Life continued to be unsatisfactory. I had two children now, and if I separated from Louis I should lose them for they were “Daughters of France.” For a time my maternal instincts battled with my desire to be free, but I discovered that above all things I wanted to escape from Louis, to live my own life, to find someone who would be to me what Raymond had been and stifle this yearning for him which beset me. I knew I could only escape from it if I found someone to take his place.
Louis was disappointed by the cool reception he had received from his subjects. We learned that there might have been a rebellion but for the wisdom of Suger, who had kept a firm hand on affairs and had reigned cleverly during his term of regency. Some anxious moments had occurred when Louis’s brother Robert had decided to make a bid for the throne. It naturally seemed to him that Fate had been unkind in making him a younger son when, in his own estimation, he would have made a much better king than his brother. Perhaps he would have. While we were facing death on our crusade, he had gone about the country trying to rally people to his banner. His case was that the King had been brought up in the Church. It would be well for him to go into a monastery when he returned and let Robert take the throne.
It might have seemed a sensible idea to some. Not, however to Suger. God had made Louis King and, if he had been unfortunate, he was a man of God, the chosen of the Lord, their anointed King, and so he must remain. When Louis returned, although the people of France did not welcome him warmly, they made it clear that they wished him to remain their King, and Robert’s hopes foundered.
Suger was against the divorce. I believed his reason might be that it would remove Aquitaine from France, for Louis owned it only through me, and if I went, I would take it with me. It was that thought which had sustained me ever since I made up my mind that I must leave Louis.
So we went on. Louis had brought some cedars from the Holy Land, and these he himself planted in Vitry on that spot where the church had been, thus he believed laying to rest the ghosts of all those people who had perished there. I think he felt a relief from guilt after that.
We had reverted to our old pattern of life. I rarely saw Louis at night. We had separate bedchambers. He found it embarrassing to share one with me. I kept assuring myself that divorce was the only answer and whatever the Pope did or Suger wanted, I must be free to live my own life.
After a while I think Louis was beginning to realize this. He was undoubtedly anxious because there was no male heir. He would do his duty but I guessed he was reluctant to endure more of those embarrassing couplings when perhaps he imagined what my torrid love-making with Raymond must have been like. But it might be that his imagination would not stretch so far, as he had had little experience. There were people who could bring forth children of one sex only, and what if, after the unpleasant intimacy, I did the same again? I wondered if it occurred to him that he might have better luck with another partner and the offensive ritual need not be performed very often.
He was a man who would regard duty as a serious matter. It was God’s will that a king should bring forth heirs. There could be civil war if, on his death, he did not leave a son to follow him.
I really believed that Louis was growing a little more responsive to the idea of divorce.
If we both wanted it, the Pope could surely give it for reasons of consanguinity.
I was hopeful. Then a situation arose which drove all thought of divorce from Louis’s mind. It was the prospect of war.
It came from Anjou. Geoffrey of Anjou interested me. I had seen him on rare occasions when he had come to Court. He was an extremely handsome man. In fact, he was known as “Geoffrey le Bel,” as well as “Geoffrey Planta Genesta” because he made a habit of wearing a sprig of the plant in his hat. The soldiers called him “the Plantagenet.”
He had become important through his marriage to Matilda, the daughter of the King of England, because she had brought him Normandy. Her grandfather, known as William the Conqueror, had taken England in the year 1066 and as Duke of Normandy and King of England had made himself as important as—and perhaps more so than—the King of France. The second William, who had followed him on the throne, had not been the ruler his father had been but, fortunately for England, he had soon been followed by another son of the Conqueror, Henry, who was now seen to have been a very wise ruler. He had had, and this was unfortunate for England, only one son and a daughter. This son, another William, had at the age of seventeen been drowned in the wreck of the White Ship, a tragedy which would never have happened but for the drunken state of the sailors who were manning it. It was a great sadness for the King for he had lost his only legitimate son—although he had several who were illegitimate, for he was a very sensual man; and the matter of inheritance was immediately of the utmost importance. But for the accident to the White Ship, the strife which comes from civil war would have been avoided.
When his daughter Matilda had borne a son, King Henry must have been delighted, for if he took after his mother, he would be a very forceful character. It was soon after the boy’s birth that the King died, through eating too many lampreys, so they said. Poison was not suspected for, though he had been a stern ruler, he had been a wise one. His people had called him “the Lion of Justice” for he had brought back law and order to the land which it had not known since the days of the Conqueror.
But on the death of the King trouble started. It was an indication of what happened when kings did not leave a male heir. Now there were two claimants to the throne of England: Matilda, wife of Geoffrey of Anjou, and Stephen, son of Adela, the Conqueror’s daughter. So it was a question of the late King’s daughter or his nephew. There should have been no doubt, for Matilda was in the direct line, but because she was a woman, before she could claim the throne, Stephen swooped down and, with the support of many of the barons, took it. Matilda was not the woman to stand aside and let someone else take what was hers by right. Hence the trouble.
Stephen was affable and pleasant of manner but, it turned out, a weak king. Not that Matilda would have been much better. She was a formidable woman, strong-minded, very arrogant and over-bearing—characteristics which made her unpopular while the easy-going Stephen, ineffectual as he was, won the people’s affection.
Strife had continued on and off in England over the years. At one time Matilda was in the ascendant, at another Stephen.
It was at this time, while I was wondering how I could obtain release from my intolerable marriage, and just as I was beginning to think that Louis might agree that it was best for us both, that trouble with Geoffrey of Anjou arose.
It was always a matter for concern when one of France’s vassals began to gain too much power. The people of England might reject Matilda for their monarch, and Matilda had a promising son. He had joined his mother’s forces in England and had already shown himself to be a good soldier. If this boy was ever King of England—and he could be and, incidentally, Duke of Normandy as well—he would be far too powerful for Louis’s comfort. Stephen was the younger brother of Louis’s one-time enemy Thibault of Champagne but those old grievances had been forgotten now. Petronilla and Raoul were no longer at Court. The ban of excommunication had never been lifted, but as it did not seem to worry them, no one thought of it now. They had three children, a son and two daughters, and were quite resigned to the quiet life. Poor Raoul was very ill and not expected to live. I saw very little of them now. The affair had made a rift between us.
Louis was growing more and more worried about Geoffrey of Anjou. The man with his aggressive son seemed to have little respect for anyone; and Matilda, though she despised her husband, doted on her eldest son—she had two others—for it was on young Henry that she pinned her hopes. If she could not have the throne of England for herself, she was determined that it should be bestowed on her son.
Trouble was brewing and matters came to a head when Geoffrey of Anjou captured a castle on the borders of Poitou and Anjou which belonged to Gerald Berlai, whose duty it was to guard the frontier. Not only did Geoffrey take the castle but he made Gerald and his family his prisoners, treating them with some severity.
It was sufficient provocation for Louis to take up arms. He was ranging himself beside the Count of Champagne, who naturally supported his brother Stephen and wished to see Stephen’s son, Eustace, inherit the crown after his father. And that was something which Geoffrey of Anjou and his son Henry were determined should not happen.
I was surprised that Louis allowed himself to be drawn into war. Suger was against it, and although Suger was getting old, he still influenced Louis more than anyone. But Louis could not, even now, forget Vitry. The planting of cedars, the building of a new church on the site of the old . . . none of these things could expunge that terrible memory from his mind. He still thought of it. The crusade which had been meant to lay the ghost to rest forever had not entirely done so—probably because it had been such an outstanding failure.
I talked to him about the proposed campaign. The situation between us was growing more and more embarrassing. He knew I desperately wanted that divorce and was ready to face anything to get it. He was wavering, but the subject was unpleasant to him. But I did discuss this conflict with him.
I asked him why he, who so hated war, was now ready to undertake it again.
“It is my duty,” he said, with that stubborn look which I knew so well. “The Plantagenet has ill-treated Berlai. I cannot allow that. Moreover, these Angevins have to be taught a lesson. They are the Devil’s breed. That is a well-known fact. The Devil came to them in the shape of a beautiful woman who bore them sons and who would never go into church until she was forced to. Then, when confronted with the Host, she turned back into the spirit she had always been—and was never seen again.”
“Louis, you don’t believe such a tale!”
“I believe it,” he said.
I would have laughed him to scorn but I remembered what had happened when my father had been confronted by Bernard carrying the Host.
“Vitry belonged to Thibault of Champagne,” he said. “I want to help him now.”
“Will you never forget Vitry?”
“Sometimes I fear not.”
“So you are going to war. Is this a further penance?” Louis was silent.
“Suger thinks it unwise,” I went on. “He says you are fighting King Stephen’s battles for him.”
“Suger does not understand.”
What a fool he was! How I longed to be rid of him.
He had another grievance. Young Henry Plantagenet had not, as his vassal, sworn fealty to him for Normandy. It was almost as though he were saying: I owe no fealty to France. I am the heir to the throne of England.
Such arrogance, Louis had decided, must be curbed.
Thus it was that he found himself marching to the borders of Normandy.
Louis’s war-like efforts were almost certain to come to nothing. He had not even made camp when he was overcome by a fever, and it was necessary for him to return to Paris. He did not come alone. He brought his army with him. I thought the fever might have been brought on by his extreme distaste for the action he was about to take. But he was certainly ill when he returned and the doctors said he must rest in bed.
Suger was quite pleased. He visited the palace and told Louis that this was God’s way of preventing a war which should never have been contemplated. What had he hoped to do? Wrest Normandy from Matilda’s son? He would never have done it. The English would never have allowed it, and even though that country was busy with its own problems the thought of losing Normandy would have aroused them to action.
Suger said he would ask Bernard to come and they would summon Geoffrey of Anjou and his son to Paris, where a truce could be arranged.
Louis was quite pleased about this. It was a great relief to him when his doctors said he must keep to his bed. So the conference had to be conducted by Suger and Bernard.
Bernard arrived. His antipathy to me was obvious. He would know about my desire for a divorce. I had a sneaking feeling that it would not displease him. He was different from Suger. For all Bernard’s saintliness he lacked Suger’s single-minded devotion to France. Suger thought a divorce would not serve the country well. For one thing France would lose Aquitaine. Suger believed that, if Louis and I would continue together, God would relent in time and give us a son.
Bernard felt differently. Bernard was a man of the Church. I wondered if scandal concerning myself and Raymond had reached his ears. If it had, he would feel I was unworthy to bear the heir of France. He would, I was sure, like the King to have a more amenable wife. Bernard believed I had put a spell on Louis and that spells came from the Devil. Bernard might well help me in achieving my ends. As the days passed, my desire for release from this intolerable marriage grew greater.
Geoffrey of Anjou arrived in Paris with his son. I was mildly interested to see these two about whom there had been so much talk.
Geoffrey I had seen before and I remembered him vaguely. The son I had never seen. He was very young—seventeen, I had heard. I wondered what it was about him that made him so often the object of people’s attention.
I was told that they had brought Gerald Berlai with them—in chains.
“It is a most ignoble way of treating a noble lord,” said one of my ladies.
“They want us to know that he is their prisoner,” said another.
“What has he done . . . but defend his castle?”
“They say he sent forays into their land and made a nuisance of himself. They would tolerate it no more and have taken his castle and made him their prisoner.”
I had been feeling so bored and listless that I was quite looking forward to the confrontation.
I was seated beside Louis who had left his bed briefly to be present. He looked pale and wan. There was no doubt that he had been genuinely ill, but I was sure the illness had been brought on through his hatred of war. In any case, it had stopped that, so doubtless it was a blessing in disguise . . . certainly to those men who would have been killed in a foolish cause.
It was an amazing scene. The man in chains before them and, on either side of him, his captors. Geoffrey of Anjou stood there, legs apart, defiant. He was still a very attractive man, though he was reaching for forty. But it was the son who caught my attention. So this was Henry Plantagenet . . . the young man who was astonishing everyone with his military gifts. He was by no means handsome—quite the reverse, in fact—but one was aware of an intense vitality. He was not tall—stocky rather; he had reddish hair and a very high color; he looked excessively healthy. He did not seem to be able to stand still; he looked as though he found that irksome; his legs were slightly bowed as though he had lived most of his life in the saddle. I noticed his hands were red and chapped.
I could not stop looking at him. It was his overwhelming vitality which attracted me. There was an air of restlessness about him, as though he was straining his patience to the limits in order to stand there.
Now he was aware of me. He stared at me somewhat audaciously. I returned his gaze and for some moments he appeared to be assessing me. Insolent! I thought—and, oddly enough, I liked his insolence. I saw admiration in his eyes. They were warm, almost suggestive. I felt a pleasant excitement. I had heard he was a lusty young fellow and had, at the age of seventeen, already fathered two bastards.
A mere boy, I thought. I was eleven years older than he. But nevertheless, he interested me.
Bernard had taken charge of the proceedings. Geoffrey was an old enemy of his whom he disliked intensely and on whom he had already pronounced the ban of excommunication.
I liked these Plantagenets; there was a recklessness about them; they reminded me of my grandfather.
Bernard declared his horror to see Berlai in chains and demanded that he be immediately released, to which Geoffrey replied that he would not be told when to release his prisoner and he would decide what his fate would be.
Bernard then said that if Geoffrey would release Berlai, he would attempt to have the ban of excommunication lifted.
“I do not regard holding my enemy as a sin,” retorted Geoffrey, “and I have no wish to be absolved on such an issue.”
Bernard was outraged. He called upon God to witness the blasphemy of this man.
“God hears you,” he said. “You have offended against Heaven. Your fate is sealed. Very soon you will be called upon to face your Maker, and then you will be forced to repent your sins. You will be dead in a month.”
There was a hushed silence. Then Geoffrey and his son, taking their prisoner with them, walked out of the room.
They did not leave Paris immediately and, when the furor had subsided a little, it was agreed that there should be more talks.
The next day I saw Henry Plantagenet again. There were several people present but he came close to me. His hand touched mine as if by accident. His was rough but in spite of that I felt a certain thrill at the contact. He smiled at me, his eyes seeming to take in every detail, traveling over my throat and beyond.
“You are very beautiful,” he said almost mockingly. I bowed my head in acceptance of the compliment.
“So accustomed to praise, I doubt not,” he went on, “and so it should be, for you are worthy of it. I would I could speak with you somewhere . . . alone?”
I raised my eyebrows. “Matters of state should be discussed with Abbot Suger,” I said.
“I would rather discuss them with you. Come, my lady, you will be safe, I promise you.”
“It did not occur to me for one moment that I should not be.”
I should have turned away. I should have said that the insolent boy was not to approach me again. But I hesitated. There was something about him which made me want to tarry.
I said: “I cannot imagine what you would wish to discuss with me.”
“Then give me an opportunity to tell you.”
“Come to my apartment,” I said, “in an hour. One of my women will bring you to me.”
I was feeling absurdly excited. There was something unusual about him. He had said I was beautiful, but he had spoken in a matter-of-fact way as though stating an obvious fact. There was no note of wonder in his voice, as I had heard many times before. And what was he suggesting? I could hardly believe I had assessed him correctly. He was the sort of young man who would walk into an inn, take a liking to a serving girl, summon her to his bed as though he were ordering a meal, seduce her and then be off. What games did he think he could play with the Queen of France? It would be amusing to see.
I was waiting rather impatiently for him.
“Young Henry Plantagenet,” I had said to my women, “has some request to make. I have promised to see him. When he comes, bring him to me.”
He stood before me. It was obvious that he paid little attention to his appearance. I saw why they called him “Henry Curtmantel,” for he wore a very short cape quite unlike the usual fashion. He was, I discovered, the kind of man who does not care what he looks like but dresses always for his own comfort.
“Well, sir,” I said, “what would you have of me?”
“I think you know,” he replied with a smile.
“I am quite unaware.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Perhaps it is too intimate a matter to be brought up just at this moment.”
“I do not understand you.”
“I think we are going to understand each other very well.”
He was having an extraordinary effect on me. I had to admit to myself that I found him exciting and very attractive. It amazed me that I should, but I was starved of excitement. Ever since I had lost Raymond I had been looking for another to replace him, never hoping to find that perfection which I had enjoyed, but perhaps someone who was slightly less handsome, slightly less charming. And now this young man, so different from Raymond in every way, was arousing in me those emotions which I had shared with my uncle.
I tried to think of other matters. “Your father must be very uneasy after Bernard’s curse,” I said.
“He does not care for the old man.”
“His prophecies have been known to come true. He prophesied the death of my husband’s brother.”
“He who was killed by the pig?”
“Yes, the same.”
“We are of the Devil’s brood, you know. We are immune from curses.”
“You are bold . . . you and your father.”
“To be bold is the only way to live. I am sure you will agree with that.”
“Perhaps I do.”
He came closer to me and took me by the shoulders. I began to protest but he seized me and held me against him. He laughed and then suddenly he pressed his lips down on mine.
I made a pretense of protest, but I knew this was what I had wanted from the moment I saw him. He had known it, too. It had been one of those cases of spontaneous attraction.
He drew away from me, still holding me by the shoulders.
“You are the most exciting woman I have ever known,” he said.
“And you are the boldest young man and the most insolent.”
He drew me to him and kissed me again.
“Do you realize . . .” I began, in halfhearted protest.
“I realized from the moment I saw you that you were going to be mine.”
“That is nonsense.”
“No, sound good sense. Why not? When I looked across that room I said to myself: ‘There is the woman for me.’”
“You have forgotten you are talking to the Queen of France.”
“I never forgot that for a moment.”
“And you here . . . a vassal of the King.”
“We don’t take kindly to the term.”
“I have seen that. You have offended the King . . . and now Bernard.”
“As long as I please you, I do not care.”
He took my chin in his hands and I was again aware of their roughness. What was I doing with this uncouth young man? I did not understand myself. I was surprised and delighted and found myself yearning to be closer to him.
“I want to be with you . . . alone,” he said. “Where can we meet?”
“For what purpose?”
“That we may give expression to our feelings.”
“You must be mad.”
“Mad with desire for the most beautiful woman on Earth. And you, my lady, what do you think of your ardent suitor?”
I said: “I think this is a joke.”
“Your responses belie those words. It is serious. Did you not know it when we looked across that room at each other? Old Bernard thundering away with his curse and poor Louis sitting there looking as though he thought the roof was going to fall in on us . . . and you and I just looked at each other . . . and we knew.”
“I do not know why I listen to you. You omitted to swear fealty to the King. You come here with one of Louis’s seneschals in chains. You invoke the curses of Bernard. And most brazen of all you make advances to the Queen.”
“I am not sure that the Queen has not made advances to me.”
“When we looked at each other, something passed between us . . . some understanding. I knew that you felt for me what I felt for you, and when two people such as we are agreed on such a matter, there is nothing that can stand in our way. Let us be frank. I believe that you and I could bring great joy to each other.”
“We do not know each other.”
“I have heard much of the Queen of France. Doubtless you have heard my name mentioned. So we knew each other before we met.”
“We have just met face to face.”
“At last Fate has been kind to us. Tell me when I may come to you. If you don’t tell me, I shall find a way, rest assured.”
“I need time.”
“Time? Time passes too quickly. My father and I cannot stay indefinitely in Paris.”
“What of your prisoner?”
“What has Berlai to do with us?”
“I understood you were coming to see me on state matters.”
“No, on something far more important.” He gave me another of those bewildering kisses.
“Come,” he said. “We waste time. When can I be with you . . . alone?”
I hesitated and betrayed myself. I wanted to be with him. I knew what he was suggesting and I felt reckless. The longing for Raymond would not diminish until there was another to take his place. Was it possible that that one could be this brash boy? He was the only one who had aroused these wild emotions in me since Raymond.
I said I would see him again . . . alone . . . that very day.
There was no finesse about Henry. I was glad. I was realizing how foolish I had been to try to replace Raymond with a pale shadow of himself. Henry was quite different. Henry was himself, and there was no one like him. He was without grace, frank, not exactly crude because he was, I discovered to my delight, highly educated; but he dismissed with contempt the graceful maneuverings of the courtly lover. I could match his rampant sexuality with my own, and for the first time since I had lost Raymond I was fulfilling my needs.
We delighted in each other. Two sensual people, each of whom had found the perfect partner.
When he said he had never enjoyed an adventure more, he meant it. When he said I was more beautiful than any woman he had ever known, he meant that, too. He was not one for pretty speeches. It was very refreshing.
For a few days I lived in a dream of contentment—not thinking beyond the next encounter. I could not have enough of him, nor he of me. He had no qualms about seducing the wife of the King of France. Perhaps he knew it was not the first time I had been unfaithful to Louis. Such as Henry would have no respect for Louis.
I was delighted to find that he was not merely the virile lover for whom I had been searching. He had a great respect for learning, and both his parents had wanted the best tutors for him. Master Peter of Saintes had been his first tutor, and when his uncle, Earl Robert of Gloucester, had brought him to England to join his mother, he had made sure that he had been given the best instruction. Soldier-adventurer that he was, Henry had taken to learning. I had known from the start that he was unique.
After our first wild rapturous encounter I felt alive as I had not since I lost Raymond. I was happy. I felt as though I was going to live again.
Every moment we could, we spent together. It was not easy for people in our position to escape alone. We had good friends, both of us, and recklessly we took advantage of that. Sometimes I used to marvel at what had happened. I was passionately in love with a man eleven years younger than I, who was not at all handsome, who was bowlegged, whose hands were red and weatherbeaten, who hardly ever uttered a compliment, who did not sing songs in praise of my beauty—in fact, he was entirely different from any man who had interested me before. It was amazing, but all the more exciting for that. I could think of nothing but Henry, and I was dreading the day when he would leave.
He talked about his childhood, of his overbearing mother, of her tempestuous life with his father.
“She is a very handsome woman,” he said, “determined to have her own way. She never forgets that she is the daughter of the King of England and the widow of the Emperor of Germany. I think she greatly regretted having to give up the title of Empress and then having to fight for her rights and failing to win them. All her hopes are on me now. I have to go on and win the crown of England.”
“And there is Stephen’s son, Eustace,” I said.
“Yes . . . and the King of France would send aid to him.”
“Louis has no stomach for fighting. It is only because of Vitry. He cannot forget that. He wants to help Stephen’s brother, the Count of Champagne . . . and that means Stephen’s son.”
“He will not succeed. I tell you this: I am going to be King of England one day.”
“I know you are. England and Aquitaine . . . they could be ours if we married.”
He was slightly taken aback and was silent for a few moments contemplating this glittering project.
I was the richest heiress in France. He was the Duke of Normandy, and his sights were set on the crown of England. Matilda had failed to grasp that crown, but he could succeed. How could weaklings like Stephen and his son Eustace hope to defeat such as Henry Plantagenet?
“What a prospect!” he said slowly. “England and Aquitaine and nights like this together in holy wedlock. Alas, my Queen, you have a husband.”
“I have long been wanting a divorce.”
“And failed to get it.”
“I shall, though. I am determined.”
“On what grounds?”
He burst out laughing. “And you and I? I doubt not we are as closely related.”
“We will forget that.”
“Yes, let us forget it. All the noble families are connected by blood. It is a good thing. It makes a divorce that much easier when it is wanted. Of course, the marriage could be annulled because of me.”
“We do not wish for that.”
“No, no.” He laughed again. “Consanguinity is best. And do you think it possible?”
“Suger is against it. I know that is because he does not want Aquitaine to slip out of France’s hands.”
“He’s a clever old man.”
“Louis takes his advice on everything, but Bernard hates me. I think he would like to see me leave Louis.”
“He is more formidable.”
“Yes, but Suger is strong and constantly beside Louis. I have been trying for years and I cannot bring him to the point. But I do believe he is beginning to relent. He is a monk at heart and has no feeling for love.”
“Poor fellow! What he misses!”
“He does not think so. He prefers to spend his nights on his knees.”
“But this divorce . . . You and I. I like it. England and Aquitaine . . . together with the most exciting woman in the world. What more could a man ask?”
“Do you think it possible?”
“Of course it is possible.”
“And if I were divorced?”
“You and I would be together. No longer would you be Queen of France. Shall you mind that?”
“I shall rejoice in it.”
“‘Duchess of Normandy’ is not such a bad title. What think you of ‘Queen of England’?”
“That would make me the happiest woman in the world.”
And so we plighted our troth.
Negotiations continued and to the surprise of all Geoffrey of Anjou released Gerald Berlai. He said he had intended to do so from the beginning and that was why he had brought him to the Court of France; but when Bernard had made threats against him, he had become incensed and acted as he did.
Moreover, Henry swore fealty to Louis for the fief of Normandy and was acknowledged as Duke; so what had begun in such a stormy fashion ended in peace.
Louis was very satisfied with the proceedings. He believed that Bernard’s threats of the dire consequences had subdued Geoffrey but I knew differently. The Plantagenets had what they wished for, and that was a truce with Louis which would prevent his taking up arms on Stephen’s behalf.
Meanwhile Henry and I were spending each night together. So deeply was I immersed in our relationship that I did not care if I did betray my secret to those about me. They would discover in any case. It was impossible to keep secrets from one’s ladies. But they would not dare to tattle even among themselves for fear of my wrath, so at night Henry would come to my bedchamber, and there we would indulge in that which had become of the utmost importance to us both.
We were the more desperate because we knew that we should soon have to part. But it would not be for long, I assured him. I was more determined than ever now to have my divorce and I would. Louis would be more intolerable to me after this interlude.
I wanted to be with Henry; I needed him. I was passionately in love with him and he with me. Perhaps he was also a little in love with Aquitaine, and perhaps I did cast covetous eyes on another crown, this time to be shared with the man of my choice. The crown of France—the crown of England. What did it matter? It was the man who was important to me.
It may have been that we each liked what the other had to bring, but that was no deterrent to our passion; and I think that perhaps my nights with Henry were even more exciting than those I had spent with Raymond, for with Henry there was hope of a lasting relationship which there could never have been with Raymond. Henry had brought me to a new life; he had taken me away from the nostalgic past; and I was deeply in love with him. I must get my divorce.
When I was alone with Louis, I asked him once more.
He shook his head. “It would not be good for France.”
“You listen to Suger.”
“He is the wisest man I know.”
“But surely he cannot wish you to continue with a marriage which is no true one.”
“It is a true marriage to me.”
“Louis,” I said, “you know that you were not meant to marry. You should have gone into the Church.”
“God decreed it should be as it is.”
“Yes . . . yes. God in His Heaven commanded a pig to kill your brother, I have heard it many times. You should give your country a male heir.”
“You wish to try once more?”
“God has shown clearly that he does not intend us to have a male heir. You must divorce me and marry someone who can give you what you need . . . what the country needs.”
“Suger does not believe it is God’s will.”
“Suger fears the loss of Aquitaine.”
Louis looked at me sorrowfully. “I have heard rumors of you . . . and the young Plantagenet.”
“Yes?” I said.
“It grieves me.”
“You could have the marriage annulled.”
“It is the most conclusive of all reasons.”
“Do you want so much to leave me?”
“I believe it would be best for us both. We have never been suited to each other.”
“I am sorry I have failed you.”
“We have failed each other. Louis, it is clear to me that we should never have married. We are too close in blood.”
Even as I spoke I shivered. I was as close if not closer to Henry Plantagenet.
“That,” I went on vehemently, “is the best of all reasons. If you divorced me for adultery you would not be able to marry again, and you must marry again. Suger must realize how badly France needs a male heir.”
“He believes we could get one through prayer.”
“It is not the usual method.”
Louis ignored my remark. “If we were truly penitent, He would grant our request.”
He seemed uncertain. No doubt he was thinking there was much to forgive. Vitry for him, adultery for me.
I said: “Bernard would advise a divorce, I believe.”
I was sure that was true. Bernard thought I was a devil incarnate. I thought: If it were not for Suger, it would not be so difficult.
Impatiently I left Louis. He would waver constantly. Suger on one side, Bernard on the other. He would never come to a conclusion.
The Plantagenets had left, and life was inexpressibly dreary without Henry.
Not long after their departure there came startling news.
They were riding with their party when, overheated after hours in the saddle, they decided to halt for a rest near the river. They sat for a while watching the cool river flow by. Geoffrey announced his intention to have a dip in the river. It would cool him down, he said. So he and Henry divested themselves of their clothes and went in.
They swam and sported together for a while, then came out and dressed. After that they made their way to the spot where they would encamp for the night. There was a cloudburst and they were drenched to the skin, but it was a warm day and they were not bothered by this, hardy warriors as they were.
I heard in detail what had happened later.
That night Geoffrey developed a fever. He was fearful, remembering Bernard’s prophecy: “You will be dead within the month.” There was still time for that to come true. He called his son to him and spoke to him as a man does on his deathbed. Henry laughed the idea to scorn.
“Do you attach importance to the words of an old man spoken in anger?” he demanded.
It seemed that Geoffrey did, and as the night wore on, Henry began to believe that he might be right. He tried to convince his father that he was frightening himself to death just because a so-called prophet had made a pronouncement. But at length it was necessary to send for a priest, and by the morning Geoffrey was indeed dead.
There was a great deal of talk about Bernard’s spiritual power. People remembered that he had prophesied the death of Louis’s brother. Bernard it seemed could lay a curse on a man and that was what he had done to Geoffrey.
There would be new responsibilities for Henry now, but I had no doubt that he would be able to deal with them.
And then . . . Suger died. Louis was desolate. He had loved the old man, and I doubt a king ever had a better servant. He was buried with great ceremony at St. Denis. When I attended the funeral, all I could think of as they laid him to rest was that the great obstacle to my freedom was removed.
There was Bernard now, and although he was my great enemy—and Suger had never been that—I believed he would help to get me what I wanted.
Suger had had a kingdom to hold together; Bernard had a soul to save. I was sure he thought I was descended from the Devil when he considered my grandfather and father; and I really did believe that he wanted to see me separated from Louis.
I went to work on Louis once more. I pointed out the need for divorce, for him to marry a woman who could give him sons, as I clearly could not. Why not start afresh with someone of whom God—and Bernard—could approve?
Bernard arrived in Paris, and Louis discussed the matter with him.
There was a degree of consanguinity, said Bernard, and it might well be that that did not find favor in God’s eyes. Moreover my reputation would no doubt have offended the Almighty. When Bernard came down in favor of the divorce, I knew the battle was won.
Bernard worked his will. Very soon he had the barons believing that the best thing that could happen to France was that its King and Queen should be divorced.
At length it was decided that the case should be heard at the church of Notre Dame de Beaugency under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Bordeaux.
I took up residence at the nearby chteau after having given instructions that when a decision was reached it should be brought to me immediately. As soon as I had it and it was favorable—which it must be—I would make my way to my own dominions and there wait for Henry to join me.
There was only one matter which saddened me. I should have to part with my daughters. They must be declared legitimate. I had no fear on that point. Bernard was on excellent terms with the Pope, and they both favored Louis; but of course as Daughters of France they would have to stay with their father, and I should lose them. I did love them, but my life had never been entirely dedicated to them. At that time I was not a woman to live only for my children; and the sexual hold which Henry Plantagenet had on me was greater than anything else. So I should have to reconcile myself to losing my daughters; but I had always known that if there was a divorce that would be an inevitable outcome.
I sat in the tower watching the church for the first sign of a messenger.
At last I saw the two bishops—one of them the Bishop of Langres—accompanied by two gentlemen, coming into the courtyard and I hurried down to meet them. The bishops were getting ready to make a long pronouncement but I said impatiently: “I can wait no longer. Tell me, what was the verdict?”
“May we come inside?” one of them asked.
“No,” I said vehemently. “No more delay.”
Seeing that I was determined the Bishop of Langres said: “My lady, the Court has declared that the marriage is null and void on account of the close relationship between you and the King.”
I was overjoyed as I took them into the chteau.
Louis was near to tears when he said goodbye to me, and so was I when I took my farewell of my children. I promised them we should meet again and I hoped not before too long.
I told Louis he should marry again and this time he would get a son. It was his duty to do so, and it was what Bernard and the people wanted. He would have to do his duty toward them.
He shook his head miserably. The last thing he wanted to do was marry again.
Poor Louis! What a pity they would not allow him to go into a monastery.
But it was all over. There was no need for me to stay. I was free.
Now I could return to Poitiers. First I must send a message to Henry to tell him the news, and that I would wait in my capital city for him to come to me.
And so I set off.
It was springtime, it was Easter, and the weather was perfect. I wondered how my people would receive me. They had always had an affection for me, but they might have heard of the somewhat scandalous life I had led. But what would they expect from my grandfather’s granddaughter? They had not been very pleased about the union with France. Perhaps they would be glad to welcome me back, but should I stay with them? How could I know what my future life would be with the man whom I had chosen to be my new husband? It was gloriously obscure, which was perhaps what made it so attractive.
I was all impatience to reach my destination and I urged my little party to move with speed. We spent the nights at various chteaux where we were given hospitality. Many of our hosts were as yet unaware that I was divorced from the King of France. I doubt whether it would have made any difference if they had known, but I felt it was a good idea not to mention it. They would know in due course. Such news travels fast, as I was to discover.
We were passing through the territory of the Count of Blois when we saw a party of horsemen approaching, led by a very good-looking young man. He leaped from his horse and almost prostrated himself before me.
“This is the greatest good fortune, my lady,” he said. “I heard that you might be passing through my land and I prayed that I might discover you and your friends before you left. My castle of Blois is close by. The afternoon is drawing on. I shall deem it the greatest honor if you will rest under my roof.”
This was charming and I bade him rise. I thanked him for his offer and said we would be delighted to accept it. He was soon riding beside me, and his excited glances were an obvious indication of his admiration. I was accustomed to this of course and not greatly surprised to receive it; but I was no innocent, and it occurred to me that the young man might have some ulterior motive.
“I knew your father,” I said.
Memories came back, for this young man was the son of Thibault who had caused so much trouble at the time of Petronilla’s marriage to Raoul of Vermandois.
We talked a little of the past and he told me he thought I should have more protection. I should have a bodyguard. “Such an illustrious lady,” he said, “should not ride with so few to care for her.”
“I am guarded enough,” I assured him. “I am near my own home, and one feels safe among one’s own people.”
He shook his head. “I am glad I came upon you, for it gives me this chance to be your protector.”
I smiled and replied that I had always believed I was a woman who could look after herself.
“In so many ways, yes, but a strong arm and a loyal heart are good to have beside even the bravest of us.”
By the time we reached the castle I realized that he was aware of the divorce, and I imagined there would be one thought in his avaricious mind: Aquitaine. This was a lesson to be learned. There would be suitors—not so much for me but for Aquitaine. I must not forget that once more I was the richest heiress in France. I had emerged from my marriage with my lands intact. His talk of protection made me pensive. I thought of all the women who had been carried off by certain bold men. Dangerosa had gone willingly, others might not have done so.
What was in the mind of this young man? Would he take me to his castle? Would he attempt to seduce me? That I fully expected, but he was going to be disappointed there. But what if he held me prisoner? What if he forced me? Was that possible? I should be in his castle, surrounded by his minions. He would have an advantage over me, for in his own terrain he would have the means of keeping me captive.
I was not exactly alarmed but alerted.
At the castle a great welcome was given us. It was an interesting place and had been in the possession of the Counts of Champagne since the year 924. I had heard songs in my grandfather’s Court about it. The first Thibault had been a fierce baron who had ravaged the countryside, taking all he wanted, including the women, and the whole neighborhood went in fear of him. He was known as “the Black Midnight Huntsman.” The present Count seemed mild in comparison but even with him I must tread warily.
The emblem of the place was a wolf. I thought it apt in view of the reputation of the first Count. The name “Blois,” I learned, comes from “Bleiz” which means Wolf in the Carnute and Celtic languages. I had wondered why the first Count had adopted the name and called his castle after that most rapacious of animals, and whether the present Count was trying to follow in his ancestor’s footsteps.
As he led me into the great building, his words sounded ominous. “I shall do everything I can to make your stay here a long one.”
And I thought: I shall do everything I can to make it brief.
I said to him: “You are indeed kind, Count, but I am in great haste to reach my city of Poitiers, and I shall be able to take advantage of your wonderful hospitality for only one night.”
He smiled wistfully but there was a gleam of something I did not quite like in his eyes.
He ordered that the finest bedchamber in the castle be prepared for me and he set them in the kitchen making a meal worthy of me.
So far so good. It was what was to be expected for the Queen of France.
One of the saddlebags containing what we should need for the night was unpacked, and I changed from my riding habit into a velvet gown, and wore my long hair loose about my shoulders. I was rather pleased with the result, for although I was determined to teach the Count a lesson, that did not mean I wanted to diminish my allure in any way.
I quite enjoyed the evening. I was seated at the table in the place of honor. My women, watchful, aware of the situation, were entertained graciously by the knights of the castle. Young Thibault gave all his attention to me. I was gracious to him and accepted his compliments with assumed pleasure. I allowed him to serve me with the food, which was excellent. The minstrels were pleasant, and I really felt I was close to Aquitaine and the old days.
He told me that my visit was the greatest honor which had befallen his castle.
“Oh come,” I said, “you exaggerate.”
“Never,” he declared passionately. “This is the happiest night of my life.”
He was drinking a great deal of wine and pressing me to do the same. It was something I never did, and I was certainly not going to on this occasion for as the night began to pass I grew more and more suspicious.
I told him how I admired his castle and how interesting it must be to remember his ancestors who had lived in it for so many years, especially the founder of the family, the Black Midnight Hunter.
“Oh, he was bold,” he said. “He took what he wanted.”
“There are some like him today. I wonder if you are one, my lord.”
A sly glint in the eyes! Oh, yes, he had plans. And he thought he was getting on very well with me. I let him believe it, the arrogant young fellow. I compared him with my Henry. Surely he could not believe that I would consider him as a husband! His eyes were greedy . . . thinking of me in his eager hands . . . and Aquitaine to follow.
He said he would gladly lay his castle and its contents at my feet.
“You hold Blois lightly, my lord,” I told him.
“Nay, I treasure it beyond my other castles. It is why I would lay it at your feet. Only the very best would be good enough for you.”
“You should be grateful that I do not accept your offer.”
“Ah . . . if you would . . . I should be the happiest man on Earth.”
He is growing a little muzzy from the wine, I thought. He is going too fast. I decided to let him trip himself up.
“Well, Count, have you anything else to offer?”
“This hand,” he said. “This heart.”
I laughed. “That sounds like a proposal of marriage.”
Yes, indeed he was far gone. I saw the light in his eyes. He actually believed that I liked him. His arrogance angered me.
“I have never seen a woman as beautiful as you are, my Queen,” he said.
“I am Queen no longer. You know that, do you not?”
“I know it and rejoice in it . . . for myself, and condole with poor Louis.”
“That is charmingly said. I am also ruler of Aquitaine. You had not forgotten that, had you?”
“I can think of nothing but your beauty.”
“But Aquitaine is beautiful, too. Surely you will agree with that?”
“I daresay it is. But I had not thought of it.”
“Oh, had you not? It is not very clever of you to forget Aquitaine.”
“What I mean is that I am so deep in love with you that it would not matter to me if you were the lowest serving maid and not a great lady.”
“Then you are a man without discernment. One who does not see the advantages will not get very far in life, I fear.”
“You are laughing at me.”
“Forgive me. I thought you were laughing at me. Laughter is good for us. Let us enjoy it.”
“If I could realize my dearest dream and marry you, I should be the happiest man on Earth. I beg of you be kind to me. Tell me you will consider this. There is nothing I would not do for you. Please, please think of it.”
I did think: This has gone too far and is quite absurd. The man must think I’m a fool, and I could not forgive anyone for thinking that.
I said coolly: “Let us have done with this farce, shall we? Of course I will not marry you.”
He looked quite taken aback. Oh yes, he was very drunk but there was a certain shrewdness in his eyes.
“I will never give up hope,” he said.
“Hope sometimes comforts even when the goal is quite out of reach. And now, if you will indulge us, I should like to hear your minstrels once more before I and my ladies retire for the night.”
His tongue ran around his lips at my mention of retiring. Indeed he had plans and I must countermand them. He called for the musicians and I watched him as he listened to the songs of love. When it was over, I rose, my women with me.
“And now, my lord, I shall say good night to you.”
“I shall conduct you to your bedchamber.”
I bowed my head and we went, my ladies and I, the Count leading the way.
And there was my chamber with the ornate bed, the sight of which made his eyes glisten.
I turned to him. “My thanks to you, Count. Your hospitality has been all that I could have expected.”
He put his face close to mine. “If you should need anything . . .”
“I will remember,” I told him.
He went reluctantly and I immediately called my women to me.
I said: “I do not trust the Count. He will attempt to come to this room tonight. Four of you will sleep here—and where is my esquire?”
They brought him to me—a fresh-faced young man, earnest and eager to excel, the sort who would be immune from bribes and therefore completely trustworthy.
“I am relying on you,” I said. “You see me here, not exactly alone but with a small company compared with that which the Count could muster. I believe he wishes me ill and I would be prepared. Lie outside my door, across the threshold, all through the night. Let no one pass. If anyone should come, shout and draw your sword, threaten to slay him, no matter who he is. Tell him my orders are that you shall let no one pass. No one is to enter my room without my permission. Shout. Make a noise. Wake the whole castle.”
“I will defend you with my life, my lady.”
And I knew he would. How right I was. It must have been just after midnight when we heard the commotion outside the door.
My young esquire was declaring: “On the Queen’s orders no one passes this threshold.”
Then came the Count’s blustering voice. “You young fool, do you realize that this is my castle, my room? Everyone under this roof is either my servant or my guest.”
“My orders are, my lord, that no one passes.”
The Count must have realized that he was awakening the household. He was just sober enough to see that his best plan was to return to his own apartment. The silly young fool, if he wanted to make such plans, he should give them more consideration and above all keep a cool head. He should have studied my grandfather’s methods.
I was temporarily safe but I must not stay another night in his castle. Perhaps even during this night the Count might sober up and the first thing such a bombastic young man would want to do would be to justify himself in my eyes and his own. He had means at his disposal; here in his castle he could easily subdue my little band. I must act promptly.
As soon as he had gone, I sent the esquire down to the stables to tell them they must make preparations to leave as soon and as quietly as possible. My ladies and I would make ready and join them in half an hour. We were in acute danger.
So, during that night, quietly we left Blois.
I often wondered what young Thibault thought when he awoke to find we had gone and that all his grand schemes for capturing Aquitaine had come to nothing. It would be a lesson to him—as it was to me.
The sooner I was married to Henry, the better; only then would I be safe from ambitious men.
We made our way out of Champagne to Anjou.
Anjou must be friendly territory. I surveyed it with pleasure. Anjou, Normandy . . . they were Henry’s, and soon Aquitaine would be with them, and, in time, I was certain England. What a brilliant prospect! I was not only going to marry the man I loved but acquire great possessions as well. We were completely suited to each other in every way. What a happy conclusion this would be to all my tribulations.
We were riding along merrily when in the distance I saw a figure—a lonely one this time.
“It seems,” I said, “that we have little to fear from one rider. I wonder who it is and why he rides with such urgency. I believe he is looking for us.”
This proved to be the case. The young man pulled up his sweating horse, leaped to his feet and knelt before me.
“My lady,” he stammered, “I come to warn you. You are riding into danger.”
“From whom this time?” I asked.
“From one who calls himself my master—Geoffrey Plantagenet.”
I cried: “The brother of the Duke of Normandy!”
He nodded. “There is an ambush a mile or so from here. Because of your friendship with my true master, I was determined to warn you.”
“Who is your true master?”
“The Duke of Normandy. I served him well and would do so again. He gave me over to the service of his brother and I have never been happy since.”
“I see. So Geoffrey Plantagenet would waylay us. For what purpose?”
“He plans to marry you, my lady.”
“Indeed? They say these Plantagenets are the spawn of the Devil.” I smiled. That applied to Henry, too. So his little brother Geoffrey thought to trap me, Geoffrey the ne’er-do-well, the brother whom Henry despised.
I looked at the young man. I had learned to judge people and I trusted him. The recent experience with Thibault had sobered me considerably. There would be other upstarts who thought they could abduct me, perhaps even rape me and force me to marry them, just to give them possession of my rich duchy. It was the well-worn way in the past for gaining coveted lands. But these little men had not the gift for it.
I said: “I believe you. You will ride beside me and lead us away from the ambush.”
So he did, and it was a pleasant experience for me because not only had I foiled the ambitions of Geoffrey Plantagenet but I was able to talk of my lover to one who knew him well.
There was no doubt that he idealized Henry. I was to discover that Henry had a certain quality which bound men to him. He was a born leader and never in the years to come did I doubt that.
The young man had been heartbroken when he had been assigned to the weak brother. He did not wish to serve Geoffrey Plantagenet, who was jealous of Henry and hated him. Their father, realizing the worth of Henry and the worthlessness of Geoffrey, had left the younger son only three castles.
“His father was a wise man,” I said.
“So I think, my lady, and when I heard that there was a plot to abduct you and force you to marry Geoffrey, I knew that was not what my lord Duke of Normandy would wish.”
“How right you were! I am grateful to you. I promise you that you shall stay in my household, and I think it very likely that I shall be able to persuade the Duke to give you back your place in his.”
How fortunate I was in that loyal servant of Henry’s. When we reached Poitiers in safety, the first thing I did was to send the young man with a message to Henry to tell him that I was in my capital city, awaiting the coming of my bridegroom.
What joy to be home! I should never feel toward any other place that which I felt for my native land. The people welcomed me. They rejoiced in the divorce. They had never liked to feel they were under the yoke of France.
They shouted their greetings; they cheered me. “Now Aquitaine will be the land of song again,” they said.
It seemed the whole world knew of the divorce. That troubled me not at all, but I did realize that my marriage to Henry must take place soon, for I had an idea that Louis would do everything he could to prevent it. The last husband he would have wanted for me would have been Henry. He would think, as all his ministers would: Anjou . . . Normandy . . . Aquitaine . . . that would make Henry almost as powerful as the King of France; and if he succeeded in taking the crown of England, he would be one of the most powerful rulers in Europe.
Louis, therefore, would be urged to prevent our marriage, which he might be able to do, because until Henry was King of England he was Louis’s vassal.
I wanted no hindrances. There had been enough of those. What I wanted was the ceremony to be over quickly. I wanted to be Henry’s wife at the earliest possible moment.
How wonderful it was to be once more in the Maubergeonne Tower. Memories of my grandfather came back to me. I thought: This will be once more the Court of Love.
I was a little pensive, for somehow I could not imagine Henry sitting on a cushion singing ballads. He never sat when he could stand; he was restless, a soldier, not a poet but a man of action. He was not gallant like my grandfather who had always known how to turn the gracious phrase; after all, he had been a poet of some standing. Henry was curt almost to the point of brusqueness; he did not pay compliments; one deduced from the intensity of his love-making that he found one desirable.
I would have to adjust my ideas to suit this most exciting of men, and this was what I would do. But even in the very depth of my obsession for him, I knew that I should always be myself, and that could not change for anyone . . . not even Henry.
There was a great deal to do. The French officials had left now, to the joy of the people. Aquitaine was mine to rule, and I must set about the task without delay. It was good for me to have so much to do, for the waiting was irksome. I appointed my advisers; there were many meetings with them. They must all swear fealty to me once again for I was now solely Duchess of Aquitaine in my own right and not Queen of France under the King.
I knew Henry would come as soon as he could. He would understand the need for speed. He wanted this marriage as much as I did. I would not allow myself to ask the question: Is it me he wants or Aquitaine? She was my rival, this beautiful country of mine. No one could assess me with her; but together we were the most desirable partie in Europe. I told myself I would not have had Henry indifferent to my possessions. He would have been a fool if he had been, and I was not a woman to tolerate fools.
Do not question, I admonished myself. Accept . . . and you will be the happiest woman on Earth.
At last he came. What a day that was! I saw his party in the distance, for I was ever watchful. So I was in the Courtyard to greet him. He leaped from his horse and lifted me in his arms, and I thought: This is the happiest moment of my life.
We must be alone together. We must make love. It had been so long that I had forgotten how exciting it was. He had arranged the wedding, which must take place without delay. He would not delay in any matter, I was to discover; and the wedding was no exception.
He was amused, guessing what a storm it would raise.
“At last you are free,” he said, “because of your close relationship with Louis. What of our relationship, my love?”
“I know,” I answered. “We are both descended from Robert of Normandy.”
“And not so far back! You and I are more closely related than you and Louis. There is a joke for you.”
“I know. I know.”
“And what will the King of France say when he hears you are married to me?”
“He will say . . . or his ministers will: ‘Anjou . . . Normandy . . . Aquitaine and possibly England.’”
“That is just what they will say, and they will be wrong with their ‘possibly England.’ It is going to be ‘certainly England.’”
“I care not two bad pears for what Louis thinks.”
“Nor I. So why do we concern ourselves with him?”
“We shall not, though he could stop us if he tried. It’s this matter of suzerainty. So let us get the deed over with . . . quickly. That is my wish. Is it yours?”
“It is. Oh yes, it is.”
“Then so shall it be. We do not want a grand ceremony. I should not in any case. I hate prancing about in fancy costume like a play-actor. You will have to take me rough like this.”
“I’ll take you as you are,” I said.
“And you, my love, will have to be the elegant lady . . . but you are that without effort so I will accept it.”
And so we talked and planned; and on that May day of the year 1152 in my native city, without the pomp and ceremony which is usually such an important part of the proceedings when people like Henry and myself are united, we were married.
It was a wonderful day—less than two months after the divorce for which I had so craved—and I was happy.
We had a little respite before we should be caught up in what must inevitably follow. They were exciting days which passed all too quickly. I had been carried away by the magnetic and overwhelming personality of this man; I had thought of little else but him since I had first seen him. I knew he was a great man, and my instinct told me that his life would be eventful and triumphant. I had known soon after I saw him that, above all things, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.
During those days I began to learn something of the man beneath the faade, and gradually the true Henry began to emerge.