WHEN I HEARD THE news of Henry’s death I was deeply shocked. My mind was a jumble of impressions from the past. I did not know whether I was glad or sorry. The idea of a world without that maddening, devious personality, who meant no good to me, was somehow empty.
I supposed that everyone who had lived close to him must have been deeply impressed by him. He was no ordinary man. He was unique. Whenever I had encountered him I felt a great excitement; to do battle with him had been as stimulating as making love had been.
It was strange to remember that he had gone forever.
But why should I mourn? I had been his prisoner for sixteen years. He had dared treat me thus. Now I was free. My beloved son Richard was King of England. Everything would be different from now on.
Even before orders came that I was to be released, people behaved differently. There were no more guards, no more locked doors. With Richard King, his mother would be the most important woman in the land.
William Marshal arrived at Winchester almost immediately. To my surprise he came from Richard. I could not help but be amazed after what I had heard of their encounter when Marshal had been on the point of killing him. Marshal himself told me what had happened and how it was that Richard had chosen him to be his messenger.
After the King’s death he and Geoffrey had carried him to Fontevrault Abbey and sent word to Richard that his father was dead.
There Henry lay, stripped of his jewels and all possessions, which those who deserted him had taken before they went. There were very few besides Marshal and Geoffrey who had remained faithful to him.
That was perhaps one of the saddest aspects of all.
Richard had arrived at Fontevrault and stood beside the dead King. It was typical of William Marshal that he did not attempt to make his escape, although it must have occurred to him that after what had happened he would have little mercy from the new King.
Richard had moved away from the corpse and signed to Marshal to follow him.
He said: “There is work for you to do, William Marshal. I cannot return to England immediately. Go to my mother and, with her, guard my kingdom until I return.”
William was so taken aback that he stared at the King in amazement.
Richard said: “I trust those men who are faithful to their kings, and I believe you will be so to the new one as you were to the old.”
William took his hand and kissed it.
“I will, my lord King,” he said.
I was delighted. Richard was not always by nature magnanimous, but I considered this a gesture worthy of a shrewd king; William Marshal’s acceptance of him made me feel that everything I had heard of him was true.
A king needs men such as William Marshal about him.
Thus it was that he arrived in England and came straight to me.
William brought letters from Richard in which he stated that I was to have full command of the kingdom until his return. My orders should be obeyed as though they came from the King himself. I was delighted and gratified by his trust. It was my duty now to prepare the people for him. I knew they would be feeling a little dubious.
He had never shown much interest in England; he had been out of it for most of his life. I had to make them realize that he was a strong man, a worthy successor to his father.
A further shock awaited me. Following almost immediately on the news of Henry’s death came that of Matilda. She had in fact died a few days before her father. I was glad he had been spared the grief of knowing this.
He had skillfully negotiated with the Emperor Frederick and had made it possible for them to return to their own dominions; but I believe the strain she had suffered greatly impaired Matilda’s health. It was sad that her husband was not with her when she died. He had been with the Emperor in the Holy Land and had taken their eldest son, Henry, with him. Thus Matilda died with only Richenza, Lothair and William beside her. She was only thirty-three years old.
The messenger who brought me this terrible news tried to comfort me by telling me that she had been buried with great pomp and ceremony in the church of St. Blasius. As if that could console me! I was grief-stricken for the loss of my daughter as I could not be for my husband.
I went over the details of her childhood and our last meeting . . . and my sorrow was great.
But there was no time for mourning. Richard was left to me, and my time must be dedicated to his needs.
I could not tarry in Winchester. I must go to London as soon as possible.
Before I left I summoned the Princess Alais to come to me. I think she was very frightened, fearing what would become of her now that the King was dead. She stood before me trembling.
She was a poor thing, really. She had so little spirit. That was what he had found comforting; she would always be ready to obey without question. I despised her, and I reminded myself that while I had been a prisoner she had been acting as Queen, taking my place.
The tables were turned now.
“Your position has changed considerably,” I said. “You must be wondering what will become of you.”
She looked blankly at me. I could see that she had been weeping.
“I, who was a prisoner here, am so no longer,” I went on. “The King treated me very badly, but that is over now. What are you going to do now that he is no longer here to protect you?” She looked at me piteously.
“You can’t expect Richard to marry you.”
“No,” she said quietly.
“No indeed. You could not expect the King of England to marry his father’s onetime mistress. Oh Alais, who would have believed that possible—and you the half-sister to the King of France!”
“Perhaps . . . I should go home.”
“Do you think you would be welcome at your brother’s Court? You are no longer a marriageable princess. So many people know what you were doing with the late King. I . . . his prisoner . . . was aware of it. As you know, your lover kept me in captivity for sixteen years . . . apart from that short period when he cheated me into going to Aquitaine to put my duchy at peace.”
“I . . . I did know.”
“For what reason do you think?”
“Because you plotted with his sons against him.”
“That is what he told you, was it? His sons were against him because he tried to cheat them. He crowned Henry and then would give him nothing. They were all against him . . . and he deserved it. Now, Princess Alais, you will remain in Winchester until I decide what shall become of you. We shall have to see whether your brother wishes to have soiled goods back in his Court.”
She shrank from me and I waved her away.
I gave orders that she was not to be allowed to leave Winchester. Then I went to London and summoned leading representatives of the Church and the nobility in order that they might swear fealty to the new King.
I stayed in London only for a few days, showing myself to the people as often as I could, smiling graciously and benignly, willing them to love me.
Then I decided to make a tour of the countryside. I wanted the people to welcome Richard as their King. They had been aware of the virtues of his father, which would have naturally increased in their eyes since his death. Henry had brought law and order to the country where there had been none, but recently the taxes he had imposed had alienated them, and I always believed that what they had resented more than anything were the stringent forestry laws.
William the Conqueror had been a great hunter; it was his main recreation; he had created forests and had had game placed there so that there would always be plenty of hunting grounds. Whenever he traveled around the country, the journey was broken by hunting trips. Most of his successors had been the same; hunting was their passion—and Henry had been no exception. He had added to the forest lands and made new ones. There had been strict laws. No one was allowed to deface trees; moreover, cutting them down was a major offense; no one must touch the game. In fact, the forest was sacrosanct.
Infringement of the laws brought dire penalties: a man could have his hands or feet cut off, his tongue cut out, his eyes gouged. The King’s forest must not be touched. There were wardens in the forests looking for offenders; even trespassers were thrown into prison, and they never knew whether they were going to be robbed of some vital part of their bodies.
I always thought that such laws should never have been. There was nothing like such to stir up strife, to underline the subservience kings expected of their people, and to arouse those bitter feelings which, when the opportunity arose, would come bursting forth.
I knew that the prisons were full of people awaiting condemnation. So I ordered that they should all be freed.
“Life will be different under King Richard,” I told the people. “He wishes all his subjects to be as happy serving him as he will be to serve them.”
This was a very worthwhile move. King Richard’s health was being drunk all over the country. Life was going to be good. He was a benign King; he cared about his subjects. He was going to make England a merry place to live in.
I had only a few weeks to prepare them, but I flatter myself I did so thoroughly, and by the time Richard arrived at Portsmouth the people were ready to welcome him as their King. They anticipated great celebrations. Coronations always won popular approval. A new reign could herald a new era, and people were always ready to believe that what was to come was better than what had gone before.
Richard greeted me with great affection. Such demonstrations were particularly touching when they came from him because he made them so rarely and when he did they were heartfelt. He was not the man to dissimulate. I could never understand how Henry and I could have had such a son; he was so different from us both; he was entirely straightforward, which I fear neither of his parents was.
He looked more handsome than ever. The English must be proud of him. The people like a handsome king.
I told him what progress I had made and how I had prepared the way for his popularity.
He said: “I knew you would do well. What a fool my father was not to appreciate you.”
“Oh, he had to have his Alais . . . his Rosamund. He needed docile women and he certainly got what he wanted in those two.”
“What of Alais?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I suppose she will go back to France in due course. You will not have her.”
“Most certainly not. My father’s leavings! Never!”
“It would be most repulsive,” I agreed. “But do not let us concern ourselves with her. She is quite insignificant now. We have to think of your coronation.”
“Yes, I suppose that is necessary.”
“Indeed it is. A king is not a king until he is anointed.”
“Then we will get it over as soon as we can.”
“We shall do it as it should be done. The people need to be wooed, Richard. You do not know them. You have seen so little of them. They need treating with care. With the people of Aquitaine one saw the way they were going. Their anger or their love was apparent the moment they felt it. These people are different. They show nothing though they are filled with rage. They must be watched. You have to woo them, Richard, and you must begin with a grand coronation.”
“As soon as it is over, I shall make my plans to go to the Holy Land.”
“Now that you have become King?”
“I have taken the cross. So has Philip Augustus. We are going together.”
“But it is different now, surely. You have a kingdom to govern.”
“I am blessed with a mother who can do that better than I.”
I was gratified but disturbed. It was unwise to leave the country. Henry had made that mistake. No, that was not quite the truth. There had been little else he could have done, for he had had his dominions overseas to keep in order. I often thought how much easier it would have been for him if he had been merely King of England. But that was not the case with Richard. He would be leaving his country to go to the defense of another.
He said: “I shall have to raise money.”
“How?” I asked.
“There is only one way. Taxation.”
“The people will not take kindly to that from their new King.”
“But this is a holy cause. Any who cannot undertake the crusade should be glad to help those who can.”
“They don’t see it like that. The Holy Land is far away. They do not like paying taxes to keep Normandy safe. How do you think they will feel about faraway places?”
“It is our Christian duty.”
There was nothing I could say. He was determined and I had always known that once Richard had made up his mind there was no changing it.
The coronation was to take place on September 3, which some people said was unlucky. But I wanted to get it over as quickly as possible. A king is not truly a king until he is crowned.
Just before the coronation John returned to England. He was married to Hadwisa of Gloucester on August 29. In spite of the fact that their father had tried to set John up in that place which rightly belonged to his brother, Richard received him graciously when he came to England. He granted him the county of Mortain, gave him 4,000 a year from land in England and agreed to the marriage to the heiress of Gloucester, which would greatly enrich him. Richard was determined to be magnanimous, thinking, I suppose, that, if he bestowed his bounty on John, his brother would be loyal while he, Richard, went off on his crusade. He was most generous, giving him the castles and honors of Marlborough, Ludgershall, Lancaster, Bolsover, Nottingham and the Peak among others. John expressed his delight, but even so, it occurred to me that he would have to be watched.
There was a slight hitch for a time when it seemed that the wedding might not proceed, for Archbishop Baldwin brought up the point about the couple’s being related in the third degree. This however was overcome and the ceremony continued. After all, it was well to have those close ties to fall back on if the time came when the couple wished to part, I thought cynically.
And when he was safely married, none could call my son “John Lackland” anymore.
I had lavished great care on organizing the coronation. I wanted to make it a day everyone would remember. I knew the people loved such spectacles.
I was glad that it was a bright and sunny day; that would help dispel the gloomy prognostications of some Egyptian astrologer who had said that any important matter undertaken on this day would be disastrous. The ceremony went well from the moment the archbishops and bishops arrived in Richard’s bedchamber to conduct him to the abbey.
The clergy chanted as they walked along. John came immediately behind them. I wondered what he was thinking, his head lowered, his eyes veiled. After all, he had at one time believed that the crown would be his. He must be seeing himself in the position which was now Richard’s.
How magnificent Richard looked as he walked with the royal canopy poised on lances carried by four barons and held over his head. The people were awestruck; and then they cheered. Slowly he came through the nave to the high altar, where Archbishop Baldwin awaited him. Baldwin would still be smarting over the controversy over John’s marriage and no doubt wondered whether this new reign would bring conflict between Church and State as the last one had.
Relics had been placed on the altar—bones of saints and phials of their blood. Richard must swear on these to honor God and the Holy Church. Then he was stripped down to his shirt and hose for the anointing after which he was dressed in the tunic and dalmatica. He took the sword of justice in his hand; the golden spurs were placed on his heels and the royal mantle was put about him.
None could have denied he was one of the handsomest kings England had known. Tall, impressive with his Viking looks, the great warrior, he was the perfect monarch in appearance. How different from his stocky father, inclining to be fat toward the end, those bow legs, that careless mode of dress, those reddened hands. Oh, so different! Richard was like a god from a Norse legend. My heart swelled with love and pride as I watched the anointing and with emotion saw them place the crown on his head; and the sound of the Te Deum echoing in my ears was wonderfully inspiring.
Richard was in truth King of England.
Feasting followed. I thought the day had gone well. There had been no discordant note, although there had been one uneasy moment when Richard and Baldwin came face to face at the altar. But that had passed and all had gone smoothly.
This was not to continue.
There had always been trouble between the citizens of London and the Jews. The Jews were a hardworking race and in their business deals always seemed to get the better of a bargain. This was resented by their gentile rivals. It was a form of envy, which seems to be at the root of most trouble.
Richard had ordered that there were to be no Jews at the coronation, giving the reason that this was a Christian ceremony and the Jews were not Christian.
Whether the Jews decided to defy the command or whether they had not been aware of it, I was not sure. Perhaps they thought that, if they brought costly presents, their presence would be welcomed.
There was one very rich Jew called Benedict of York. He brought a valuable gift for the King, but as he was making his way to the palace, he was recognized and the crowd immediately set upon him.
He protested: he had a valuable gold ornament which he wanted to give to the King. All he was doing was delivering it at the palace. The people would not listen to him. “No Jews,” they screamed, and dragged him to the ground.
The poor man realized that his life was in danger. He had a quick mind. It was the Jews they were attacking. Killing was against the law . . . providing it was not a Jew, of course; so he had the brilliant idea of changing his religion on the spot.
“I am about to become a Christian,” he cried. “If you kill me, you are killing one of your own.”
Some did not believe him, but others did. They did not want to face trial for murder. They knew what happened to murderers. The late King had been fanatically set on bringing law and order to the country, and he had done so by severely punishing violent acts.
“If he is a Christian,” said one of them, “let him be baptized.”
This was a new turn to the revelry. The mob forced Benedict to go into the nearest church and insisted on his immediate baptism.
Meanwhile there was rioting throughout London. The shops and houses of the Jews were full of valuables. They were Jewish goods and therefore they belonged to Christians.
So what began as a day of rejoicing turned into a nightmare of horror for many people.
Richard was angry. What a beginning to his reign! He wanted peace. It was imperative that he have peace for he must go off to the Holy Land with an easy conscience.
I was with him when he sent for Ranulf de Glanville, one of the most able of his ministers and the man who had very often been my jailer during my imprisonment. Neither I nor Richard felt any rancor toward him; he was a far-seeing man; he had always been respectful to me, looking ahead to the day when Richard would be King and his mother would be beside him.
Richard commanded Ranulf to put an end to the rioting. The people must be told that it was his intention to have no such disturbances. People must live in peace side by side, though they had differences of opinion on certain things, including religion.
Ranulf was certainly efficient. Very soon he had quelled the rising in London, and then Richard sent him off to stop it elsewhere, for when the news of what had happened after the coronation spread through the country, people in provincial towns thought they could enjoy a few pickings from the wealthy Jews.
There was a sequel to the story of Benedict of York. A few days after the coronation he begged an audience with the King.
Richard permitted him to come. He knelt before him.
“So you are the new Christian,” said Richard. The man was silent.
Richard went on: “Were you not baptized on the day of my coronation?”
“I was, my lord,” the man replied.
“Are you a true Christian?” asked Richard. “And will you abjure your old faith and cling to your new?”
Benedict raised his head. “My lord King,” he said, “I lied. I was in fear of my life. I was baptized. But I am a Jew and as such can never be a true Christian. In a moment of terror I renounced my faith. Now that has passed, I wish to tell the truth. I am ready to die for my faith.”
“Why are you so ready to die today when you were not a few days ago?” asked Richard.
“I spoke in a moment of panic. Now I have had time to reflect, I see what this means and I would rather die honorably than live ignobly.”
Richard said: “You are an honest man and an honorable one. I respect these virtues. Forget your baptism and return to the faith of your fathers.”
Benedict was overcome with gratitude; he fell on his knees and kissed Richard’s feet.
When I heard of this, I was filled with emotion. I knew my son could be a great king . . . if he would.
Once the coronation was over, Richard was obsessed by one thing: the need to raise money for the crusade.
I was beginning to be alarmed: he was proposing to sell all his castles; if anyone wanted a special favor, they could have it for cash. William Longchamp paid him 3,000 for the office of Chancellor. Was that wise? I wanted to know. Could such an important post be a matter of money? And why Longchamp? Just because he had been prepared to pay! Henry had said that Longchamp was the son of a traitor. His father had been deep in debt and disgrace not so long ago, and his grandfather was nothing but a French serf who had taken the name of Longchamp from the Norman village where he was brought up. First he had been in my son Geoffrey’s service and, seeing an advantage in transferring to Richard’s, he had done this. He was rather uncouth, slightly deformed, lame and by no means handsome. Moreover, he did not speak English and showed no desire to learn. He was certainly not going to find much favor with the people.
There were many anomalies. Charters were available to cities for certain sums of money; privileges were taken from monasteries and retrieved on payment The people were amused at first, then outraged. It seemed as though an auction sale was being conducted throughout the country; and not for its own good either, but so that the King might raise an army to fight far away from home. There would have been a great outcry, I was sure, but for the fact that the money was sought to fight a holy war, and people were afraid to protest too much for fear of heavenly reprisals.
I protested to Richard that these acts could undermine his future as King. He had begun so well by releasing the people from prisons. He reminded me that that was my act. I said I had done it for him and he had seen how it had enhanced his popularity. The people had been ready to welcome him when he came home; but there were murmurings now. If there was one thing calculated to alienate the people, it was excessive taxation.
His reply alarmed me. He said: “I would sell London itself if I could find a buyer.”
It might be that the people were more disillusioned because they had expected so much. They had believed they were getting a more benign sovereign than Henry; now they were beginning to see that what they had thought of as Henry’s harsh rule was for the good of the country, whereas everything Richard wanted was for the good of his crusade.
Preparations went on with speed. Richard’s methods were bringing in the money. There was talk of little else but what military equipment would be needed. The fleet was being assembled.
I could not help comparing this with the crusade in which I had joined. Whenever I was with Richard, he would insist that I talk to him of my adventures. He was determined that the Third Crusade should be the one to bring final victory. He did not want to return until Jerusalem was in Christian hands. I was anxious about him, for, in spite of his magnificent looks, he was not as strong as might be expected. He had suffered from that distressing ague for a long time. He had tried to hide it but it was not always possible to do so; and I remembered the hardships I had suffered during my adventures in that inhospitable land.
I had always loved him so entirely—from the moment he first lay in my arms, a beautiful child even on the day of his birth—that it was hard for me to see faults in him.
I did find myself constantly comparing him with Henry. I had to admit that Henry had had very special qualities. He had been bedeviled by his need for women. I had often noticed how preoccupation with sex can impair people’s careers. Not that Henry allowed it to interfere disastrously with his; but if it had been less important to him and had allowed him to remain faithful to me, our partnership could have brought us both much good, I was sure.
Henry had made those two vital mistakes in his life, of course—the bestowing of an archbishopric on Becket and a crown on his son Henry. Even so, he would never have made the mistakes Richard was making now.
I saw them clearly and I wanted to stop him; but I knew Richard’s obstinacy. He had one thought now and that was to go on a crusade. I must not try to impede him. Let him go; and when he returned he would be a good King. Meanwhile I must hold the kingdom for him.
I was very worried about John. Rumors were circulating, and I guessed John was at the source of them. It was being said that Richard wanted to be King of Jerusalem . . . and in that event John would be King of England.
How I wished that Richard had never taken the cross, that he had been content to rule over his possessions at home!
He was ready to sail by spring. He left the country in the charge of Longchamp as Chancellor and Hugh Puiset, Bishop of Durham, both of whom had paid highly for their appointments. I, of course, was to be at the head of affairs.
But I did not intend to remain in England. I had been captive so long and I was finding freedom sweet. Uppermost in my mind was the need to see Richard married. I was anxious about the succession. I knew John had his greedy eyes on the crown; but there was one who came before him, and that was my grandson Arthur, Duke of Brittany, the son of Geoffrey who had been born after his death; as Geoffrey had been older than John, his son came before John.
I thought Henry’s illegitimate son Geoffrey might have had pretensions too. Henry had made so much of him and on his deathbed, when this Geoffrey was the only son who remained faithful to him, he had said something about his being his only true son.
A country without an heir is in danger. Richard was now thirty-three years old, an age when a King should be married and have produced several heirs. Of course, the circumstances of Alais’s connection with Henry had been the cause of the present position, but I believed it should be remedied without delay.
I tried to get Richard to pay some attention to this all-important matter, but it was quite difficult to draw his attention from the crusade.
“Richard,” I said firmly, “you must marry.”
He looked absent-minded. “Oh, that can wait until I return.”
“It cannot wait,” I said. “It is imperative that you produce an heir.”
He looked at me steadily for a few moments, then he said: “Dear Mother, I have no desire for marriage.”
“You . . . a King . . . can say that?”
“It is true.”
I had heard rumors. There was the passionate friendship with the King of France. “The King likes better to toy with his own sex than with women.” That had been said. I had refused to accept it then. He was so good-looking, so essentially masculine.
He read my thoughts. He said: “It is so. You see, women have little attraction for me.”
I said: “Your friendship with Philip Augustus . . . you were lovers?”
“You could say that.”
“I see,” I said slowly. “But that does not prevent your marrying and having a child. There have been other cases . . .”
“I suppose it will have to be done.”
“Of course it will have to be done. There is a crown to think of. Imagine what would happen if you did not have an heir. Think of John on the throne of England!”
“Arthur is the heir to the throne.”
“A young boy. Do you think the people will want him! He is a foreigner. You know how the English hate foreigners.”
“They could call me that.”
“No. Not with your fair looks. They say you are the perfect Englishman.”
“Who has lived so little in England.”
“You must remedy that, Richard. When this crusade is over . . . Oh, I wish to God it had not been necessary to do it so soon.”
“It was when the call came.”
“But your marriage. What of this Berengaria of Navarre? You mentioned her once. I thought you had taken a fancy to her.”
“I did. I do not want marriage . . . but if it were necessary . . .”
“It is necessary. We must approach Sancho for Berengaria.”
“What of Alais?”
“She shall go back to France. Philip Augustus must understand that in view of what has happened you can not make her your Queen.”
“He will expect it.”
“Then he must needs do so. I must arrange this marriage with Berengaria.”
Richard did not answer. I guessed his thoughts were elsewhere. But I began to plan vigorously.
I was a little taken aback by what he had admitted. True, it was not exactly a surprise to me. It was something which had been in my mind for some time, and because I had not wanted to admit it, I had allowed it to remain a vague suspicion.
Men had such leanings but they did not prevent their begetting a family, which they must do if they were kings. I could see that Richard was going to be very lackadaisical about marriage, and it was my duty to see that it took place as soon as possible. I was certainly not going to wait until his return from the crusade.
There was only one course open to me. I must go to Navarre. I must bring Berengaria out with me, and we must meet up with Richard somewhere and get them married.
For a woman of my age this was an undertaking which might prove a little daunting. But I was no stranger to the hardship of crusading, and though at the time when I suffered from this I had said I never wanted to do it again, this was my duty. Richard must be married with as little delay as possible. And as Berengaria was the only marriageable woman for whom I had heard him express a liking, Berengaria it must be.
What I planned to do was to leave England in the hands of Longchamp and Hugh Puiset and go to Navarre. There was bound to be delay on the Continent. Both Philip Augustus and Richard had many preparations to make. I must catch up with them somewhere and insist on the marriage. The difficult part would be to see that it was consummated.
I must lose no time in bringing this about.
I left England, taking the Princess Alais with me. I was going to return her to France. We had no further use for her. She was very sad and, I believe, genuinely mourned Henry. He had been, I am sure, very different with her than with me. I supposed she was never provocative. It would have been, “Yes, my lord. No, my lord” all the way. I was a little sorry for her, although her meekness irritated me. Moreover I guessed there would be trouble over her, for Philip Augustus would not want her to be returned to him unmarried. He appeared to be insisting that Richard marry her. He would consider, of course, that whatever Richard’s inclinations—and his must be the same—marriage was outside that. It was the duty of a king to marry and produce children. That need not interfere with his mode of life.
I crossed the Channel in February. It was not a pleasant experience. But when was it ever? I had known it worse in the summer than it was that February. We went to Rouen, where I decided Alais should stay until we knew what to do with her. She was in the kind of captivity which I had endured for so long. I often thought: The tables are turned now, Henry. And I wondered if he could know what was happening now.
I left Rouen and made my way south to Navarre. There I was greeted warmly, for they knew the purpose of my visit, and naturally a little country like Navarre would be delighted for its daughter to marry the King of England.
Berengaria was presented to me. She was not very young. Her father had resisted offers for her hand because when Richard had visited his Court he had hinted that he might marry her, and Sancho had lived in hopes since then; now that it seemed those hopes were about to be fulfilled, he was overjoyed.
I told him that my son had begged me to come and bring Berengaria to him. This was not exactly true, but I could hardly mention his reluctance. Sancho believed me, though he must have wondered why nothing had been done about the matter before.
It was pleasant to be in Navarre. It was not so very far from Aquitaine, and Sancho’s Court was similar to those I had known in my youth. There were the troubadours and the songs that I loved so well. Berengaria played and sang. She was a pleasant creature, but her beauty was not of that wild, tempestuous kind which might have been able to divert Richard from his tendencies. She was simply a charming, fresh-faced girl, and although she was still young enough to bear children, it seemed to me imperative that she and Richard set about the task without delay.
Sancho the Wise was Berengaria’s father, and Sancho the Strong her brother. The minstrels sang of them and of the Princess who was going to marry a great King.
It was all very pleasant and very reminiscent. It was as though the years slipped away as I sat and listened.
Berengaria remembered every detail of her first meeting with Richard.
“I thought he was the most handsome man in the world,” she told me.
“I think he still is,” I replied.
She wanted to talk about him all the time. I told her of his prowess with the sword and how people were already talking of him as the great hero of battle. He was wise too. I told her the story of Benedict of York and of William Marshal who had killed his horse from under him and yet at their next meeting Richard had given him an important post in his realm.
“And he is going now in the name of God to fight the Saracen and restore Jerusalem to Christianity.”
She clasped her hands, smiling ecstatically.
I murmured a little prayer that all would be well for her.
She told me that she had never since seen anyone like him and that she had loved him from the first moment she met him.
“There is no one like him,” I said emotionally.
“You love him, too,” she answered.
“I have loved him more than I ever loved anyone else,” I said truthfully.
“When he was here and I was only a child, he rode for me in the tournament. He wore my glove in his helmet . . . as knights wear something belonging to the lady they love to show they are riding for her.”
“So he loved you then.”
“Is it not wonderful that our love has lasted all these years?”
Poor child, I feared she was going to be sadly disillusioned.
She told me of her fears that he would marry the Princess Alais.
“He swore he never would,” I told her.
“Poor Alais. I feel sorry for her.”
“You should not. She did what she wanted. She took the lover of her choice. She did not think of shame . . . then. It is only now when he is gone and she is left to bear the result of that affair, that she doubtless repents her folly.”
“Yes. And I am happy, for all my dreams are coming true.”
“Very soon you will be Richard’s bride. Much as I like your father’s Court, I do not wish to tarry here. I know Richard is going to Sicily. My daughter Joanna is Queen of Sicily and she will welcome us. She is, alas, a widow now, and I do not know what plans she will make. But Richard will be there and so shall we. The wedding will take place at once and you, my dear Berengaria, will be Queen of England.”
“It is good of you to come so far for me.”
“At my age, you mean? I have traveled much in my life and, although I now look for comfort, travel troubles me less than it would most folk. Now, my child, as I said, I wish to leave very soon. You must be ready.”
“I am ready when you wish to go, my lady.”
She would be a delightful, docile daughter-in-law. I hoped Richard was not going to disappoint her too much.
Time was all-important. Richard was to spend the winter of 1190–91 in Sicily with the King of France, so I could not go to him with Berengaria while he was officially affianced to Alais. I had no doubt that Philip Augustus was making himself quite unpleasant on that account.
I decided we would wait in Italy for the appropriate moment. Richard could be informed of where we were and send for us when it would be in order for us all to meet.
By this time winter was coming on, but I dare not delay. If I missed the army in Sicily, I should have to travel all the way to the Holy Land, which could mean hardship. I was quite prepared to do it if necessary, for I must get Richard married. I could not rest until there was a child on the way.
It was an arduous journey but I was determined. For me it was full of memories, for had I not come this way all those years ago? Memories came flooding back; and what was most vivid was that day when I had learned of Raymond’s death. Then I thought I had touched the very depth of misery. But one recovers. Grief fades and life offers other joys to console one.
Berengaria was a pleasant companion—so fresh and innocent, a quality which I found most endearing. All the time I was hoping she would not suffer too much when the realities of life were forced upon her.
My relief was great when at last we reached Naples. The ships which were to take us to Sicily could be seen in the harbor. But there was disquieting news. Trouble had broken out in Sicily and we were to await Richard’s instructions before we set sail.
Chafing against the loss of time as I was, I found this hard to endure. I was even more disturbed when news of the state of affairs in Sicily filtered through.
I was so looking forward to seeing my daughter Joanna, whom I had not seen since she had been not quite eleven years old; she would be twenty-four now. I had wanted to be with her when her little son, Bohemond, had died; poor child, he had scarcely lived, and heirs were so important to kings and queens. Joanna had written to me; she had been heartbroken. And now her husband King William was dead and Tancred, the illegitimate son of William’s brother Roger, had taken the throne.
I thanked God that Richard was on the spot. He would surely rescue his sister from the dire plight in which she clearly found herself.
I continued to be worried about the passing of time. I must get Richard married. He knew I was determined to and he knew I was right; but at the same time he wanted to avoid it; and moreover there was his friendship with Philip Augustus. I had no idea what the relationship between them was now and whether they continued to be lovers; but Philip Augustus, from what I could gather, was a king who regarded his personal life as being quite apart from his kingship.
So there I was in Naples, each day hoping for news, wondering what was happening between Richard and Philip Augustus and how they were spending the time. Richard had already distinguished himself. There was no doubt about that. People spoke of him with awe, the great Coeur de Lion—the Lionheart. I heard the very sight of him inspired people and his bravery was a byword.
All the same, there were rumors. One which distressed me particularly was that he had gone to the door of a church wearing nothing but his breeches and there he publicly confessed to his homosexuality.
“How could you, Richard?” I said aloud. “Why proclaim it? What if Berengaria hears of this . . . or worse still, Sancho of Navarre? What do you think they would do? Berengaria would perhaps be ignorant of what it meant but there would surely be those to enlighten her.”
And here was I, at my age, bearing all the stresses of travel, giving up my comforts in my determination to get him married!
There had long been rumors of his way of life. They had started when he and Philip Augustus had so blatantly shown their affection for each other.
Richard had been chosen to lead the crusade; his military reputation made it clear that he was just the man; but there were some who did not approve of the choice.
The preacher Fulke of Neuilly, while exhorting men to join the crusade, expressed a doubt that Richard was the man to lead it. Fulke stressed the fact that this was a holy war and, great soldier that Richard was, his private life was not such as to make him fit to lead an expedition in the name of Christianity.
“Thou hast three dangerous daughters,” thundered Fulke, when he was preaching and Richard was in the congregation, “and they are leading you to disaster.”
Richard stood up and said: “I have no daughters.”
“But you have,” countered Fulke. “They are Pride, Avarice and Lechery.”
Richard knew how to deal with such a man and I was proud of him when I heard what happened next.
He cried out so that all could hear. “So . . . this men tells me I have three daughters. I will be generous and give my daughters away. I will give Pride to the Templars and Hospitallers, Avarice to the Cistercian monks, and my Lechery to the prelates of the Church.”
There was a murmur of approval throughout the assembly, for all knew of the pride of the Templars, the Cistercians had a reputation for greed, and there was immorality in plenty among the clergy.
I wondered how Fulke felt. Perhaps he would learn in future that it was better not to do battle with Richard either with the sword or with words.
But I was uneasy because Richard’s leanings were becoming so well known.
It was March before I had a message that I should prepare to sail for Sicily.
What joy it was to be united with two of my children: my beloved Richard and Joanna.
There was much to tell. Joanna embraced me with fervor. I had always had a rapport with my children—apart from John, who did not seem like one of mine somehow—and although there were long periods when we did not see each other, the affection was there, instantaneous when we met, and it was as though we had never been parted.
Poor girl, Joanna had gone through a terrible ordeal. She told me how Tancred had seized power and imprisoned her in the palace where, when her husband was alive, she had lived in regal splendor. Joanna was the one of my daughters who was most like me. Matilda and Eleanor were of milder dispositions; Joanna was one who would fight for her rights, and for that reason Tancred had seen fit to shut her away.
I, who had been a prisoner myself, could well sympathize with her, and I listened with great tenderness to the talk of her sufferings.
“Always,” she said, “I thought of getting a message to Richard. I used to tell myself that had my father been alive he would have come to my rescue but I need not fear for I had a brother who was now King and who would do the same. It was wonderful when he arrived with his fleet. There were the English ships lying off the coast—a hundred galleys and fourteen large ships carrying arms and provisions. It was a marvelous sight. I knew my deliverance was at hand. The people rushed to the shore to greet them. The galleys rode in, all the banners and pennons floating on top of the spears. The fronts of the ships were painted with the knights’ devices.
“And there was Richard. Oh, my lady Mother, he is so magnificent. More like a god than a man. He is so much taller than the others; he stands well above them. The trumpets rang out. Do you know what the people said of him? ‘Such a one is worthy to rule an empire. He is rightly made King over people and kingdoms. He is greater even than we have heard of him.’ How different it was when the French fleet came in.” She laughed. “They had suffered storms and stress, and the French King was very ill. I believe he is losing his enthusiasm for the crusade.”
She went on to tell me what a difference Richard’s arrival had made. He had immediately demanded that Tancred free his sister, and so afraid was Tancred that he arranged for her to join her brother, and all that he had stolen from her was restored.
“I was taken to the hospital of St. John’s which Tancred had arranged should be made ready, so that I might reside there in comfort. Richard came to me there. What a wonderful reunion! And with him, my lady, was the King of France. He was most gracious and complimentary to me. People were saying that he would want to marry me, but I do not think that was so.”
She was very friendly with Berengaria. Indeed, it would have been difficult to be anything else, for the girl was so eager to please. Richard had received her with a cool courtesy which sent flickers of alarm through me.
I heard, too, what had happened to him.
When he had crossed to Calais at the beginning of the journey, he met Philip Augustus at Gu St.-Rmi. They had been together awhile, then they parted to meet again at Dreux. They were in complete amity—lovers, I presumed. However, they swore to defend each other’s kingdom as they would their own. Richard’s great desire was not only to win back Jerusalem in the name of Christendom but to make the way there safe for pilgrims.
In Gascony he was seeking Walter de Chisi who had been robbing pilgrims on their way to Compostela, and when he found him he threw him into prison and confiscated his wealth.
Richard was certainly eager to fill his treasury. He knew that crusades were often more costly than had first been realized, and he wanted to make sure that he was not impeded by lack of money. Whenever he saw a chance of adding to his resources, he took it with both hands; and when he came to Sicily and found his sister in distress, he felt that it was his duty not only to rescue her but to fill his coffers at the same time. Such a purpose was worth a little delay, a little divergence from the main project.
He knew that for years King William had been collecting money because he himself planned to go on a crusade. Where was that money? It was said that, when he knew he was dying, William had left the money to his father-in-law, Henry of England, for Henry at that time had vowed to go on a crusade. Richard now claimed the money. It had been saved for a crusade. He was the leader of this one, and the money was rightly his, as he was his father’s heir.
Finally something was settled with Tancred about the money, and Richard promised that Tancred’s daughter should marry Arthur of Brittany, the posthumous son of his brother Geoffrey, whom he had named as his heir in the event of his having no children of his own. So there was no fighting between Richard and Tancred. Tancred was too wise to enter into that kind of conflict with the mighty Richard; and in any case Richard had what he wanted without it.
Tancred, a mischievous man, had done his best to drive a wedge between the French and English Kings. He had tried to get Philip Augustus to side with him against Richard. Philip Augustus, however, declined to betray his friend.
All this time there was between the Kings of France and England this tiresome matter of Alais. Philip Augustus thought that Richard ought to marry her. He wanted to see his sister Queen of England. It was no use Richard’s protesting that he had no desire to marry at all, certainly not one who had been his father’s mistress and very likely borne his child. There was something indecent about it. He would not have it.
Philip Augustus said this was nonsense. Alais was a Princess of France. She had been kept more or less in captivity by Richard’s father. It was Richard’s duty to right the wrong his father had done her and marry her.
Richard said he would not. Philip Augustus said he must.
Unable to snare Philip Augustus into treacherous intrigue against Richard, Tancred tried to incriminate the French King in Richard’s eyes.
Richard said to me: “I did not in my heart believe Tancred. But he showed me letters which he said Philip Augustus had written to him. In these letters it was suggested that he and Tancred had plotted against me. I guessed the letters were forgeries.”
“Tancred is a dangerous man.”
“We are all dangerous men, Mother.”
“But you did not believe that Philip Augustus would work against you!”
“It is what was suggested. But it was clumsily done. I did not believe that of Philip Augustus. But I made him think I did. He was so angry that I should have doubted him. To tell the truth, I was heartily tired of the subject of Alais. He would not leave it alone. He was always bringing it up. I quarreled with him. I told him our friendship was at an end. He had betrayed me, I said, and therefore I was freed from the bond which bound me to his sister. I said: ‘My mother will arrange for me to marry Berengaria of Navarre, and that is what I shall do.’”
“So you are no longer friends?”
“Nothing will ever be the same between us.”
“That is good,” I said. “It was not a healthy friendship. And now, Richard, you will have a wife. You must devote your time to her. I have come so far. I want the marriage to take place now.”
I saw the evasive look in his eyes.
“But it is Lent,” he said. “A king’s marriage could not take place in Lent.”
“She is here, Richard. It will have to be soon.”
“When Lent is over, we shall see about it.”
“It must be then,” I said firmly.
I was very worried about what might be happening in England and the rest of the dominions. I tried to arouse Richard’s anxieties but he was so immersed in the crusade that he could not spare more than a fleeting thought for his subjects at home.
I said: “Richard, you have only just been crowned King. It is dangerous to have left your country so soon. What will the people think?”
“They should be proud that I am fighting God’s war,” he replied.
“That is a superficial emotion. They are already groaning under the taxes which they paid to finance it. Primarily people are interested in that which is happening to them. And what of John?”
“Well, what of John?”
“Do you realize that he wants the crown?”
“He has no chance. Arthur is the undisputed heir.”
“That is the trouble. John thinks he is the heir, as his father’s son. He is trying to persuade others that this is so.”
“If they believe him, they will be traitors.”
“That may be. But John is there, and many will not want a foreign boy to be heir to the throne. The situation is full of danger. If you were there, all would be well. Your father would never have gone away and left his kingdom unless he had to.”
“And look what he came to.”
“For the main part he ruled wisely and well. It was only because he was old and ill and heartbroken and because his sons were against him that he died as he did.”
“I do not intend to go his way. I shall be able to fight for my kingdom if necessary.”
“But it must not be necessary. Richard, I must go back. For your sake I must watch over England and Normandy and the rest of the provinces.”
“If you were there, I should know all was well.”
I sighed. “I had wished to see you married.”
“After Lent, dear Mother.”
“Will you promise me that you will marry Berengaria as soon as Lent is over? We cannot have her here like this . . . unmarried. Sancho will take offense.”
I was relieved. I knew he would keep his promise.
“You will be leaving ere long,” I said. “Joanna can act as companion to Berengaria. It will be better that the two of them are together.”
“It shall be.”
“John and Longchamp are bickering together. Longchamp was not a good choice, Richard.”
“Perhaps not. But . . .”
“I know. He paid a good price for the post.” I shook my head. “This crusade is an obsession with you, Richard. I hope it does not destroy you.”
“Destroy me! My dear Mother, I am going to free Jerusalem for the glory of God.”
“It may be necessary to curb Longchamp. Have I your authority to deal as I think fit with them all?”
“And Geoffrey the Bastard? He is a good man. I believe John is trying to win him to his side. He should have the See of York. Your father always meant him to. I want to do all I can to get him installed in the post.”
“Do as you think fit. I know that will be the wisest and best for me. You have my complete trust.”
“And I have your word that the marriage will take place as soon as Lent is over?”
“Then I must return.”
I said a fond farewell to Richard.
“My heart goes with you,” I said. “And I long for the day when I shall see you again.”
He replied that he would think of me and he placed the care of his kingdom in my hands because I was the one whom he loved and esteemed beyond all others.
I was gratified, honored and touched, but I wished he had shown a little more enthusiasm for his marriage with Berengaria.
It was a sad parting with Joanna. “Such a brief meeting,” I said, “after all these years. Sometimes I wish I had been born in humble circumstances so that I could have my family about me.” I kissed her tenderly. I went on: “Take care of Berengaria. She needs your care. She will soon be your sister in truth, for the marriage with Richard is going to take place as soon as Lent is over.”
Joanna was wise and worldly. She understood that Richard was not eager for marriage and she was quite fond of Berengaria in a protective kind of way. I was glad of that.
Berengaria clung to me. She adored Richard and was happy at the prospect of marrying him, but she was a little afraid of him. He was not exactly an ardent lover, although always courteous to her in a detached way. She was proud of him because everywhere he went people deferred to him; there could never have been a doubt that he was the leader of them all. But I daresay she wished he would have shown a little tenderness toward her.
However, I must leave them. But for the urgent need to get Richard married I should not be here now. I was deeply worried about John and the incompetence of Longchamp; and in such a mood I set out on the long journey back.
When I arrived in Rome, I was received by Pope Celestine III, who was gracious and helpful over the See of York. He agreed with me that, as it had been the wish of the late King that his son Geoffrey should have it, illegitimate though he was, this should be done. I did explain that Geoffrey had always been treated as a member of the family and brought up in the royal nursery; he had been a good and faithful son and was with his father at his death.
“Then he is your Archbishop of York,” said the Pope.
I was very tired and feeling my age. But I had achieved a great deal. I had taken Berengaria to Richard and he had given his word that he would marry her. I did not believe he would break that word; and I had settled this matter of the See of York.
Now I must rest awhile in Rouen, where I could be watchful of what was happening in Normandy and across the Channel.
It was a good task done, but my work was by no means completed.
It soon emerged that there could be plenty to disturb me.
John, of course, was bent on worming his way into power. He was spreading rumors that Richard had no intention of returning from the Holy Land and would doubtless become King of Jerusalem.
He was quarreling with Longchamp.
Geoffrey, who had been in Normandy, attempted to return to England to take up his new post and was arrested on Longchamp’s orders and put into prison in Dover.
John, who looked upon Longchamp as his enemy, seized the opportunity this offered; he had the bishops and barons on his side and they, with the justiciars, summoned Longchamp to appear before them and defend his conduct. Longchamp made use of the time-honored excuse of illness and did not appear. He was forthwith excommunicated by the bishops. Meanwhile Longchamp tried to ingratiate himself with John and agreed to stand trial, but when he realized that his enemies were determined to be rid of him, he decided it would be wise to leave the country.
His escape turned out to be quite a comic interlude. Fearing that he might be prevented from leaving the country, he disguised himself as a woman. He wore a rather showy gown and was mistaken for a harlot. One of the sailors made advances to him; there was a scuffle, and during it the sailor became aware of his sex. He shouted to his companions that this was no woman but a man. They gathered around, pulling at his clothes and taking off his wig.
He was held a prisoner until he gave up the keys of the Tower and Windsor which he held as Chancellor; and then he was allowed to depart.
In France Longchamp made his way to Paris, where he sought out a cardinal friend, explained his plight and begged the cardinal to help him to an audience with me so that he could tell me of the troubles which were being stirred up by my son John.
As I was well aware of the troubles John was stirring up, I saw a good way of ridding the country of the arrogant and incompetent Chancellor, and I turned a deaf ear to his pleading.
What I needed more than anything was to hear that Richard was married. News was so difficult to come by. But at last messengers arrived and then I felt more contented than I had for a long time. Richard and Berengaria had been married in Limassol, on the island of Cyprus. We were over the first hurdle; now I wanted to hear more than ever that a son had been born to them.
I was horrified when I heard of their adventures. None knew better than I the dangers they would be facing. But at least I was comforted by the knowledge that they were safe so far. I thanked God that my practical, indomitable Joanna was there to look after Berengaria.
They had sailed from Sicily in their fleet of ships—Richard taking up the rear, a huge lantern at the poop of his favorite vessel, the Trenc-the-Mere, in which he was traveling. Berengaria was not in his ship as he had said that they were not yet married and it would be improper for her to be with him. She was traveling with Joanna.
Good Friday dawned. The wind had risen and was blowing angry clouds across the sky and Richard, speaking through the large trumpet he kept for the purpose, warned his fleet to be prepared for storms. When they came, it was difficult for the ships to keep together; the sails were useless, and Richard’s voice was lost in the roar of the wind. The storm continued for some hours and when it was over Richard decided that they must call in at Crete to assess the damage to some of his ships. Then to his horror he noticed that some ships were missing, among them his treasure ship and the one in which Joanna and Berengaria were sailing.
I suffered with them when I heard how they had thought their last moment had come. Richard should have had them in his ship. Who cared for propriety at such times? But perhaps it was not propriety in Richard’s case. I could well imagine he wanted a little respite from the adoring Berengaria.
However, when the storm abated, the ship in which Joanna and Berengaria were sailing was still afloat and before them was the island of Cyprus. While they lay at anchor, they were made aware of the precariousness of their position, for a party of English sailors rowed out to them with a story which set them tingling with alarm. They had been in one of the other ships which the storm had cast up on this coast. The Cypriots had helped them salvage what they could from the vessel, but when the goods were safely ashore, the islanders had taken possession of them and put the sailors into prison. When they heard that an English ship was lying off the coast, they had escaped from their prison, found a boat and rowed out to warn their compatriots what would happen to them if they came ashore.
Berengaria and Joanna were frightened. Here they were, off the coast of Cyprus and no sign of Richard. While they were wondering what would happen to them, they saw a small boat rowing out toward the ship. In it was a very splendidly attired naval man, who told them that the Emperor Isaac Comnenus knew who they were and would like to offer them hospitality. Would they therefore allow him to take them ashore?
I was glad that Joanna was there. Having heard the tale the English sailors had to tell, she was wary. She knew that, if she and Berengaria were captive in the hands of Isaac Comnenus, a big ransom could be demanded for them. The last thing Richard would want to do was spend money on them!
She said: “Please bring the Emperor to us.”
“He is so eager to honor you,” she was told, “that he wants to entertain you in his palace.”
Joanna said that they needed time to consider the invitation. They needed time to recover from their ordeal at sea.
“The Emperor will have luxurious apartments prepared for you,” they were told.
Joanna was adamant. They needed time to make ready. They knew that the Emperor would understand, and they thanked him most warmly for his consideration.
Clever Joanna! I tremble to think what would have happened had Berengaria been alone. I was sure she would have trusted the wily Emperor.
The captain of the vessel was greatly relieved that the ladies had avoided accepting the invitation. Later that day some of the shipwrecked sailors who had been imprisoned were fighting their way to the shore; several of them escaped and came out in little boats. They all had the same story to tell: they had salvaged the goods on their ships and these had been seized and they themselves taken away to prison and left to starve. They had been desperate and when they heard that an English ship was close by, they had broken free and made their way to it.
The weather did not improve. Each day they looked eagerly for Richard; each day they wondered how long they would be allowed to remain in peace. Fortunately the bad weather was a help to them. The Emperor was hurt that his invitation had not been accepted, said more messengers; they hinted that continued rejection might anger him.
Their fear increased. They had been three days there when they saw troops massing on the shore, and they thought the Emperor was preparing to attack the ship.
Then one morning they awoke to great joy. Richard, with his fleet, was coming to them. When they heard the trumpet from the Trenc-the-Mere, their relief and excitement were overwhelming.
It was Isaac Comnenus’s turn to be afraid. The situation would be quite different now.
Richard was furious when he heard that the salvaged goods had been confiscated and his sailors imprisoned. His men were weary; many had been seasick; but he was going into battle. He rallied them; their comrades had been ill-treated by Isaac Comnenus, who was no friend to crusaders. They came ashore. They had no horses. A peasant was riding by. Richard seized him, took his horse and mounted it. Richard on horseback brandishing his sword was a sight to strike terror into those who opposed him. This was the fabulous Coeur de Lion. Few could stand against him. Certainly not Isaac Comnenus. Soon Richard had put his enemies to flight.
He went to the fort and spoke to the people, telling them he came in peace not war. He did not want to quarrel with them, only with their Emperor who had stolen his goods and ill-treated his men, and he would be punished for this. But Richard was not at war with them. The only war he wanted to fight was a holy war.
The people were submissive; the Emperor’s rule was harsh and they had little love for him; and they were overawed, as all must be, by the sight of Richard.
It was in Limassol that Richard married Berengaria.
I knew I could trust him to keep his promise to me. Joanna wrote and told me about it. I was glad she did for she told me in more detail than the others would have.
The people were pleased to have a royal wedding in their town. The romantic situation appealed to them. Moreover, Richard was such an impressive figure. I doubt any of them had ever seen a man so handsome; Berengaria was a charming bride, and the fact that she had traveled from Navarre and had made the hazardous journey to her future husband was intriguing.
Of course, the Archbishop of Canterbury should perform the ceremony, but on this occasion it was quite out of the question, and Richard’s chaplain Nicholas would have to serve instead. I daresay it occurred to Richard that there might be a possibility of postponing the wedding until he returned to England that the Archbishop of Canterbury might officiate, but he must have remembered his promise to me.
This was something more than a wedding for, having driven Isaac Comnenus several miles inland, Richard had decided to crown himself King of Cyprus. Thus he would make Cyprus safe for pilgrims. He had always said that making the way safe was as important as getting to Jerusalem itself. Many pilgrims had set out and many had been lost on the way, through the treachery of those through whose land they had had to pass. Now he was making Cyprus safe, there should be both a wedding and a coronation.
Joanna said that Berengaria looked very charming with her long hair parted in the center; she wore a transparent veil held in place by a jewel. She was so happy that she looked quite beautiful in her long white gown. Richard looked godlike. Joanna rhapsodized over his appearance. She had never seen any man so splendid. His great height, his Nordic looks, his imperious manner were such as to make people worship him. They were ready to believe in his divinity; and since he had told them that he wished them no ill, they accepted him gladly, for Isaac Comnenus was far from a benevolent ruler.
Richard walked to the church, one of his splendidly appareled knights going before him, leading his horse, whose saddle glittered with jewels. The people crowded in to the feast and, when they saw this godlike being playing the lute so sweetly and singing to accompany it, they thought it was indeed a visitation from Heaven.
So at last they were married. Joanna knew my thoughts, and she added that after the feasting the bride and groom were conducted to their tent. In Joanna’s opinion all ended satisfactorily.
I pray Berengaria be fruitful soon, I said to myself.
The wedding celebrations had been brief. I supposed Richard was more interested in the conquest of Cyprus; and Isaac Comnenus was not a straightforward person to deal with. Richard had announced that Isaac was his vassal and that he would rule Cyprus under him; but as he was committed to leave for the Holy Land, he proposed to put a deputy in charge of the island and take with him Isaac who must now muster up a company of his best soldiers.
On the morning when they were due to depart, Isaac had disappeared. He clearly had no intention of going to the Holy Land. He did not consider Richard ruler of his island; he had merely appeared to capitulate in order to gain time.
But Isaac was no match for Richard, even though, during the fighting, Richard was taken ill with the return of the ague which plagued him from time to time. That he should be enfeebled angered him, but when the fever was on him there was nothing he could do but rest.
Urgent messages were coming from the King of France. Where was Richard? Why was he not with him? Was he or was he not supposed to be leading the crusade?
The King of France would have to learn that one of the greatest tasks facing the crusaders was to make the way safe for pilgrims, and that was what Richard was doing. In his messages Philip referred to him as Duke of Normandy, implying that he was ordering Richard to obey him. That always infuriated Richard as it had Henry. He sent a message back to say that the King of England would come in his own good time and took orders from no one.
But he was eager to go. He was afraid that Philip Augustus would take Acre without him.
He set two men whom he could trust to administer the island. Isaac was in silver chains, and his daughter was in the care of Joanna and Berengaria. So Richard set sail.
The Cyprus adventure had delayed him considerably; but he had made the way safer for pilgrims. and his fame had increased.
Now he was ready to join forces with Philip Augustus and to throw himself into the all-important battle for Acre.