But, just as every slivery lining has its cloud, so the reverse is true. The scales were lifted from Young Henry’s eyes. ‘Tell me what to do!’’ he cried.
Enter a Lusignan, Geoffrey of that name
Send for the worthy marshal
You are right said the king I’ll do as you say…search every land for the Marshal till you find him
Well, I can tell you I am choking up. Marshal was found, and like a happy puppy came rushing back to find his beloved master and protégé. He was met first by his old pal Baldwin de Bethune
We’ve been starving, Marshal, waiting for you!
Friends reunited, this is so beautiful. Somewhere around April or May 1183, Henry and William were able once more to fall on each others’ necks. Quite interesting that it was Geoffrey de Lusignan, or ‘Uncle Patrick slayer’ as he was known in the Marshal household, who was the one to speak for William. Might explain a thing or two later.
By the time Marshal re joined the young king, the war had reached a critical point. Young Henry had been wandering around Aquitaine taking the homage of lords directly. Homage which was of course really owed to his younger brother Richard, and this might therefore broadly be described as a little rude. Turning the other cheek was not a personal characteristic of Richard Coeur de Lion, so of course things got physical, and bodies were felt to move. Henry the YK was holed up in Limoges facing a Henry II Richard Coeur de Lion combo that I, personally, would have tried to avoid but interestingly enough the YK’s pecker was continuing to rise. The combo had been forced to retreat from Limoges, dished, I tell you, dished, dazed and confused.
Henry did have a problem however, and that problem was composed of the what Marcus Tullius Cicero described as ‘Nervos Belli’, the sinews of war. Money. There’s nothing like Latin to make you sound good is there. Anyway, Henry’s ability to tax and spend was rather restricted to the spend bit, but the answer was at hand – there was loads of wealth sitting around in monasteries and churches. Forbidden fruit maybe, but when the devil drives…and so Henry and William plucked the forbidden fruit from God’s tree, and pillaged the monasteries. If you think back to the interview with Elizabeth Chadwick, Elizabeth reckoned this pillaging of God’s treasures in a religious age, even if William was no more than conventionally pious, was deeply felt by our hero. Note Bene.
So, you know, things were not going badly. The greatest come back since Lazarus was on the cards.
Uzerche is a little town in a strategic location about 35 miles south from Limoges; it was a place of pilgrimage dedicated to the Spanish Saint Eulalie, which also happens to be the name of Roderick Spode’s lingerie shop, should you happen to be a Wodehouse fan. In the dying days of May 1183, the YK was on his way back to Limoges, but he had a terrible day spending a fair proportion of it on the toilet. While no doubt he tried to believe he’d just over-indulged, it was soon clear he’d contracted the curse of the medieval soldier – dysentery. William and the YK’s entourage tried to carry him back to Limoges, and got as far as the castle of Martel on the banks of the river Dordogne. But they could go no further.
Marshal, dear guide and mentor said the king when God wills it, it must be so. It seems I’m now to die
…You have always been loyal to me, whole-hearted in your faithfulness. So I bequeath my cross to you that you may bear it to the Holy Sepulchre on my behalf, to fulfil my vow to God
So said the Young King. By cross, by the way, he did not mean a woody thing, he meant the cloak on which the YK had sewn a crusaders cross, swearing to travel to the Holy Land – a vow he would now be unable to fulfil, and that he therefore bestowed on his pal. The YK had a few more histrionics to play out. He had himself laid on a bed of ashes, with the noose of a criminal around his neck, a stone for a pillow and a hair shirt. And decked out like a penitent and monk night closed on his eyes. It is maybe fortunate for the drama, that he didn’t make a bit of come back at the point.
His death left a huge hole in William’s life. And indeed, to be more practical, in his career, but it seems more than likely that the Young King would always be the lord closest to William’s heart, and his time at his side the time when he had a lovely balance of responsibility, influence and fun. He would have more power later in his career – but the stakes would be far greater. He would no doubt find his moments of fun, but the easy life of tournamenting and messing about with the boys was over for good.
Given that the YK had spent the last few months pillaging religious sites to pay for mercenaries to lay waste to the livelihoods of the common people, what happened next has something of an irony. As his funeral cortege moved through Poitou and Anjou, the YK’s body was received with grief and wailings, to the extent that a cult began to spring up around him – lepers were cured, a column of light appeared over the coffin, all sorts. The size of the crowd around the column grew to such a crush, that progress became impossible. So, they had to take the practical way out, and the YK was buried in the cathedral at Le Mans. When the fuss had died down, they then dug him up again and took him to Rouen.
Now William was in a bit of a pickle again. Had I been his father I would have given him the advice I have strenuously avoided giving my own brood and tell him that it was time to stop having fun and get a career and pension scheme together. Worse William was in his mid 30s by now, which as every teenager knows is pretty much the same as being dead anyway. But William, not necessarily in character a we’ll see later in his career, William at this point was moved by greater thoughts and a high vision than just getting on. He was determined to retrieve those vows. It may well be that the indignities he had visited on religious shrines did indeed worry him; it could be genuine love of the man who had just died; and he was a loyal man who had made a commitment. So instead of trying to rescue his career and find himself a new lord, Henry II hopefully, he decided that it was to the Holy Land that he would indeed go.
Before he left, he got himself an interview with Henry the Old King, to gain permission to leave the realm, as was required. Henry struck with him a very Angevin deal; he gave him 100 Angevin pounds. Why Angevin I hear you ask? Because 100 Angevin pounds was only worth 25 English pounds, and so was a bit paltry. And in return he took two of William’s horses worth twice that. So…thanks a bundle boss. But, the all important kicker, far more valuable than a hundred such horses – was that Henry promised to take him into his household if and when he returned.
The coverage of Marshal’s trip to the Holy Land in the histoire is something of a gem.
In Syria he performed more feats of prowess more acts of daring and largesse, more fine deeds than anyone else had achieved in seven!…But I wasn’t there to witness them and have never found anyone who could tell me the half of it…
So…not entirely convincing. What was going on? It could be that actually William had a terrible time in the Holy Land, was reluctant to tell anyone anything about it. The histoire often leaves stuff out about Marshal that doesn’t reflect well on the hero. A more sophisticated argument is to consider the time the histoire was written, which was in the 1220s when things had not gone well for Outremer, when folks were getting a little grumpy and cynical about the whole crusading thing, accusing the crusaders states of going native and dancing with the devil – as well as continual failure to win back Jerusalem. So, maybe the histoire decided to just move on. It could well be that William just did what he set out to do and then came back, and so there was little to tell. But it’s difficult to avoid the suspicion that the histoire airbrushed something out; the extravagent extent of leave taking of family and friends suggested he planned to stay longer. And when he got there, you would have thought the temptation to get involved would had been immense.
It was after all an interesting period in the holy land. The crusaders’ success in 1089 had been built not just on enthusiasm but division in the Mulsim world; and one of the great names of history had gone most of the way to putting an end to that division. That man was of course a Kurd called An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, Saladin, though a bit like Alexander and Philip V, the forgotten man in the story was a predecessor Nūr ad-Dīn who did much to unite the Muslim world. and continue the work of his father who had destroyed the Crusader state of Edessa. The Crusader states were therefore under a lot of pressure, and just to add to their trouble the king of Jerusalem was a leper, Baldwin. At Baldwin’s side was an old acquaintance of William’s – Guy de Lusignan, one of the Lusignan along with Geoffrey responsible for sticking a lance in Uncle Patrick’s back accidentally on purpose. For the moment Guy was doing a decent job of not letting the more headstrong of his lords provoke Saladin or respond too rashly; it was a time of careful campaigning, of move and counter move, a city besieged and raised, a threat and withdrawal. Either way a warrior would have been desperately welcome.
We don’t know anything about how William made his way to the Holy Land; there were two routes, overland by Constantinople, or by sea. The sea route was quicker, so it’s probable William took a ship; either from a channel port, or by travelling overland to the south of France, and probably took no more than one or two companions or servants. Whatever else he did, his feet would have taken him on a journey through the holy land, with a journey steadily upwards to Jerusalem, which is 3,000 feet above sea level, and pilgrims came to see that ascent as deeply symbolic of their own spiritual journey. His path would have taken him to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and one of the greatest treasures – the True Cross. And there he must have taken the YK’s cloak, and fulfilled his vow for his dead lord and friend.
Ok, so although all of this and pretty much anything else is complete guesswork, there are a few solid things we know. Number one was that he made contact with the Templars while there on the Temple Mount; we know that the Hospitallers and Templars respected William. While there, William probably became part of their order, and he carried away with him some silken cloths which he kept carefully for the rest of his life, only to be brought out as he lay dying. And secondly, he appears to have taken leave of Guy de Lusignan in person when he left. This sort of shuts the Uncle murdering casebook. It is a little confusing; William has had positive associations with both Geoffrey and Guy de Lusignan, so where we would have expected feud, there is none. Sometime over the years since his murder, a reconciliation had been made.
That’s it really. Marshal was 2 years in Palestine, and it’s all very disappointing, and if you are listening Mr Marshal Sir, what we expected of you was to appeared at the last moment at the battle of the Horns of Hattin two years later in July 6 1187, scattered the forces of Saladin by feat of arms and rescued the embattled Crusader army. But no; you came back before that balloon went up and Jerusalem was lost. Oh well, you can’t have everything I guess.
So, William made landfall back in the land of his fathers somewhere between the Autumn of 1185 or Spring 1186. And beat a path to the door of king Henry II to try to cash in his promise of employment.