reminded him that he was not King while his father lived.
Adela told Philip Augustus that God was not pleased with those who did not respect His commandments, and one of those was “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Because of his exalted position, this applied particularly to Philip Augustus, who could not give orders without the stamp of the Great Seal which was in his father’s possession.
The Count of Flanders must have been desperate. If those uncles arrived, it would be the end of his dreams. He would lose his influence over the young King. I believe that Philip Augustus, in spite of his youth, was not as easy to handle as my son had been. He was already showing an independent spirit.
The Count of Flanders, who had always been on good terms with my son, turned to him for help. Marguerite did not share her husband’s admiration for the Count. He had, I heard, talked disparagingly of her father, from whom Marguerite had had nothing but kindness. This turned her more from the Count, who feared she might have some influence with her half-brother. He was a scheming man, this Count, and he sought to break Marguerite’s position with her husband by arousing young Henry’s jealousy, for Marguerite was an exceptionally beautiful young woman. What he did was diabolical.
One of the most honored men in England was William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and Striguil. He had a reputation for bravery and honor. Long ago, at the time when I had told Henry I wanted to leave him and it had been decided that I should remain in Aquitaine, he had come with me to quell the rebellion there. I had almost fallen foul of an ambush set for me by Geoffrey and Guy de Lusignan. In the skirmish my bodyguard, Earl Patrick, had been slain. Earl Patrick was William Marshal’s uncle, and William Marshal, who had been riding with him at the time, had been wounded and taken prisoner. I was very much impressed by both uncle and nephew and took an early opportunity of paying a ransom to Geoffrey and Guy de Lusignan for the release of William Marshal.
He was a young man who had delighted me. He fought with such courage and was so handsome and honorable—the kind of man I had always liked to have around me. I gave him arms and money and did all I could to further his career; and when he went to England, Henry, always quick to recognize a man’s worth, put him in charge of young Henry. It was true that when the rebellion broke out Marshal was on the side of the young King, but in spite of this he did not lose Henry’s favor, and he allowed him to remain in charge of his son.
William continued to distinguish himself. He was a success at the tournaments which young Henry so loved to organize, and this won him fame. He had great influence over Henry and Marguerite, and they were both very fond of him. He viewed with disfavor the influence the Count of Flanders had over young Henry. The Count knew this and decided to break Henry’s friendship with Marshal. Insidiously he poured poison into Henry’s ears. Wasn’t Marguerite a beautiful lady? He had seen many admiring glances go her way. Even the virtuous William Marshal had rather a special way of looking at her which was quite revealing . . .
It must have gone something like that.
Henry was very proud of Marguerite; she was much admired for her beauty and her charm. Marshal was a handsome fellow. One could imagine the words . . . sounding so innocent and being far from it. Women would admire Marshal. He had a certain maturity.
I wondered whether the Count of Flanders told Henry what he had done to his wife’s lover. Not at that stage perhaps. That would come later when he was not discussing Marguerite, perhaps, but talking generally of the frailty of women. I had heard the story and despised the Count for it. He had the man flogged severely until he was almost dead and then hung him over a cesspool. The lover in question was Walter du Fontaines, who had won fame for his chivalry. He would doubtless point out that there were men who lost all sense of honor when it came to women.
I could imagine my son’s jealousy being whipped up. He had the Angevin temper. He would have watched William Marshal jealously and misconstrued those glances which passed between him and Marguerite.
Eventually he could contain his jealousy no longer. He summoned William Marshal and accused him of being intimate with the Queen. I could picture William’s amazement, his cold disdain of the blustering boy. I could imagine his pouring scorn on the sly insinuations of the scheming Count of Flanders with such dignity that Henry would quail before him. If he had any ideas of flogging William Marshal and hanging him over a cesspool, they must soon have been dispersed. William’s calm conduct would put him at a loss. Henry was always inclined to bluster and remind people of his high office in case they forgot it.
All he could do now was stammer that William was dismissed.
William of course took his dismissal coolly and prepared to leave for England.
When Marguerite discovered that he had dismissed William and for what reason—for he could not keep it from her—she was angry. How could he have been so foolish? He ought to have known that the Count was lying. William Marshal had been a good friend to her and more so to Henry. This was nonsense, and the Count only wanted Marshal out of the way so that he could rule Henry as well as Philip Augustus.
Meanwhile the Count had induced Philip Augustus to steal the Great Seal from Louis’s bedchamber and make an order forbidding the uncles to come to Court.
My son was ready to be swayed this way and that, and Marguerite had always had great influence over him. He must have felt rather foolish in dismissing Marshal because Marguerite could make him see how absurd the accusation was. I imagined that he hated to be compared with Philip Augustus, for they were in such similar positions: but he always remembered that Philip Augustus must very soon become the one and only King of France, and he would have to wait years before he was King of England.
I think it must have been Adela who asked for his help; that would please him. He liked to be thought powerful and then he could be magnanimous. Adela would have asked him to come to see her and told him how beset she was by her enemies, how she feared for her son. Her husband was no longer able to take care of his kingdom; her son was but a boy; there were warring factions all around the throne. Her brothers, whom she relied upon to help her, were forbidden to come to Court; she needed help and was asking Henry for it.
How he would swell with pride. He liked to see himself as a knight of chivalry; naturally he would help a lady in distress.
What Adela needed was help from Henry’s father, and she wanted young Henry to go to him and tell him of her need. Perhaps he was a little piqued that it was his father whose help was wanted and his only indirectly. However, she was pleading and that was pleasant. Moreover, it was embarrassing being at the French Court where Philip Augustus was so much more important than he was; and there was all the unpleasantness over the Count of Flanders and the dismissal of William Marshal.
So young Henry quietly left the country and went to his father. They met at Reading. I heard that the King was delighted to see him, even after all the trouble he had caused. That faithfulness always amazed me. It must have been the only faithful feeling he ever had for anyone. He so wanted Henry to be a good and worthy son, preparing for his destiny, that I believe he continued to deceive himself that he would make Henry this in time.
He would have listened to what was happening at the French Court, and the thought of the Count of Flanders guiding the destiny of the King of France was something which needed his immediate attention.
With Flanders in control, Normandy would not be safe. Henry would have to leave England at once.
I did hear something of what happened at that interview, for there were people present during it and there followed the inevitable whispers.
Henry had expressed his fear for Normandy. He chided his son for sending Marshal away. A foolish act. He should be grateful to have such a man with him and not dismiss him for some frivolous reason. He would never be a great king if he could not recognize the value of men . . . those to keep with him, those to discard. It was a part of kingship to surround oneself with the faithful. The King of France was dying. His son was nothing but a boy. His Queen in despair had sent to him. Now young Henry would see the tables were turned.
“When my sons would make war on me, they went to Louis and he gave them support. Now that the Queen of France is in danger the King of England is ready to go to her aid.”
Henry said it was noble of him.
That brought a fresh homily. Kings were not noble where their countries were concerned. They served the needs of their countries. And if a country needed nobility, then would he give nobility and if a lack of nobility then would he give that?
“We have to curtail the ambitions of this Count of Flanders. We have to make Normandy safe. A king’s first consideration is his own crown. Remember it.”
When he was with his sons, Henry had a habit of making every discourse an object lesson. He would make young Henry feel insignificant, humiliated. I doubt that encounter endeared the son to his father. It was rather pathetic, for what Henry wanted more than anything was the love of this son.
Henry set out for France. I was sure that news of his coming must have struck terror into the heart of the Count of Flanders. Louis on his deathbed; the King of France, a mere boy, and Henry of England, the greatest warrior of his day, on the march.
Henry, however, had no wish to do battle. He said he would first speak with Philip Augustus and the Count, and speak to them separately. The Count would naturally have liked to refuse to leave the young King and Henry alone, but he dared not.
I could well imagine that meeting. Philip Augustus a little sullen, trying hard to imply that Henry was Duke of Normandy and his vassal and Henry stressing that he came not as Duke of Normandy but as King of England. Henry could be impressive and Philip Augustus was but a boy, and it was no use trying to play the great King when he was in the presence of one.
Henry would be gentle. He would point out the delicate position Philip Augustus was in. His father could not recover; they had to face the fact that he would soon be gone. When a king died, dangers invariably sprang up in a country and they needed dexterous handling. The situation was always tricky. The King should not be alienated from his mother and his uncles. They wished to help him. The people would not be pleased if there was friction within the royal family.
Philip Augustus would try to bluster that he was King and he must do as he wished, and Henry would point out that kings ruled by the will of the people.
Philip Augustus could not stand out against the experience and power of such a man. He began to see that Henry was right, and because he was fundamentally sensible he began to come around to Henry’s way of thinking.
Adela was delighted and grateful to Henry as gradually her son began to turn to her and away from the ambitious Count of Flanders.
Meanwhile Louis became weaker and weaker, and it was clear that the end was not far off.
Philip Augustus was overcome with grief. He was going to be a clever ruler, and a sign of that is to be able to recognize and admit one’s faults. He saw that he had been led astray by flattery and that it would be better for him to listen to the advice of people who had his good and not their own interests at heart.
On a September night Louis passed away. I was glad to hear that Philip Augustus was at his bedside to the last and Queen Adela with him. Louis deserved to go in peace. Philip Augustus kissed his hand as Louis murmured a blessing on his son and wished him a long and happy reign.
I was touched and a little sad when I heard. I had despised him at times; I had wanted to get away from him; but we had lived intimately together and I had many memories of him.
I had always thought of him as “Poor Louis.” He had tried so hard to perform the duties which had been thrust upon him. He was a good man but life had been too much for him.
Now he was gone forever. But we must go on. A new reign had begun and we had to learn what this would mean to us.
There was trouble in Aquitaine. In fact, there had been since I had been captured and imprisoned. The people wanted me as their ruler—no one else would do, not even Richard. Richard was a Plantagenet. He was a Norseman descending from William the Conqueror and bearing some resemblance to his famous ancestor. Tall, reddish-haired, a great warrior, ruthless in battle, restless, never so happy as when the sword was in his hand. He was, I was beginning to realize, not a ruler my people would have chosen. True, he had a love of music and surrounded himself with troubadours, but that cold disciplinary rule would never be accepted by my people.
It was being said that there would never be peace in Aquitaine until I returned.
I heard these reports and, although I was gratified, they worried me a great deal. For all his strength and energy—and he was becoming known as one of the greatest military leaders in Europe—Richard had one physical weakness. He had not inherited it, I was sure, but during his battles he had slept in damp and unhealthy places and it had left him with a kind of ague which made him tremble. He must have found that most distressing. Although he did not fly into the kind of rages in which his father indulged, when the trembling was on him he could become quite ruthless and find a reason for punishing with the utmost severity any who had witnessed his disability.
The people of Aquitaine were making it clear that they did not want Richard. They wanted their Duchess back.
Richard was wise enough to know this. He told me about it afterward, how he had vowed that he would force his father to release me. He was in this frame of mind when he went to Navarre as a guest of King Sancho. There he discussed the advisability of bringing me out of prison so that I could return to Aquitaine. He wanted the friendship of Sancho, for he believed he might intercede with Henry and make him understand the need for peace in Aquitaine, whose state was a cause of anxiety to its southern neighbor Navarre.
There were tournaments and jousts in honor of his visit, and in those Richard naturally shone as the outstanding hero. He enjoyed the tournaments of course, but being Richard, he would rather be involved in a real war.
Two important matters emerged from this visit. The first was that Sancho agreed to impress on Henry that in his opinion it was unwise to keep his wife captive for so long, particularly when she could be of use in bringing peace to one of the family dominions. The other was Richard’s meeting with Sancho’s daughter, Berengaria.
Richard was not one, I was to learn later, to be drawn to women, but he did become attached to Sancho’s little daughter. She was very pretty and played the lute most excellently; she was gentle and sweet and adored the handsome warrior, hero of all the tournaments, so different from the men she saw at her father’s Court, he being so tall with dazzling blond looks and piercing blue eyes.
Richard told Sancho of his feeling for Berengaria. Sancho was pleased but pointed out that Richard was already betrothed to Princess Alais, daughter of the late King of France. Richard said that he had no intention of taking his father’s mistress. Had Sancho not heard of the scandal concerning his father and the young Princess? It seemed common knowledge.
Sancho may have kept his promise to write to Henry. If so, nothing came of it. Henry would resent interference in his affairs; he knew well enough that I might bring peace to Aquitaine, hut doubtless he thought I might stir up strife with his sons against him.
I was allowed a little more freedom, but I remained a prisoner.
The King of France was in difficulty.
With the death of his father, Philip Augustus seemed to have grown up suddenly. The petulant gullible boy was left behind and the statesman began to emerge. He had had such a clear example of the inexperience of youth which led to an acceptance of false friends, when the Count of Flanders, realizing that Philip Augustus would no longer be his tool, plotted against him.
The King of England had said in that little homily he had given him when they last met that he wished to be regarded as the young King’s father. So at this time Philip Augustus turned to Henry in his need.
Henry was not displeased. In his shrewd way he saw that the Count of Flanders could be a menace to him also and he wanted to subdue him. Ostensibly he sent his sons to aid the French but in fact their duty was to guard their father’s dominions.
Philip Augustus was delighted. He was already on good terms with young Henry; he was glad to welcome Geoffrey; but Richard was the one who delighted him. Richard had military genius, and men were beginning to fear and respect him, which was a great asset in a battle. Richard’s tenor voice was a joy to hear in song, and he played the lute like the true musician he was. Richard had begun to mean a good deal to Philip Augustus.
He wanted Richard always with him. They sat side by side at table. It was the delight of Philip Augustus to share the same plate with his friend. They laughed and joked together, and soon they were sharing the same bed.
With Richard’s troubadours had come a certain Bernard de Borne. He was a great poet and musician and compared with Bernard de Ventadour; and just as Philip Augustus had no eyes for anyone but Richard, Bernard de Borne was taken with young Henry.
The appearance of my two sons was outstanding in the extreme, and Bernard de Borne wrote verses extolling Henry’s good looks and charm and attributed to him in verse the daring exploits which I am sure Henry often imagined himself performing. He was delighted with the poet and they became great friends.
Henry was not a young man to form attachments with his own sex—unlike Richard in this respect. Henry, like his father, had a keen interest in women, but this was different. Bernard de Borne knew how to flatter, and flattery was something Henry had never been able to resist.
The poet was well aware that the people of Aquitaine did not want Richard. His military skills did not appeal to an essentially peace-loving people who wanted their comforts more than anything else. His methods would never please them, and it must have occurred to de Borne that Henry would be a more suitable ruler. As he was my son, and continually complaining that his father withheld all power from him, why should he not seize Aquitaine?
It would be a simple matter to insert that idea into Henry’s mind. My poor foolish son was constantly hoping that that glory which he was unable to win by his own efforts would fall into his hands.
If only young Henry had been content to walk in his father’s shadow and to learn from him! If only Geoffrey had not been such a troublemaker; if only Richard could have understood my people of Aquitaine; if only Henry and I could have lived in amity—between us all we could have ruled over peaceful dominions. But it seemed it was not to be so. The Angevins were a quarrelsome brood. Sometimes I thought that story of their having descended from the Devil was true.
Young Henry therefore saw himself as the ruler of Aquitaine. I was sure he thought he could show his father how the people appreciated him.
De Borne was able to do a great deal with his writing; he was also a persuasive talker. He persuaded the people of Limoges that under Henry there would be a return to the old rule; the elder brother would understand them; there would be tournaments, jousting, a return to the old way of life. As a result, when Henry rode into Limoges, the people cheered him; they acclaimed him as their new ruler.
Meanwhile the King, having sorted out his affairs with Philip Augustus, turned his attention to Aquitaine. He knew that Richard was having trouble. He sent for Geoffrey. Geoffrey was not so much a soldier as a diplomat. He had a plausible manner and a tactful way with words. He was the one to help Richard, Henry decided, and he sent him out to talk to the troublemakers and counteract Richard’s somewhat abrasive manner.
How mistaken Henry always was in his sons! He did not know Geoffrey, who loved nothing more than to stir up trouble. Arriving in Aquitaine, he was met by Henry and Bernard de Borne, who told him that the people were preparing to rise and oust Richard, taking Henry as their ruler. Geoffrey, who was as jealous of Richard’s military glory as Henry was, decided to come down on Henry’s side.
I cannot imagine what would have happened if the King had not decided to go to Aquitaine and sort things out for himself.
Face to face with his father, young Henry’s courage fled. He dared not tell him that he had been proclaimed Duke in Limoges. They marched together to Poitiers, where they were met by Richard.
What the people of Aquitaine must have thought, I cannot imagine. All I knew was that with the coming of the King order was restored. I think young Henry must have been very worried indeed for sooner or later his father must discover what he had been doing. He was so weak. Sometimes I was fearful, thinking of what would happen to England when he was its King. It would be a return to the days of Stephen, and doubtless his brothers would be plotting to take the crown from him. The King must not die . . . not yet . . . until Henry had reached a state of maturity which, in my heart, I feared he never would.
He was saved from the discovery of his foolish perfidy by my daughter Matilda.
Matilda was in deep trouble and was leaving Saxony for the protection of her father. Her marriage to Henry the Lion had been a happy one domestically but there was always trouble in the German states.
Henry the Lion had been quarreling for some time with his first cousin, the powerful German Emperor Frederick, and a year or so before, after a great deal of conflict between them, Duke Henry had been condemned by diet at Wrzburg to forfeit all his lands. Naturally he refused. Hence the Emperor laid siege to Brunswick, where Henry and Matilda were living.
Matilda already had three children: Richenza and two boys, Henry and Otto, and she was pregnant at the time of the siege. The Emperor, in a chivalrous gesture when he heard of her plight, sent her a tun of wine and raised the siege. Whether he did this for altruistic reasons or whether it was because Matilda was the daughter of the most formidable soldier in Europe, I am not sure. It might have been a little of each.
In due course Matilda gave birth to Lothair.
But this time Henry the Lion realized the hopelessness of his position. Fearing the power of the Emperor, his followers deserted him and he was left with no alternative but to accept the Emperor’s terms. These were harsh. He was to be banished from Germany for seven years, and during that time he must have the Emperor’s permission if he wished to visit his country; only a few possessions were left to him—Brunswick, Luneburg, Hanover, Zell and Wolfenbttel which, though considerable, were a small part of what he had previously owned.
King Henry had been watching affairs in Germany closely and he came to the assistance of his son-in-law. The Emperor had no wish to quarrel with one as powerful as the King of England, and he agreed that the period be reduced to four years and that the King’s daughter, Matilda, should be allowed to remain in Brunswick with her children. The choice was hers. She might live in freedom on the estates left to her family, or if she wished to go with her husband, stewards would be appointed to look after her property. Matilda chose to follow her husband.
Thus it was that at this time, when my son Henry was in a precarious position, wondering whether his father would discover his perfidy toward his brother, this diversion arose to turn the King’s thoughts from Aquitaine.
Little Lothair was too young to undertake the journey, and he must be left for a while, but Henry the Lion, with Matilda and the three children, Richenza, Henry and Otto, set out for Normandy.
The King met them there. He was deeply touched to be reunited with his daughter. He had such plans for his sons but I think it was his daughters who brought him the most joy.
Almost as soon as they arrived, Matilda’s husband, overcome with humiliation because of what had happened to him, decided he must go on a pilgrimage to St. James of Compostela, who was at this time the most popular of all the saints; pilgrims from all over Europe were going to visit his shrine. There were springing up inns all along the road to Compostela, and whether or not the saint answered the prayers of those who prayed at his shrine, he certainly provided prosperity for the innkeepers.
There were great preparations for his departure, and before he left Matilda was pregnant again.
I do believe that for a short time at Argentan the King forgot his troubles and gave himself up to his grandchildren, in whom he found great pleasure. Matilda told me about it afterward. She herself was surprised. The grandchildren adored him. It was amazing, said Matilda, to see Richenza climbing all over him, and the boys shouting with glee as he played war games with them. When he told them about the battles in which he had fought, they listened in silent awe; he wanted to spend as much time with them as he possibly could, and for once he forgot his dominions.
I could never feel indifferent about Henry. I could hate him fiercely. Who would not hate a husband who had kept her incarcerated for years? But I understood him. He had to keep me incarcerated, for how did he know what I would do if I were free? I was sorry for him in a way as I was not for myself. My captivity had given me time for reflection. My mind had always been too active for it to become sluggish. Here I was removed from events, looking in from the outside and finding it all fascinating. I was not one to sit down and weep for my misfortunes. I could see many sides to every question and, because I was so interested in people, I could understand their motives and realize that from their point of view they were in the right.
My feelings for Henry were similar to those he had had for Becket. I had loved him; I had hated him; but always he had been of vital interest to me, and I could picture his snatching that brief period at Argentan when Matilda’s children played with him, showed their pleasure in having him with them and gave him what he had missed in his own children.
Young Henry could not learn his lessons. As soon as his father was no longer there to overawe him, his ambitions began to return; and there was Bernard de Borne to feed them.
Bernard de Borne probably suggested that he had been too meek with his father. Men like the King of England understood strength and respected it.
Aquitaine was now out of the question. Richard was securely installed. The King had shown that he stood firmly behind him on that matter, and Henry must needs accept that this was so, and although the people thought Henry might bring softer rule, they had no wish to go to war.
There was Normandy, of course. Why should he not have Normandy?
With the praises of Bernard de Borne ringing in his ears, he wrote to his father demanding that he be given control of Normandy.
The reply came back. The King had no intention of relinquishing any of his possessions while he lived. He expected his sons to serve him and reminded Henry of the oath he had taken to do just that.
More frustrated than ever, raging inwardly, listening to the flattering poems of Bernard de Borne, young Henry looked around for trouble.
It came when he discovered that Richard had built a castle near the frontiers of Poitiers but which was actually in Anjou. Anjou, of course, was territory which would become Henry’s on his father’s death, and in building the castle Richard had encroached on land not his. This was the opportunity. Henry wrote to his father demanding that the castle be handed over to him.
I could imagine the King’s groans when he read of this. I wondered if he went into one of his rages. Perhaps not; there would be no point in doing so. This squabbling in the family was dangerous. Did these sons of his not see that their strength was in their union! He wrote to Richard telling him he must immediately hand over the castle to Henry as it had been built on land not his.
Richard’s reply was a blank refusal. The castle was necessary for defense.
“Hand it over or I shall come and take it,” replied the King.
Richard was first and foremost a soldier; he and the King should have been close; it was a pity they disliked each other. The King knew that Richard was a good soldier. How well they could have worked together for the aggrandizement of the Plantagenet empire! But Richard hated him because of his treatment of me; and there was another matter: Alais Capet, who had been destined for Richard and with whom the King had fallen in love. His feelings for Alais were, I believe, similar to those he had had for Rosamund Clifford. It went deeper than lust. Both women were beautiful and gentle. I had been beautiful but never gentle. They were the kind of women he needed—not to plague him but always to be there to soothe him, with no recriminations when he returned from those little respites which he allowed himself. I believed he really loved Alais. Every time the proposed marriage with Richard was brought up, he eluded it. Richard would always remind him of the wrong he had done his son; and people hate those whom they have wronged. Thus his feelings for Richard, who would have been a man after his own heart.
Richard was too wise to enter into conflict with his father. He wrote back that he would never give the castle to his brother who had been working against him with the object of taking Aquitaine. The castle was necessary to the defense of Poitiers. If the King would judge for himself the importance of the castle to Aquitaine, he would be prepared to accept his decision.
The King immediately realized that the castle was important for defense, otherwise Richard would not have built it in that particular spot, and as it was very necessary to defend Aquitaine, he was sure that Richard was right. He wrote back that he accepted Richard’s decision; he himself would decide about the castle when he saw it.
He was deeply disturbed, I was sure, about this discord in the family and he sent for Henry, Richard and Geoffrey to come to Caen, ostensibly to celebrate Christmas, but in fact he wanted a full understanding that these quarrels between them must stop: he wanted to impress on them the importance of solidarity in the family. He must have hoped that the Christmas spirit would incline his sons to reason.
I wished I had been there at that Christmas. Matilda’s presence would have helped perhaps, but young Henry, spurred on by the flattery of de Borne and the conviction that he had been cheated of his rights, was determined to make trouble.
Christmas fare had been provided in plenty: pies of all description, game, great joints of pig and lamb, and all the best wines obtainable. The King, of course, was impatient of such feasting, but it all had to be provided to give an air of Christmas festivity.
Yet there was little of the Christmas spirit that Christmas. Henry began by reminding his sons that they had taken an oath to serve him, and now they were warring together. He insisted that they swear an oath of fidelity toward each other.
I wondered what young Henry must have been feeling. Could he refuse to take the oath? He would not dare. And yet could he at this very time be conspiring to take Aquitaine from Richard?
The King’s affection for his eldest son continued to amaze me. How much wiser he would have been to give it to Richard. Surely he must see by now how worthless Henry was. But always he placated him; always he hoped to reform him; always he tried to achieve the impossible.
He went on to say that Henry was the eldest. They must remember that. One day he would be King of England. He himself held the rights over all their possessions at this time, but in due course Henry, as King, would have them. Richard would remember that he held Aquitaine through the will and grace of his brother Henry, and Geoffrey so held Brittany. The King wished them all to swear fealty to the brother who would one day be King.
How different Richard was from Henry. He was completely outspoken and immediately declared that he would not swear fealty to his brother. He pointed out with vigor that he had received Aquitaine through his mother, and that I had always intended that he should rule it; it was apart from any of the King’s dominions. He had paid homage to the King of France as his vassal; that was traditional; he would swear fealty to no other.
I think the King must have been shaken. He was so used to browbeating everyone but he could not do that with Richard. He was always logical and mostly shrewd. What Richard said was true. Aquitaine was mine, not his, and I had given it to Richard.
There was a duel of words between them; the King could not give way and yet he knew that Richard was in the right. How foolish he was not to have grappled Richard to his side and let the others go. But this was one of the occasions when Henry was ruled by his affections rather than his common sense. Dearly he loved his eldest son, and nothing could alter that.
I daresay he found it easy to whip up his anger against Richard because he had wronged him so much. I wondered if it were true that Alais had borne his child. There had been rumors.
“You will obey me,” he shouted.
Richard retorted that he would do no such thing.
“Aquitaine is mine,” he cried. “Given by my mother whom you have treated so shamefully. How dare you imprison the Queen? How dare you rob her of her freedom! Because you are afraid of her? That could be the only reason. You shall not treat me as you have treated her. And I tell you this: one day I shall free her. We shall snap our fingers at you. I shall swear fealty to neither you nor to my brother.”
How thrilled I was when those words were reported to me! He meant them. He always meant what he said. He was not called “Richard Yea and Nay” for nothing. He had not forgotten me, and that love which had always been between us remained.
I could imagine Henry’s fury. I could picture him, standing there, bow legs apart, face scarlet with rage, eyes flashing. It would not be the moment for childish rage. His voice would be cold and precise when he said: “By God’s eyes, I will not be treated thus by my own son. We will teach Master Richard a lesson.”
What a Christmas that must have been at Caen. And I not there to see it!
The King must soon have realized his folly. Teach Richard a lesson! What could that mean but that young Henry had his father’s consent to take Aquitaine, but when he heard that Henry and Geoffrey were riding to Aquitaine, gathering supporters as they went, he must have been overcome with dismay.
There were times when even his doting affection had to be seen for what it was. Henry with Aquitaine! How long would he hold it? And Geoffrey, the young fool, with him! What were those boys thinking of? They had no sense. They wanted to take, all the time; they never wanted to giveanything. They thought ruling was all pleasure. They had no notion of what it meant to govern wisely.
Would Richard be able to hold out against them? He was infinitely superior in the field, but in battle numbers often counted.
Young Henry was in Limoges, the town which had acclaimed him as their Duke. The King must go to Limoges with all speed.
He was soon approaching the town. There could be no doubt who he was, for his standard-bearer carried the pennon above his head, which announced to all that here was the King of England. Arrows were falling about him; one pierced his cloak. It must have been aimed directly at him. From whom could the order have come? From his son Henry? His men gathered around him and told him he must return to the camp at once. It was obvious that there was an intention to kill him.
He saw the wisdom of this and retired.
I could imagine his feelings. Did his son want the crown so much that he was prepared to murder his father to get it? Did he really believe that? He would have grappled with himself; sentiment trying hard to get the better of reason. How strange that such a man should have such weakness. It did show that he was capable of love, for he certainly felt it toward his son.
I was glad that young Henry went to his camp. How touched the King must have been when the young man fell on his knees before him. He wept bitterly and said that when he saw the arrow pierce his father’s cloak he was overcome with sorrow. So he had seen it? Had he ordered it? The King would not allow himself to believe that. It must have been some overzealous soldier who sought to win honor.
Something of that conversation was reported to me.
“Father, when I saw that arrow touch you . . . and realized what might have happened, I was overcome with shock and grief.”
“It was shot by one of your men.”
“I will never forgive him.”
“He meant to serve you.”
“Oh, Father, forgive me.”
“It was not you who shot the arrow?”
“No. But one of my servants . . .”
“There must be an end to this strife between us. Do not forget I am your father. Do not forget you are my son.” He went on to impress on young Henry how much he had to learn. He tried once more to make him understand the responsibilities of kingship.
Henry protested that his father was siding with Richard against him and Geoffrey, although Richard had stalked out at Caen and refused obedience.
“There must not be war in families,” reiterated the King. “If we do not stand together, we are doomed.”
“The people of Aquitaine do not want Richard.”
“Richard is the rightful heir.”
“Father, if you came to Aquitaine, if you asked the people which of us they wanted, they would listen to you. Will you do this?”
“I will consider,” said the King.
Young Henry went back to the town, and the King stayed in the camp outside.
I was sure he would not easily forget the arrow which had pierced his cloak. I could imagine how he spent that night. He must have been full of misgivings; surely the truth must have begun to dawn on him then. He must have seen that his son’s tears and grief had been a pretense, that he wished to gain time for the fortification of Limoges, that he was ready to go into battle against his father.
Geoffrey was with him—two traitor sons, and Richard defying him.
The next day he rode toward the town intending to speak once more with Henry. He took with him only his standard-bearer and two knights. There could be no question that he came in any attempt to take the town. Yet he was greeted by a shower of arrows, and this time one of them struck and killed his horse. The King was thrown to the ground.
His standard-bearer and the knights knelt beside him in consternation.
“I am unhurt,” he said. “It is just my poor horse who is killed.”
While the King was getting to his feet, young Henry came riding full speed toward him. He was preparing to weep, to tell his father how distraught he was.
The King said coldly: “You should train your archers better. You see, the second time they have failed.”
“My father . . .” began young Henry.
But even the King understood now. He leaped onto the horse which his standard-bearer had brought to him and turned his back on his son.
How bitter his thoughts must have been as he rode back. His sons were against him. They had defied him; one had tried to kill him. He would not be duped any longer.
He thought then, I believe, of Geoffrey, the son of a prostitute; he had never had anything but devotion from that one. How ironic that his legitimate sons should have turned against him, and he had only loyalty from his bastard!
There was one who had not stood against him. He was too young to do so. That was John.
Henry would always care for his illegitimate son Geoffrey and keep him near him; but alas, when all was said and done, he was a bastard. It was a legitimate son he needed to stand beside him and give him that affection for which he craved.
And there was John.
From that time he transferred his affections from his eldest to his youngest son. John became the center of his ambitions.
I was very involved with my children even though I did not see them, and young Henry was constantly in my thoughts. I had known of his weakness long before it had been revealed to his father. I had eagerly gleaned everything I could hear of him, and in spite of our separation I knew him well.
I fervently hoped his folly would not destroy him.
One night I had a strange dream. I thought I was in a crypt. The coldness seeped into my bones; there was a faint light which seemed to beckon to me, and I followed it. When it stopped, I was looking at a man who was lying on the stones of the crypt, and that man was my son Henry. Looking closely I saw that it was not in fact my son but an effigy as one sees on a tomb; there were two crowns above his head—one the crown of England, the other in the form of a halo, and there was a look of infinite peace on the carved face.
When I awoke, I said to myself: My son Henry is dead.
It was some weeks later before I heard what had happened.
There was only one course open to the King. He was at war with his sons, and he was going to lay siege to Limoges. He was now ranged on Richard’s side.
Young Henry must have been really frightened. Twice he had tried to kill his father and failed. It was no use weeping and expecting forgiveness now: he had obviously betrayed himself; the only surprise was that the King had taken so long to realize his son’s true nature.
Young Henry did not want war; he only wanted the spoils of war. He soon discovered that real war was very different from the mock variety he enjoyed at jousts. War was hardship, exhaustion and possibly death.
Geoffrey escaped from Limoges on a pretext of raising men and money. Henry realized that his father’s tactics would very soon end in victory. He could not endure the thought of being his father’s captive and one night crept out of town and joined some supporters who had raised an army in a nearby town. He was immediately told that money was needed if they were to continue with the campaign. Soldiers had to be paid. Henry did not understand these matters. He was the King—if in name only—and men must do their duty without pay; but his captains informed him that they would desert if not paid. Many of them were mercenaries. The money had to be found.
“The men must wait . . . wait,” he cried petulantly.
They came to an abbey where the monks received them as they wished to visit the shrines, and according to custom they were given food.
After the meal, when they visited the shrines, Henry was struck by the beauty of the monastery’s treasures. An idea occurred to him. The sale of some of the chalices alone would feed an army for a month. What use were they in an abbey when he was so desperate? I wonder how long it took him to persuade himself. I am sure his captains attempted to warn him of his folly.
But Henry was reckless; he had betrayed himself to his father, and he guessed the old man could live another ten years with the knowledge that his son had made two attempts on his life. He had crowned him; he was King; nothing could alter that; but his father was a sly man; he might even attempt to do to his son what that son had tried to do to the father. He made up his mind. His need was great. They were going to rob the shrines of their valuable ornaments, sell them and with the money raise an army to take Aquitaine.
The monks were shocked beyond belief. They could not understand how any professed Christian could desecrate the shrines. But Henry did, and with his army rode on.
Robbing monasteries and abbeys was easy. There was no—or little—resistance. This was the way.
The countryside was in terror at the approach of Henry’s army. Everywhere monks locked their doors against them. This proved useless. What were gates against an army? They battered their way in.
I wished I could have talked to my son. He was like a man possessed. He had offended against all the laws of God and man; he had attempted to murder his father, and now he was robbing holy shrines. He was frantic, running on blindly . . . shutting his mind to all thought of the consequences of his actions because he dared not face them.
He came at length to the monastery of Grandmont, which contained the shrine of Rocamadour.
He was wealthy now. He could raise a bigger and better army, but the lust for plunder stayed with him. He knew that he was damned but instead of repenting his sins he wanted to add to them. He wanted to defy God as he had defied his father.
Those about him would have held back; they wanted to finish with this way of life; they wanted to return to their homes and forget the conquest of Aquitaine and the crown of England.
Perhaps he kept up a spirit of bravado. I think that would be typical of him. And when his men showed a reluctance to enter the monastery he would have called them cowards.
They broke in; he took the treasures from the shrines of Rocamadour.
That night Henry was in the grip of a fever. Those about him believed that God had judged him and condemned him. Perhaps they were right. As he was so ill, they look him into the house of a smith called Stephen so that he could receive some comfort.
His bravado vanished; his fear of what was in store for him was uppermost. He was sure he was going to die and that this was God’s just punishment. He was guilty of attempting to kill his father and desecrating holy shrines. He feared the future and wanted to right as many wrongs as he could in the time left to him.
There was one man whom he had wronged and whom the King valued. He desperately wanted to see that man.
William Marshal was in Aquitaine and could come to him quickly. After he had sent for him, Henry dispatched a messenger to his father begging him to come to him.
After two attempts on his life, the King was wary. His attitude had changed. He was no longer deluding himself about his eldest son. Henry had exposed himself too obviously for further deceit to succeed. This time the King listened to his advisers, who were sure that this was another attempt to do that in which he had twice failed.
William Marshal did go to Henry’s bedside, but by his time the fever had taken a firmer hold on him.
I did hear later what he said to William. William had been a friend of his childhood; they had been close until the Count of Flanders had sown suspicion in Henry’s mind about Marshal and Marguerite. He told William that he knew his end was near. He had been possessed by devils and feared eternal damnation. He blamed his ancestress, the witch. “We Plantagenets are the Devil’s spawn,” he said. “We came from the Devil and we shall go back to the Devil.” William begged him to repent of his sins.
He was happier when a messenger came back with a ring from his father. The King did not trust him sufficiently to come himself but he was still his father and he did want his son to know that in spite of everything he still cared for him. They told me how Henry’s ring had comforted him.
William Marshal had arranged for the Bishop of Cahors to come to the house where Henry was staying. He begged William to remain with him. By his bed was a crusader’s cross which he had stolen from one of the tombs. He swore that if he lived he would take the cross to Jerusalem and place it on the Holy Sepulcher. He had written to his father. He had lied to him so many times; he had cheated and betrayed him. He wanted as many wrongs put right as there possibly could be. Would the King restore what he had stolen as far as he could? Would he look after Marguerite? He sent a message to me, too. He thought of me often. He had longed to see me, and he had begged the King to be more tender toward me.
Henry implored William Marshal to take the cross and if ever he went to Jerusalem to place it on the shrine in the name of the young King Henry.
He ordered that a bed of ashes be prepared, with a stone for a pillow; he wanted to wear a hairshirt. Then he declared himself the most wicked of sinners. He lay on his bed of discomfort for several hours, and it seemed that there he found a certain peace.
His repentance was complete.
And thus he died.
I would think of him as I had seen him in my dream. My poor, foolish son. I hope he found more contentment in death than he had in life.