Anne returned to Mategriffon and headed straight to her chamber. Almost as soon as she entered, she took her cloak off and tossed it toward her little bed. It landed only part way on the bed, so Anne sighed and picked it up. She looked at the bed a moment. She hated that bed. Her room in Mategriffon was more undersized than usual, but that was only to be expected. She estimated a person could cross the length of the room in about ten large strides, and the breath in five. Irritated, she placed her cloak over her trunk and called out for Marguerite.
“Marguerite is not here.” Richard’s voice came from the corner behind the door.
“Richard!” Anne jumped. “How long have you been there?”
“I waited here while you were gone.” He sat in her chair that stood in front of her small dressing table.
“What on earth for?”
“I wanted to know the moment you returned.”
Anne sensed the tension she often felt before he became angry with her. It seemed to surround her, pressing in on them. She tried to placate him. “You know I would have come at your bidding, My Lord.”
“Yes, but I did not wish to waste any time. So, tell me. What did Philip want with you?”
Anne knew better than to bring up Joanna, so she skirted the subject. “Oh, you know Philip; he wanted to gossip mostly.”
“What about Anne? What was the topic of your conversation?”
“Marriage, Sire. Philip wanted to talk about marriage. With the passing of his wife, he must remarry. He asked me what I thought of some different candidates. I know you may find it hard to believe, but he values my opinion on the subject.” Anne sat down on her bed. “It sounds as if there will be weddings for both of you when you return from the crusades. Perhaps you’ll make it a double wedding, you, Alice, and Philip and whomever he chooses.” Anne watched Richard for a reaction to her mentioning Alice, giving him an opportunity to tell her the truth.
Richard studied her for a moment without saying anything. In a brisk move, he stood. “Well, then, I guess we should just be grateful, he did not seek to marry you. I need to be able to travel back through Marseilles when I am done in the Holy Land, and I would not want to have to cross hostile territory.”
Disappointed, Anne managed to answer, “Yes, My Lord.”
“Do excuse me, Anne. I must return to my other business.”
Christmas time came to Messina, but not like other Christmas seasons. The mild weather reminded Anne a little of the Christmases from her childhood, but those had not been spent in a cramped fortified wooden tower.
In a gesture of friendship, Richard invited Philip to a Christmas court at Mategriffon, and Philip accepted. Anne suspected his eagerness was not due to his warm feelings toward Richard, but Philip’s desire to spend time with Joanna. Anne noted Philip and Joanna’s behavior towards one another. There were many exchanges and glances, and it did not take long for Anne to conclude their feelings were mutual.
The two kings attended mass together at Annunziata dei Catalani, an impressive cathedral completed during the reign of Joanna’s late husband. Their various entourages accompanied them, and they sat side-by-side. After mass, they traveled to Mategriffon for a sumptuous holiday feast.
Ever aware of the importance of impressions, Richard provided all the exquisite food, wine, and gifts obtainable in Messina. As usual, the entertainment was spectacular. Richard treated his guests to an event worthy of the season. Even a Yule log blazed away in the fireplace.
Blondel sang carols and recited poems during the meal. Afterward, Richard called for dancing. Even in the cramped space, the atmosphere resembled those long ago days at Poitiers.
Richard sat at the head table with Joanna on one side and Philip on the other. Philip turned to Richard and asked, “Richard, do I have your permission to dance with your sister?”
Richard grinned. “I give you permission on the condition that Joanna can stand to dance with such a dangerous partner.”
“Dangerous? You forget who I am, Brother. I dare say I have faced down much more frightening partners than this.” Joanna’s eyes sparkled.
“Drink your Christmas wassail, old man, and let the young folks show you how it is done.” Philip teased.
Philip rose from his seat and extended his arm to Joanna. She took it and they headed toward the space serving as a dance floor as Richard called after them, “Alright then. Do not come whimpering back to me when your toes are smashed and raw because your partner ungracefully stomped on them.” He laughed. “Old man! Old man! I shall show you how an old man can dance circles around you any day! Anne!”
When Richard called for her she was deep in conversation with Gustave. Gustave did not share in the celebratory mood of the hour and wanted to go over some figures. When she heard Richard call her name from across the room, she did not hesitate but turned to him. He made his way to the crowded dance floor and beckoned her to come to him.
As Richard took his place on the floor, Anne joined him. “Play!” He commanded his musicians.
The musicians played a popular lively carol and the dancers set into motion. While Richard enjoyed himself, Anne kept an eye on Philip and Joanna. They did not seem to notice anyone but each other. When Anne came in close, she whispered to Richard, “I do not think I have ever seen your sister so happy.”
Richard glanced at his sister. “Yes, she does look rather joyous. The Christmas festivities must have brought it out in her.”
They danced apart for a moment and then formed back in together. “Philip looks most content,” Anne observed.
He drew her extra close. “I fail to see why. He is not dancing with you.”
“Oh, Richard, it is not about me; do not be so thick. Give a moment’s thought and you shall see what I am trying discretely to tell you.” Anne followed the dance and glided away from him.
Richard looked at Philip and Joanna, then Anne. Anne raised her eyebrows. He looked back at the dancing couple. Just then the dance ended. Richard watched as Philip whispered something in Joanna’s ear. She tossed her head back and laughed. His eyes wide, Richard looked at Anne again. She clapped for the musicians but watched Richard. His eyes questioned her, so nodded her head in affirmation. Richard reached out and took her elbow. “I wish for you to tell me more. Will you come to me after my guests have departed?”
“If that is your desire, My Lord.”
“It is not my only desire, but we both know that that one will have to do.” Richard returned to the head table.
Anne waited until the last of the guests left Mategriffon then made her way to Richard’s chamber. Richard occupied two rooms in the tower. One was his outer receiving chamber and the second his bedroom. Anne passed through the outer chamber where several pageboys lay asleep on the floor. A drowsy Andrew sat in a large chair placed in front of the king’s door. His sword lay across his lap. “Lady Anne.” Andrew acknowledged her as he stood and opened the door for her. “He told me to expect you.”
“Happy Christmas, Andrew.” She smiled at him as she passed through the door.
Anne found Richard alone, still up and dressed, standing near the only source of light in the room, a large candelabra situated in the far corner. His arms were crossed, and he was deep in thought. “Thank you for coming, Anne.”
He pulled out a large chair for her and one for himself. She sat down in the chair and glanced around the room. Despite the darkness, she envied its spaciousness compared to her own. “Some wine?” He offered her a goblet.
“No, thank you. I think I have drunk more than enough wine for one evening, My Lord.”
Richard scooted his chair around to face her. “I guess it is best to come straight to the point. Pray tell, what do you know of Philip and my sister?”
“I know that Philip finds her rather becoming and is very interested in her as a candidate for marriage.” Anne leaned back in the chair.
“And Joanna?” Richard absent-mindedly put his hand on Anne’s knee.
“You know she would never take me into her confidence, but think about it. Think about the way they have acted around one another. I think she is smitten with the King of France.” Anne did not move her knee away from his hand.
Anne laughed. “Richard!”
“This is not good, Anne. This creates a problem, a very large problem.” He stood and paced before her.
Anne sat up straight. “Come now Richard, this is not quite the crisis situation you imagine. They are in love. Do not take it so personally.”
Richard gave her a nasty look. Then his expression changed to one of concern. “You do not suppose they have… have…” He shuddered.
“You know.” He widened his eyes and raised his eyebrows.
Anne chuckled. “No. Philip would never dare. He would not even dance with her without your permission.”
“How long have you known? Was this what you two talked of that day you went to visit him? Why did you not tell me sooner?” Richard fired questions at her without giving her a chance to answer.
Anne bristled. “I did not want you to overreact, just like you are doing now.”
“Overreact? Anne, you do not realize that this throws everything off. I cannot allow this relationship!” Richard’s face reddened.
“What is so wrong with two people being in love? Why can you not just let them be happy? It would be a second marriage for them both. It would give you and Philip another reason to play nicely with one another and form a solid alliance. What would be so bad about your sister being the Queen of France, Richard?” Anne bolted out of her seat.
“You do not understand the complicated politics involved here Anne.” Richard waved her off.
Anne raised her voice. “Then explain it to me. I believe I am more than capable of understanding if you just tell me. I would like to understand, but honestly, I do not.”
“That is why you are not the king, and I am,” Richard snapped.
Anne glared at him. “There was a time when what I thought mattered to you. I have never tried to tell you what to do about your own business; I have only tried to help you, to make you happy.” She looked Richard squarely in the eye. “I may be just a woman, but at least there is still one man I know who values my thoughts. He invited me to dine with him and talk about your sister. I do not try to tell him his business either, but at least he respects me enough to be forthright with me.”
Anne stormed from the room slamming the door behind her. Richard kicked at his bedpost but only succeeded in hurting his foot. He groaned then bellowed, “Andrew! Send for my sister. It is time we had a talk.”
Andrew opened the door and gave Richard a short bow. “Your Majesty, I have sent for her.”
In Richard’s opinion, it took Joanna far too long. When she appeared in his chamber, she looked as if she had been roused from sleep, hastily dressed and rushed there. “What could possibly be so important, Brother? You would think the tower on fire the way everyone is acting.” She yawned.
“Joanna, I have just had a talk with Lady Anne,” Richard began.
“Lady Anne? You dragged me out of bed to tell me that you talked with Lady Anne? Really, Richard, your problems with your mistress are none of my concern.”
“Do not speak so of Lady Anne.” Richard snapped at her.
Joanna rolled her eyes. “Alright then, would you please be so kind as to tell me why I have been summoned here in the middle of the night?”
Richard pointed a finger at her. “Be straight with me. Have you or have you not been carrying on with Philip as of late?”
“Define carrying on.” Joanna gave him a wicked smile.
“Do not toy with me!” Richard growled. “What is the nature of your relationship with the King of France?”
“Nothing, Richard. It is nothing. I find him attractive and eligible.”
“Well put him from your mind. You are not to think of him as anything other than the King of France,” he commanded her.
“And why not? I have to look after my own interests too. Richard, you convinced me that once I got my dowry back I should contribute it toward your Crusade efforts.” Joanna showed that temper so famous to her family, and the higher her temper raged, the more shrill her voice grew. “You promised me that you would give me another upon my second marriage. I am single; I am free. Why can I not look to a good marriage? Have you forgotten how our mother married our father?”
“You cannot marry the King of France, Joanna. Do you not see that he is using you to get to me? Do not be a fool!”
Joanna slammed her fist on the table. “Is it so hard to believe that someone could fall in love with me and I with him? By some miracle we are both free from marital obligations.”
“You may be free from marital obligations, but you have others. You have responsibilities to your family and to your station. You have a duty and you must do it regardless your feelings for Philip.”
Joanna glared at him. “Oh, I see now. Just because you cannot marry your little Anne, you think the rest of the world needs to suffer just like you. All hail the martyr King Richard. He sacrificed himself in the name of duty. Do the good people of England see how you writhe in agony for them, while you deny yourself marriage to your ladylove? I wonder how they would feel if they knew how you writhe in bed with her. You hypocrite! Do not talk to me of sacrifice for duty and honor!”
Richard swung his arm at the table, sending ink, quills and books scattering across the room exploding onto the wall. “I told you, do not speak of Lady Anne in such a manner. I swear to you, if I ever even hear the slightest rumor that you have defiled her good name in any way, I will personally see to it that you spend your days married to the most wretched man I can find. Your marriage will be the highlight of your pathetic life if you ever again suggest anything so degrading.”
He turned around to face the opposite direction. When he did, he sensed Joanna heading for the door. “I gave you no permission to take your leave.” He whirled back around and thundered at her, “Pack your bags. Pack them tonight. I am sending you to the Abbey of Santa Maria of Bagnara. You will remain there, out of Philip’s reach. I forbid you to have any contact with him! Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Your Highness.” Joanna gave him a cold curtsey, looking into his eyes as if she were at that moment stabbing a dagger into his bowels.
“Go now!” Richard ordered her out of the room.