Henry sat in his chamber warming himself by the fire, his mind racing over ways to reign in Richard. Lady Anne certainly held interesting prospects. Without warning, Young Henry burst into the room. “Father, a word please.”
Henry snapped, “Well, what is it? I am busy building an empire or tearing it to pieces whatever your opinion may be.”
“It has come to my attention that you and Mother were discussing giving some of Aquitaine to John.” Young Henry grabbed up a candlestick.
Henry slammed his hands on the armrests of his chair. “Do people in this court not know of secret negotiations? Perhaps someone should educate them on the meaning of the word secret!”
The candlestick crashed down on the small table. “It isn’t right, Father!”
“Yes, yes, I know. One can hardly take a piss without it being voiced abroad.”
Henry rolled his eyes.
“That is not what I am talking about, and you know it. I don’t understand why you would want to give Aquitaine to John. There is no chance he would be able to take care of it properly. For heaven’s sake, that is the richest land in the realm! You cannot give the Aquitaine to John.” Young Henry turned on his father.
“And why not? Besides, what does that have to do with you? It is Richard’s not yours.”
“Think about how much work you put into having me crowned. I understand this was to insure a smooth transition, but really, it means nothing because you refuse to let me have any real power.” The prince swallowed loudly and continued, “Richard and
Geoffrey have their lands and titles, your daughters are married all over God’s green earth, yet here I sit and wait.”
“Need I remind you that you will be king when I am gone?” Henry’s face flushed a brighter red.
“Of what, that dismal dark island? Who is to say that when you are gone my brothers will not rise up in rebellion against me and take England from me too?”
“Then pray tell, what is your solution?”
Young Henry lowered the volume of his voice, but his tone remained earnest. “Make them swear an oath of loyalty to me.” He jammed his finger into his own chest for emphasis. “Make me their overlord.”
“Ha! Now that would be a bold move.” The king laughed.
“Indeed!” Young Henry’s grey blue eyes were flaming, yet the king continued to laugh. “Father I am serious! This must be done,” Young Henry entreated.
Henry shook his head. “I really do not see how it could be done.”
The volume of Young Henry’s voice rose again as he continued arguing his case. “Think of this then; it is pointless to persist in the naive belief that I will be king of anything. It is a fruitless struggle. Why, I might as well take up the cross and spend my days on crusade.” He turned as if to leave the room. “Yes! That is exactly what I’ll do, I shall take up the cross!”
“Do not be stupid. You would not dare. There is too great of risk of you being killed, or your pretty face maimed. It is not in your nature.” Henry crossed his arms.
The son did not flinch. “A little price to pay for freedom. At least I would go to heaven being absolved of my sins on the Lord’s errand.”
Henry pointed a shaking finger at his son’s face. “You forget young man just how powerful and persuasive I can be. My sphere of influence is very wide. I can see to it that no clergy will ever give you the cross.”
“Very well.” Young Henry backed away from his father. “Then you leave me no other choice. I shall kill myself and end this misery.”
“You just spoke of heaven. Are you not afraid of hell?” Henry laughed.
Young Henry yelled, “No! It shall be a welcome relief from this life. At worst, I would be trading one hell for another!”
“Oh please!” Henry threw him a blasé look as he walked back to his chair.
“I’ll do it. I am just as stubborn as you. I will do it, I tell you, and you will mourn me to your grave.”
“Alright then, prove it. Here is my dagger, Son. If you have the gumption, go ahead and do it.” Henry unsheathed his dagger and dropped it on a table. “Well, what are you waiting for?”
Young Henry grabbed a large chair throwing it in Henry’s direction. It flew, tumbling across the room.
Young Henry’s eyes filled with tears of rage. He looked directly into his father’s eyes and blinked one single large tear loose. It slid down his cheek. “Father,” he choked. At that, the tears poured from the prince’s eyes.
Henry’s softened at the sight of his son’s tears, but said nothing. Young Henry sank down onto the floor in a heap. “Father, this is not a life worth living.” He looked up directly at his father again, and with trembling lip whined, “I no longer wish to live.”
Henry felt a guilty pang for breaking his son. Kneeling beside him he stroked his son’s golden hair as if soothing a baby. “Please understand that I am doing all of this for you. I work so hard to keep this empire together so that you will inherit the crown and thus be happy.”
“I want to be happy, really I do,” sobbed Young Henry.
Henry gave a long sigh. “I understand, and I will find a way to make it happen. Just remain calm and give me time to work. There, there, you’ve had a trying time. Go, gather yourself and leave it all to your father. I will... I will fix it. Go, My Son.”
Young Henry got to his feet, and moved toward the door. With a little sniff, he exited the room.
Alone, Henry spoke to himself, “Geoffrey will be easily persuaded; I can pressure him to it. Richard however, needs more persuasion.”
A few minutes later, Eleanor and Matilda enjoyed some music as Anne played the lute. The women gathered in the solar for a pleasant moment away from the stress of the court below, and a lull in the incessant political battle that overshadowed them all. Unannounced, Henry entered the chamber. Matilda and Anne stood and dutifully curtsied.
“Good afternoon, Ladies and Eleanor.” Henry greeted them.
“Henry, to what do we owe this um...” Eleanor coughed, “honor.”
Henry put his arms behind his back and rocked back and forth on his heels.
“Actually, I came to ask Lady Anne to accompany me on a walk.”
Anne nearly dropped the instrument. Eleanor gave him a sardonic smile. “Would not Alice be better company for you?”
Henry protested, “Oh come now. The lady has been locked up in prison and not able to leave the castle walls. I simply thought a walk might do her some good.”
While Anne looked at Eleanor in confusion, Eleanor glared at Henry. He chose to ignore her and instead address Anne directly. “Lady Anne, kindly accompany me on this beautiful afternoon for a walk.”
“Yes, Sire.” Anne obeyed.