Friday, August 30, 2013

One more Kinfolk story...
"The Fair Maid of Brabant"
Adeliza grew up on the romantic story of  William  the Conqueror and his bride Matilda.  She hoped someday to marry and have such a love such as theirs.  At sixteen, she knew her beauty was spoken of among her father's friends so that she had begun to be called "The Fair Maid of Brabant."  She was admired in the Imperial court of Normandy as well.  To some girls that would be enough, but Adeliza knew there was more to a good marriage than outward beauty.  If that's what caught a man's eye alone, he might be tempted by another pretty face that came along. No, she wanted true love that would last a lifetime.  The girl of Louvain looked longingly out her window as if trying to see her future on the horizon.  Her dreams were interrupted by a knock on her door.
"Your father wishes to have you join him downstairs."
"Does it have to do with the letter that was just delivered here?"
"Well, he did have a letter in his hand when he sent me to summon you."
"Thank you.  You may tell him I will be right down."
Adeliza was puzzled.  Her father had been staring at her more often since their last visit to court as if she was a precious vase about to be purchased.  He had introduced her to many potential suitors, but none captured her attention, especially not the King himself, King Henry of Normandy and England.  His wife was spoken of highly, some even spoke of her sainthood after her death, but unfortunately the King had not such a reputation.  Though he was a son of William the Conqueror and Matilda, he was nothing like them.  Adeliza had heard all the gossip about his unfaithfulness.  She did not appreciate his gaze over her at her father's introduction.  Besides, he was more than thirty years her senior.  Surely, it was too soon after his wife's death for him to consider marriage anyway.  She shuddered at the thought.  Of course, such a thing was not to be thought of,  but Adeliza couldn't convince the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.
"Come sit down, Adeliza.  I have something of great consequence to discuss with you."
She felt light headed and sank into a chair.  Young women of her age usually had their marriages arranged for them by their father.  Adeliza felt a tremor shoot through her.  This is what she had been dreading.
"I have received a letter from a very important person, one of the most powerful and riches men in the world."
"King Henry?" Adeliza murmured under breath.

"We are most honored above all in two kingdoms.  The King has asked for your hand in marriage."
Adeliza whipped her gaze up to her father's.  "Please don't make me."

Seldom had she seen her father this angry.  He seethed, "Of course, I won't make you.  You WILL do this of your own accord.  No one can refuse the King!"
Adeliza became very quiet as a dream died in her heart.  Then she ventured, "But it has only been two months since his wife's death." 
Her father's chuckle soothed the tension in the room.  "Oh, so you are only concerned about the King's grief.  How very thoughtful of you, child."  With a wave of his hand he dismissed her.  "I will speak to you more when you have settled your mind about the changes that are coming." 
The dutiful daughter chose one more tactic to reach her father's heart.  "But he has known so many women.  It is a shame whispered about in every court."
"Perhaps he will leave you alone then if you find him so repulsive, that is after you bear him a son."
Ten tedious years had passed.  King Henry seldom let her out of his sight especially after his ultimate grief after the sinking of the White Ship that had taken his son, the only legitimate heir to the throne, down to the bottom of the sea.   The King was desperate for a son who could inherit the throne, but Adeliza remained barren.  Wherever he went, she had to be by his side.  Bearing an heir was her purpose, raison d'etre.  He saw her worthless for anything else except as an ornament.  It was obvious.  She had failed him.  These were her thoughts as she toyed with her food at a feast in Normandy. 
"These lamprey eels are delicious.  They don't taste the same in England.   It reminds me of my childhood here in Normandy."  The King spoke with his mouth full while Adeliza pushed hers around her plate without tasting them.  
At sixty-two the King was showing his age.  He seemed to have given up hope of producing an heir as he had begun preparing his legitimate daughter Matilda for the crown.  Adeliza had always liked the Empress, but she had her ears open enough to know that it would be controversial for a woman to be crowned as ruler over England.  The Kingdom would be split.  Adeliza sighed, but ate only a little fruit.  The riches of the world could not replace her yearning for a child.  King Henry wanted an heir.  She wanted a baby.  She still had her bloom in her twenties, while the burdens of the two kingdoms had worn her husband down to where food was his delight and little else. 
That night, Adeliza was woken up by her maid.  "It's the King, my Queen.  He has taken very ill, and I am sad to report that he is suffering gravely."
"Adeliza threw on the offered robe and ran barefoot to her husband's side.  He was indeed in the grip of misery.  "Pray for my soul, Adeliza.  I am not ready."
She could not speak, but nodded and wiped his forehead as he retched.  He lasted only a few ghastly days before the end from food poisoning.  Adeliza did not know how to grieve her husband of ten years, but went through the motions as expected of her.  Fortunately, all the attention was on the conflict between the King's daughter's claim to the throne being challenged by his nephew Stephen.  No one hardly noticed the young Queen Dowager. 
She returned to England for his burial and remained in the convent of Wilton to say her prayers.  She was repulsed by the thought of spending the rest of her life cloistered away no matter how the anarchy seized the kingdom out side their walls.  She sought refuge in her home at the Arundel Castle.  Fortunately, both the Empress and Stephen knew she was not a political threat, and was allowed to stay out of the fray.  Matilda and Adeliza  were close, but their friendship was not a threat politically to Stephen.

As Civil War raged, Adeliza's dreams began to rise again from the dead.  A handsome courtier's son William d'Aubigny, had been most attentive and kind when the queen came back to England a widow.  It mattered not that he was not of royal blood.  In him she found the understanding and consideration in his chivalrous conduct that she had found lacking in her arranged marriage to the King.  The young Queen Dowager found herself royally head over heels in love with a man beneath her station, even younger than her years, but not below her friendship.  He was not without wealth, but it mattered little as Adeliza was one of the wealthiest in the realm.   Even though they were politically divided-he was for Stephen while she was for the Empress-their marriage was as harmonious as what she had dreamed of as a young girl.  After three years as a widow, she was wed. They filled Arundel Castle with  seven children completing their happiness.

The Fair Maiden of Louvain was the Countess of Arundel, but was mostly called the French Queen or Queen of Louvain though officially she was the Queen Dowager of England. If the crown fits, wear it.  Just remember, the sparkle comes from the heart, not the jewels you wear. 
The Old Testament speaks of a word "hesed" sometimes translated as "to cherish."
We were created to crave being cherished.  It means all God's tender mercy,
His lovingkindess is turned toward you.
"And I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
in lovingkindness and in compassion (hesed).
And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness."
Hosea 2:19


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