Later that morning, an exhausted Anne slept. The midwife and the wet nurse also slept on their straw pallets on the floor. Richard tried to sleep; he could not. Creeping into the room, he knelt next to Anne’s bed. She stirred and slowly opened her eyes.
“I am sorry,” he whispered, “I did not mean to wake you. I just could not wait any longer to see you.”
The midwife heard him and jumped up from her bed. “My Lord!”
“Please leave us. I will send for you if I need assistance,” Anne ordered.
The midwife and wet nurse obeyed. Once they were gone, Richard spoke again.
“How are you feeling?”
She took his hand, “Richard, I have a son.”
“I know.” Richard grinned at her, “and he will be the greatest viscount that Marseilles has ever known.”
Anne tried to sit up, but Richard prevented her. “Now where do you think you are going?”
“I want to see my son,” Anne explained.
“I shall bring him to you.” Richard started toward the cradle, but turned back. “On second thought, perhaps I should call the wet nurse.”
Anne gave him a gentle smile. “No, just pick him up and be sure to support his head.”
Richard stood over the cradle for a moment then awkwardly scooped up the baby.
With slow deliberate steps, he brought the baby to Anne. When the baby was in Anne’s arms, Richard let out a long sigh of relief.
Anne spread the blankets and examined her son. After a while she asked, “Do you think he looks very much like his father?”
Richard took another long look at the baby. He did have his father’s dark features. “His looks may change, but his eyes; he has your eyes. That is the important part, you know. Eyes are linked to the soul.”
Anne swaddled the baby back into his blankets and held him to her. “I feel badly because I did not want this child. I did not want any part of Raymond,” her voice cracked. “But now that I have met him, held him, I know that he was meant to belong to me. Of all the things Raymond did, he at least gave me a beautiful son.”
“At last you broke the curse of only female heirs for the Marseilles.”
Richard gave her a tender kiss on her head.
Neither said anything for a while. They simply looked at the baby. When Richard brought him to his mother, the baby opened his eyes, but he did not fuss. Now the baby closed his eyes once again and drifted off to sleep.
“Anne,” Richard finally broke the silence. “I understand your reasons for not wanting me to acknowledge him, but do not forget that as his godfather, I promise you that he will want for nothing.” He beamed. “Well, what did you name him?”
“William, after my father.” Tears filled her eyes.
“Your father would be proud of his namesake.”
“I know he is. I know he is.”
Anne recovered quickly from giving birth, and Will, as she called him, grew strong. Before she knew it, he passed those childhood milestones of walking and talking. Richard kept his word and played his part of godfather well. He had a hard time refusing the boy anything. Every now and then, Anne found the need to intervene and remind Richard that she did not want Will to be spoiled like his father.
Had it not been for the fact that Will looked so much like Castile, people would have assumed he was Richard’s son. Some just shrugged and declared that Will might as well have been Richard’s son, the way he doted on the little boy.
Eventually, King Henry summoned Richard to travel with him to Gisors, the ancient meeting spot between the Kings of France and the Dukes of Normandy. They met there with King Philip under the pretense of discussing the Princess Alice and the Vexin; Philip, however, had other motives.
Philip sat in his tent, preparing to meet with Richard. The tent was decorated only to afford comfort, not luxury. The fabric throughout seemed as muted in color as the pale canvas walls.
Settling himself in a large cross framed chair at a small oak table, Philip spoke to his short, blonde haired, blue-eyed attendant, Norbert. “The English King foolishly continues sending Duke Richard to deliver messages back and forth. Soon, I will have him eating out of my hand, just as I did his brothers.”
“Yes, Sire. It is tragic how both of them died, Geoffrey at a tournament and
Young Henry while fighting his father. Some took his death as a lesson.” Norbert adjusted his master’s purple mantle for him.
Philip waved off his comment. “Come now, that is ridiculous. He just fought for what was rightfully his.”
“Perhaps you can simply bide your time, and God will take care of the rest of your enemies for you.” Norbert placed a goblet of wine before the king.
“Richard will be a challenge.”
A French knight entered the tent. “My Lord, the Duke of Aquitaine.”
“By all means, let him enter.” Philip’s crystal blue eyes sparkled.
Richard entered the tent, bowed to Philip, then handed him a letter from Henry. Richard looked at Norbert, who stood behind Philip, and the two other guards stationed behind him. He glanced at the two visibly armed guards standing inside the doorway.
When Philip finished reading the letter, he looked up at Richard. “Your father is truly, oh, what is the word I am looking for?”
“Perhaps obstinate?” Richard’s face did not register a joke.
Philip laughed. “Have a seat, Duke. Some wine for the duke, if you please.”
Richard took a seat opposite Philip while Norbert poured Richard some wine. “Well now, this is a bit awkward, is it not?” Philip took a sip of his wine and continued. “Here you are affianced to my sister, the very issue that brings us to Gisors, and your future depends heavily on these negotiations.”
Richard did not reply, and Philip studied him over the top of his goblet.“Now, here I go bringing a dark cloud over us. I want to be pleasant. After all, you are to be my brother-in-law. It will do no good to dance around the issues. Let us be honest.”
“Precisely.” Richard raised his cup to Philip.
Philip reciprocated, and took another drink. “Well then, where do you stand on the issue of marriage to Princess Alice? After all, the king is getting on in years, and you are his heir.”
“I will do my duty, My Lord.”
“Your duty?” Philip looked amused. “Oh come now! Remember we are being frank with one another.”
Richard grimmaced. “It is exactly as I said, I will do my duty; regardless the king’s age, for now, he is still the king.”
“May I humbly submit that while he may be king, as the Duke of Aquitaine, you are my vassal?”
“Then what is it you command of your vassal?”
Philip put down his goblet and leaned a little closer to Richard. “I sense that you don’t trust me.”
“Should I?” countered Richard. “There are very few people that I trust.”
“So I have heard.” Philip leaned back in his chair. “There is someone else I have been hearing quite a bit about lately.”
“Oh?” Richard finished his goblet of wine and set it down.
“I have heard some interesting news regarding my cousin, the Viscountess de Marseilles.” Philip pressed his fingers together as if anticipating Richard’s reply.
Richard gave him a knowing smile. “Ah yes, Lady Anne.”
“It was very smart of you and your father to snatch her into your custody. Marseilles is a rich prize indeed,” Philip observed.
“Being a blood relation, you should know who controls Marseilles.”
Philip recognized the compliment mixed with information. “Being a blood relation, I can only imagine. It is also rumored that she is too much for her husband to handle. I should very much like to meet Lady Anne. I understand she is here with you at Gisors.”
“Naturally, I never go anywhere without her.” Richard narrowed his eyes.
“Oh, right. You do not trust leaving her to anyone. That is rather odd.” Philip frowned. “I do not think I have ever wanted to spend that much time with a woman, not a mistress, and certainly not my wife. Well, then, I guess you will just need to come along too.”
Richard shook his head. “I fail to understand your meaning, Sire?”
“Well,” Phillip shrugged, “I was going to extend an invitation to my dear cousin to accompany me back to Paris. Naturally she will accept, and so you will be joining her.”
Richard looked into Philip’s startling blue eyes. “Is this a command from my Lord, sire?
“No, oh, no.” Philip waved his hand in front of his face. “I thought Paris might be a bit more fun than following Dear Old Daddy around. Besides, you have not been to Paris since my coronation.”
“I beg your pardon, but what is it that you want? I sense that My Lord is up to something.” Richard folded his arms.
“Why, Richard, I am surprised at you, surprised that you did not notice sooner.” Philip threw up his hands, “Alright. In truth, you cannot deny your father is getting on in years. Let him make his empty promises here, for we all know they are empty. I simply wish for you and me to be amicable, even dare I suggest, friends? You’ve certainly got enough people to fight without adding me to the list.” He paused. “Richard, you and I are going to be the real powers. I just want to ensure a smooth transition for all.”
Richard raised his eyebrows. “My entourage is a large one.”
Philip rolled his eyes. “Yes, you are traveling with a woman. Bring them all, my cousin, her child, the nurse, the servants, the whole lot of them. You will all be welcomed in Paris.”