Ever since 2004, I have been using The Akashic Records to write my novels. They are a form of psychic time travel where someone with the skills to tune in can access people, places and events from the past. My good friend Alison King has this ability. You can find out more at her website and mine - see the sidebar of the blog with more detailed explanations. This blog is soley for extracts of research from my work in progress.
I am currently engaged in writing about Eleanor of Aquitaine. The first novel, THE SUMMER QUEEN is well underway, and the extracts I am posting come from the Akashic Records research data so far conducted.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

A few snapshots from the life of Henry II

One can't write about Eleanor of Aquitaine without involving her 2nd husband Henry II along the way.  Down the years, during my Akashic wanderings while researching other novels, Henry II has featured frequently - from newborn baby to elderly king.  I thought it would be interesting to post some of these snapshots on this blog.  Some of these readings are several years old and this is only the tip of the iceberg.  I haven't researched a great deal of his life in his 20's with Eleanor when they were having their children and the Becket crisis was developing.  All that is still to come.

Novel research for Lady of the English:
Go to when the Empress was pregnant with Henry and see if Geoffrey of Anjou has any feelings about it. 
Well he’s ever so pleased when he learns she’s pregnant. The top half of his face is smiling.  The bottom part is satisfied with himself.  There’s a lot of drinking going on and sexual innuendo.  He’s thinking to himself ‘Yesss!  I’ve got her with child!’  There’s a lot of male ummm… you know what I mean don’t you.  Yes, Rugby club stuff.  And now he’s got to keep her in order and make sure she behaves herself and keeps the baby and doesn’t do anything naughty or wrong to put it at risk.  So again, this is coming out in an aggressive way.  It’s more like a prison chamber than a luxury chamber.  He watches her like a cat watches a mouse.  My God, if anything happened to what she’s carrying, she’d be for it.  He’d be very aggressive towards her; I can feel it in his fists.  He’s saying to himself ‘If she does anything to harm my child, she will have me to contend with.  She may as well not live.’  That would be the final straw.  So there’s a lot of bitterness and anger there.  There’s a coldness too.  So when they come into contact, it’s not friendly.  It’s watchful and it’s cold and they have a distance between them.  They just glide past each other.  He’s watching for any little thing she does wrong.  She must walk at a certain pace.  She mustn’t kick her leg up.  She must have decorum at all times.  He doesn’t want to see any strong emotions go through her.  She mustn’t laugh uproariously.  She must keep calm and not have any undue excitement.  He’s thinking ‘Keep her to her sewing.’
And now Geoffrey at the birth?  Oh! Excited.  Very excited!  Holding his breath.  He’s thinking ‘Will it be a girl? Will it be a girl?’ He’s worried because that would be the finale.  The worst thing she could do after all this.  She’s such a bad case she’s bound to produce a girl as well.  He can hardly take his mind off the fact of ‘Will it be a girl?’  He’s even imagining it coming out of his wife as a girl. He’s even imagining looking at it newborn and seeing it’s a girl.  He’s really fixated on it.  He’s drinking and talking in order to take his mind off the horrendous fact that it’s going  to be a girl.  So it’s a bit tense and low key.  I get the impression he’s been thinking about this for quite a while, and I get the impression that he’s thinking things never go right for him anyway. 
So when the birth is announced?  Someone comes to the door and he looks up, open-eyed, hands open.  He’s waiting for it.  He’s prepared himself for the dreadful news.  When he’s told it’s a son, he’s shocked.  He can’t take it in. He has to ask again.  In fact, he’s so shocked, when he rouses himself, he gets up and walks towards this person and knows he will have to have a look at this child in case they’ve changed it.  He’s going to go into the room despite protestations.  This person’s very much smaller than him.  He wants to go into the room to make sure they’re not kidding him because he wouldn’t put it past his wife.  But there it is, they’re cleaning it up, and he’s insisting that its wrapping  be taken from the vital parts so he can have a look.  It’s all a bit manky.  He’s saying ‘Are you sure?’ It’s just messy you know.  ‘Are you sure he says. ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Oh yes, they say, it’s a fine boy.  And they have to lift bits and point them out and say ‘Yes, he’s got all the right equipment and in good order.’  He glances at his wife –a dirty glance as if to say ‘Ah, so this is one that got past you.  This is one you couldn’t get your own back on me with.’ (meaning that the seed has taken root and grown?)  He says to the attendants. ‘I am very pleased with my son.  I own him. (as in I accept he is my son, not a changeling).  He takes a really good look at his face and the pattern of his ear, so that he’ll remember the next time he sees him.  He’s really worried about him being changed.  And then he looks across at Matilda and gives her a hard look and a half smile and then he walks out.  Then he can start boasting to his friends.  ‘I have a son.’  He expects them to go wild while he sits and watches and takes the glory, and thinks about what this is going to mean to him.  He feels quietly satisfied.  It’s a whole new horizon for him.  It just allows him to dream different dreams.  He can see his species going on and on into the future.  Geoffrey will have a purpose because his descendants will go on into the future and starts to feel rather smug.  He starts to think this is all right.  This is how God meant it to be for people, so why shouldn’t it be right?  Why shouldn’t it be right for me?  Still every so often there’s a little stab of fear – that something might happen to Henry.  Something might happen even now.  Again he tries to blot it out.

Novel research for Lady of the English:
Henry as a small toddler:
 I am seeing bottle shapes.  They look like skittles.  The child is crawling.  It’s outdoors. They are on grass.  The child is crawling towards the skittles.  Matilda has told everyone to hold back a bit.  She wants to see what he’ll do.  He’s put one of the skittles back up on its base.  He’s put a loop round it.  It’s not skittles that you knock over but the sort you put a hoop over.  It’s a flat hoop about an inch and  a half wide.  Alison laughs.  Then he puts both arms in the air as if to say ‘Hooray, I’ve won!’  Aaah, Matilda is clapping him and saying ‘Well done, well done.  Bravo!  Bravo!’ He’s still holding a hoop while he’s in her arms and he’s waving it about and she’s praising him for being so clever.  She is saying, ‘Here is the winner of the game, here is the winner!  She’s holding him up higher as well.  She is saying more quietly to him ‘That’s right, that’s how you win.’  Meaning?   It doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you get the hoop over.  She’s praising him because she wants a winner in the household.  She feels a bit deficient in that area, so she’s trying to train her son to improve on her and she’s making sure that everyone in the court applauds him and acknowledges his win – so she is also training them.  She is saying ‘Your father will come and explain some more things to you.  Your Father is a ferocious winner.’ 

Another incident: This next one is not so good.  She’s feeling sick.  She’s not very happy.  I think she’s pregnant; it’s not a good pregnancy.  She has Henry close by and she’s patting his head and thinking ‘I don’t want you to see this.’ (suffering).  Also there was a feeling of ‘I don’t need this because I’ve got you.’  She’s also thinking ‘I must be strong because I have to stay here for you.’  She goes about her normal tasks as vigorously as she can and then she gets completely wiped out. She’s pushing herself very hard, trying not to give in to the situation.  She doesn’t carry well at all.  Actually she feels as if she’d be okay about it if she lost the baby.  That’s how she’s feeling.  It happens that she is more distant with Henry because of her suffering.

FFW to another incident.  Henry is a bit older here.  Matilda is doing some writing outside.  Little Henry is being put on a horse.  She’s keen to see that he has a good seat on the horse and even before the horse is allowed to move off, he’s having to do exercises to show that he has a good seat and that he can move well on the saddle.  She’s multi-tasking. She’s doing her writing as well and keeping her eye on Henry on the horse.  Is she looking out of a window?  No, she’s in the same vicinity as the horse.  So she’s writing on the edge of the courtyard?  It feels as if it’s a room that opens on the stableyard or something. It looks a bit like a stable really.  It has a big open front. Perhaps it’s like one of those counting houses where they do their admin.  She’s saying ‘Take him for a few turns around the yard.  He wants to go ‘faster, faster’.  The servant won’t take him faster because he’s under express orders from Matilda that he has to go at a steady speed.  He has to learn control.  She’s saying ‘You’re not to go faster until you’ve mastered the knee controls.  I want to see that you can hold your horse.  She gives him a real spark of challenge and her eyebrows go up.  So then he’s got something to work towards.  Then he cooperates and does it.  And he’s only a little boy but goodness, he puts so much effort into it.  He’s saying ‘Now, I can do it, now I can do it myself!’  He’s pulled the horse away from the person who’s been holding the horse and he’s galloping around the courtyard.  Ohhhh, someone’s coming in through the gate with a big tray, loaded.  He can just see there’s going to be an accident and the tray tilts more and more.  Little Henry takes his horse round circuitously and manages to do it in the time, which is really clever.  She is saying again ‘ Bravo, bravo, you have it, my little termagant!’   It has uplifted her.  She is watching everything else that’s going on in the courtyard with a proprietorial air.  She needs to know that everything is going right and it does seem to her that it is.

Novel research for Lady of the English:
Henry’s relationship with his half brother Hamelin when they were with their father after Matilda had gone to England.
This is a close relationship.  It’s a bit of a love-hate relationship.  It’s a front to front of the body very close and complete contact.  As you would if you were giving a very intimate embrace. And also as you would if you were wrestling with a sibling.   Henry has got a very winning smile and a very sunny side to him.  He also has the attitude that he always has to win, and then the sun always shines. That’s the right thing.  Hamelin’s all right as long as he doesn’t tread on that territory.  Henry likes a bit of a challenge, but it only has to go so far.
Go over to Hamelin.   Hamelin is a very difficult kettle of fish.  Anxious.  He feels as if he’s always parrying off blows.  He feels as if he’s the practise dummy – like the punch bag boxers hit.  And everyone has to practise hitting him.  He hasn’t got much stuffing left.  His instinct is to try and find a bit of peace and quiet to get away from that.  If he does, he’s a naughty boy.  He doesn’t use it to commune with nature or anything.  He uses it to express his own energy and his own power.   I think he can be a bit of a delinquent.  He’s a bit underhand.  I can see him in a corner of a stable and knocking two little stones together.  Then he’s slinging them round and letting them go.  It’s not buildings he wants to hurt.  It’s people and animals.  It’s like he’s passing on the blows he’s had to take, and on to anyone he can get away with.  He does it on servant girls.  He’s quite calculating about what he wants. He’s prepared to play the brother thing if he can get something out of it.  He doesn’t feel he has the choice about the brother thing, so he thinks he might as well make something out of it as well. He also plays himself off against Henry with Geoffrey.  He likes to tell tales and put Henry in a bad light.
 Can you give an example?  He’s feeling upset again. Henry’s got a new horse; a nice horse.  Hamelin’s been given a hand me down from Henry because Henry has got a new horse, and this horse is a bitch.  I can see the bit.  The horse has been so badly used that the bit has no control over the horse.  So although it’s supposed to be a good horse, Henry has been cruel enough to it to make it do as it’s told and now it won’t do as it’s told for Hamelin.  So he’s got this supposedly good horse that’s no use to him and so it makes him look stupid, and it’s dangerous to him.  Alison suddenly hisses through her teeth and gets very distressed.  Oh God, I can’t stand cruelty to animals.  Oh dear!  He’s got a big stone to the horse’s front knee to make it lame.  Then he goes and tells daddy that Henry has given him a lame horse, and Henry knew it was lame.  Why should he have a lame horse, and why can’t he have Henry’s horse, because Henry hasn’t looked after his own horse.  Geoffrey considers this, but he doesn’t want to take Henry’s new horse off him, so he promises Hamelin another horse when the time comes he can get one. 

I asked Alison to go to Geoffrey of Anjou in 1139 and have a look at his relationship with his son Henry.
Alison: Geoffrey is pretty stressed.  He doesn’t sit on his stress though; he uses it to get things done, usually by bollocking other people into doing it.  But he is stressed here.  He’s closing his eyes.  He’s near to tears.  He’s going  ‘my son My son.’These are his thoughts.  He’s getting shivers as well.  He’s really worried.  I need to see a bit more clearly what’s happened to his son that’s upsetting him so much.  It seems more like a prayer now.  He’s worried but he’s praying.  ‘Please grant that he may live.’  It’s the feeling that everything he’s worked for will be snatched away if his son does not survive.  I feel Henry is in a separate room being tended by women and I can see that he’s sweating like mad.  Geoffrey was in a chapel.  There was certainly some kind of altar and a feel of stone and holiness and a candle.  Now I can see his feet treading up the stairs.  He’s got to the top of the spiral and it’s opened out into light.  It’s opened up on top of a roof.  The sky is above him and he’s getting some fresh air into his lungs.  He feels in some ways closer to God here because of all the clouds and the sky and at the same time very separate from God because he’s along and no-one’s listening.  He’s biting his lips; he’s heaving with sobs.  Saying ‘He can’t die, he can’t die!’  He thumps his fist down on part of the stone wall.  As he says this, he decides he can’t stay there.  He’s going to go back down and get on with his business.  But he has to go past the room where his son is, and as he goes past, he nearly breaks down again; but he doesn’t go in. Alison makes sound like a moan (Geoffrey’s).  He goes back along the corridor and down some steps and then he’s back in the real world and dealing with business.
FFW to when Henry recovers.  Geoffrey has similar sorts of feelings but they have eased off now, not so intense.  He’s looking at his son now. His son’s got on a white nightshirt that’s open at the neck in a V.   He doesn’t look well.  He’s very pale, gaunt, he’s lost weight, but doesn’t seem to be so sweaty.  Geoffrey’s watching him from the door and Henry is saying ‘Hello Father.’ So Henry recognises him (not out of it with fever). Geoffrey’s anxious feeling is now coming out in love – very strong love.  And again the words ‘My son, my son, my own son.  And the relief of it.  The pain inside Geoffrey was like an open wound and now it’s starting to heal.  He can hardly believe this recovery is real.  He is saying to Henry ‘Come to me when you are recovered and can walk.’  Henry’s trying to get out of bed but doesn’t get further than a couple of steps before his legs buckle.  He has to be helped back to bed.  Geoffrey is hushed out of the room and it’s made very clear that he’s said the wrong thing!  Geoffrey feels bad about it and feels that his best course of action is indeed to keep out of the way.  He feels guilty, but also he’s got the reassurance that at least Henry’s alive, even if he’s going to be a weakling for the rest of his life!  He’s going back to that chapel to give thanks.  He is sincerely praying.  Gosh and not just thanks to God, but thanks to the people who have nursed Henry.  And gosh, this is SO moving.  Because Henry’s the only person he has ever loved in his life.  He loves him with such magnificence, such passion.  He’s telling himself it’s going to be all right now, it’s going to be all right.  He’s satisfied that he’s done the right thing.  He’s kept out of the way and that was good.  He’s determined to do that again until it’s the right time for them to meet up again.  He’s pleased with himself  because he did get the best people in.  He spent a lot of money getting the best people in to look after Henry. 
FFW to when he’s fully recovered.  This is all mixed up.  It’s going jerky, I think because Geoffrey is so emotional.  Things are coming from all different directions and are mixed up in terms of one action on top of the other.  It’s one of those times when people say ‘It’s all going so fast’ and that’s how it is for him.  I can see them both rushing towards each other.  Henry has something in his hand – looks like a toy wooden horse with wheels on.  Oh gosh, Geoffrey is so overwhelmed.  So overwhelmed.  He’s crying.  All this pent up emotion is coming out now.  He’s having to wipe his tears because Henry is just acting like a child and being himself.  He’s living for the moment.  He wants to show Geoffrey something.  He’s saying ‘Look, daddy, look!’  He can do something that he couldn’t do before.  It looks to me as if he’s doing illuminated script.  It’s not just the letters, it’s the fiddly bits. I suppose it’s equivalent to painting books that you employ children with when they’re not well.  He’s been learning to do this lovely illuminated writing.   Geoffrey is overwhelmed.  His boy can do all those other things and he can do this as well now!  He thinks ‘Time well spent!’  It’s as good as sending him to the cloisters.  He’s got thoughts of what he wants to do with his son now that he’s well.  He’s got all sorts of things that he wants to do.  But they only go out a short way and then they come back to him in terms of thoughts.  It’s like ‘I want to go out for a ride there, I want to go up the castle there.  I want to take him on a wagon.  So his thoughts are all over the place.  I suppose it’s like being told you’re going to die and then you get a reprieve, and you get taken over by euphoria.  Yes! That’s it exactly!  Geoffrey’s having to make himself satisfied with just being there and them being together again.  It’s like having all your dreams rushing back at you that you’d given up.  He’s so proud, SO proud.  He’s calling people over to see what his son can do.  He’s using big gestures.  ‘Come on, come on over here and see this!  So Henry’s got quite a crowd round him and that appeals to Henry.  He’s able to show off his new skills.  He’s telling his dad he’s got loads more.  He was going to run off and get them, but Geoffrey stops him and sends someone else to do so because he doesn’t want to let Henry go.  Now he’s examining Henry’s face and because he’s gone quite gaunt, Geoffrey is saying ‘I do believe you look a little older.’ He’s lost his puppy fat. ‘I do believe you’ve been growing in the weeks that I’ve not seen you.’  Henry says ‘Indeed I have.’  He pulls up his trouser to show his leg because he thinks it’s grown longer, but phooh!  Geoffrey is very upset because he can see how much weight he’s lost and he just says ‘Oh, put your trousers down and pulls them down.  He doesn’t like that reminder.  Then things seem to be reverting back to normal.  He’s a very proud father.  To think that his boy licked that illness.  Lots of lesser boys would have succumbed to it, but God spared this one.  God smiled on him.  And Geoffrey does take that very seriously.  He is so moved.  Every moment he has this inclination to hug him, but he doesn’t, but he has this enormous love for him. 

Novel Research for Lady of the English:
Now to Henry 11 in 1145 when he was back from England, and his relationship with his brother Geoffrey first of all.
Oh my goodness!  Yes, here’s Henry.  Before I can see anything, I just feel fidgety with all this energy!  I am seeing a line stitched over.  It must be a wound stitched over, I think it’s on a horse.  He’s riding on a cart and he’s driving the cart.  They are going through water.  Geoffrey’s in the back and there’s some others as well.  Geoffrey is saying ‘I want to drive, let me drive!’ And he’s trying to push Henry out of the way.  ‘Let me at least sit next to you!’  But Henry’s having none of that and he’s really pushing Geoffrey out of the way.  Then he turns round and he’s got this little dagger.  It’s still in its sheath, but he turns round and he pushes Geoffrey all the way round and off the other side into the water.  Then he says. ‘If this were a proper battle, I would stab you now, but as it isn’t, you can walk behind the cart, for to learn the proper order of things.  When your elder brother says to do something, you do it.  You’re not the elder brother now.’  It’s like when he was away, Geoffrey was in charge, but now he’s back, they’re vying for dominance.  Geoffrey is seething.
Go with Geoffrey.  He is thinking ‘I’ll get him back.’  He wants to stab him in the back.  He thinks it’s not fair. ‘And he’s always daddy’s favourite. Doesn’t matter what I do, I’ll never have golden hair.’  What colour is Geoffrey’s hair then?  It’s a mousy colour – brown with a steely tint to it. ‘It’s not fair that he should have all the good things and I only get the leavings.  And it’s not fair that he should come back again, he should have stayed in that foul marshy land where he is king and not come back and lord it over us Angevins. A lot of sibling rivalry going on there!
And Henry’s thoughts on Geoffrey?  He’s thinking ‘Little rat.’  It wasn’t too difficult to get the better of him, so he wasn’t perturbed.  He’s just keeping him in order.  He could do much worse, just like he said.  And once everything has settled down and the argument has stopped, he feels quite okay and calm. Everything is going fine.
And with his brother William?  Henry has got some equipment in his hand that comes to a point. A bit like reins but it hasn’t got a horse in front, it just comes to a point and he’s guiding it. It’s got a trelliswork round it inside.  William is standing at the side and he has a quite conciliatory sort of energy as if he is a page or something.  I feel as if this is some sort of training equipment, military possibly.  I can’t make out what it is.  But every so often William kicks it from underneath so that it pops up and Henry is trying to hold it still and he says ‘Don’t do that.’  Then he says ‘I told you not to do that.’  Then he lets go of what he was doing and there’s some kind of pressure that comes back.  I think there’s some sort of water involved at the other end.  Anyway, he lets go of it, and he punches William into the ground.  He says ‘I told you NOT to do that.  He puts this metal thing on top of William’s chest and presses it down so that he’s holding the object and he’s holding William down at the same time.  He says ‘If you don’t shut up and stop crying, I’ll put my boot over your mouth.’  And William is struggling like mad to get out but Henry doesn’t let him.  He’s got his foot on William’s armpit so that he can’t move.  He can’t get up.  He can’t lift himself.  Henry is a fighter. Discussion ensues about Henry’s attitude. Alison says ‘He wouldn’t let anyone else take a turn.  It’s all about him and all for him.’
What happens to William eventually?  Henry finishes what he’s doing and takes his stuff to one side and William is still lying there and he’s bruised all down one side of his face and he’s really quite hurt.  His chest is hurt as well.  It takes him ages to get up and he’s coughing.  He shouts ‘Don’t you ever come near me again you – bastard word.
What kind of hair has William got?  Brown.  Similar shading to Geoffrey’s but perhaps a little lighter.  A bit of a gold glint rather than a grey glint.  They are quite wide-faced, William and Geoffrey, where Henry's is  quite pugilistic and forceful – a Germanic sort of face, whereas their faces are more jowly and flatter.  So Henry is quite different from the other two to look at, unless they change a bit as they get older.

Novel Research for A Place Beyond Courage
John Marshal's thoughts on Henry when the teenage Henry came to England.
John is trying to ignore young Henry.  He sees him as a young boy, just a kid overstepping the mark.  He should be back home, but a Prince’s toys always have to be bigger than everyone else’s and he’s allowed the wherewithal to play out what he wants to do.  John supposes it’s useful training but he would like it to remain on a limited scale – not tested out in the full arena.  He’s not old enough at this stage and unsuited to run the country or head a campaign.  But if he wants to do it then let him get on with it.  Who am I to stop him? 
They don’t have a relationship as such.  They’re of different generations.  Nothing in common.  John bows (like a curtsey almost to Henry) and smiles to Henry.  Henry naturally gravitates socially towards other people.  The people in his retinue are quite flashy.  They are there to make an image for themselves; they’re soldiers of fortune.  They’re here to do something wonderful; idealists out to make a new world but their deeds are combined with self-interest.  They also want to be heroic.  John has a more realistic and experienced point of view.

Research for The Summer Queen:
Henry's thoughts on the eve of the marriage?
He's got a broad mouth as well but his is straight. He is carousing and socialising. He feels buoyant. He's currying favour with new people that he's meeting and clocking them. When I say clocking them, I mean when he gets someone, there's a kind of ‘ker-ching’ moment and he puts them in his chest pocket. (metaphorically speaking). ‘I know you, I've marked you for future reference.’ Part of why he was such a good king, was that  he had a knack for faces and names. And he clocks not just the face, but the thing that makes the face tick, so he knows what to say to that person - what their key interest is next time he sees them. So he gives out this lovely sort of spontaneous urbane  personality as if nothing is going on and no one would ever guess. It's a very smooth surface and it's all going on behind that façade.
 And when he's on his own? He is quite content. There's a bit of wry disappointment that it’s not quite the woman he wanted. And in fact he's got in  his mind another lady who I think he already has a relationship with. She is younger and she has this really thick very long hair that is sort of a dark ash blonde. It's almost a grey tone and it's very, very long and makes a really thick ponytail. The feeling with her is of mmmm… Purity and cleanness. He likes cleanness in his women. I am only seeing her from the back. He is thinking of her and disappointed that it can’t be her in that position he is about to be in with Eleanor.
Does he have any children? I can see a child suckling. It seems to be with this woman. The ash blonde? Yes. He really gets off on the sight of the baby suckling. We had that before. Must be a real turn on to medieval men.
He goes to bed alone. It’s a bit of a sacrifice but there you go.
This woman isn't in his entourage?
No, it wouldn't be seemly.

Research for The Summer Queen: Henry and Eleanor during the period immediately following their marriageNo he's watching her to see who she's building alliances with and how people are taking her. He wants to make sure that she is true to him, that he has her full cooperation and loyalty. He also wants to make sure that he is in control. It's him who says when it's time for her to leave.
How does he do that?  He says ‘Shall I accompany you to your chamber madam?’ And that is taken as quite suggestive by the company. But he actually leaves her at the door - kisses her hand and says that he has things to do. ‘I will come back anon.’ and he does return very late. I can remember him doing this with Ida.  Yes he did. He was a workaholic.
So when he comes back very late? He is quite roughly getting his shoes off. He gets into bed. He's not fully undressed. He's not even changed his clothes. He is reaching for Eleanor as if she's a sack of potatoes. He is kind of winey - he's had a lot of drink. And that's how it starts. But then he gets all engrossed in it and becomes the young man again, and get really into it. He's taking his shirt off with big gestures to show off his muscles. It's all about him in other words.
How does Eleanor take this? Well she's a bit bleary eyed to start! And then it feels a bit like being assaulted. And then with him getting into it, it feels strange. It feels like foreign customs. She's not at all used to this kind of behaviour. I think she's metaphorically scratching her head about it. She's finding it exhausting really. It's exhausting because it's like he is taking her energy. She is not there to him, she's just an object (my observation)  She just feels that it’s tiring.

Research for A Place Beyond Courage:
I asked to see the meeting between Henry II and King Stephen at Wallingford in August 1153 when their armies faced each other across the Thames.  The troops on both sides were refusing to fight and encouraged a personal meeting between Henry and Stephen.  I was interested to know what was said there:
Alison:  I’m there.  I can see a standard with wings curved up from the centre.  Not sure if it’s a standard…might be a crane. (sounds very much like the sort of thing they put standards on sometimes – which did look like a crane.  Will see if I can find a picture.  I have Henry now.  He’s feeling calm, controlled, powerful.  This is a man who is not particularly stressed.  He thinks with his eyes as much as anything.  His breathing is steady.  But when his eyes move he’s quick-very quick.  He’s been distracted for a moment.  He thought someone was coming but they’re not.  He’s on a brown horse.  It’s big, powerful with a big rump and long brown tail.  I can see it rearing up and going down.  Don’t know what that’s about.  Ah, right.  He’s showing me what a good fighter it is – highly trained like the dancing horses on the continent today, but used for fighting.  If it was another man he’d be very proud of owning this horse, but Henry just feels it’s as it should be.  He’s going to meet up with Stephen, he’s going forward a little bit but the landscape is bleak and there’s no one to see.  Oh, now there’s a man in the distance coming fast on horseback.  The landscape is of rolling fields with trees.  He’s arrived now.  He’s not wearing armour, just a cloak.  He’s off his horse and he’s furious.  He’s going hammer and tongs at Henry. ‘I want you off my land right now!’  He’s getting his feet in the water right by the river’s edge.  Henry is still on the horse and is very calm, looking down on this person.  ‘I will do anything to get you out of here!’
Now Henry is becoming amused and saying to himself ‘Like what?’ 
Stephen hasn’t got much of a bargaining position.  His attitude is that ‘I am the rightful lord of this land and you are trespassing.  But as you are my cousin however, I will extend my warrant of hospitality to you for 3 days in order that you may leave in dignity, but leave you will.  You will be glad you’ve left, for the country is nothing but a bag of ants and it has fallen to me to contain them.  I apprise you of this that I may do you some good for I wish not to harm my own family.  I wish only for the good of our progeny and their heirs, therefore I will see you safely gone within three days.’  (Stephen and Henry’s mother were first cousins, so in the way that Medieval people called their rellies cousin within so many degrees, this is spot on. Second and third cousins etc were always referred to as just ‘cousin.’) Henry raises his eyebrows a little bit at this.  He’s being very cool, but thinks it’s all a bit hilarious.  He says ‘Certainly sire, I wish no personal harm to come to your body for we are, as you say, one.  Therefore it matters not who rules in your stead for we are one of the same branch and either one of us will do for England what that branch was carved for.  I therefore say to you go hence to your lodging and take shelter there, for you will need the recoursers of the fender for your old age.’
Stephen is not very happy at this.  He says ‘I see we do not have an agreement here.’
‘No sire, no agreement as yet until you decide to return to your hearth.  I have no need of such pastimes.  I am in the prime of my youth and I will see you dead before I am gone.’
Stephen’s bluff has gone now.  He says ‘It will be long before you see me dead and Henry says ‘Fare you well then.’
Stephen says ‘I go nowhere until we have an understanding and some seemly conduct.
Henry says, ‘I go nowhere on your bidding.
Stephen:  ‘We must bid ourselves.
Henry: ‘I bid to stay here then.
Stephen:  ‘I cannot stop you in this inclement weather but be sure when the thaw comes we will see you off the premises, cousin or not.  (I wonder if there’s some confusion over place and time here?  The armies had met once before with the river Avon between them and in absolutely foul winter weather – almost a blizzard?)
Henry:  ‘We will see about that old man.’  He makes a pretend plunge with his dagger.  Stephen backs off and Henry laughs at him. ‘I will go where I wish and you can do nothing about it.’  He rides his horse further upstream and a bit uphill.  Stephen has to get back on his own horse to carry on that way.  He hasn’t quite caught up when Henry makes a pretend run at Stephen.  Stephen has already turned back towards home and Henry is sitting on his horse with his standard and is looking at Stephen with complete contempt, thinking ‘he’ll be easy meat to rub out.  He’s already making a plan of attack in his mind.

Research from The Time of Singing
I asked to see the relationship between Henry II and Rosamund Clifford.  From what I have gleaned from conventional research, it was a close relationship, rather than just for sex, although I didn’t say this to Alison.  I just asked her to go to Henry and Rosamund as she appears to be the mistress immediately before Ida.  We know she died in 1176
Alison:  I’m with Henry.  He’s smiling and he’s happy.  His stomach is dancing.  I can see a light with ripples on it.  It’s like a ball.  It’s like the moon reflected in some water. Henry is standing at the side of this – probably a well.  There’s a low wall surrounding this pool.  He’s standing at the side of it.  He’s quite lively.  His arms are moving and I feel as if he’s with a lively person.  They’re happy, conversing and making jokes.  They’re laughing and moving.  It’s a very fluid movement that they both have.  I get the sense it’s not mundane talk but very witty, quick, educated talk.  They are both being able to say things to surprise each other and to turn the phrase to wit, to give original insights into things.  She is very clever.  She’s got dark eyes, large in the middle and pointed at the outer edges, and straight dark brown brows. Smooth brown hair, with a wimple over.  I can see the front of the hair.  Perfume!  It’s subtle with roses in it and something else – it’s a sort of pinky smell.  A lovely, subtle smell.  When she moves it’s borne on the dampness of the night air.  It’s as if the leaves and trees around are giving out their scent of dampness too.  It’s not cold, so I’d say it’s after a summer shower.  Henry’s breathing in very deeply and thinking ‘I wish that life could always be like this.  He’s put his arm around her and he’s holding her against him, thinking ‘If life was always like this I wouldn’t need to have sex even.’ So it’s real love?  It is!  He’s in love and it’s reciprocated.  It’s quite moving. 

Research for The Time of Singing.  Henry and Ida de Tosney
Gosh, what a lovely lady.  She is so serene, so calm.  I saw animals pulling something like a reindeer sleigh.  I think it’s an illustration for a tapestry.  Yes, I’ve got strong confirmation.  She’s thinking up pictures to sew.  She’s doing it in a calm way, like day-dreaming.  She’s going to be taken to meet the king and is being got ready by older women who are helping her dress in her best.  They’re putting ribbons in her hair and draping a beautiful cloak at her shoulders – crimson, with emerald and blue trimming.  They’re doing something to her eyes – putting on cosmetics to make her look more grown up.  Brushing eyebrows into shape.  She’s not yet fully developed, perhaps about fifteen.  They’re not dressing her up with the air of making her attractive to Henry, but just so that she looks well groomed and her best.  It will be of benefit to her if he likes her and it will make things better for all concerned.
She is brought to the room where the king is.  She’s quite excited and feels a bit tight in the chest.  I can smell incense.  I can sense her being brought in from a door in the corner.  There are people in front of her.  She is brought to the front row of a semi-circle of people being presented to the king.  Henry is speaking to them individually in a loud voice. It’s one of those public meeting and greeting things.  ‘Who are you?  Tell me.’ 
Then it comes to her turn.  Henry stands before her and touches her on her collar bone. ‘Ah, de Tosny’s little girl.  It’s long since I saw you.  Just a babe in arms, and now by the look of you, old enough to have your own babe in arms.’  Ida blushes and curtseys.  If he could, Henry would have his hand down the front of her dress right now.  He would do it.  He licks his lips and goes onto the next person, but he gives a lingering look back at Ida.  She doesn’t look at him; she feels terribly embarrassed.  Later, when he’s talking to everyone, he pretends he can’t arrange his footstool just right and gets her to do it, making her go this way and that with it.  Then he gets her to stand by him – just her.  He engages her in conversation.  ‘Tell me what you’ve been doing today.  Tell me a little story from the nursery.’  Ida is very embarrassed again.  ‘I hardly know what to say Sire.’ He sighs. ‘It matters not.’  But he doesn’t want her to move from where he’s put her.  She’s trying to watch what else is going on in the hall and is still embarrassed, trying to pretend this is not happening.  She is frightened, but very aware of doing the right thing.  Told to move the footstool, she has done her best to get it right.  She is looking minutely at the décor.  She’s looking at the tassels on the cushions he is sitting on.  Pale gold.  She’s getting a bit fed up and wondering when all this will end.  She wants to go for dinner and hope that he’ll forget about her.  People are leaving now to go for dinner. The next thing is that he wants her sit with him, but his attendants are horrified and say no, a seat has been allotted for her.  Alison says she feels that even so, the allotted space is higher up the table than she would have at first been given, so that Henry can watch her..  She’s a bit relieved but still too close for comfort as Henry continues to smile and leer at her.  However, she manages to get away after that.
The next day she receives a summons that ‘The King wants to see you in his chamber.’  Ida is very flustered and really quite worked up.  Her ladies are dismissive of her fears.  They say it’s a great honour for her, but they are very worldly.
In the king’s chamber he makes her undress the top part of her clothes and she’s feeling extremely nervous, embarrassed and powerless.  A bit like going to the doctors.  She doesn’t know where to look.  He starts touching her then.  I could see Alison was uncomfortable with this, so, assuming events took their course, we cut to the aftermath. Afterwards she’s in shock, she’s trembling.  He is saying ‘Remember, it’s a great honour I do you.’  He’s preening, getting himself ready for the next event.  He chucks her under the chin.  ‘Lift your pretty little head.’  She can’t look him in the eyes and he’s saying ‘No matter, no matter.’  His attitude is that she’ll come round.  ‘You’re a sweet little thing, very sweet and it’s to your credit.’  He says ‘You are the King’s virgin bride.  You will do well.’  And he gets out a fur collar and puts it on her. ‘There, that will keep you warm for me…for tonight.’
She’s distraught really but doesn’t say anything.  But she’s thinking her life is in ruins.

And Henry’s response when he finds out she’s pregnant? The ladies come to tell him that Ida can no longer lie with him because she’s with child.  Henry says ‘Oh well.’  He’s not too bothered.  He was starting to lose interest anyway.  It hardly causes a blip. He’ll start looking elsewhere now.  He says though, ‘Let her be well provided for and the child shall be mine.’  He even comes to her when the child is born to look at the baby.  He says ‘He has my eyes.  A fine son.’  He touches Ida on the cheek. 

From research for The Greatest Knight
Death of King Henry II - its effect on William Marshal.
It’s a tremendous shock. William is knocked off step.  He can’t think straight.  He feels horror and is overwhelmed by his emotions but doesn’t understand why…Alison pauses here as if listening then says - Because it’s like the end of an era.  It’s breaking a link with his past.  He hadn’t planned for what might happen next.  His only plans had counted on Henry being alive.  He had an emotional link with Henry.  Henry was focused and a man of action and of his word.  He empathised with him.  He was someone he could work with.  They understood each other and knew what to expect of each other.  He gave William stability and William didn’t have to make it up as he went along.  The manner of his death is shameful and William sees that his own death might happen that way.  He’s very aggrieved about the way the body has been stripped and sends soldiers in pursuit of those who have robbed the corpse.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Visiting Pope Eugenius in Tusculum.

Louis and Eleanor visited the Pope on their way home from the Second Crusade.  Moves were afoot to annul the marriage but the Pope scuppered them.  Eleanor had raised the subject of an annulment in Antioch in the spring of 1148 (when at the court of Raymond of Poitiers, her father's brother and therefore her closest male relative to whom she could look for succour and protection).  Louis had at least considered consenting to the annulment because he wrote to Abbot Suger on the matter.  Suger councilled him to wait.  Suger also, apparently wrote to the Pope, and one can guess that the gist of the message was that the couple should not be allowed to part.  This is what Alison got from that Papal meeting. (Eugenius saw the couple separately to begin with - something Alison didn't know).

So go first to Eleanor and Louis and Pope Eugenius in 1149 when the annulment was being discussed.

Go with Eleanor first.
Alison:  Eleanor feels good.  Her heart is full.   She feels ready. It feels like she has come to the right place and this is the fulfilment of the journey. Louis has kept his word so she feels pleased about that. She is ready to discuss the annulment in whatever way. But my goodness this Pope is a weasly little man. He is small and squat with dark brown hair. He has  the sort of look you get on a widescreen TV.  When he's talking to people he bends over and puts his hands together, so he looks even smaller. And he does have that kind of throaty voice. Everything is clean and he's got ornate robes. Everything is fine, but the person inside the body is incongruous. It turns Eleanor’s stomach.
She doesn't quite understand what he is saying sometimes as he is talking. It's a bit like a speech impediment. Towards the end of sentences, he sort of slurs his words and speaks faster. I think there are some language difficulties between them as well. He doesn't make it easy, so at times she is not quite sure what he is saying, but as she get the gist she does not like what he is saying. I was wondering if Louis was actually there. I'll draw back and find out. No, he's not.
One of the things the Pope actually says is: ‘As I was telling your husband,’ so he's obviously seen Louis earlier. ‘This is a matter for God, not for man, and God forbids the separation of those He has joined together, except in very serious and complex situations, neither of which attend to your case. I trust therefore that you will put your faith in God. You do not want to antagonise him unnecessarily. Be meek and bend your will to God's will.’  Put your faith in God and He will show you the way. All things are possible with the help of God.’ Interestingly this is something that he believes quite sincerely. He's also got the motivation that he wants a stable Europe and he's got people behind him who are paying for a stable Europe.  He is saying ‘This is the way forward. To be likened to the children of God who are diligent and obedient in their works. Then with His good grace you will bring forth heirs who will honour that space and be worthy contenders for the throne of France and for those whom they shall have governance over. And let me say that it is not your place to deny God's purpose, that He shall have your scion on the throne of France, and it is not for you to deny His plan. Woe to you if you obstruct Him in His will. I therefore say think again and think on the consequences of what you ask - nay what you demand of me and know that I do not sit in judgement beyond what God would allow me in honour of His great office.  I speak only for God and for no other. I therefore urge you with all my heart to come together as you were once united and to once again wend your way together.’ And here I can see twine wrapping round itself into strands. ‘That you may be made one once again. And from that one, may a new line develop and carry forward God's purpose indeed.
 And you know you are a young woman at present and you have no need of resorting to such mechanisms (not quite the word but near) and efforts in this direction. Things are still open for you.’ Now he is talking directly to her as a person. ‘Things are still possible between you and Louis. They have not come such a head that one of you is dead, or that one of you cannot fulfil the function of a spouse. No, none of these things have come about. And you may be thankful for that, and you may see it as a great sign from Him who is high above you. You may bow down to that sign and beg mercy for the waywardness of your thoughts on this subject, and on any other in which you have veered from the path laid down for you. And you know I can make it right. You have come to the right place to make it right. You have done well in that. All it needs is your acquiescence and all will be made whole again.’
Eleanor is really churning and grinding her teeth. She is putting on her dignity. She is trying to listen for the voice of God, the spirit. There is a picture of Adam and Eve standing side-by-side holding hands - it looks as if it is in stained glass. She is feeling rather humbled and wondering if there is something she hasn't done. She is starting to feel a bit emotional. Maybe she has done things wrong and she could have done better at certain things. It's as if she is seeing herself from the outside, from God's point of view. She's recognising that more than she is recognising her own feelings about it, or she's seeing a different perspective on it. She has gone very serious. She feels as if she is praying. When she leaves, she kneels to the Pope and kisses his ring. She goes to her own chamber and she sits on the corner of the bed. The bed has a post on a corner and she holds the post against her, and she is very serious. It's as if she has come face-to-face with herself.

So what did the Pope say to Louis?
Louis sees this is a really good opportunity to talk to the Pope and make good contact. I think that's more to the fore than the other thing about the annulment. It's about how he's looking, his bearing, and he does make quite a meal of this meeting. They are exchanging gifts, talking politics. They are talking politics about France's  borders and their opinions of the people involved. And the marriage? Louis put it over as a very minor point. It's just this little technicality of consanguinity.  The Pope is astonished and starts looking aghast. He is looking at Louis in a new light and thinking this does not compute with what you were just saying. You were just so one of the church and now you want this. He is quite disgusted. This is a real personal response. He is disgusted and thinking ‘You will not have this.’ He is thinking ‘This is so typical of people's behaviour and so wrong. It doesn't compute with his idea of people’s roles and how people should be.But he constrains himself and he maintains his friendliness and says ‘We will have to have a think about this and I will come back to you on this.’ Louis is a bit affronted, but he can accept it. It's only a minor setback to him. And then they get on, chatting quite informally. Sitting back in chairs, having nibbles. In fact I can see the Pope's leg crossed. He's got a sort of embroidered ivory slipper with a  pointed toe. And he's just leaning back in his chair with his toe pointing out. Louis is feeling very confident. The church is something that he feels familiarity around and he feels proud of himself as well. There is that confidence about him. He feels as if he has done good. He doesn't feel overawed by the Pope.

Anything else said to Louis by the Pope?
The Pope has sent a very beautiful jewel to Louis. It has a gold outer circle - I think it might be a brooch. It's divided into quarters with gold and there's an inner circle. Each of the sections is encrusted with chips of jewels in different colours, mainly blue and green. He has sent it with a document, and the document refutes the deposition for annulment. It's a very short document, just one page. Louis’ initial reaction is like a mouse trap going off inside him, and there is some anger there. To be refused!  It doesn't seem right to him. This goes back to that trait in him where there is a rightness about his life, and when things don't go right, it is difficult to cope with. He doesn't know how to deal with it. There's a rightness because of who he is. He has sent someone to ask the Pope if this is his final reply - if there is anything else he is going to say because it doesn't seem long enough. The person returns with the words that it is indeed the final reply. ‘The Pope begs you to understand that he speaks not for himself but for God, and he can only do what is right, not what circumstances may favour.’ He wishes to see Louis. Louis is setting off to see the Pope. He feels quite dour. He is setting his head against a difficult person. It's like being told off by his parents, and it's like some of the political conundrums that he has had to set his head against. The Pope when he enters the door is all effusive and incredibly friendly. He wants to keep Louis' favour. Louis is serious and quite upset in the stomach. He is quite volatile because he is being asked to face his demons about Eleanor, about his marriage etc. he thought he could make a clean break from that.
I was seeing what looked like tweezers putting something in Louis’ mouth and I think it must be putting in the wafer of communion. Interesting. So, Louis is having to face up to the situation and emotions that go with the situation, and it's quite uncomfortable. It's like an open wound and he thought he was going to get closure of it. Because he's just had the experience of communion, he is in a less defended sort of state of mind. The Pope is saying ‘Think what Jesus would have done in this situation. Think what Jesus would have said. Would he not suffer the meek to come to him for they shall inherit the earth? And so you too, being meek in relation to his will, will therefore inherit the earth and your offspring after you. Remember that. You do it not for yourselves but for those that shall come after in God's divine plan. You cannot waver or falter in this your duty and your role that has been granted you. You must follow it through to its finality. And let me tell you that I can favour you more with you coming here, than I could at a distance. For I can help you to reconcile yourself to your doubts on the subject as they arise here, and I can lay to rest your doubts and allow you to set off along your path again with renewed vigour, that you may follow the path that God has marked out for you.’ It's as if the Pope is offering to release them from the past and their difficulties of the past and allow them a fresh start. He is putting it in such a way that he is the person in the best position to do that for them, and therefore Louis has come to just the right place at just the right time exactly, and it was very well done to come.
Louis hasn't got an argument against it. It does bring up those other times when he has needed to be obedient to the will of God and it's not always been easy, and he has had to do things in order to make his peace. He doesn't quite know how he will do it because he has got no energy going out towards Eleanor.

So now to the scene when they come together. The Pope apparently prepared their bed with his own special hangings. Eleanor is walking barefoot, hand-in-hand with Louis, her elbow bent. I am seeing biblical images. I am seeing the image of a Goddess of fruitfulness with berries on her head. I think it is part of the decor of the place. Eleanor is feeling… young and virginal, like someone in their petticoats going to the bedchamber. It's going back to basics. There's a feeling of vulnerability about it as well. She has got a plain but very good dress and a plain undergarment – cream. Like a shift, but just shows at the shoulders. The top garment  is a straight neck with wide shoulders. Louis is quite serious. It has a sense of it being a sacrament. It's the sense of it being his place and position to take up that sacrament rather than any other sacrament. It's not always chosen by himself; it's chosen by God. The Pope is saying that he has sanctified the bed and he is now sanctifying their persons. There's a censer being waved round, and there's chanting. The Pope is making the sign of the cross, and holy oil is being put on their foreheads in the sign of the cross, and on their crowns. It seems as if they are taking head coverings off. I can hear something like a gong and the words ‘It shall be done.’ Everyone withdraws and Eleanor and Louis are left facing each other. He put his arms around her and draws her to him, and kisses her on the forehead and says ‘If it is the will of God, then it is our duty to follow what must be done.’ He is taking it very seriously.
Eleanor is scared. Why? Because this seems to be taking her deeper onto the wrong path, and all the references to it being like a wedding night are not good for her because the wedding led to a marriage that went wrong. How is this going to be any better? So she is scared, and as she leans back on the bed, she feels as if her heart is breaking. It feels as if her whole body is breaking. To do this thing that she has no choice about. So she just plays the role; she doesn't participate unduly. But Louis is becoming more interested and it does arouse her. It does bring back those old feelings, but only while she behaves like a good wife. So she has to be fairly neutral about everything and compliant, but at the same time he is being quite passionate. Afterwards,  Louis lies back and put his hands behind his head and looks at the bed hangings and thinks ‘an heir.’
And Eleanor's feelings? She's just getting up and getting herself tidy. She is quite cross. Cross? She is steady, but quite angry at being used. It's like a hardened feeling. She is wondering what it is going to be like if all her life is going to be like this. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Part 13 Henry II's thoughts on marrying Eleanor

I was fascinated when we came to begin working on this aspect of Eleanor's story.  So many times secondary sources and novels have portrayed Henry and Eleanor as having a white-hot attraction from the outset, but I have always thought that it ain't necessarily so.  and that politics played a large part.  Nevertheless, when I asked Alison to go and take a look at the then 18 year old Henry's attitude to Eleanor in the run-up to their marriage I didn't know what was going to emerge and I was prepared for anything.  The overall answer came as no great surprise, but it was so interesting to see how Henry's thoughts played out.  Again, this makes sense with the historical record, but disagrees with certain secondary source biographers who have, of course, put their own slant on the matter.  It was interesting to see how much say in the proceedings Geoffrey of Anjou had, but it makes big sense.

First of all to Geoffrey of Anjou and his son the future Henry II when they were discussing a marriage between Henry and Eleanor
Alison: There's quite a strange sort of feeling. Geoffrey's eyes are almost closed and his cheeks are pushing up very hard. It feels like stress. It feels like he is trying to make his point. They are quite vigorous spoken words, powerful. ‘You will do as I say and do it quick. There is no time to be lost; I am warning you. You will regret this for the rest of your life if you do not go ahead with it. You will see what you have lost and what other men have gained. I cannot abjure you enough. You must see the sense in what I say. There will not come another opportunity like this in either of our lifetimes. Fulfil your promise and be forceful in this. (forceful has the meaning of truthful as well) and honest. And you shall go forward.' I'm getting the vision now rather than words of him heading out from Aquitaine round the side and over to England. It's as if Aquitaine will fund the takeover of England and he will have massive power. Geoffrey seems really frustrated here. He's run out of words but he still chuntering and tapping his feet. He wants a reaction that is the right reaction.
 I'll go over to Henry now.  Henry's feeling sick. Oh it's just so distasteful to have a woman to bed who is all old and wrinkly. It's repulsive. It's as if phlegm is coming up into his mouth. Not only that, but the leavings of some other man. Eeeuw. He is showing it in his face. This bright young face so full of promise is being forced to contort itself into a marriage with some has-been bedraggled thing. It wasn't the future he was seeing for himself at all. But Henry being the political animal he was, surely he would see the advantage of a marriage like this? That's right we've seen him being in that situation before, but I'm sure that now he is coming to it, there are different feelings involved as well. There are the emotional feelings as well as the mental side of it. He can't ignore the fact that he feels sick. He is almost retching. I am not getting any more but I'm just thinking this explains the enigmatic silence when he met her (which we saw several years ago). So Henry is not very communicative. Geoffrey is getting more and more frustrated. It reminds me of a parent talking through a bedroom door at an uncommunicative teenager. I think Geoffrey is assuming the opposition rather than it being expressed and that's why he's becoming really wound up because he's getting no response.
Go forward to when Henry actually meets Eleanor - his impressions then. 
 He is listening to his father who is giving him a pep talk and telling him what and what not to do. Geoffrey is really imposing on him the secrecy. ‘Remember if anyone should ask you, you are just by chance discussing family matters. And you are to make no commitments, agreements or offers without my say-so.’ He doesn't want him to spoil the negotiations. He says with a really fixed look ‘Are you understanding me?’ Henry doesn't answer and turns on his heel and walks to the window. Then Eleanor comes in and they do the courtesies. Geoffrey introduces her to his son. It seems as though Eleanor doesn't look at him for very long before returning her attention to Geoffrey. I suppose it's because really that's who she is making the agreement with.
Go into Henry's viewpoint see how he is feeling. He likes the smell of her as she comes into the room. He likes the richness of her clothes, they are gorgeous. But then he has this kind of distaste as well because he thinks what's that going to cost me? He is quite taken by the sight of her foot underneath her dress as she walks. I don't know if it's the shoes or the shape of her foot, but he quite likes it. And he is eyeing up her body. She seems quite slender. He is eyeing up her back just above her bottom. He is thinking about how it would feel to have his hands around there. And also the back of her shoulders. He is thinking how it would be to be having sex with her. At least he thinks she will know the ropes. He is doing it with the eye of someone looking over a horse. He is trying to ignore the face. Because he would have to accept her as a person then? Because she is old. Because he thinks she looks older or because he has already come to that conclusion?  He is prejudiced, but obviously she looks like a 28-year-old not an 18-year-old, or 13-year-old, which is what he would really prefer. I think that is the main problem. She is a full-grown woman and he wants more of a child bride. It's going in completely the opposite direction to his taste. I have just realised -you know how he always thinks of himself as a mature man? How can he be when this older woman is around him? He is always going to be the little boy. With a child bride he would be constantly the older man no matter what age she was. That must really cut deep. That's it!  He's admiring her hair and her headdress. Yes he can enjoy that. And when her hair is down, it can cover her face. He is eyeing her with real detachment and a hard silent appraisal. His eyes are quite steely. What I mean by that is that they are hard, they are still, but they have a bit of a glint. They are inscrutable. He really can't trust himself to say anything because it has to be at the moment for political reasons. He still thinks that it may not go the whole way, because at the moment it's not completely agreed. He is indifferent to her, but he hates the situation. He can see her gentility, the charisma, her abilities, social and diplomatic, but they are not things that are attractive to him at all, he dislikes them. Doesn't he think they will be useful in a wife then? What I mean by that is that he doesn't want them in a wife at this stage. He wants those abilities himself and to have a wife who is a little bit less good at it. He doesn't want a wife outwitting him. Any thoughts about her as breeding stock being a she's only had two daughters? No, because it's all about the land. He feels that once he's got the marriage then that's enough to secure him the land.
I'm thinking of a contrast with his father who, when faced with a similar situation and being told he had to marry the Empress Matilda, was of the opinion that he would bonk her until he got her with child and hope that she died in childbirth.  No Henry hasn't got that attitude at all. He hasn't thought about children so far, but maybe he is just taking it for granted. Perhaps he is so confident in himself that he doesn't think about it. Perhaps he's got bastard children already.  Yes, it wouldn't be a problem for him.
After the meeting he is smiling. I can see that his dad is a little bit worried and a little bit relieved as well. He is saying ‘Well that wasn't so bad after all was it? She is a person who will make up her own mind and do what she wants to do. We don't have a lot of advisers to deal with, so we have a good chance.’
Henry has got a bit of a smile, albeit a rueful straight across one. Because quite frankly she isn't as bad as he thought she was going to be. He's a bit relieved about that, especially the smell. That seems to have made a big impression on him, because she smelt fresh, and he had thought she was going to be this old, decaying baggage. Then father and son are standing together looking out of the window...

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Part 12 Eleanor and the future Henry II

Alison and I have recently been looking at the first meeting between Henry II and Eleanor.   Many of Eleanor's biographers and many who have written novels about her have gone down the line of it being lust and passion the moment their eyes met across a crowded room.  As I continued to research down the years, I begin to wonder and to feel that this scenario was not entirely a good fit.  What Alison has accessed for me has been amazing, and is, I feel, the real deal.
We began looking at this meeting a few years ago at the RNA Conference in Leicester, where Alison accessed Eleanor and Henry when I asked her to go to that first meeting. What came across in July 2007, was not exactly that of lust at first sight, or even of great dynamism on Henry's behalf.

Here's the first meeting session from 2007:
I asked Alison to go to Eleanor of Aquitaine in Paris in 1151 when she was queen of France. The Count of Anjou, Geoffrey le Bel would have been visiting, together with his son, Henry, then 18 years old.
Alison: She has a shape and make up rather like one of the Sitwells, that kind of long-limbed elegance but not such a long face. She has her hair done in a sort of net. The net is made of – looks like metal, but it’s flexible and the mesh is really wide and the strings of metal are quite wide as well and every so often there are little jewels in that.
What colour is her hair? Can you see her hair? It’s a sort of golden colour. I would say a sort of burnished colour, quite fair.It’s difficult to put an absolute word on it, but fair. I’ll just go back from the detail and more into her character now.
She’s a very composed, centred sort of person. In this context she is very composed.
Now to her meeting with Geoffrey Count of Anjou and his son, Henry Duke of Normandy, the future Henry II. I am getting her reaction to Geoffrey Count of Anjou. I get the sense she is not at ease with him. She’s not keen on him. He’s a man she needs to deal with, but it’s not a source of pleasure for her. And his son? There’s not such a strong reaction to his son. She doesn’t seem to mind Henry so much. I think I need to go deeper into the meeting to get any more out of this.
She’s swallowed down her initial reaction. She’s re-centred herself to deal with the situation, so she can put on this very powerful front in the sense that it’s difficult to see through it. It seems very solid. In this I’d say she’s very much the diplomat. She’s looking at Geoffrey with her head slightly down with a fairly fixed smile but she’s thinking inside ‘What do you want?’ She’s weighing him up, she’s very shrewd. I feel as if the meeting is on Geoffrey’s instigation rather than hers. I don’t feel as if she has an agenda here so much as wondering what his agenda is. To find that out I need to focus on him. Go over to Geoffrey? Yes, or I can watch him through her. Yes, do that.
Geoffrey is diffusing what he wants by going from one to the other.He’s chit-chatting, he’s digressing. He’s not coming to the point at all. He’s got what he thinks are very shrewd eyes but to Eleanor they look kind of weasely. It’s like he’s fooling himself into thinking he’s shrewd and he’s thinking that this chit-chatting is doing its job as if he’s fooling her, but he’s not. Now they’re coming to the part that he’s really interested in and it’s to do with his son. So he has just brought it casually (so he thinks) into the conversation. He says ‘And this is my son. This is the jewel in the crown.'
He’s saying ‘Look at him, isn’t he fine? Wouldn’t he make anyone a good husband? Where would you ever do better? And he’s got my eyes…’ Eleanor has a little bit of a giggle herself. ‘Mmm, yes.’ She’s not committing herself or being drawn into anything. She’s not going to show her hand here. She is offering them hospitality. She’s offering them very nice food, very richly presented. She’s talking about what’s going to be going on later. There’ll be dancing later and more entertainment. There’s going to be musicians and poetry. A bard is coming and there’ll be interesting news.
An interesting thing is that she has this urge to stroke Henry’s hair.I don’t know if she’s actually going to do it but there’s a pulse of affection that comes into her. It’s a sort of mildly, motherly sort of feeling, but a pulse of affection definitely. I get the feeling that she’s taller than him as well. She wants to separate him off from his father so that they can talk on a more sensible level. So does she do that? I can feel the impulse and I don’t want to create that. I just want to watch to see what happens. Yes, she takes him to a different part of the room to look out of the window. They’re not saying much. She’s getting a bit of a feel for him. I think her information comes less from words and more from how she feels about people and the subtle things she gets about them – their body language. She sees him almost as a child. Let’s see what they say. There’s not much being said at all. She’s asking him about where he’s been recently. He seems not very forceful somehow – quite introverted. I think I’m running out of information here. So end here:

 2007 was when I began to think seriously about writing about Eleanor, even though I kept the project on the back burner.  There was a lot of food for thought in the above.  I remember shaking my head and thinking that this wasn't at all like the personality of Henry II, but then I thought it might be because he was only 18.   But then, he'd taken himself to England at 14 and wasn't exactly backwards in coming forwards.  I was intrigued, because Alison is very seldom wrong.

Now cut to the present time, and now, writing my novel about Eleanor in depth, I return to this situation.  What really happened at the first meeting of Eleanor of Aquitaine and the 18 year old future King of England? 
Go to the summer of 1151 when the future Henry II and Geoffrey of Anjou came to court for political negotiations.  Wwere there any political meetings between Henry and Eleanor?
Alison: I don’t quite understand this.  At first I saw that scene I saw at the RNA conference with Eleanor at that latticed window and looking at Henry.  Then I backed off from that and saw this very medieval looking figure.  Usually I see real figures but this one was much more stylised and looked like some carved figure, but it was leaning slightly forward.  It had a crown on and was very medieval looking and in colours of gold and red and blue.  It wasn’t a young man, so not Henry.  
Me: Perhaps it’s Henry’s tomb?  Eleanor designed his tomb.
Alison:  She says it is a glossary, I suppose  like skipping to the end and getting the essence out of the meaning of things.  Glossing over the period intervening.  I feel that she is a bit reluctanct about this.  I think she wants to come through. Yes.  She says You don’t know what this means for me and you probably will never truly understand.  This was an escape for me.  An escape from the clutch of a hand that left nothing but bruises and into a world of freedom and light as I saw it then.  Little did I know.  Beware. Beware all men, save for the few – those you give birth to, and even then be aware that they are men still.  
 It is enough for a woman to preserve her dignity in those circumstances, but it was not of my choosing.
Alison Why do you say it was not of your choosing Eleanor?
It was not my choosing to be in that position.  I chose a life of light and honour and goodness.  And I got instead a life of dishonour, cruelty, crudeness and disfavour for my honour. 
Alison: I think we are starting to get an idea of why she feels as she does. It’s very different to the tales we know.
Me: These tales are only one facet and not necessarily true. (perhaps not even likely to be true it has to be said). 
To Resume
I’m back at that room.  It is the first meeting and it’s significant.  There is an atmosphere of wariness and sizing each other up.  There’s distance between them.  It’s very political.  Again she is talking more to Geoffrey than to Henry. Occasionally she is giving Henry a good look.  Henry is very quiet.
Why is she giving Henry a good look?  She is trying to assess him.  Why?  Because this is the turkey that they are cooking! Ah, so if they are cooking the turkey, then they’ve had to go out and catch the turkey first?  Yes, but Henry hasn’t been involved in it, or involved in the meetings.
Okay, so I need to find out about the meetings between Eleanor and Geoffrey before Henry became involved.   Eleanor has just been insulted by Louis.  Geoffrey is sitting next to her at the table.  He puts his hand across near to Eleanor’s and says ‘You don’t have to put up with this.  You can come and stay with me. You will be made very welcome.’  Eleanor doesn’t find this invitation attractive because there is no honour in it, no future in it.  It’s just not of benefit to her.  It doesn’t improve the situation that she’s in and it doesn’t offer longterm benefits.  It could work to her disadvantage.
I can see that they have both got up to dance.  Whenever they meet he gives significant facial indications. He says in the end (this is little by little) ‘If you feel uncomfortable about coming, my son is of very marriageable stock.’ He is giving an indication that this could be a way out for her from the Paris court.  A clean break, a fresh start with a young man who is like a blank page.  A very young man who is going to be whatever Eleanor wants him to be.  I think this is part of the advantage of Henry.  He can still be viewed as a child to be educated and formed and that therefore Eleanor will be safe.
Alison: Oh my God, little did she know! 
Me. Henry hadn’t viewed himself as a child since he was five! 
Alison: This is like  standing on the side of a precipice and jumping off.  Total misjudgement.  I am just stunned.  This takes place over several conversations, not all in one.
How was she responding to this?  She was starting to be interested – calculating but very much non-committal.    She is assessing Henry and looking him over.
  Impressions?  She thinks him a well made, well presented young man with a capacity for nobility.  She is assessing him with her knowledge of the squires who have worked for her and seeing how they have turned out. 
If that was the first significant moment – go to another time and any conversation between her and Henry.  I can see Henry saying ‘My Lady’ and kneeling to her.  He is saying ‘My father bids you welcome.’  That’s strange.  Perhaps she has gone to Geoffrey’s room or tent.  It’s in a garden.  He has turned and he is leading her through the garden and up some outside steps onto a walkway.  It’s a really massive walkway and there are crenellations either side of it.  I don’t know where it is.
Perhaps his father was lodging somewhere and having a ‘house party’ or some such.   I have tried the words again and it is definitely ‘bids you welcome.’   Just go with it and see what happenes.
I am seeing male legs, sitting, with a tunic almost to the knee.  The legs are steeped in a bath or something.  I am feeling that Geoffrey is not able to go out and do the greetings himself because he has his feet in this tub.    To me he doesn’t feel well enough to get up.  Something is going on with his feet.  It would take a better doctor than me to suss out what it is.  It looks kind of blackish round his feet.  So that’s why Henry is doing the welcome, because Geoffrey can’t go and do that himself.  Geoffrey raises his hand and says ‘As you see I am quite weak and cannot rise to greet you.’  It is really sad for Eleanor to see the difference in his appearance.  But Eleanor keeps a really strong exterior with real fortitude and acts as if nothing is amiss, but underneath she feels really sorry for Geoffrey.  And there is real sadness that this is something that comes to all.  She is looking at Henry with sympathy and empathy.  She believes that Henry is sharing her feelings. About his father? It might be, but I held back from that because I couldn't feel his feelings and I didn't get the instinct that they were what she was expecting. They weren’t quite in tune. I'll check. Henry is impatient. Henry is really frustrated at being held back, are being held down because his dad can't move. Henry wants to go off on his own. He is frustrated that he is being left to care for his father like a nurse - although he's not.  It’s his feeling. He doesn't sense the seriousness of it.
 I think perhaps at 18 you don't; you think your parents are fairly immortal. And Geoffrey was only 19 when Henry was born, so it's more of a big brother mate sort of thing. So it's more like Oh dear he can't come out boozing tonight. Yes that's exactly it, and also the attitude that a real man gets over this kind of thing. So Henry’s brightness isn't a brave brightness, it's a not understanding brightness.
Now that the three of them are together, is there any more discussion about the relationship? Not from Geoffrey, Geoffrey is feeling pretty weak. And actually, strangely, a bit reluctant to hand Eleanor over. He is enjoying her attention for himself. There's a bit of rivalry between Henry and Geoffrey.
One of the chroniclers who was out to make mischief said that Geoffrey told Henry that he wasn't to trust Eleanor because he Geoffrey had slept with her.  I don't know how true the remark was - whether it was actually said. Could we find out? Geoffrey really wants to have it known, he tries to lay it on thick that this is a flirtation at the very least, because it does his reputation no harm whatsoever.
 Did Geoffrey ever say to Henry at any time, don't trust Eleanor because I have slept with her? I am with Geoffrey and I'm feeling pretty ill and pretty sick. Quite bilious. His sight is not good. I feel that he wants to give the benefit of his experience to his son. It's like leaving final instructions for looking after the castle, looking after the keys. He is thinking of his own experience and he is saying ‘Always my son be on top of your wife, be she ever so royal - he is definitely thinking of Matilda here. 'Because she will undoubtedly want to ride you as she will all men. Believe me, I know this from experience. So don't trust her an inch.’ Really he is talking about Matilda but he is saying it in Henry's terms so that Henry is applying it to Eleanor. Always make sure she is fruitful and bears sons, otherwise she is no wife. Do not allow her to deceive you, for yours is the realm and the kingdom, not hers. It is for you to rule and for her to provide what you rule. This is the way of God and do not forget it my son, for I leave this in trust to you as it was left in trust to me by my father alone. Ah, there's a recipe for misogyny! Obviously it could be taken whichever way you want. Yes, Gerald of Wales could turn this into something really nasty
Henry is really emotional. He has finally come to realise that his father is not going to last. He is ready to agree to any pearls of wisdom his father passes on to him, because these will be the last ones. He will no longer have that standard in his life, that solidity that his father provided. He does feel such love for his father. It's not turned to grief yet but it's kind of a blossoming love. It's slightly nostalgic, slightly painful, and for that reason taking all his focus and attention. Because of that focus he's paying a lot of attention to what's being said. You know how Henry is with learning. When he is intent about learning he learns very well. It certainly explains Henry's mindset later on
 Was there any interaction between Henry and Eleanor at all? No. It's all done properly, when it comes to negotiations it’s all done by messenger.  That's interesting, because some writers have suggested that Henry and Eleanor indulged in a lustful bonk-fest at the Parisian court at that time. 
Do you know, I think that is the last thing Eleanor would ever want.
She says you are so right.
That is cruel. 
The passionate sexual mindset at first sight promulgated on small evidence makes me very uneasy.
 Henry was very much of the opinion that we've seen before. That the marriage is very political and that if you want an emotional relationship you look elsewhere. He is quite clear about that.

There was a lot more to cover than in this session, including more of Henry's response to that first meeting and why he was so quiet,  but I'll post that next time around.