“Hum,” Charles snorted. “Good old spineless John betrayed his own father.”
Father Broase replied, “I am afraid so. When Richard took Le Mans, John saw how powerful Richard had become, and he pledged his allegiance to Richard. To be honest, I think it disgusted Richard that John would be so disloyal to the man who championed him for so many years.” Broase scratched at his throat. “Hearing that John abandoned him, was the final blow that killed King Henry.”
Everyone remained quiet for a moment, as if they were paying some sort of respect to Henry. After a while, Broase asked, “Does anyone have something to drink? I am afraid all this talking is making my throat dry.”
One of the younger knights sped off down the hall and returned with a flask. Broase took the flask. “What’s in it?”
The young knight shrugged; Broase curled his lips in a smile then drank from it. The men waited for the priest to finish his drink. When Broase finished, he wiped off his lips with the back of his hand, set the flask down and continued.
Philip left Ballon for Paris after Henry’s departure; however, Richard remained in camp. The news of his father’s death reached him there.
Anne went for a morning ride with Marguerite and Andrew. When she returned to camp, she could sense something amiss. People spoke to one another only in whispers. She rode her horse straight to Richard’s tent where Blondel greeted her and helped her dismount. “What is it? What has happened?” She looked around her.
“It is King Henry, My Lady; news reached here just after you left that he passed away,” Blondel explained.
“May God grant him mercy.” She crossed herself. “Where is Richard?”
Blondel took the reins of her horse. “When he heard the news, he did not say a word; he just walked over to a grove a trees and sat on a fallen log. He’s been sitting there for a while now. We are waiting for Marshal to officially bring the word and the royal seal to Richard.”
“Thank you,” she called over her shoulder as she headed to find Richard.
She came upon the grove and could see Richard sitting still on a fallen log. Andrew stood off at a distance, arms folded, watching over Richard. She approached Andrew, who was out of Richard’s earshot, and placed her hand on Andrew’s arm. “He hasn’t said a word,” Andrew whispered to her. “He’s just been sitting there.”
“I can only imagine what he is thinking.” She sighed. “Have any of the other men seen him like this?”
“No, he is pretty secluded here, and I’ve ordered all to stay away.”
She left Andrew and walked toward Richard; he did not even turn to look at her as she approached. She sat down next to him on the log, which bent with the additional weight. Without looking at her, he reached over, took her hand, and took a deep breath. “What was your wedding like?”
“My wedding?” Anne stammared
“You know, I have been sitting here, and all I can think about is your wedding.” His shoulders slumped. “My father is dead, and that is all that will come to my mind. Do you think I am going to hell?”
“That is a question for a priest.”
Richard gave a snicker. “It has always been my experience that a man of the cloth rarely has anything good to say.”
Richard arched his back and stretched his arms. “So, tell me about your wedding,” he continued.
“Oh, Richard, I do not know.” Anne rubbed her right temple. “It was a wedding. There was a priest, and Taillebourg, and Raymond, of course.” She paused. “I was in a daze. I honestly remember very little.”
“Oh.” Richard fiddled with a loose thread on his sleeve.
“I do remember that after the wedding Raymond drank a lot of mead. I guess it was your standard kidnap a wife and keep her for a month, hoping a pregnancy would result wedding.” She shrugged.
“I will have to marry now. The country will expect it. I will have to produce an heir, a son. I wonder if that son will feel the way about me the way I felt about my father.” Richard’s eyes looked empty.
Anne wrapped her arm around his. “Will loves you. Think of that.”
“Excuse me, My Lord.” Andrew approached them. “Marshal is coming.”
Marshal sauntered toward them with Henry’s emissaries trailing behind. Feeling she had no right to be seated next to Richard in a moment such as this, Anne stood and moved off to the side. Marshal knelt before Richard and held out the royal seal to him. “The king is dead; long live the king.”
Others around him knelt before Richard. He reached out and took the seal, then rose to his feet, and motioned for Marshal to rise. “Sir, you shall be rewarded greatly for your loyalty to the late king.” Richard managed a smile. “Now take me to the body, Marshal.”
They all turned and followed Richard.
Henry’s body was taken to Fontevrault Abbey to be buried. Marshal accompanied Richard there, where they found Henry laid out in makeshift funeral vestments. As soon as Henry died and Marshal left the room, servants stole the king’s clothing and valuables. An old sword and a makeshift scepter were placed in Henry’s hand. Only a curt mantle could be found for a cloak and a fillet of gold embroidery from a woman’s dress was fastened to his head for a crown. The nuns of the abbey performed their duty for Henry and held a wake for him. All that remained was for his heir to see the body, and then he would be buried.
When Richard arrived, the abbess escorted him into the abbey, and led him to the doorway outside the chapel. Richard paused. He turned to those around him. “Pray, please leave us alone for a moment.”
The old abbess and the others silently obeyed, but when Marshal turned to go, Richard stopped him. “Not you, Marshal” Marshal’s eyes widened. “I wish to speak with you for a moment. Marshal, you tried to kill me, and would have done it, if my arm had not turned aside your lance.”
Marshal looked him in the eye and replied, “Sire, I had no intention of killing you, nor did I make any attempt to do so. If I can drive my lance aright when armed, I can surely do it when unarmed, as I then was, and it would have been as easy for me to strike you as to strike your horse. If I killed your horse, I do not think I did wrong, nor do I repent.”
Richard could not help but smile. “Marshal, I pardon you. I pardon you, and furthermore, I hold no enmity.”
“My Lord… I…” Marshal looked down at his feet and shuffled them. “I thank you, Sire. Please believe me when I say that I did by no means desire your death.”
“I need men like you, who are loyal and brave.” Richard clapped him on the shoulder. “In fact, I have an important task for you. I wish for you to speed to England to look after my lands and affairs until I come.”
“As you wish, my Lord.”
Richard heaved a sigh. “It is time. The others may join me if they so desire.”
He put his hand out and touched the latch, hesitated, then opened the door. Marshal beckoned the others to join them, and they followed Richard to the funeral bier.
As Richard approached the body, everyone scrutinized him to see what emotion he would display. Richard remained in such control that none could read his sentiments. He knelt down before the bier and gazed upon his father’s corpse. Richard only remained there for the space of a paternoster, then rose again. When he got to his feet, the abbess gasped in horror. Others around did the same. Confused Richard looked back down at the corpse astonished to see blood trickling from the nostrils of the dead king. The crimson flow seeped down onto the floor beside him.
Richard did not lose his composure. Instead, he turned and left the chapel. Outside he mounted his horse and rode off in the direction of Chinon. His stunned entourage followed.