Post-classical history

Revolt in the Family

WHEN THE NEWS WAS brought to me, my first reaction was: What will this mean to Henry?

He was still in my thoughts a great deal, and I still smarted with humiliation when I thought of him; in my heart I longed for the day when I should see him brought low.

I found a great joy in having my children with me. Young Henry was in England at this time, playing the King, but Richard was here with Geoffrey, and there was Marguerite, Henry’s young wife, who had been sent to me before Henry was crowned, presumably to get her out of the way. I could see no reason for Henry’s refusing her the honor of crowning. It could only anger Louis.

By this time I had come to a new serenity. I loved this land; I was where I belonged; I loved the people and the easy way of life and appreciation of fine things, the gracious style of living. There was no unrest now. The people knew, I was sure, of my estrangement from Henry, and applauded it. I was their Duchess. They wanted no other.

When the day was drawing to an end, I liked to go up to the ramparts of the castle and look down on my city, touched as it was by the golden light of the setting sun. I had seen it thus so many times, and it had lived on in my childhood memories—Poitiers, mycity, built on the slopes of a gentle hill with the Cain and the Boivre flowing past. There was the Cathedral of St. Pierre. I remember the time it was built. How I loved it all         .         .         .         the fine buildings, the flowers, the bright skies and the people.

And         .         .         .         I was far away from Henry.

Richard and I were as close as two people could be for there was deep understanding between us. I was fond of Marguerite too, and she of me. I loved Geoffrey. I tried to bind my children to me, for I loved them dearly and, of course, I took a special delight in their love for me for I felt that, in giving it to me in such measure, they deprived Henry of it.

And into this happy and peaceful atmosphere came the news of Becket’s death. We were all stunned. Four knights had murdered him in the cathedral. The King’s knights. That was significant.

“What will it mean?” asked Richard.

“For that we must wait and see,” I answered.

“Do you think the King ordered them to kill him?”

I was silent, wondering. I knew that whatever the case Henry was going to be branded the murderer of Thomas Becket.

I could not sleep. I kept seeing Becket’s cold, ascetic face, that expression of calm righteousness, the martyr’s crown almost about his head even then. I saw Henry too, his face scarlet with rage, contorted with grief. He had loved the man. There was no doubt of that. The love had turned to hate but it was never entirely hate         .         .         .         for love was always there.

How did Henry feel now?

We soon heard. People could talk of nothing but the murder in the cathedral. How dramatic that it should have been in such a place! It would add to Thomas’s martyrdom. It would make him more holy than if he had been struck down in the street.

Henry had, of course, been stricken with horror. Thomas dead! No longer able to plague him, to arouse that hatred which was as strong as love had once been.

How had he received the news? He had taken off his royal robes and wrapped himself in sackcloth. He had wept openly and commanded to be left alone. He had returned to his chamber, and there he had stayed for three days, refusing food; nor would he see anyone. None could comfort him; there was no comfort for him. The days wore on and, although he emerged from his chamber, he would lapse into silence and then suddenly cry out: “The pity of it! What a disaster! This is a terrible thing to have happened.”

It was indeed—for Becket         .         .         .         and for him.

The whole world was against him. They said he had murdered a saint, for even those who had been against Becket in his lifetime had now elevated him to sainthood.

I almost wished I could have been there. I should have liked to talk to Henry. I was sure he must be thinking of what effect this was going to have on the future.

Louis held up his hands in horror. I was sure he believed that God would strike his old enemy in some terrible manner. The Pope threatened all the Angevin dominions with interdiction and to excommunicate Henry unless he did penance for the murder.

Henry seemed to accept the charge, and the four knights were not taken to task in any way for what they had done. Henry believed in justice; he had asked why no one would rid him of the turbulent priest and those men had taken that as an order to kill the Archbishop. They had thought it their duty in the service of the King. He could not blame them. He accepted what had happened as his fault. He, who had loved Thomas as he had loved no one else, was his murderer.

The boys talked about it a great deal. Their attitude was changing rapidly toward their father. They had never loved him but they had been in awe of him. They had regarded him as the all-powerful monarch, and power earns respect, especially from the ambitious, and all my boys were that.

“The King of France is angry with him         .         .         .         so is the Pope,” said Richard. “Will they rise against him?”

I said: “We shall have to wait and see what happens.”

“If they defeated him,” went on Richard, “I should still have Aquitaine and Geoffrey Brittany. Nobody could take Aquitaine from me.”

“Nor Brittany from me,” added Geoffrey.

“If our father were driven out of England, he might try to. I wouldn’t let him.”

“No,” I put in, “your father will not be driven out of England, and I should certainly hope you would defend your estates against all comers. You would not be worthy of them if you did not do that.”

I could see how strongly they were turning against their father, and I was not displeased.

The whole world was against him. I wondered what effect this would have on him. Would he be in despair? I did not think so. He was always at his most vigorous and inventive at times of crisis.

He ignored the threats and turned his attention to a project which had long fascinated him: the addition of Ireland to his dominions. Events were fortuitous. Just at this time Diarmait Mac Murchadha, the King of Leinster, had lost his crown, and he sent word to Henry begging him to help him regain it. If he did, he promised he would pay homage to Henry. Henry accepted the challenge. It must have kept his mind from Becket and the antagonism he had stirred up against himself. He raised an army—chiefly from the Welsh border, and sent it to Ireland, and very soon they had possession of the land from Waterford to Dublin.

Just as the papal legates were about to enter Normandy and carry out their threats, Henry decided he must go to Ireland, where his presence was needed. This he proceeded to do and by October had landed in Waterford.

He had sent strict orders to Normandy that no churchman should be allowed to enter the country during his absence; the same rule should apply to England. So no one could bring him messages from the Pope. He then gave all his thought and energy to the Irish problem and in six months he had made the people of that land realize that there was only one course open to them—submission to him. With his unbounded energy, he set about bringing trade to that country, and he succeeded in making it more prosperous than it had ever been before. The wise among the Irish welcomed this. He fortified the coastal towns and set up garrisons there. Dublin had been almost in ruins when he took it, but before the year was out it had become a trading center. He spent Christmas in Dublin.

I could not help but admire him. It was typical of him to throw himself into this mighty project at the time when the whole world was against him and he himself must be tortured by the memories of a man who had dominated his life for so long.

He would probably have stayed in Ireland but for the fact that he heard rumors of what was happening in England. Did he then begin to realize what a great mistake he had made in setting up a second King? Young Henry was restive, eager to seize the crown; he was also very immature.

The older Henry had been groomed for kingship by his indomitable mother and had been made aware of all he had to learn and had set about learning it in a dedicated fashion. How different was his son! He was the sort of young man who would surround himself with sycophants; he was vain; he believed that governing a kingdom meant being idolized by those around him, being the center of attention on every occasion. He should have remembered how his father worked, how he was constantly going into battle, how he never spared himself and suffered the hardships his soldiers did. Henry was young, of course. Yes, surely his father must now be realizing his great mistake.

So he went back to England where, I heard, he found young Henry truculent, demanding to know why he could not govern England or at least Normandy.

Henry told him not to be foolish. He had been crowned but there was only one King of England as long as he himself was alive. Young Henry would have to remember that he must obey his father—in all things.

The King’s thoughts were now busy with marriage plans for our youngest, John. John was no longer at Fontevrault. He was now five years old and had been committed to the care of Ranulf de Granville, the Chief Justiciar of England. Always watchful for advantageous marriages for his offspring, Henry had decided on a marriage for his youngest with Alice, only daughter and therefore heiress of Humbert III, the Count of Maurienne. Henry made a contract with Humbert that if he had no male heirs John should inherit all his lands. If, on the other hand, he should have a son, there would be rich compensation for John.

This would give Henry command over the western passes of the Alps. Through his children he was going to have control of the whole of Europe.

In order to placate Louis, at the end of August Marguerite had been crowned with young Henry at Winchester by the Archbishop of Rouen. This had only increased my son’s desire to rule. Resentment smoldered between father and son, and there were many who were ready to add fuel to this.

This was the state of affairs when Henry decided to spend Christmas at Chinon and summoned not only his sons Richard and Geoffrey to join him but me also.

I would have refused but my sons had to go, and I did not want them to go without me. I must admit that the prospect of seeing Henry again exhilarated me. I wanted to see how he had weathered the storm of Becket’s murder which had still not abated. He was indeed a king. When he was threatened, he snapped his fingers and replied by adding Ireland to his dominions. It was impossible not to admire him.

Henry had aged. There was white in the tawny curls. But his vitality was as great as ever. He regarded me with a certain sardonic amusement.

There was great feasting, banquets with many courses and the finest wines that could be found in France, which meant the best in the world, I believed. But Henry was not interested in food and wine. I guessed it was a big strain for him to sit still while the rest of the company gorged themselves. He drank sparingly and showed clearly that he grudged the time spent on meals.

Richard and Geoffrey were in awe of him but their dislike was growing. The trouble he had had with young Henry had brought about a new sternness toward them all and he was determined to show them who was master.

I smiled inwardly. That was not the way to deal with them. It amazed me that such a brilliant tactician, such a born ruler, should be so ignorant of human nature. To have crowned his son in his lifetime was proof of that. And now followed this treatment of Richard and Geoffrey which could only alienate them.

I had shown him clearly that he could not expect me to bow to his wishes whatever they were. The partnership which had once existed between us was over. I had my dominions and, although he might think they were his, they were not. Aquitaine would have none of him and he knew it. Perhaps that was why he left me in peace to rule.

It was inevitable that that should be a stormy Christmas.

When we were alone, his conversation was all about our son Henry and how disappointed he was in him. The boy was pleasure-loving, thinking to spend his life staging tournaments; he thought kingship a round of gaiety with himself in the center of the fun and everyone giving way to him.

“What did you think he would be like?” I demanded. “A young boy having a crown thrust on him!”

“It should have made him more serious         .         .         .         more aware of his responsibilities.”

“You know nothing of people, Henry,” I told him.

“I know my own son.”

“You knew him so well that you put a crown on his head and then expected him to behave like a nobody in the nursery.” He glared at me but I laughed at him. “You are a fool, Henry,” I said, “if you think you can make a boy a king and then expect him to behave as he did before he had his crown.”

I was always aware of what kingship meant. When I was a boy I always reminded myself that there was a kingdom waiting for me and how I should have to take care to guard it.”

“You had to win your kingdom. It is very different to have it graciously handed to you. I could have told you you were acting unwisely. You went to great pains to get that boy crowned, even alienating the Pope and not waiting for the Archbishop of Canterbury to officiate         .         .         .         leaving it all to Roger of York, who is now in trouble himself over it.”

“And you would not have crowned him!”

“Most certainly I would not. But the deed is done now and you will have to see what fruit it bears.”

“What do you mean? The boy will do as I say.”

I shrugged my shoulders and turned away. He strode toward me and gripped my arm.

“You are turning Richard and Geoffrey against me,” he accused.

I wrenched myself free. “No, Henry,” I said, “you are turning them against you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look at yourself. Are you a good family man? Your wife will have none of you. You have indulged yourself with prostitutes. Your bastards are legion. You even set your mistress up in the palace in place of your Queen. My people of Aquitaine will not have you. You can take your laws and disciplines elsewhere as far as they are concerned. And now you complain that your sons do not fall down and worship you, and young Henry, whom you have made a king, is asking for more than a golden crown. Did you think to bind your children to you with lands and castles? I say, you do not know people.”

“You talk nonsense.”

“Nonsense to you, Henry, would be good sense to some. We shall wait and see.”

“You always brought trouble. I was a fool ever to take up with you.”

“Aquitaine you thought worth it.”

“And England for you.”

“I care nothing for England. I care only for my children.”

“So you have become the good mother, have you?”

“Ever since my children were born, I have been the good mother.”

“You were certainly the fruitful one.”

“An excellent thing in queens, is it not? I will tell you something: I know our son Henry. He is very young. He should never have been crowned in his father’s lifetime. But you did not consult me. You did not consult me over the appointment of Becket to the archbishopric of Canterbury. Nor would you listen to your mother         .         .         .”

His face was scarlet with rage. I thought: He is going to fall down and bite the hangings. I did not care if he did.

I went on: “No. You knew best         .         .         .         so you thought. But let us not brood on past errors. Let us look ahead. You have made him a King. Now he must be treated as one. You cannot send him back to the schoolroom. Give him a little power. Keep the reins on him but do not treat him as a child.”

“Give him power! Let that young know-nothing ruin my kingdom!”

“He was at the head of affairs while you were in Ireland.”

Henry laughed. “You know that not to be so. He had no power whatsoever. As if I would leave an untutored boy to govern England. Everything was left to the justiciars and de Luci. That is what he complains of. That is what angers him now that he has ideas beyond his capacities.”

“But don’t you see? You gave him a grand coronation. He has been crowned with Marguerite. You cannot expect him to remain as he was.”

“He is worthless. He thinks of nothing but enjoying life. It is all sport and banquets         .         .         .         fine clothes         .         .         .         hunting and hawking. He learned that from you. I have told him that is not kingship. He has much to learn before he can take part in government. I had high hopes of him once. He seemed to be shaping well.” His eyes narrowed. “Then he was with you. He was there in that Court with the troubadours of yours         .         .         .         those lily-livered poets who have no thought beyond turning a pretty verse. You have done this. You have ruined him         .         .         .         as you are ruining the others.”

“It is you who have ruined Henry with your crowning.”

“Nay, he would have been well enough         .         .         .         but he has ideas of a fancy Court with men parading themselves like peacocks, and the most important thing in life to make love to women through pretty verses.”

“Unlike his father, making love among the hay or in frowsty tavern wenches’ beds.”

He laughed again. “You give too much importance to these little things.”

“Not as much as you obviously gave, considering your numerous illegitimate children scattered all over the country.”

“Have done. You are of an age now to have finished with jealousy.”

“Jealous! Of you! I am glad to be rid of you. I would rather die than share a bed with you.”

“Never fear. You will not be forced to make that grand gesture. Your life is safe from me         .         .         .         as is your body.”

“I am glad of that.”

“And listen to me. I do not want my sons Richard and Geoffrey turned against me as you have tried to turn Henry.”

“My sons, Richard and Geoffrey, form their own opinions and if they have formed such of you which you do not like, do not blame me but look to yourself.”

“I can see that you and I will never agree.”

“Then at last you are seeing some truth.”

With that I left him.

Richard had been waiting for me. He was growing very suspicious of his father and knew how things stood between us. The scandal about Rosamund Clifford had reached his ears and he was ready to spring to my defense. He thought his father uncouth in dress and manners, and I was very touched because he was ready to go into battle on my account.

“You are angry,” he said. “The King has been worrying you.” He looked so bellicose that I laughed.

“I will kill him if he hurts you,” he said.

I laid my hand on his arm. I said: “Do not let him hear you say such a thing. It could be called treason. And, my dearest, I can look after myself. I need no defense.”

“But you hate him. I hate him, too. So does Geoffrey, I think.”

“And your brother Henry is turning against him.”

“John will be the only one who does not hate him,” said Richard. “And he is too young to know. I expect he will, too, when he gets older.”

I said: “We shall have to wait and see. I shall be glad when this Christmas is over.”

“And we go back to Poitiers.”

“You love the place, don’t you?” Richard nodded.

“One day it will be yours, entirely. Your brother Henry longs for the crown but it will never be his while his father lives. Perhaps he hopes that won’t be long. I hope you do not harbor the same thoughts about me.”

Richard was horrified, and I knew his emotion was genuine.

“Please do not talk so, dearest Mother,” he said. “Life would be empty for me without you.”

He meant it. That was how it was between us.

And as soon as possible I left with him and Geoffrey for Poitiers.

It seemed that no sooner had we returned than we received another summons from the King. This time it was to join him in Limoges. The reason for this was ratification of the contract between Humbert’s daughter Alice and John.

It was a long time since Henry had set foot in my province, and I was going to make him aware that he came as my guest—although I had not invited him.

There was a big gathering. Young Henry and Marguerite were there and John, the prospective bridegroom, had been brought forth. There was also Alais, daughter of Louis, who was to marry Richard when she was old enough. Alais was a very attractive girl and I was glad for Richard.

Henry was never happier than when making marriage plans which would bring him gain.

He behaved to me as though we had not had our differences at Chinon.

“I very much want this marriage,” he said. “I know Maurienne is small but it is of strategic importance. It lies south of Lake Geneva and extends almost to the Gulf of Genoa. There one could control Italy. Oh yes, I attach great importance to this.”

All was going well when Humbert seemed suddenly to change his mind. There were Henry’s other sons: Henry, crowned King of England; Richard with Aquitaine; Geoffrey with Brittany; and what had John? His father had called him “Lackland.” Humbert was beginning to wonder what sort of bargain he was making.

Henry was greatly disturbed. There must be no hitch. He immediately added three castles in Anjou to John’s inheritance. Humbert was satisfied, but there was one who was not.

Our newly created King had inherited Anjou, and he was not going to stand by and see his castles given to a younger brother. He immediately rose and declared before the assembly that he would never give up his castles.

The King laughed and turning to Humbert said: “Take no notice of my son. He is but a boy. The castles are John’s. I say so, and my word is law.”

He managed to convince Humbert.

Young Henry was furious. He came to me.

“I am tired of it,” he said. “He treats me like a child. He arranges everything         .         .         .         even my friends. I was crowned King and I do not have the rights of the humblest of those about me. I will not endure it. I will not. I am the King.” A crafty look came into his eyes. “And there are those who would support me,” he added.

I could imagine that. Oh, what trouble lay ahead for my arrogant husband, who thought he knew everything and could do so much better than anyone else?

“I am tired of living with him,” said Henry. “I shall come to Aquitaine         .         .         .         and one day         .         .         .         one day         .         .         .         I am going to claim my kingdom.”

Richard came in while he was talking and stood listening, his eyes shining. “He has been cruel to our mother,” he said. “I will stand with you.”

“Then I’ll do it,” said Henry.

There were dreams in his eyes, wild dreams. He would dream rather than achieve, I thought. But I could not help but be pleased by their criticism of their father.

I was looking forward to returning to Poitiers. These meetings with Henry were always disturbing. Our quarrels stimulated me, but during them I would see a cold and calculating light in his eyes as though he had plans for me. I knew he would be capable of anything and that I had to be wary of him.

My son Henry really hated him now. He said: “I will come with you when you leave. I will not stay with my father to be treated like a child.”

He was often with Richard and they talked against the King frequently. It was their favorite topic. They were working up a hatred against him. Young Henry said that several influential people in England were tired of the King’s rule. They talked of the days of Stephen when men were more free. “Free to roam the countryside and be robbed,” I might have said, for wise men should know that Henry’s laws had made the country a safer place to live in. But I could not bring myself to say a good word for my husband.

When the time came for us to depart, there was a scene.

Young Henry said he was coming with us.

“No,” replied the King. “You are mistaken. You are coming with me.”

“I prefer to go with my mother.”

“And I prefer you to stay with me.”

“Why should I         .         .         .         ?”

“Because I say so.”

“I am the King.”

I am the King. You are my son and, if you deserve the honor, in due course you shall wear the crown. But you will have to be tutored for such a position and that is what I am going to do. That is why you will not go to your mother’s Court. You will not be playing in tournaments and pageants, singing and dancing and frittering away your time. You will be learning the art of kingship.”

“I refuse.”

The King laughed. “And I could put you under restraint until you calmed down.”

“You would not dare.”

The King’s eyes had grown steely. He went to Henry and held his arm in such a grip that the boy winced. “There is nothing I will not do to purge you of your folly. You will be under restraint most certainly if you do not take care.”

He could be very formidable, and the boy, though sullen, was afraid of his father.

Richard, Geoffrey and I left for Poitiers without him.

I heard news from time to time.

Young Henry was being recalcitrant, and the King was behaving very sternly toward him. His intimate friends, whom the King did not trust, were dismissed. Henry was not allowed to go out without a guard; he could almost be said to be under arrest.

I could imagine the resentment smoldering. The final outrage was that Henry should sleep in his father’s room.

One day a messenger came to us with news. Young Henry had escaped.

He and his father had reached Chinon. Perhaps the King was growing old and was more exhausted than he used to be by hours in the saddle. They had retired for the night, young Henry sleeping as usual in his father’s room. In the early hours of the morning while the King was in a deep sleep, his son slipped out of the room. He must have had helpers in the castle for horses were waiting for him.

I could picture Henry’s rage when he realized what had happened. He would immediately set about bringing the boy back. He could not have gone far and it seemed they must soon find him.

The chase went on for three days, but young Henry managed to elude his pursuers, and finally he crossed the border into France and made his way at once to Louis, his father-in-law, from whom he could accept help.

When the King reached the French border and realized where his son had gone, he immediately sent messengers to the French Court. Louis would understand that there had been a little family misunderstanding. He wanted the boy to be told that if he returned they would discuss together how to settle their differences.

Louis’s reply amused me as it must have others. He asked from whom the message came.

“From the King of England,” was the reply.

“That cannot be so,” said Louis in mock bewilderment. “The King of England is here at my Court. You must mean the former King of England, for everyone knows that he is no longer King because he resigned his kingdom to his son.”

That should teach Henry a lesson. Oh, how he must be gnashing his teeth to contemplate his folly!

I waited for what would happen next, and to my surprise young Henry arrived in Aquitaine.

He was full of plans. His father was too old to rule. It was his turn. He wanted his brothers to join him. He would make his father see that he would have no more of this treatment. He could get people to stand with him.

My son was young and reckless, but there were others watching the growing tension with eager eyes. Louis was one. He had been casting anxious eyes on Henry Plantagenet for a long time. In Aquitaine, Brittany and even England, men were stirring themselves. The taxes were crippling. It was true Henry spent little on himself and that the money went in services to the country, but Henry’s perpetual wars were costly and people in England were simply not interested in them. They wanted a king who would rule them and not one who must continually protect far-flung dominions which always seemed to be on the verge of revolt.

In fact, his sons were not the only ones who were ready to rise against Henry.

He was always at his most resourceful when he scented danger. I believed he did not take this desertion of his son seriously and had confidence in his ability to get the better of the petulant youth. He sent an order to the Archbishop of Rouen which showed me that he at last understood that I had great influence over my sons. If I would return to him, bringing our children, we could resume our old relationship, which he was eager to do.

I laughed. The arrogance of the man had to be admired. He really believed he only had to promise me a return of his affection—at least, I supposed that was what he was hinting at—and I would come running to him. I suppose he would have dismissed poor Rosamund Clifford, with whom he had been living more or less openly when he was in England.

I ignored him but Henry was not the man to relinquish his desires lightly. He must have been growing really anxious, for the Archbishop came to me and said it was my bounden duty to return to my husband with my family. He had promised me his love. There was a threat in this. If I did not return I should be open to censure from the Church. This moved me not at all. I was exultant. I was enjoying my revenge.

Now the rising against Henry was in full swing, and at the heart of it were his own sons. Louis was helping, but he was an unreliable ally. He still had no stomach for war, and although he entered into it, it was possible that he might not stay the course. Alas, my son Henry was far from wise. He made rash promises to any who would support him in his efforts to take the crown from his father. I wished I could advise him, but Henry was not the sort to take advice. He thought he was so wise—as only the ignorant do—and is there anything more calculated to bring failure?

He promised the county of Kent to the Count of Flanders for his services, and to the Count of Boulogne he offered the county of Mortain and more land besides; to Thibault of Blois, Amboise and rents from Anjou; and he even offered King William of Scotland Westmorland and Carlisle if he would attack Henry on the Border. I could have wept for his ignorance and folly.

Although taxation had aroused certain resentment in England, the powerful lords had long realized Henry’s great gifts and the benefits which had come to England through his reign. The Earls of Surrey, Arundel, Essex, Salisbury and Cornwall were behind him; the barons were with him; so was the ruler of Wales. Richard de Luci could always be relied on and when he realized how far the revolt had gone, with his usual energy Henry engaged mercenaries to augment his army. Then he went into action.

William of Scotland attempted an invasion, but Henry’s illegitimate son Geoffrey, the one whom he had brought into my nurseries and who idolized him, quickly crushed that.

How foolish they had been to underrate Henry. Whatever else he was, he was the great leader, the great soldier. Louis, deciding that he had had enough, withdrew; and one by one the territories taken by rebels were won back.

Henry was in charge once more, indomitable.

But he had no wish to make war on his sons. He called a meeting with Louis. Henry was lenient. He did not want to be hard on his own flesh and blood. He loved his sons—at least he loved Henry. He had always been proud of him.

Perhaps at this time he could see his faults very clearly, and if so they must have made him anxious, but he was not one to despair. He still thought he could make a king of Henry. He understood his ambition. He offered him castles and lands.

But my sons did not see themselves as conquered. They haughtily refused them and the meeting broke up. The fighting was at an end for the time being but the boys did not go to their father; they rode back to Paris in the company of Louis.

I was well aware that Henry’s wrath would be turned against me. England was safe, and now he was left to deal with his Continental possessions. My sons were under the protection of Louis. He could not touch them. But I was not. Those about me warned me that I was in acute danger.

He was coming closer; he was passing through France, seizing the castles of those who had worked against him; and now all his immense energy was concentrated on the defeat of his enemies. He would be merciless to them, particularly as his sons were involved. That would have enraged him and I must not forget that he blamed me.

He was coming nearer and nearer to Poitiers. And why was he heading in this direction? Because he wanted to find me. He had designated me the leader of the revolt against him. I must not be here when he came, as he assuredly would.

I knew my advisers were right but I could not bring myself to go. This was my home. This was where I had my Court and my friends. I did not want to leave it.

How foolish I was! Each night I would go to bed wondering what the next day would bring forth; each morning I would say to myself: Should I go today? And I would still be in my castle when night fell.

It could not go on. There came a day when he was not many miles from the castle. His advance had been spectacular. Who would have thought he could have come so soon?

“His men will be everywhere,” I was told. “You would be recognized at once.”

They were right. I should have left long ago and I must delay no longer. I dressed myself as a man         .         .         .         a knight. I piled my hair on top of my head and put on a hat which covered it. A few of my faithful friends came with me and we set off. I rose astride and tried to assume the manners of a man. I think I succeeded rather well. My little band was becoming quite merry. I vas still young enough to enjoy adventure.

We realized how wise we were to have left. Henry’s army was very close to the city. We should have to go very carefully—perhaps travel by night and rest by day.

We had not gone very far when we ran into a party of riders. I was not disturbed because they were my own people. They stopped and talked with us for a while and told us that Henry’s forces were but a few miles away.

While we were talking, some strands of hair escaped from my hat, and in my attempt to push them out of sight my hat fell off and my hair was tumbling about my shoulders. The men stared at me. I saw the calculating look in their eyes. One of them said: “It is the Duchess.” Their attitude changed. I saw the stupidity in their faces but it was hard to believe that I could be betrayed by my own people.

I understood their reasons. Their loyalty to me was forgotten in the contemplation of the reward they would surely receive from Henry for my capture.

Their numbers were greater than ours and they were armed. And so I was led away into captivity.

Once more I came face to face with Henry. I was his prisoner now but if he expected me to humble myself before him he was mistaken.

He regarded me sardonically.

“So,” he said, “your attempt to escape has failed.”

“Because of traitors,” I said.

“Traitors to you, friends to me. I shall reward them well for their services, particularly as they are those whom you regard as your subjects.”

“Well,” I said, “what do you propose?”

“To finish with the trouble you have been causing me ever since I set eyes on you.”

“What is it to be then?”

“You will see. I give the orders, you know.”

“When did you not? Though they have not always been obeyed.”

“Do not bandy words with me.”

“I do not give a thought to you.”

His eyes narrowed. “You she-devil,” he said. “You witch.”

“I thought you were the one who was descended from witches.”

“You would be wise not to provoke me.”

“I care not what you do to me.”

“You are a traitor. Do you know what happens to traitors?”

“You were false to me         .         .         .         always, even in the early days of our marriage. Are you still as lecherous as ever? Don’t answer. I am not in the least interested.”

“You turned our sons against me.”

“I believe I have told you before that you turned them against yourself.”

“You incited them to take up arms against me.”

“They did not need to be incited. They hate you, Henry. Why do you think they do?”

“Because their mother turned them against me.”

“You insist on that old theme. What are you going to do with me? Kill me? Would you marry Rosamund? It would be scarcely fitting.”

“Be silent,” he said. “Remember you are my prisoner.”

“I ask you, what are you going to do with me?”

“You will discover in time.”

“And now?”

I could see that he was working himself up into one of his rages. I wanted to goad him, to see him roll on the floor, biting the rushes. It would give me some comfort.

He might have sensed this, for there was no rage. He looked at me, his eyes narrowed, his lips curled: “I am going to have you taken away.”


“I shall decide. It will be somewhere strong. You will be well guarded.”

“So you fear me?”

“It is you who should fear me.”

His voice was cold with hatred. I remembered how he had hated Becket, and yet there had been love in that hate. Were his feelings for me like that? I wondered if he ever thought of the passion there had once been between us.

He turned abruptly away and left me.

Later that day I was taken away. They did not tell me where I was going. I did not recognize the fortress when I reached it, and nobody would answer my questions.

And there I was incarcerated—the King’s prisoner.

You can support our site by clicking on this link and watching the advertisement.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!