That night Henry called all his sons together for a meeting in his chambers.
Obediently, they all came: Richard, John, Young Henry, and Geoffrey. As hot flames licked at the large logs in the fireplace, Henry informed them, “Now that we are coming to the close of the season, we have yet more family business to conduct. It would seem that a formality has been overlooked.”
Sitting at his father’s feet, John piped up, “What would that be father?”
Henry cleared his throat. “Well, as you know, recently the King of France passed away, God rest his soul. Fortunately for Louis, he had only one son to succeed him. I on the other hand, have more than one.”
“Yes, but you crowned Young Henry king” Richard narrowed his eyes at his father.
Henry waved him off. “True. However, I hear that Louis’ son Philip is not in the least like his father. Somehow he seems to have learned how to rule effectively. In order to curb Philip’s appetite for our land, we must take precautions.”
“Philip is hell bent on regaining land the French crown lost when our parents married,” seated on his father’s right, Young Henry added.
Henry looked up at Richard and Geoffrey who had chosen to remain standing. “Now, we did have a treaty with Louis; that still stands. Richard will marry Alice, and we gain the Vexin. It will not be easy for Philip to go against his in-laws. However, it is not enough; we need more. We cannot afford to show anything less than perfect family solidarity. We must do something.”
“What do you have in mind, Father? Oh, I know. We all take a turn in the sack with Alice,” Geoffrey smirked.
“Geoffrey!” Henry waved his finger.
Richard grumbled, “That is not funny!”
Geoffrey shot back, “What do you care? You’ve got your own tart!”
“Listen carefully!” Henry raised his voice. “You three, John, Richard, Geoffrey, must swear an oath of allegiance to the Young Henry.” He pointed to each of his sons as he said their names.
Richard and Geoffrey both yelled at the same time. Geoffrey protested, “I would rather have a turn with Alice. I have my own lands to think about. Let Young Henry solve his own problems.”
“Never!” Richard bellowed. “I will not sacrifice my independence to him!”
“Enough!” Henry thundered. “Stop and think about it. Put your pride aside for the good of the family. We can defend each other from our enemies.”
John shrugged. “Well, I’ll do it Father. You know what is best, and I trust your judgment.”
“Of course you do! You have no possessions, no land, no titles, nothing to lose!”
Richard rounded on John.
Henry patted John’s head. “Your loyalty will be rewarded. I promise you that.”
“Oh come now!” Richard gestured to Geoffrey. “Are you going to stand for this?”
Geoffrey stroked his beard. “He does make a strong case, and unlike you, Richard, my title comes through my marriage. I too will swear an oath of loyalty to the Young Henry.”
Richard’s cheeks flushed. “I see. Now I understand. This is all just a ploy to take Aquitaine from me! Does the queen know of this?”
“The queen will do as she is told. Need I remind you that you received a gift because of your loyalty? I can take as easily, nay, more easily than I give. Relent and swear an oath to your brother!” Henry snapped at Richard.
Richard shook his head. “I was right. I knew you were after something when you gave Anne to me.”
“You insolent puppet! You will do as I say or face the consequences!” Henry stood and to no one in particular and screamed, “Bring me Lady Anne!”
“She is not here.” Richard threw open his arms.
Now normally ruddy Henry turned crimson like his son. “I beg your pardon?”
Richard spoke slowly and clearly. “She is not here.”
Henry looked around the room at them all. John backed away. Richard continued, “I knew you were only scheming, so I sent her away the moment you gave her to my keeping.”
“I shall send men after her.” Henry spoke through gritted teeth.
Richard laughed. “You are too late. I have secreted her away to an abbey. What are you going to do, sack all the abbeys between here and Marseilles?”
Henry took a deep breath and appeared to have regained control of his temper. He still spoke firmly, but with urgency. “Richard, you must listen to me. Swear an oath to Young Henry. It is the best for all involved.”
Richard turned up his nose at his father. “No, it is best for Young Henry. I inherited that land through my mother, not through my father. I do owe allegiance to an overlord and he is the King of France, not the King of England. Besides, do you really expect me to believe that once your beloved son has any claim to Aquitaine he is going to let me continue there as duke? I think not. The poor little prince is just lusting after the richest land in your realm. Well, you can be sure of one thing. If Young Henry wants land, then he is going to have to fight for it just as I have fought for mine!”
Richard stormed from the room, leaving the others in an awkward silence.
Even after she arrived safely at Poitiers, Anne did not sleep much. She spent most of her time worrying about Richard. This concern consumed her so that she hardly ate. Andrew and Baldwin tried to assure her that he was fine. At one point, she even begged them to go back after Richard. Finally, they agreed that if Richard did not arrive in two night’s time, they would go back for him.
Anne did have a pleasant surprise upon arrival at Poitiers. Marguerite, who had served as a companion and lady to Anne since childhood, now served at Richard’s court in Poitiers. Anne’s mood brightened at seeing such an old friend. While Anne enjoyed the happy reunion, she found it difficult to take any pleasure in her new found freedom. She did not feel free at all, but anxious to the point of being nauseous. She wanted Richard to come to her and reassure her that she was finally safe from Henry.
Anne sat in her chamber, her brow furrowed in anxiety for Richard. Silently, she prayed for his safe and hasty return. Just as she finished, she heard a commotion outside the room. Opening the door to see servants scurrying to and fro, Anne caught sight of Marguerite. “Marguerite, what is it? What has happened?”
Marguerite grasped Anne’s hands. “M’lady, it’s the duke; he’s come home. He is just arriving!”
“Richard?” Anne’s eyes widened.
Anne turned and sped down the hallway to the courtyard.
Dismounting from his horse in the courtyard, Richard spotted her. “Anne!”
“Thank God you are safe. I have been half sick to death with worry.” Anne approached him.
Richard kissed her, put his arm around her, handed his reins to the stable boy, and gently guided Anne back into the castle.
“Oh, you know me; I always land on my feet.” They kept walking toward The Tour Maubergeon housing Richard’s apartments. Richard continued, “However, I was right in sending you here.
Henry was conspiring.”
Anne glanced up at him as they walked. “What did Henry want?”
“Me to swear an oath of loyalty to the Young King, and ultimately Aquitaine.”
“And my purpose was to sweeten the deal.”
Richard squeezed her hand. “Do not worry. I told him I sent you to an abbey.”
“He will not believe that for long.”
They arrived at the door to Richard’s chambers. “You are safe here, Anne.”
Richard opened the door and entered the outer room. He did not let go of Anne’s hand, but pulled her along with him. Once inside, he took off his boots and gloves tossing them into a heap on the floor. While Anne unfastened his cloak and folded it over the back of a chair, Richard ordered a page to bring some food.
Richard and Anne entered the bedchamber where Richard removed his sword and belt. Pushing up his sleeves, he splashed his face, arms and hands with water from a nearby basin, and dried them on a towel. Then he jumped onto the bed and rolled over onto his back, his hands tucked under his head. Anne followed, picking up the belt, placing it on a nearby table.
“Anne, I have been thinking.” Richard remained in the same position on the bed.
She picked up his sword and leaned it against the wall close to the bed.
“You have had much to think on as of late, I am sure.”
“What are you going to do now that you are free? I mean…” His voice trailed off.
“Well, I have not yet sent word to my father that I am here. I waited for your return.”
“I suppose you will want to go back to the Marseilles.”
“Yes, but... “
Richard interrupted her, “Anne, what do you think of staying here with me? Well, at least until it is safer for you to travel.”
She grinned. “I think that would be wise. I appreciate your kindness very much.”
He yawned. “Good. I shall enjoy keeping you close.”
Richard closed his eyes. The bags unders them showed his exhaustion. Anne gazed at him for a moment, then reached out and gave his face a couple of soft strokes. Gently she patted his arm and let her hand linger there a moment. When she turned to leave, he grabbed her hand and in one swift move pulled her onto the bed next to him. He still kept his eyes closed as he whispered, “Stay with me.”
“Richard,” she chided.
“I promise I shall behave appropriately. If I do not, you are free to give me a good whack with my sword and leave. Please, I just want to be near you tonight.”
Anne thought for a moment, then lay down beside Richard. Gingerly, she placed her head on his shoulder.
“Do try not to snore; I am very tired dear,” he teased.
“My snore is not nearly as dangerous as my kick.”
Richard pulled her close, inhaling her spicy scent. “Well, goodnight then.”
Both were quiet for several minutes until Richard spoke again. “I love you, Anne.”
She put her arm across his chest. “Welcome home, Richard.”