Richard’s fleet did not meet him at Marseilles as planned. Instead, it stopped in Lisbon and the crusading spirit got the best of them. The men were hungry for an adventure, and when they found Muslims living in Lisbon, they made that an excuse to pillage and plunder. As a result, they were late for their rendezvous with Richard and the army. An impatient Richard decided not to wait for them any longer than a week. He hired thirty merchant ships to transport himself and his army overseas. Splitting his army in half, he sent one group on ahead to Tyre with the Archbishop of Canterbury leading them. The Archbishop held orders to relieve the crusaders already besieging Acre.
The afternoon before they left, Richard’s chambers were lively. A steady flow of people traipsed in and out, making preparations for the following day’s journey. Some paid their respects to Richard, others consulted the king on various matters concerning the journey, while others packed and hauled the royal cargo to the boats. Anne visited a couple of times, but did not stay long. When the crowd thinned, Richard was left in the room with Blondel, Andrew, and Baldwin. They heard a rustle behind a large chest, and Baldwin drew his sword. “In the name of the king, come out!”
To their surprise, Will popped out from his hiding place. “Boy, what are you doing there?” Andrew motioned him forward. “How long have you been there?”
Will stood up as tall as he could. “I came to ask Uncle a question, but I did not want to disturb him.” He added, “I came in with my mother.”
Baldwin approached Will. “Will, I am regretful, but the King is very busy at present. Can it wait?”
“No, Baldwin. It is quite alright. Obviously he has something on his mind, and it will be a long time before I see this young pup again.” Richard motioned for Will to come to him.
Will came around the trunk and walked up to Richard. He gave a little bow to show proper respect. The men tried hard not to chuckle at his awkwardness. Will could read the expression on their faces, so he put on his most serious façade. “Now Will, what seems to be the matter?” Richard continued to gather papers on the table next to him. Andrew and Baldwin returned to packing weaponry in oilcloth. Blondel strummed his instrument.
Will hesitated for a moment then blurted out, “Are you my father?”
All the men stopped what they were doing and looked at Will. “I beg your pardon?” Richard was not sure he heard the boy correctly.
“Uncle, I wish to know if you are my real father. I heard people talking, and some say that you are.” Will looked afraid to be punished for what he said.
“Oh Will, I…” Richard pulled a chair over so he could be at the boy’s eye level. “Will, what has your mother told you?”
“Mother says that you are my godfather, and that I am to call you Uncle. She also told me I am not your son, but because you are my godfather, you take care of me in place of my father.”
“She is telling you the truth, Will. I am not your father, but I swore I would look after you like a father.”
Will’s eyes filled with tears, and his chin quivered. “What is it Will?”
Will looked down at the ground. “I wish you were my father. If I promise not to want to be king, could I be your son?”
“Unfortunately, it does not work like that.” Richard could see the desperation on Will’s face. “Think of it this way; in a way, you are my son. You are my godson and always will be.” He thought for a moment. “Will, what has your mother told you about your father?”
“She will not really talk about him. When I ask, she gets mad, and says only that he left us to go on Crusade, and you watch after us. She told me that we should not bother you with things because you are king and are busy with plans for the Crusade.” Will sighed.
“Oh, I see.” Richard wrestled with himself for a moment over just how much to tell the boy. In a way, he felt that Anne should be the one to do it, but he could not blame her for not speaking of Raymond. He decided that it was more important that Will know that his godfather was better than his real father. “Will, it is true. Your father has gone on Crusade, but the only reason he went on Crusade was so that I would not find him and take revenge on him for what he did to your mother.”
Richard placed his hand on Will’s shoulder. “Your father wanted to marry your mother because she was the heiress to Marseilles. He kidnapped her from my castle in Poitiers and forced her to marry him. He hurt her very badly, Will. I was able to rescue her but I was not able to find him in time. He slipped away on Crusade. Every now and then reports come back from Palestine regarding your father. I do believe he is still alive, but he can never come back here, or he will be punished for his crime. Your mother does not like to speak of this because it makes her remember a very sad time in her life. Do you understand what I have told you?”
Will nodded. Richard looked into Will’s eyes and worried that he had not conveyed the correct meaning to the child. “Will, your mother loves you very much. Everything she does is to insure you inherit Marseilles. In fact, your mother may have been able to annul her marriage to your father, but if she did, that would make you illegitimate. That means you would not be anybody’s son, and you wouldn’t be able to inherit Marseilles.”
Will chewed on his lower lip for a moment. “Will you find my father in the Holy Land?”
“It is very likely.”
“If he finds my mother, will he take her again?”
“That will not happen. I give you my word.”
“Will you kill him? If you did, wouldn’t I be nobody’s son then? Why does Mother have to go? Are you making her go with you? I heard someone say that she should stay here in Marseilles and let you handle her business, but you will not let her do that.” Will fired questions at Richard.
“One thing you must learn about your mother is that no one makes her do anything.” Richard chuckled. “And you must not listen to rumors you hear people say. They are jealous of her. Your mother is going because she wants to see to the interests of Marseilles overseas. She is doing this to strengthen your inheritance.”
Will pouted. “I do not think it is fair. I should be able to come too. It sounds like an adventure.”
“Believe me, it is not easy for your mother to leave you, but it is for the best. I agree completely with her there. Will, Marseilles, this city,” he pointed out the window, “it is all to be yours someday. You need to learn of it. You must live here to understand it so you can rule it wisely. Cousin Etienne, Master More, and Nanette, they all want to help you. I know you will miss your mother, but you will be so busy here, that when she returns, it will seem as if she were hardly gone.”
They heard a soft knock on the door. Richard nodded at Baldwin who opened it. Anne burst into the room looking frantic. “Richard, Will is…” she caught sight of him. Both he and Richard looked at Anne with the same expression of mischief. “Oh Will!” She stamped her foot. “Thank heaven. I have been looking all over for you, Son.”
“I have been here, Mother,” Will replied.
Anne took Will by the hand. “Come, you mustn’t pester Uncle. He is very busy.” She looked at Richard. “I am sorry, Sire.”
“It is quite alright,” he responded, but before he could say anything else, Anne whisked the child from the room and the door shut behind them.
Not long after sunrise the next morning, Richard left the chateau. The men headed down the streets of the town to the port where Richard’s private galley, the Priombone, waited for him to board. Once again citizens poured out into the streets to cheer the men along the way. All the way to the port, the crowd threw flowers and rushes in their path. Richard noticed a group of Muslim children huddled in an alleyway, staring with curious wide eyes at the Crusaders.
Anne’s family galley, the Madeline, berthed next to the Priombone. She was slower getting out of the chateau than Richard. Taking leave of her relatives took a considerable amount of time. Etienne, Will, and even Nanette stood on the steps of the chateau to wish her farewell. Anne knelt down and gave Will a long embrace. Will tried to be brave. She pushed some of his black curls off his face. “You must mind Master More and Nanette,” she admonished him.
Will only nodded his head, fighting back tears.
“Mind your Latin lessons now, dear. I know you find them boring, but they are very important. When I return I expect you to be able to read and speak fluently in Latin.” She gathered him again in her arms.
Will managed to choke out, “I will Mother.”
“What is this?” Anne asked as Will held out a white kerchief. “Is this for me?”
With tears welling up in his eyes, the boy nodded his head.
She kissed his cheek. “I will miss you, Son, but I shall return just as soon as I can. Promise me that you will always remember that I love you.”
Will threw his arms around his mother’s neck. She could feel his tears on her skin. It was hard to bear, and she looked up at Nanette for help. Nanette hobbled forward and took Will by the shoulders. “Come now, William. The tide waits for no one, not even your mother.”
Reluctantly, he let go of his mother and took up his brave stance again. Anne turned from the steps and, with the help of Etienne, mounted her horse. Turning back, she gave Will a cheery wave, and Will waved back. As she rode off, Anne looked back several times and waved in his direction until he was out of sight. Her heart began to ache, and now and then she held the kerchief up to her eyes to wipe away a tear. Then raised it up and waved it, hoping that Will could see her.
After Anne, Marguerite, and Gustave, Anne’s new private secretary, boarded the galley, they set sail into the Gulf of Lion. She climbed to the railing at the stern of the ship and watched Marseilles grow smaller and smaller. She looked to the cliff where she would always go to bid adieu to her father, hoping that Will might be there, and she waved the kerchief again. She watched as the people on the docks became only tiny specks, and the town a blur in the distance. The red tiled roofs, and golden spires of Saint Victor’s Cathedral melted away. Even when the earthen tones of Marseilles’ building became a tiny dot, she strained to see it. When all she could see behind them was the azure sea, she gave way to tears and wondered when she would see Marseilles again, and wondered if she did the right thing.