The rift between father and son ruptured into a chasm. In June, Philip and Richard launched a joint attack on Henry’s lands. First they invaded Henry’s county of Maine, but this time Henry’s war machine could not fight hard enough to hold his territories. The towns of Montfort, Maletable, Beaumont, and Ballon rapidly fell to Richard and Philip. Henry was wearing down.
Richard wanted to find a way to force Henry to meet his demands, once and for all, so he feigned an attack on Tours to lure Henry’s troops away from his asylum in LeMans. With only the rear guard left to protect Henry, Richard’s forces swooped in. Henry fled, leaving his faithful steward, Marshal, behind to command the rear guard.
Hearing that Henry abandoned Le Mans, Richard took six men, including Andrew and Baldwin and rode hard for Fresnay, hoping to capture the king. The June sun beat down on them, and to gain speed and time, the men rode without their hauberks or battle armaments. As always, Andrew and Baldwin rode at his right and left, respectively.
Their horses’ hooves pounded their way down the road out of Le Mans. Up in the distance, Richard saw another group of men, the king and his guard. Richard spurred his horse onward.
Ahead of them, Marshal slowed his horse, turning to face Richard and the others. Only three men followed Marshal. They too were not dressed for battle. Henry took off pell-mell for Fresnay with the rest of his knights.
Richard made out Marshal. Then, to Richard’s horror, he saw that Marshal lowered his lance at him. “By God’s legs! Do not kill me, Marshal! That would be wrong as I am unarmed!” Richard shouted.
Mounted in an attack stance, Marshal hesitated for a moment. His face flushed, and anger sparked in his eyes. Finally he screamed back at Richard, “No, let the Devil kill you, for I won’t!”
With that, he charged at Richard. Richard instinctively put up an arm to deflect the blow. Marshal attacked, running his lance through Richard’s horse. Richard fell to the ground along with the animal. He rolled out of the way of the dying horse. By the time he looked up, Marshal and his men were speeding away toward Fresnay. Andrew and Baldwin dismounted and helped a stunned Richard to his feet.
Henry temporarily escaped, but it seemed this time Richard and Philip had another ally, one that Henry could not defeat: time. Henry’s age and health conquered him at last. It had been a long time coming, but it came steadily on, forcing Henry to face the fact that he was in a losing battle with his son. He could no longer carry on a war having narrowly escaped at Le Mans, and the enemy gained territory on a daily basis. Peace remained the only option.
Ill and exhausted, Henry retreated to his castle at Chinon. Finally even the key city of Tours fell. The next day Henry agreed to meet with Richard and Philip at Ballon.
Richard stood watching in the direction he knew Henry would come,waiting for the moment his father would come down that road, a broken man. Philip joined him. “No sign of the old man yet?”
Richard shook his head.
“Do not fret. He will come. He has no choice.” Philip wore an odd frivolious smile.
Philip ordered a large tent erected in which to hold the negotiations. Many of Richard and Philip’s faction gathered to see the English king brought to humiliation. They waited in groups off to the side. Anne stood in the tent’s doorway, as the flaps softly fluttered in the breeze. She too watched the road for any sign of Henry.
Finally, three men on horseback approached in the distance. Henry rode in the middle flanked by Marshal and another knight. As the group came into view, it became apparent that Henry could barely ride his horse. Everyone fell silent as the trio stopped in front of Philip and Richard.
Marshal and the knight dismounted and Henry followed. He faltered, but Marshal kept him on his feet. Still no one spoke. The gathered’s astonishment was palpable as Henry tried again to walk but could not keep his balance. Once again, Marshal reached out and supported him.
Richard heard a rustle, and Anne appeared in front of him. She said nothing, but stopped and stood before Henry, gazing at him with wonder.
Henry looked up at her; his eyes widened. In her hands, she held a cloak. Without saying a word to anyone, she turned and walked to a nearby elm tree and spread the cloak out in its shade. Marshal steered Henry toward it. Anne took Henry’s other arm and helped Marshal place him on the cloak. Once Henry was on the ground, she walked back to the doorway of the tent. Philip and Richard joined Henry in the shade.
At length, Henry spoke in a raspy voice, “I agree to the terms you have set forth. I will pay Philip twenty-thousand marks; Alice is to be handed over to a guardian of Richard’s choosing, and he will marry her as soon as he returns from crusade. We will muster at Vezelay during Lent next year to embark on your grand adventure.” Henry stopped.
“And,” Philip prodded him.
“And,” the anger of the old Henry came back in the snap of his voice, “ ... and my subjects both in England and on the continent will swear allegiance to Richard. Also, I grant amnesty to all those that have taken part in this rebellion against a sanctified king. Now, if that is all, the day is hot, and I intend to retire to Chinon.” Henry tried to rise to his feet, and Marshal appeared at his side to assist.
Richard felt nauseous, and before he knew it he whispered, “Father?”
Henry looked his son straight in the eyes, “Richard, I am very tired. I do not care to do this right now.” He and Marshal turned to go.
Philip stopped him. “I am afraid that is not all.”
“What else can you possibly want, Boy?” Henry turned back to Philip.
“You know as well as I that these negotiations must be sealed with a kiss of peace.”
Henry only glowered at Philip.
“Give your son the kiss of peace, Henry,” Philip commanded him.
Henry started to make his way forward to Richard. Marshal tried to assist him, but Henry shook him off. With what strength he could muster, he grabbed his son by the shoulders as if to plant the kiss of peace upon Richard’s cheek. Uncomfortable, Richard tried to pull away but Henry yanked him closer and hissed in his ear, “God grant that I may not die until I have had my revenge on you.”
Henry released Richard, and on his own, walked to his horse and mounted it.
Marshal and the other knight mounted their horses, and the trio rode away in the direction they came. Richard and Philip watched them, and just before the men rode out of sight, Richard saw Henry’s silhouette slump against Marshal, but they continued on.
Henry returned to Chinon, the castle of his ancestors. Marshal tried to make the king as comfortable as possible. As Henry lay on his bed, he motioned to Marshal. “I want that list of everyone who conspired against me.”
“My Lord, you need to rest now.” Marshal protested.
“Good God man! I want to know who thrust their daggers into me. The men who stabbed Caesar at least had the pluck to let him see their faces as they did it. Those daggers that are in me were put there by cowards, and I want to know every single one of them. I want to know the name of anyone who deserted me for Richard.”
“As you wish, My Lord.” Marshal turned from him.
By late evening a page brought a list to Marshal of those who joined with
Richard and Philip, either by conspiring or by simply not defending the king. He handed it to Marshal who took it over to Henry’s bedside.
“Well, let’s have it. Read it to me,” Henry ordered.
Marshal looked at the first name on the list and stammered, “Sire, may Christ help me, for the first name is... is... is John, your son John.”
Henry snatched the parchment from Marshal’s hand and crumpled it into a ball.
“Is it true that John, whom I loved beyond all my sons, and for whose gain I have suffered all this misery, has forsaken me?” Henry moaned in pain, his sweaty face contorted. “It is enough, no need to read the others. Let the rest go as it will. I care no more for myself, nor for aught in the world.”
He turned away from Marshal, rolled over to face the wall, clutching the list to his chest. After a long moment, he softly cried out, “Shame, shame on a conquered king.” Then he lay still.
A shaking Marshal checked for signs of life. Henry FitzEmpress, King of
England, Count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine, and Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland was dead.