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.