Several of Philip’s knights encountered Father Broase and Charles outside the chapel door. Charles silenced them with a hand gesture and Broase continued with his story.
“Henry and Eleanor— quite the match.” Father Broase laughed as he stood and stretched.
Now Broase looked over as his new audience grew from one to five. The stiff wooden chair was uncomfortable, and he needed to move.
“Well, what happened to Lady Anne?” One skinny knight complained loudly.
“Yes, when did she meet King Philip if Henry locked her away?” Charles inquired.
Broase took his seat again and launched back into the story, “Well, King Henry returned to England triumphant over his family, for the moment. When his sons faced utter defeat, they all decided to repent and swore an oath of fidelity to their father. Naturally, Henry forgave them and welcomed them back into his good graces, as long as they behaved themselves.
“As for Eleanor, Henry locked her away in Salisbury Castle, a dreary drafty old fortress in need of much repair, closely guarded, and contact with the outside surpervised.
“Henry consigned Anne to Salisbury with the queen. Her father, William, Viscount de Marseilles, wrote letter after letter to Henry. At first he offered a generous ransom, then resorted to making a plea to Henry’s love as a father. Neither worked. At one point, William prepared to make a voyage to meet with Henry. To this, Henry finally replied that he, “could not guarantee the safe conduct of the viscount’s personage through treacherous lands.”
“Unfortunately, William lacked the military resources to threaten Henry, and his failing health prevented him from traveling. William continued to write and plead with Henry. He wrote constantly to Anne, but Henry kept the letters from her.”
Broase paused for effect, and continued. “You must understand, Henry had a purpose in keeping Anne. At first he neglected to tell Richard about Anne. He concealed himself behind a curtain as Marshal let the information slip to Richard. Over the next few days, Henry observed how Richard grew sullen and pale. Finally the moment came when Richard begged for Anne’s freedom, as he knew better than to ask for his mother’s release. Henry promised to release her when he was convinced of Richard’s loyalty. Richard acquiesced to Henry, but the months turned into years.
“During this time, Richard perfected his skill in war. As many of you are aware,” Broase eyed Charles. “He practiced on rebellious vassals. Any vassal foolish enough to go against Richard soon found himself on the losing end of battle. His reputation for fierceness and skill in battle grew.
“Anne remained imprisoned, and even on those rare occasions when Henry dragged Eleanor out for court or to fulfill some purpose of Henry’s, Anne remained behind. One winter, Anne and Eleanor even shared a bed just to keep from freezing. Gradually, as Eleanor’s sons’ behavior improved so did Eleanor’s provisions- food, heat and clothing, for her household.”
Almost ten years passed like this. Then as Christmas time came once again, Henry discovered he needed to prove to his vassals his power, and the power of his family as well. To put on a show of unification for all of Normandy, he summoned the family to Caen.
Impulsive Young Henry came to court, bringing his beautiful wife, Margaret. Henry and Eleanor’s daughter Matilda and her husband, the Duke of Saxony, a large man, also attended.
Next, Geoffrey arrived with his wife, the Duchess of Brittany, a handsome couple to look at, both tall and fair featured. John and Richard came, as well as the French Princess Alice, Richard’s fiancé. Alice had been living all the while in Henry’s court, and grown into a beautiful young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes. She replaced Rosamond in Henry’s affections.
Away from the prying eyes of the Norman nobles, the family gathered in the solar. Even in this little room lined with tapestries depicting a hunt, dressed up with swags of holly and ivy in celebration of the season, a fire roared away in the grate, providing pleasant warmth on such a cold occasion.
“Welcome, welcome to Christmas court!” Henry entered the room arms outstretched in warm greeting.
John, the youngest of the brood and exceptionally skilled at manipulating his father, piped up, “The whole family is to be here, isn’t that right father? Well, the whole family less the girls who are married off.”
Richard mumbled. “Not the entire family.”
Standing close by, Young Henry overheard Richard. “Didn’t father tell you she’s coming?”
“The queen is coming to Caen?” Richard tilted his head to one side as John smirked at him. “When is the Queen to arrive?”
“Soon enough, believe you me, soon enough!” Henry rolled his eyes.
Richard sulked off to a corner, and Geoffrey followed him. Richard grumped to his brother. “If you ask me, it is just a ruse. All the nobles of Normandy are to be here so we must show them our family solidarity.”
“Shh, the old man will hear you,” Geoffrey warned. He paused for a moment and then moved on to gossip. “My how the family has grown.”
Richard watched as John laughed a little too loudly at a joke Henry made. John wasn’t dressed in his usual slovenly manner, and Richard guessed that Henry had something to do with that. It would not do for Eleanor to have any of her sons put together haphazardly. He turned back to Geoffrey. “Yes, this is the first time I have met
Matilda’s husband, the Duke of Saxony.”
“It would seem that he and our sister Matilda have been upsetting their overlord the Holy Roman Emperor, so they fled here to Daddy’s protection,” Geoffrey mocked.
Richard shrugged. “Saxony is a pretty powerful man himself. I trust he will soon reverse his fortunes.”
Geoffrey continued his criticism of family members. “Then there is the heir, Young Henry. He has brought his whore of a wife with him— probably doesn’t want to let her out of his sight. It is funny really. She is the half sister of your Princess Alice and their father was such a monk; yet, they are quite the little pair of colorful women.”
The Duchess of Brittany joined them. Geoffrey continued, “I assume you remember my wife, Constance, the Duchess of Brittany?”
Richard nodded. “So, what about the rumors of Young Henry’s wife and William the Marshal?”
The Countess of Brittany interjected, “Oh, who knows for certain. But Marshal and Young Henry were thick as thieves, then parted company very suddenly. If it is true,
Marshal is just one in a very long line of lovers, and I do mean a very long line. Alice on the other hand, her list is a short, but rather lofty one.”
Richard glared at her. “Whatever do you mean?”
Constance batted her blues eyes at him. “Your father, Richard. She is your father’s lover.”
“Yes, it would seem the old man has replaced Rosamond since her death.”
Geoffrey’s smile twisted to one side.
“Do you mean to tell me that Alice and Henry?” Richard scratched his chin.
“Huh? What the devil is that man up to now?”
From the center of the room, Henry clapped his hands, commanding everyone’s attention. “I have just been informed that the queen and her entourage are here. Let us make them welcome.”
Dutifully the family followed him to the courtyard.
When Eleanor and her convoy entered the courtyard, servants buzzed around her. Henry approached her without hesitation, but the children stood off to the side watching.
The years in prison failed to dull her beauty or her spirit, and Eleanor greeted Henry first. “Henry! How pleasant it is to see you!”
“Do not pretend with me, old woman. It is pleasant to see France again, and I am just a means to an end.” Henry sparred with her.
She smiled widely at him. “You give yourself too much credit.”
Henry extended his arm to her and Eleanor took it. “So tell me, was the crossing rough and hard?”
“Yes, just the way you like it.”
“And so it begins.” Geoffrey murmured.
Eleanor caught sight of the children. “My children are here! Now, that is pleasant.”
“Something tells me that we fall below France in the pleasant category,” John grumbled.
A lady approached Eleanor placing another cloak over her shoulders, Anne.
She glanced up for only a moment while performing her task, spotting Richard, and turned away giving directions to the servants unloading the cart.
Richard stepped forward, but Eleanor cut him off. “Richard, I am glad to see you in good health.”
In an instant, John darted to his mother’s side. “Mother, I am so glad to see you.”
Eleanor patted his head. “I have no doubt of that.” She turned to Henry. “Well, are we ready to eat? Traveling always makes me hungry.”
“Give us a promise that you won’t eat your young, and we shall go into dinner.” Henry taunted her.
“Give me an enticing alternative, and I shall not need to devour our young.”
The royal couple entered the castle, as their children followed.