Sunday, February 24, 2013

Gerald of Wales goes Tabloid journalist.


This is dear old Gerald of Wales at his most gossipy and vicious.  I'm sure he'd be a feature writer for the Daily Mail if he was around today!

When the two year war was over (1174) and the fighting and persecution had stopped, the King, attributing his success like another Pharaoh not to divine mercy but to his own strength, hardened his heart and returned incorrigibly to his usual abyss of vice, or rather, to an even worse one, since, going downhill things can only deteriorate.
How Eleanor of France behaved when she was across the sea in Palestine, and how she conducted herself on her return, towards her first husband and the second; and how her children aroused such hopes when young but withered away; all those things are well enough known.
Or two of her daughters, the Sicilian and the Saxon, the first died without children and the seconds without happiness, one without fruit, the other not without misery. As far as the others are concerned the Spanish branch, the German one and the Breton, subsequent ages will be in a position to tell their fate, let us not go through them all, as some may find it offensive. It is to be hoped that, God willing, some good may come from the fortunate Spanish marriage. it is very well known that her two daughters by Louis King of the French, one married Henry count of Champagne, the other to his Brother Theobald count of Blois, both failed of their fruit in Palestine and in the land of the Greeks.
To demonstrate how King Henry’s stock was blighted, we only have to remember that the Emperor Henry V, to whom King Henry the first's daughter and King Henry the second’s Mother Matilda was married, for the sake of worldly ambition captured and held in chains first his natural father and afterwards his spiritual father, namely PopePaschal; resigning the empire he went into a hermitage in Western Britain near Chester, and lived a holy life of repentance until his death. When the Empress Matilda came home her father gave her in marriage to Geoffrey count of Anjou, though her husband was still alive (provably untrue) and Geoffrey had sons by her of whom two quickly vanished, nipped in the bud despite the great hopes held of them and the third began better than he ended.
Then again, Count Geoffrey of Anjou when he was seneschal of France (no proof of this. Gerald is possibly mixing him up (deliberately?) with one of Eleanor’s Potievan lords) took advantage of Queen Eleanor for which reason he often warned his son Henry, telling him above all not to touch her, they say (Who is they? Again strong suspicion of untruth emerges) because she was his lord’s wife, and because he had known for himself. As the final culmination of these outrages it is related that King Henry presumed to sleep adulterously with the said queen of France, taking her from his own lord and marrying her himself. How could anything fortunate, I ask, emerge from these copulations?
Again note ‘it is related.' No names no packdrill. This is skilled tabloid hackery. Henry and Eleanor would have to be round the bend and out the other side to have sex with each other at the French court. They were both political players with agendas. Henry often did things to get the better of Louis by playing political hardball, but he would not violate certain feudal tenets – one of the reasons he was unsuccessful in taking Toulouse in 1159. He would not attack his overlord unless his overlord attacked first. And the same goes for Henry’s moral behaviour in Paris. Eleanor too was way too savvy and experienced to indulge in a few quick screws with her husband’s chancy 19 year old vassal. In my opinion of course. Your mileage may vary.


Enamel plaque dating to circa 1150, probably  from an altar front.  It's the cleansing of Namaan, a Syrian general who was cured of leprosy after bathing in the River Jordan.



2 comments:

Lisa Palone said...

Everyone feels better after a bath ;)

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

I can't help it, but I love Old Gerald's writing style! I highly recommend his description of Henry and Eleanor's sons (especially Henry the Young King and here- let me warn you- Gerald is not always at his gossipy and malicious best) :-)