The English and French armies struck camp at Vezelay and left together. Both Richard and Philip rode in front of the marching column. At first everything seemed to be going well, but when the massive armies traversed the bridge across the Rhone River at Lyon, the crushing weight caused the bridge to collapse. The kings had already crossed the bridge; Richard’s troops were sent tumbling into the river. Miraculously, only two men drowned. Richard took control of the situation and used a bridge of boats for the rest of the army to cross. After the bridge collapsed, the two armies split at Lyon. Philip took the northern land route to Genoa, while Richard took his troops south to Marseilles to meet his fleet there.
Anne did not speak to Philip again before the two armies parted company. For that matter, she spoke little to Richard and only when necessary. Richard did try to make amends, in his own fashion. He sent Blondel to Anne with a song he wrote. The parchment was tied with a red ribbon, and attached to a bouquet of purple and white sweet william. Anne sent no message back to Richard.
As they drew closer to Marseilles, Anne’s spirit revived. She was going home for the first time since leaving to serve in Eleanor’s court. Richard noticed a new glow about her that became more radiant as each day passed. Her eyes sparkled in anticipation of their arrival. Her smile held a new happiness he had not seen since before she was imprisoned.
Two days from Marseilles, Anne’s cousin Etienne rode out to meet her and travel with her. Many dignitaries from the city came and went from the camp, and Anne’s tent became almost as busy as Richard’s.
Late the night before they were to enter Marseilles, Richard sent Andrew and Baldwin to Anne to discuss the next morning. She laid out a rough sketch of the city before them and showed the two men the route for the king to enter the city.
“His procession will end at the chateau here.” She pointed to her crude map.
“That all looks agreeable Anne. You have done a wonderful job as usual.” Andrew smiled at her.
“Be assured, he will receive a royal welcome.” Anne spoke with little emotion.
Andrew and Baldwin exchanged looks. “As you know, it is customary for the local reigning noble to accompany the king on his journey through the city.”
“Yes, Etienne will be there to serve as escort.”
“Anne, he wants you to do it.” Baldwin scratched at his neck.
Anne shook her head. “Ah, no. I am a woman.”
“Marseilles is yours, and you are Marseilles’,” Andrew retorted.
Baldwin interjected, “If you will not do it for him, then do it for us. Think of us having to go back to Richard and explain that you won’t do it.”
“Ha!” Anne blurted out. Regaining her composure, she looked at Baldwin and caught the glimmer in his eye. He was goading her to do it. “Alright,” she threw up her hands in mock surrender. “For the sake of you two knights, who are, I might add, a constant thorn in my side.”
“There is the Anne I know,” Baldwin teased.
“Now, I must beg that you take your leave as I am tired and have a long day ahead of me tomorrow.” Anne gave them a warm smile.
“Of course, Lady Anne.” Baldwin picked up his cap from the table. “We will bid you goodnight. Come, Andrew.”
Andrew turned to Anne. “Thank you, Lady Anne. I know this is not something you relish doing, but thank you.”
“Goodnight, Andrew.” Anne waved to him.
The royal procession entered the city in grand style, with the people of Marseilles lining the route to see the hero crusaders. As the army made its way through town, crowds cheered the soldiers, offering them drink and food. Women lifted their babies up for the men to kiss and thus bless.
Richard looked more like a conquering hero than a visiting head of state. Anne rode on his right side and Will on his left. Etienne, Andrew, Baldwin, other dignitaries of the city, along with Richard’s conseil privé, followed them. Richard at once saw the resemblance to Anne and knew that Etienne was her trusted cousin. He had light brown hair, hazel eyes, a prominent nose, and a bulky commanding build. Anne treated Richard with the dignity and respect due a king, but did not show any familiarity beyond that.
As they traveled the streets of Marseilles, Richard noticed Anne close her eyes for a moment just to let the sun shine on her face, so warm, unlike the grey of London, or even Paris, for that matter. It was a whole different world. The gentle Mediterranean breeze caressed her face and ever so slightly tugged at her hair behind her ears, gently blowing down her neck. This was home; she was home.
Richard also noted the influence of the many cultures that called Marseilles home. He could see the influence of the Greco Roman era, the Moors from Africa, and the more well known to him flavor of Languedoc. He remembered back to all those times Anne spoke of her beloved city. Marseilles fascinated him more than he imagined. It seemed only right that Anne came from such an extraordinary place. She was so like the city, made up of so many different ingredients, all blended together in a graceful, wondrous form. He felt a sense of belonging to that city too. In an instant, he fell in love with Marseilles just as he did with Anne.
They turned up a hill that overlooked the port, and the chateau crowned the hill above them. The procession entered the grounds through a large gate in a high wall that surrounded the chateau. The building itself, made of large golden brown stone, towered high above the spacious courtyard, and consisted of many different levels, making use of the slope on the top of the hill. On the grand steps of the chateau, a group waited to welcome them.
As Etienne helped Anne from her horse, he took her hand and kissed it. She laughed and embraced him. “You are most welcome to Marseilles, Your Majesty.” Etienne gave Richard another long bow.
“I thank you very much.” Richard acknowledged him. He wanted to say more, but many people were preoccupied with reuniting with Anne. For the first time in a long time Richard was disregarded, and he felt both annoyed and delighted. Several men of the town greeted her even a contingent of clergy. Richard looked them over and wondered if the ancient one was the priest who caused Anne’s hasty departure so many years ago. He also noticed an abbot about his own age who held back from the others.
From behind the crowd of Marseilles’ dignitaries, an old woman pushed her way forward. Her face wrinkled and her back bent, she used a cane to aid her movement. Even with that, she seemed nimble for one so old and bowed. “Give way, give way! Allow a poor old woman to see her child!” She pushed her way past the men.
Anne turned at the sound of her voice. The woman walked right up to Anne. Lovingly, she took Anne’s face in her gnarled old hands. The old woman’s brown eyes twinkled as she gazed at Anne. “Nanette, my dear Nanette” Anne embraced the woman.
Nanette stood only to Anne’s shoulder now, but she hugged her with surprisingly strong arms. Nanette pushed back and said to Anne, “Well now, let me have a look at my little Anne.”
Nanette paid no attention to the others. She grasped Anne’s hand in hers. “Now tell me, dear, where is that son of yours? I have waited a long time to see him. I shall not wait another moment.”
Baldwin helped Will down from his horse. While his mother’s relatives thronged her, Will hung back close to Richard. Anne now motioned for him to come forward. Holding his head up, Will went to her side. Nanette’s eyes filled with tears, but only for a moment. “I see your grandfather in you, William. I can tell you will be a man to make him proud.”
Anne patted will on the shoulders. “Nanette was my nurse, Dear.” Will gave the old woman a shy smile.
Nanette smiled back, “Uh, oh. Anne, Dear, what have you done to this boy?” She spoke to Will again. “Dear boy, did you lose your teeth on the way here from England?”
Will grinned wider, exposing three teeth missing in the front. He shook his head at Nanette. “Well, what shall I call you? Will or William?” Nanette extended her hand to him.
“I am called Will.”
“Well, then,” Nanette gave a mock sigh. “I am afraid I shall be forced to call you William, for I cannot call you the same name as everyone else.” She looked up again at Anne. “M’lady, pray excuse us. I need to get to know this young man better.”
Nanette did not wait for an answer. She took Will’s arm and steered him into the chateau. Etienne lifted his arms and beckoned the others to follow. “Welcome to Marseilles, My Lords!”
All the leaders of Marseilles, Richard, and other important courtiers attended a festive banquet that night. They were seated according to rank, with the hostess and the guests of honor at the head table. As the leading noble of Marseilles, Anne sat on Richard’s right. A laverer placed a washbasin before them, and they both put their hands in it. Reaching out with his pinky, Richard caught hers. She looked him in the eye for the first time since they left Vezelay, allowing him to linger only briefly before withdrawing her hands and drying them on a towel before her.
Richard and his men were in for an enjoyable evening. The food was served, the wine flowed, and the entertainment amused. It reminded Richard of those days long ago at his court in Poitiers. He observed to himself how Anne directed the proceedings in such a subtle way that one thing seemed to flow smoothly into the next without much effort. Here she was in her element. This was her court, and she reigned over it with natural poise and elegance. At that moment he let himself imagine that this was their court, and she was his queen.
She stood to make a toast to the king and his men. Richard did not really listen to what she said. He felt as if he were in some sort of trance, as if he were someone watching the whole proceedings from without. When the court all drank to the toast, she sat down but did not look at Richard. Andrew nudged Richard, which brought him to his senses. He rose and offered a toast of his own. “To Marseilles, her viscountess, and all those who inhabit this wondrous city, may she always be a jewel of the Mediterranean.”
The crowd echoed his sentiment and drank to their hostess. Anne gave a gracious nod of thanks to Richard, and with the slight wave of her hand, signaled the next round of entertainment. The celebration continued long into the night.
When Richard woke the next morning, it took a moment for him to remember where he was, his senses conscious that he was not in a tent. He opened his eyes and recalled his location. A genuine ceiling hung over his head. The bedroom was light, warm, and airy. He watched the gossamer bed curtains float in the breeze that filtered in through the open window. Carried on the wind, the smell of the fresh sea drifted around him. He bolted upright. He wanted to see Anne and determined she would not put him off, not today.
After dressing, he strode into her room. Still early, the house was just beginning to stir. When he entered the chamber, he was surprised to see the bed already made. He heard a rustle and saw Nanette in the corner of the room placing some flowers in a vase on a dressing table. “Excuse me. Where is Lady Anne?” His voice sounded his disappointment.
Nanette made her way to a chair. “Forgive me, Your Highness.” Her body bent so much that Richard wasn’t sure if she bowed. “My knees neither bend nor hold like they once did, so I must often rely on four other legs. I mean you no disrespect.” She dropped down into the chair. “Anne is not here, My Lord.”
“Please, can you tell me where I might find her?”
“Love is a very confusing thing, your Highness.” Richard noticed that her voice had a gravely sound to it, although it was still quite strong. “I have lived in this house since I was a young girl. I have seen people in it love with a passion that is incomprehensible to many. Only someone who has felt that way can understand it. I know I am an old woman, but that does not mean that I cannot remember what it is like to love.” She paused, holding the top of her stick with one hand on top of the other. “Love does change over time, because we change over time. That does not mean love is any less than before.”
Nanette pushed herself up from the chair and went toward a window. She swung an arm in a wide motion for Richard to follow. “There.” She pointed with a crooked finger. “Up there on a bluff overlooking the ocean. That is where you will find our Anne.”
Richard followed the aim of the gnarled finger to a cliff in the distance. Nanette moved toward the door. She spoke to him without looking back. “As soon as she left, I ordered your horse be saddled. Your Majesty will find the stable boy waiting for you. He shall show you the way.”