Like my stories 'The Seduction of Count Adhemar' and 'The Lady of Anjou', this story is based on characters from "A Knight's Tale".
Chronologically, it comes between them.
Adhemar, Christiana and Germaine are the creation of Brian Helgeland
They belong to him, I have only borrowed them.
Edward, Prince of Wales, the Black Prince, lived and breathed, and did roam England and France often competing incognito in the jousting. Like his fictional cousin, he refused youthful arranged marriages, and married, to his father's dismay, for love at the comparatively late age of thirty three to Joan 'the Fair Maid of Kent'.
He was played in the film by James Purefoy.
Genevieve is my creation. I mentioned her briefly in my first story 'The Seduction ...' and again in 'The Lady ...', since when like her son, daughter-in-law and cousin, she has been hammering to be let in.
Pushy lot, these Plantagenets!
I see her as looking something like today's beautiful Jacqueline Bisset.
Genevieve's song is "My Immortal" by Evanescence.
I'm so tired of being here
Suppressed by all my childish fears
And if you had to leave
I wish you would just leave
Your presence still lingers here,
And it won't leave me alone.
These wounds won't seem to heal.
This pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase.
When you cried I'd wipe away your tears
And when you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
And I held your hand all through those years
But you still have all of me.
You used to captivate me
By your resonating light
Now I'm bound by the life you left behind
Your face it haunts
My once pleasant dreams.
Your voice it chased away
All the sanity in me.
These wounds won't seem to heal etc...
I've tried so hard to tell myself that you've gone
But though you're still with me
I've been alone all along.
The three men arrived at Pontchateau in the early evening. It was raining heavily and they had ridden hard for several days to get there. Count Adhemar, their lord, had been explicit in his instructions. They were to get there as soon as they could, to deliver his letter to the Countess and to return to Paris with her as soon as possible.
Their colours were recognised and they were admitted immediately.
The Captain of the Guard asked if they wished to wash and change before seeing the Lady but Germaine had wished to see her immediately and so he and the two squires were taken straight to the lady's solar.
The Lady Genevieve's face was closed against bad news.
Germaine was the Herald of her son, Lord Adhemar, Count of Anjou.
For several years now, Adhemar had toured the jousting circuits and Genevieve was in constant apprehension of hearing of his injury or worse.
She dismissed her ladies.
"You have news of your lord, Germaine?"
"A letter, my lady." Germaine was still breathless. "My lord said as fast as we could."
He proffered it and Genevieve took it and broke the seal.
"He is well?"
Germaine was mystified. "I believe so, my lady, he did not say otherwise and he did not ...appear..." he shrugged and looked at his two companions for confirmation.
"You may sit." she said absently as she read.
Then she folded it. "You may go...no, not you, Germaine."
She tapped the letter against her mouth thoughtfully as the two squires left the room.
"Do you know what is in this?"
"No, my lady."
"The Count said nothing to you?"
"We were to ride here as fast as we could with the letter and wait to return with you as soon as possible."
She watched him closely.
"Do you know Lord Adhemar is to marry?"
Germaine's eyes widened and his jaw dropped a little.
"Uh... Uh... No, my lady. "
"He doesn't say ... do you know ...who it might be?"
"No, my lady." Germaine was still stunned.
"Oh come now, Germaine, you are the Count's right hand man; surely you have some idea."
She watched him even more intently.
He shook his head slowly "No, no, my lady."
Lady Genevieve said impatiently, "My son is a grown man, there must be women."
Germaine looked down, hesitating, " My lord is ...has always been discreet... there have been ...um ... But not anyone he would ... have... um ... married..."
"No ...no... er...er...Well, my lady, last season, on the circuit, we ... his men... thought ... he spent time with...um... Lady Jocelyn but ..."
"Lady Jocelyn de Berengar?"
"Yes, but she married Sir Ulrich..."
"Hmm. Very well, Germaine, you may go. Have something to eat and drink, then rest. The Count wants us in Paris by the twenty sixth."
Lady Genevieve turned and went to sit in her chair by the fire. Her ladies came back but she dismissed them with orders to prepare to leave for Paris.
The serving girl came in and lit the candles, though she did not notice. Holding her son's letter, she was deep in thought.
She was a tall elegant woman. Beautiful, with the Plantagenet green eyes and thick black curly hair, now greying, she had been a widow now for almost twenty years. Titled in her own right, and with the might of Anjou behind her, neither Edward of England nor Philip of France had tried to coerce her into a second marriage. They also hesitated to rouse the infamous Plantagenet temper.
Adhemar's letter had been short and in his own hand.
'To the Lady Genevieve, Countess of Anjou.
I hope to marry before the end of this month if everything should prove satisfactory. I beg of you that you will join me in Paris as soon as you are able. By the 26th if possible.
I am sending Germaine with this. He will see that you are well attended on your journey.
Your loving son
This day Twelfth April. Paris
In spite of his inheriting the vast Anjou lands and being heir to her own Mayenne, she had not arranged an early marriage for him and as he grew, he wilfully said he would marry when he was ready. He had reached the age of twenty-eight without showing any intention of doing so. Father Thomas and she had persistently reminded him of his duty, of his need for an heir, making suggestions of brides, but equally persistently he had ignored them. Oh! He would argue with them over most things, letting loose the furious Plantagenet temper but not over this. He just ignored them.
She knew there must have been women.
As customary, as part of his education, he had lost his virginity at fifteen to one of the ladies of the Household where he was serving his knighthood training: as customary, she had been informed of this.
She knew women found him attractive and he them, flirting with the prettiest but if it went further, as Germaine had said, he was very discreet about it: although she had her informants who kept her aware of most of his activities, this was not one. And unlike many of the nobility he didn't have a trail of bastards behind him.
Germaine was her son's man and knew how to keep a still tongue but she was certain that he had not known of his lord's marriage.
She sighed. There was no-one she could think of. It was a matter of wait and see. She stared into the fire.
Aimory, what is he doing? He has always been headstrong but to do this! Not even to discuss it with me and Thomas. That we should not even to know who she is. Not even his servants ... Has he chosen sensibly? It seems as though he doesn't care who he marries. If he doesn't, then why is he marrying?
He has been so spoilt by everyone, myself included.
Thomas and I tried so hard to be firm with him but he was so beautiful, clever, so dear to me. I just wanted to give him everything he wanted. Then there's his temper, our temper!
Aimory, how could you have left me?
Aimory, it has been so long without you."
Genevieve Plantagenet, Marquise de Mayenne, was promised in marriage at three years of age to her seven year old cousin, Aimory Plantagenet, heir to the domain of Anjou. They had been formally betrothed when she was nine, falling in love with each other and marrying when she was almost fourteen and Aimory, seventeen, going joyfully to their marriage bed. They had known each other all their lives; it seemed to Genevieve that they had been in love all their lives. They resembled each other greatly; the height, the family black curly hair and large green eyes, straight nose and high cheek bones had passed down the generations, as had the pride, the arrogance, the high-handedness and temper. The Plantagenets were the spawn of the Devil, had the Devil's own temper, it was said.
The fairytale happiness was tarnished a little when Genevieve suffered three miscarriages and two still births before, at last, they had their son Adhemar. There were to be more miscarriages, and when it seemed that there would be no more babies, he was the more precious. They had adored him.
Aimory, like all Plantagenets, had been athletic, tall, strong, skilled and daring in knightly pursuits. He had enjoyed the jousting competitions, following the circuits and Genevieve had gone with him when she could. She had been in the stands on the day, when his horse stumbled and threw him against the dividing rail, breaking his neck. He had been twenty eight, she not yet twenty five and Adhemar eight.
They rode through the gates of the Paris town house. They had made good time; they had not been expected until the morrow, and so, they were surprised to see the whole house blazing with lights.
Genevieve entered the great hall. It was prepared for guests and the servants were bustling about.
Guillaume, steward of the Paris house, was confused and startled to see her and sent a page scuttling to find their lord.
Michel, her son's squire made a nervous bow, took her cloak and brought her a drink as Adhemar came hurtling down the stairs.
"Mother, you made good time; we were not expecting you until tomorrow. Would you like to go your chamber?"
"Who are you expecting?" she asked coolly, looking around her at the preparations; the long tables with their starched damask tablecloths, the gleaming silver, the dozens on dozens of beeswax candles, brilliantly lighting the great room.
He visibly calmed down but was nervous and fidgety.
"My bride and her father."
"It is all arranged? Then I shall change and come down and dine with you. Perhaps now I shall meet my future daughter."
The cutting tone in her voice was not lost on Adhemar. He was not afraid of quarrels with his mother, he was used to them, but he did not enjoy them. They were too close for that. They fought frequently, they were too much alike not to, but a furious row between them tonight was something he could do without.
"Yes Mother, it is all arranged. The wedding is to take place on the day after tomorrow, at the new Cathedral.
"And may I ask who it is my only son is to marry?" the quiet coldness of her voice told him that she was angry, very angry.
"Mother, her name is..." and the noise and bustle of more arrivals interrupted them.
"We shall speak about this later."
"Yes we will!"
The anger was simmering there.
"God Almighty, why couldn't she arrive tomorrow?"Adhemar thought to himself. "and we could row in peace."
The first of his guests were Sir Robert and Christiana, her sisters and their families. Adhemar and his mother went to stand at the top of the marble steps that lead from the great outer doors, to greet them.
"Welcome Sir Robert." Adhemar said.
"Mother, may I present to you Sir Robert de Vire, Christiana's father. Sir, this is my mother, Genevieve, Dowager Countess of Anjou, Marquise de Mayenne."
Sir Robert bowed over her hand but Genevieve's eyes were roaming over the young women in the party that had arrived with him.
Which one? Which could it be?
She could hear Sir Robert's voice introducing his daughters but she was barely listening as she sought amongst the faces.
'My eldest... Marianna, lady de '... she's married... not her.
'Second...Mathilde, Lady'...she's married too ...surely he's not marrying a widow?
'This is ..." well it's not her" she must be about to drop her babe.
'This is my youngest child Christiana.' Heavens! Her ladies should do something about the child's freckles before her complexion is completely ruined.
Genevieve held out her hand while her eyes searched. Wait! He had said Christiana. She looked down at the child curtseying in front of her. Was Adhemar going to marry this child?
She had married young herself but she had been betrothed from a very early age: he was not a child to be marrying a child; he was twenty eight ...oh this was preposterous; he was making fools of them. Does he think so little of his marriage, his heritage, that he would ...words failed her.
She looked at her son with a cold questioning stare; he looked back at her with an equally cold blank look.
"Sir Robert, forgive me, I have just arrived. I have not changed yet. Will you excuse me for a short while and then I will join you for dinner."
She raged inwardly while her ladies in waiting hurried to change her gown and groom her hair, winding it around her head, twisting ropes of pearls into it, pinning her veil, fastening the gold chains and the necklace of sapphires and rubies that Aimory had given her till at last she nodded and went down to dinner.
She knew she would be Adhemar's hostess but even so, she was furious to find herself at the head of the table between the principal guests of honour, Sir Robert and the Black Prince, Edward of Wales, while at the far end, her son faced her, between Lady Rosamund de Berengar and the ...child.
When Sir Robert was engaged in conversation with the guest seated on his other side, she asked the Prince,"Have you met Lady Christiana before tonight, sir?"
"I don't think you can say 'met ', cousin." Edward smiled. "I was there at the London joust, the day Will unhorsed him."
"Sir William Thatcher? Ulrich ?"
Genevieve was none the wiser but nodded for the prince to go on.
"Adhemar was knocked out and Will and Adhemar's men were crowded around him. That little one wriggled her way through with a bucket of water and knelt to sponge his face.
'I think he's dead.' she said.
'Nah' said one of Will's men. 'Chuck the bucket of water over him.'
And she did.
Christ, cousin, he came up like a furious tiger." A gust of laughter burst from him.
'Who did that?' he said in a murderous tone. Will's fellows disappeared, dragging the child with them. His grooms looked terrified but they didn't name her. It wasn't fair for them to get the blame, so I picked up the bucket and waved it at him. It didn't calm him down but at least he couldn't hit me."
He laughed again. "The next time I saw her was tonight. When Adhemar told me of his betrothal, I had no idea that Christiana and the child were the same. I wonder if he knows."
The prince looked at his cousin; somehow he knew she did not find it as funny as he did. She was watching her son intently, and suddenly he recognised the look. It was the one his father had on his face when he, Edward, had angered him and the King was waiting to loose his temper on him; a mask of cold controlled fury.
Whatever he had done, Adhemar was in trouble.
Edward had been in that situation often himself but that didn't stop him hiding a grin behind his hand.
Genevieve looked at her son and Christiana at the far end of the table. It appeared to her that he was paying more attention to Rosamund de Berengar than to his betrothed. Laughing and smiling and flirting? Has he no care for the child? She watched them. A thought struck her; one she did not like. But it worried her throughout the evening, like a nagging toothache.
The evening wore on.
At last the Prince took his leave and then Lady Rosamund declared that it was late and she should take her charge away. Sir Robert and the rest of his family rose too.
Genevieve and her son stood again at the top of the staircase that led to the outer doors as the last of their guests left.
She turned abruptly and went back into the hall and waited.
Adhemar followed slowly.
The serving men and women were clearing the remains away.
"My chamber!" she said curtly, and swept up the stairs, Adhemar taking them two at a time behind her.
The servants looked under their eyelids after them and then at each other. They had seen mother and son row before now. They were just glad the storm was not to break over their heads. The crash of an upstairs door came down to them. Soft giggles and whistles came from them, relieving the tension and then Guillaume said sharply, "That is enough. Get on with your work. "
Genevieve turned to face her son as he slammed the door behind him.
"Do not speak to me like that in front of my servants again." He ground the words out slowly.
"I shall speak to you in any way I think is necessary. I am your Mother."
His voice was taut with anger. Green eyes blazed at each other.
" Why are you doing this?" she asked, her voice cold with anger.
"Doing what?" he said insolently.
She smacked him hard around his ear. He picked up a silver goblet from a small table that stood near him and threw it hard against the wall. It clattered down and rolled across the floor. He kicked it back with all his strength. She slapped him again.
"I should have taken a cane to you. "
"I would advise you not to try it now. " His impertinence added fuel to her wrath; she fought to control it.
"You know well what I mean; rushing into this marriage."
"I should have thought you would be glad." She could hear the barely controlled fury in his voice. "You and Thomas have been nagging me to get married for years. 'You should get married; you should settle down, you need a wife for your homes, for Anjou, you need an heir'." He mimicked her unpleasantly.
"Yes but not this... child." she hissed.
"She is not a child." He snarled back."She is sixteen, older than you when you married my father. You were barely fourteen as you have frequently told me."
"And your father seventeen; we were betrothed from childhood. We were children together. You are so much older than this girl. And this girl! Pchah! You could have any one: among the highest in the land... "
"Yes, I am older than my father was: I am a man, Mother. I will marry where I choose. As for Christiana's rank, Sir Robert is highly respected and she has been in the care of Rosamund de Beranger in the last year."
"You have not answered me! Why are you marrying with such haste? Is there a reason why you are rushing headlong into this marriage?"
"Are you asking me if Christiana is pregnant, Mother? No! She is not!" His tone was harsh and vicious.
""No, I was not!" she said icily. " I would have assumed that with what you owe to your name and your house, you would not do anything as dishonourable as to seduce a child."
His head jerked back, his eyes narrowed and his mouth tightened. Startled, she realised that her retort had stung. She couldn't think why but she was too caught up with her own thoughts to pursue it.
"Are you using this marriage to hide something?"
"What do you mean?"
"You and Rosamund de Berengar!" She spat out. "You paid more attention to her this evening than to your betrothed. Far more than was seemly. Your behaviour was unforgivable. Flirting ..."
Incredulously, he broke in, "Are you suggesting that I am marrying to hide an adulterous affair with Lady de Berengar? " He gasped! "I only met her five days ago." He gave a contemptuous snort."She is as old as you, Mother! God! It would be funny, if it weren't so insulting to me and to Lady de Berengar. Lady de Berengar! She is Christiana's guardian."
"What sort of guardian allows her charge to run around the jousting fields with stable boys and grooms?" She spoke disdainfully." Throwing buckets of water? Is that how you see the Countess of Anjou? I thought you would have more pride in your name."
"What are you talking about?"
Surprise as well as anger was in his voice now.
"She is a hoyden! She threw a bucket of water over you! She was with the stable boys in the lists, when you were unhorsed and unconscious and she threw water. Such vulgar behaviour! Is this the behaviour of a Lady... and a Countess of Anjou?"
"How do you know this?"
"The Prince told me. Tonight. He was there, in London."
His eyes were still narrowed but somehow Genevieve felt the tension had lessened. Then he said quietly, "I am marrying Christiana on Thursday. Whether you are there or not is your decision and on that decision depends whether you see me again."
He turned on his heel and left her chamber, closing the door gently behind him.
Genevieve felt behind her for a chair and sinking into it, rested her head on her arms and cried. Aimory, Aimory, How has it come to this. Our beautiful boy. He needed your hand; a father's hand restraining him.
Aimory, I didn't want to chain him into marriage too young. I didn't want him to have a loveless marriage. I wanted him to have what we had.
We thought, Thomas and I, that we could guide him: we...I should have known. He's a Plantagenet, twice over. So wilful. So headstrong. But why is he marrying now, in such haste? He doesn't seem to care about anybody or anything. And this little girl, doesn't she deserve better? He will break her heart.
Aimory, I miss you so.'
After a sleepless night, Genevieve rose early and sent a message to her son, that she wished to see him. Guillaume came to her. Lord Adhemar had already left. No, he had left no message for her. He would be out all day. He was going to the Berengar house to discuss final wedding arrangements with Lady Rosamund and Lady Christiana, and then he was with Sir Robert to finalise Lady Christiana's dowry and the settlement the Count was to make on her. In the afternoon he and Lady Christiana were to attend the Archbishop about the ceremony. He would be dining with Sir Robert and would not be returning until very late.
She chewed her lip. It occurred to her that maybe Guillaume might know...no! She could not fish for information from her son's serving man.
"Will you await his return tonight, Guillaume?"
"Of course, my Lady. "
"Please tell him ...I will see him at the Cathedral."
Guillaume smiled gently, "Of course my Lady."
Her ladies were dressing her the next morning, when there was a tap at the door.
"My lord wishes to see you, my lady."
She nodded and Adhemar came in.
He was not wearing his usual black but a deep rich maroon brocade which accentuated the green of his eyes.
He wore no jewellery but the heavy gold SS insignia chain of their House and on his right hand, his signet ring and the huge emerald, that had been his father's.
"Mother." His tone was warm but his eyes were wary. "I am leaving for the Cathedral now."
She held up her hand to her ladies and they stepped away from them. She moved towards him, "I hate it when we fight."
"Yes. You will be there?"
"Of course! How could I not?"
She put up her hand to his face and kissed him gently.
"I will see you there and... God bless you, my son."
When she arrived at Notre Dame she was amazed by the crowds of the common people who had flocked to see her son marry. His companions and opponents from the jousting circuit as well as the French nobility crowded the church; there were even lords from England who had made the voyage.
She could hear the massive bells pealing while inside, a new contraption was making music. Making music; was that what they called it?
And the name!
How could they call it an organ? She found that quite crude. To her generation, an organ would always be a man's private parts.
Dear Heaven, the noise!
She suddenly wondered how Adhemar was coping with it; knowing how it affected him.
She wondered too, if such a thing could possibly ever take the place of flutes or viols, harps and dulcimers.
And again, how odd it was that they should make their vows inside the church, at the altar, and not outside the doors.
Everything seemed to be changing and not always for the good.
Adhemar and his cousin, the Prince, came from the sacristy and took their places in front of her. Edward too, had abandoned his customary black, favouring a dark green velvet tunic and breeches, his SS chain carrying his Three Feathers medallion of Wales.
She touched Adhemar's shoulder to speak to him, though they could barely hear what they were saying to each other.
The bells stopped and the tone of the organ altered and Adhemar looked past her over her shoulder. She turned to see what he was looking at.
As she drew nearer, Genevieve could see her face was blazing with joy and happiness. She looked back at her son but as ever, she could not read his face.
He took Christiana's hand and they went up the steps to the altar.
Genevieve heard the Archbishop drone on and then louder; "Do you Adhemar...back to a drone again. Briefly her son's voice came ," I, Adhemar Aimory Edouard...", drowning under the shuffling of feet and rustlings, coughs and whispers, till there came loud and clear, a gruff childish voice, repeating " I, Christiana Melinda Gabrielle de ...do take thee, Adhemar Aimory Edouard Plantagenet to be my lawful wedded husband, to have ..." reciting her vows for everyone to hear.
The nuptual Mass over, Adhemar and his wife came down from the altar. They paused before her, Adhemar bowing his head to her, holding Christiana's hand while she swept into a deep curtsey.
Then they moved on.
Lost in thought, she stood, faintly hearing a voice "My Lady" then another, "Genevieve!"
The Prince touched her arm. Startled she looked up, and she saw him waiting with Sir Robert.
Sir Robert held out his hand and smiled gently. "It is hard, is it not, to let your child go?"
With a faint smile, she nodded; he understood.
With her hand resting on his, they followed their children up the aisle.