Blood Of The Lion

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August, 1286 Paris

King Philippe IV Capet

The crown was finally his, he had been formally invested as king only a few days ago, and it felt good to finally have the crown atop his head without risking the wrath of god. His father, King Philippe had died in Aragon some months ago, trying to win the throne of that kingdom for his younger brother Charles, a venture that had ultimately cost the king his life and the treasury lots of valuable money. Philippe often wondered if his brother’s ambition would bring ruin to their family, he knew only too well how much his brother hungered for a crown to sit atop his head, and he worried of the cost this could well extol on the kingdom’s finances. Already the venture in Aragon was beginning to come back to haunt them, money was growing less and Philippe had to think of ways to ensure that it did not disappear completely.

It was for this reason that Philippe had called together a meeting of his councillors and advisors. It was going to be a hard time for the kingdom and he needed to know how much was needed for the venture he had planned. He fixed his gaze on the chancellor Guillaume d'Ercuis, a man whom he had known for most of his life and trusted. “Tell me chancellor, the war in Aragon was a costly venture, all gathered here know that, but just how much cost did it take on our coffers? Is there money left to ensure the stability of our borders?”

The chancellor, a man whom Philippe knew to have patience, looked at his figures in front of him and then at him his face showing a grimace. “Alas sire, it seems that His Highness, Your Father, spent much and more of the royal coin on this venture. And as such, once the payment of soldiers and food stuffs and other supplies is taken into account, it seems the treasury is significantly dimmed.”

Philippe had been expecting such news, and yet the severity in which the chancellor says it in makes his chest flutter with nerves. “How significantly is the treasury dimmed chancellor? Are there funds enough to ensure that we do not need to plead with the English as we have done for these many years?”

Guillaume shifts slightly. “There is about enough to ensure that should a quick engagement be required, such a thing might be done sire. But a prolonged war? I do not think that is advisable either financially or politically.”

Philippe bristles at the man’s tone and responds. “I know well what the costs could be of such a venture before we are financially ready. I am not my father Guillaume.” He pauses then and looks at his brother Charles, just come to manhood and already showing ambition beyond his station. “Aragon was something done for good, and ending in ill. We cannot afford such a thing, I merely wish to know which course would be best for ensuring revenues increase. Increased taxation is the obvious way to go about doing such a thing, and yet, that would only anger the lords more and disturb the peasantry, after the years of war of my father’s reign we cannot afford that. Then there is the option of increasing prices on our trade with other kingdoms. This, this is the option that looks most appealing.”

Robert, Count of Artois spoke then his voice strong. “A wise move Sire, for it would ensure that our trading partners, if they truly value our goods, which most seem to do, then they will be willing to pay that extra price. It is after all the way of the world. We must rebuild, but expecting the people to suffer the burden does no good. For they are the ones who can quickly unmake us.”

Philippe nods, reassured, that a man such as the count supports his proposal. His chancellor though looks sceptical. “I am not sure Sire. Increasing the prices of the goods that France sells could well put others off. After all there are other places where one may get wine from, though the kingdom of Italy is disjointed and has not been strong for some time. The crown’s allies might well balk at the thought of paying higher than standard price for something, considering the recent failure in Aragon.”

Aragon, a shadow that will hang over them for some time it seems. Philippe looks at his brother, and sees anger there in the young man’s eyes. His brother speaks then his tone filled with bluster. “Sire, you are right, the price of our goods must go up. Taxing the barons will only make them angrier, and we saw what happened when the barons did not approve of methods used by the crown in that land over the water. We do not want that here. The crown’s allies, if they are smart will realise the sense in paying these slightly higher prices, for the mutual benefit that we all get from it is stronger.”

“And what benefit is that my prince?” the chancellor asks. “The higher the price of our goods, the lower the demand from our allies. Why should they look toward the crown of France, when somewhere else is providing the same product at a cheaper rate? We cannot afford to do that.”

Philippe hears his brother snort. “Then what would you suggest chancellor? That we go and ask for loans from the Jews? Or even the Lombards.” His brother snorts again. “They are more than likely to remove our rates and put higher prices on the crown for their ill begotten money.”

At this Philippe’s uncle Robert, Count of Clement, speaks his voice slow but thoughtful. “Sometimes one must dance with a snake in order to procure the cure of what ails you. If the crown needs money to ensure further security, then perhaps it is best that the crown looks toward the snake, the Lombards know where they get their protection from right now. They would be foolish not to ensure that there are funds readily available.”

Philippe nods, this was something he had been considering. It was not an option he liked, but it might well further his aim of consolidating the crown’s power. Taking time to consider his words he finally speaks. “Your council is welcomed my lords, and for that I thank you. The final decision does rest with me of course, and as such having considered the available options have reached a decision. It might not be most palatable of decisions, but chancellor, you shall go and seek the Lombards in their home and you shall speak to them about terms for a loan. When you have gotten various terms report back, and we shall ensure that this is to our advantage.”

The chancellor nods his head and says. “Of course Sire, when do you wish for me to set off?”

Philippe considers this for a moment and then says. “You shall set off this afternoon, ready your affairs once this meeting is finished and be gone by the time the bells ring.” The man nods and Philippe continues. “Now, I know of the ties between England and Castille, through my cousin’s marriage to Queen Eleanor, and considering the recent upheavals that have occurred in that region and the strength of King Sancho, it would not be surprising to me if my cousin looked for an alliance there. Considering Castile’s proximity to Navarre, this is something that troubles me greatly. Tell me Charles what information have you gathered?”

Philippe suspects that his cousin King Edward of England would have followed through on an alliance that his brother in law King Alfonso had promised him many years ago, and the thought makes him worry. Combined, those two kingdoms will be a threat that might be too much for him to handle. His brother takes his time to respond and when he does, his voice is soft. “My sources report that the alliance has indeed been sealed sire. It seems King Sancho was very amenable to allying with his uncle through marriage. No doubt he hopes to gain the territory of Navarre from the crown and use it to his own purposes.”

Philippe grits his teeth then and says. “An alliance is not the worst thing, but it most certainly is not the best thing. Those two kingdoms combined are very powerful. We shall need to tread carefully now. Tell me Charles, what word your sources have brought with them from their time in the border lands.”

His brother is silent a moment, contemplative and then he says. “It seems that the nobles in Gascony and in Aquitaine have begun arming themselves. Most likely on Edward of England’s orders. It seems the King of England took your message to heart, and is now preparing for war.”

Philippe is silent a moment and then says. “He is anticipating my first move. He believes that because I am young I will make a rash mistake, and that when I do he will act, and then so shall Castille.”

Philippe sees his brother nod. “It would appear so Sire. King Edward is no fool, he knows that sooner or later war will come. It is the only way to ensure that the crown’s lands are secure and there is no external threat. Truly the man should come and swear fealty to you as his overlord, but he is too proud to do so.”

Philippe looks at his brother briefly before turning his attention to the chancellor who takes the cue and speaks. “It would seem so sire. And yet there is always the peaceful way to force King Edward’s hand. The crown holds, through Your Majesty’s marriage to Her Majesty the queen, Champagne and Brie, these are important trading points. King Edward would be a fool to risk cutting of trade with the crown and those areas. If an embargo, or a warning were to be sent he would be forced to come to the table.”

Philippe looks at the chancellor and then says. “I do not think so. My cousin is too smart to allow such a thing to deter him. If he feels that passive aggression will lead to my hand falling down, then he will continue onward with his method. I cannot allow that to happen. He must be shown that he is still a vassal lord despite that crown he wears. We must look toward securing our own alliances. Castille is too great a power to challenge singlehandedly.”

There is silence in the room then, as they all consider the various options that could be possible. Eventually his brother speaks. “We could look toward the Vatican Sire. After all as King Edward’s overlord you have the word of god behind you. A papal order would force King Edward to acknowledge that right and for him to bend the knee to you.”

The thought of going to the Vatican makes Philippe both cringe inside, but also slightly hopeful. He wonders. “His Holiness Honorius is someone who does not look kindly on those who create chaos. Perhaps this might be the time to send word to him of King Edward’s intentions. And yet we require more evidence before we send such a thing. I will not be found to be a liar before one such as His Holiness nor God.”

There is another moment of silence then as they all consider what he has said. Eventually his uncle Robert speaks. “If I might Sire?” Philippe nods and his uncle continues. “It is possible that perhaps we force King Edward’s hand. If we make it seem as if we are to make a move but only go to tend to our lands, well then the fault is with King Edward. And we know that Castille and Aragon have never gotten along, Aragon rightfully belongs to Prince Charles, and should aggression occur there, it would be in His Holiness’ best interests to act on your side.”

Philippe considers this. “Begin making inquiries into this Charles. As our uncle says, Aragon is yours by His Holiness’ decree. You are the man for this job, ensure that it is done properly and rewards shall come your way. But work in the shadows for now, we do not want too many eyebrows raised. Edward must act of his own accord, he cannot think he is being drawn into something.”

His brother nods. “Of course sire. I shall begin working at once.”

Philippe raises hand then and says. “There is one more issue that must needs be discussed.” He pauses a moment. “The issue of my mother by marriage. My father married his second wife Maria of Brabant to ensure that the succession was secure. That was a wise move, and yet the woman has begun to grow ideas above her station. It is time that her influenced was lessened and that another husband was found for her.”

The count of Artois speaks then. “Perhaps a marriage to a loyal vassal Your Majesty. That way an eye can be kept on the Queen Dowager and ensure that she does not try to do anything that could damage the crown or its reputation. The stain of the suspicion around Your Royal brother Prince Louis still haunts the court.”

Philippe grimaces slightly at the mention of his brother, he was only a boy when his brother died, and yet he still remembers the tension in the air when that day had come. He looks at the Count and says firmly. “She shall be wed off once these affairs with King Edward are dealt with. I want her kept under close watch and I want my brothers to be placed under my wife’s responsibility. The less influence she has over them the better we shall all be.”

His uncle speaks. “I shall see to it Sire. The Queen Dowager shall not be allowed to leave without your permission.”

Philippe nods. “Good. I want this done without any problems uncle. She is not being accused of anything, it is merely a precaution to prevent any attempts by those who grew disaffected with my father. There is no need for force to be used unless she resists.”

He looks at his brother then and notices that Charles is fighting back a smirk, they both know what their step mother will do when his uncle’s men come for her. His uncle merely bows his head and says. “Of course Sire. Where do you wish for her to be kept?”

Philippe considers for a moment and then says. “Keep her in the northern rooms. That way she might see the way the sun raises and she might hear her children. But she shall not be able to plot or scheme. And that way we might all be a bit safer. She is to be treated honourably, she is a guest, not a prisoner. Remember that uncle.”

Stirling Castle

Thorfin Thorfinson

Thorfin found the court and the kingdom of Scotland to be a very interesting place. Coming from Norway, it was certainly very different. There was a sense of unity in King Eric’s court that Thorfin felt was not entirely the case here. His king’s brother in law seemed to be an intimidating young man, and there was a charisma to him that certainly inspired fear in his lords, many of whom were a great deal older than him. Though he sensed that some of them resented that fear, and that it came more from the King’s title than anything he had actually done. The court was a place that felt as if after a long period it was coming back together and uniting behind this young man who had been thrust into power early. It was something of a confusion for Thorfin. And yet as he looked at the king, he felt a sense of presence in those eyes, and he knows that his king, King Eric would feel the same.

“You are enjoying your time here so far Sir Thorfin?” the king enquires.

Thorfin looks into the king’s eyes and feels as if he is looking into the beginning of a new age, he blinks once and then says. “I am, most definitely Your Majesty. The court has been nothing but welcoming and of course the company has been most excellent.”

A look of pride briefly flashes across the young king’s face before he replies. “That is good. You must find it very different to how court within my brother in law’s court is.”

Thorfin is uncertain as to how to respond but eventually says. “There are differences yes Your Majesty. There is less of a feel of the old Norse traditions here, which does of course make sense, seeing as we are not in the Norseland. Yet there is also a sense of pride in the heritage that this kingdom has. It is good to see once more Your Majesty.”

The King nods. “Yes, I have often thought that perhaps there was time to make a change. We are not from France after all. It is good to honour one’s heritage and culture. Only then can we truly understand ourselves. Something I know King Eric appreciates. Tell me, how do my brother in law and niece fair? They are well I trust?”

Thorfin considers for a moment before replying. “They are very well thank you, Your Majesty. Princess Margaret is hale and healthy filled with an inquisitive mind she wishes to know everything about everyone, and she never stops until she does. His Royal Highness King Eric truly does adore her, and is keeping well himself. He had some minor issues before but they are settled now.”

“Very good. It is always good to hear when family is doing well. Would that my sister was still alive. But alas God saw fit for her to join him. Now, I have heard word from some of my lords that ships from King Eric’s kingdom have been seen prowling through my waters. I would hear what reasoning my brother in law gives for this.” The king of Scotland asks his voice ominous.

Thorfin swallows slightly and then responds. “His Highness asked me before I departed, that I tell you that he had no part in whatever those ships you, or your lords see are doing. He has offered not sanction for them to do as they are doing, and offers full alliance in supporting you, Your Majesty as well as the Lords of the Western Isles. He wishes to continue the bonds of friendship formed after the Treaty of Perth. He does not wish for further war Your Majesty.”

The young king looks at him thoughtfully a moment and then says. “Very well. I admit that I did not think it likely that King Eric had anything to do with these ships. They are no doubt rogues who have come trying to claim some fortune or the other. I shall take great pleasure in removing them from my shores. As to the treaty itself, it has set a good precedent, but of course with the changing tides, it has become ever more important to ensure that the conflicts of the past do not arise again. A meeting with King Eric is something that I do most desire.”

Thorfin nods. “King Eric is also desperate for such talks to begin as well Your Majesty. He wishes to ensure that the Treaty of Perth was not in vain, and that our two kingdoms can remain in harmony as time continues. After all it would not be right for us to see the treaty end and for pointless wars to begin. Not when we both have our own enemies to deal with.”

King David nods. “That is most certainly true, and whilst I know that you have come to enjoy the festivities of my wedding, there are some other details that we must needs discuss before the true happiness can begin. A formalisation of the meeting with King Eric would be most ideal, perhaps at Orkney, where we can stand and talk as king to king, and where we might both feel comfortable.”

Thorfin considers this for a moment and then replies. “I believe that this is something His Majesty, King Eric, would also be agreeable to. Orkney is a place where both he and you, Your Majesties can sit and talk like the true kings you both are. Without fear of reproachment and without fear of being interrupted, for I know that the Earl of Caithness, his lordship Jón Magnússon, will not allow for any to trouble both Your Majesties whilst you discuss the terms of a new agreement.”

Seeing the look of satisfaction on King David’s face, Thorfin feels a flutter of pride run through him. His first true diplomatic mission of importance seems to be going well. This is something of a new thing for him, and so when the King speaks he listens intently. “I know that there are things King Eric will wish for, and I would hear them now so that I might consider them before we formally set the date for our meeting.”

Thorfin looks at the King’s face, and sees a hint of expectation there, he takes a deep breath and says. “His Majesty, King Eric, did say as he did in the letter I gave you upon my arrival Your Majesty, that he wishes that when the time comes, for his daughter the Princess Margaret to receive an inheritance in her mother’s homeland as was promised to her, by your royal father, His Royal Highness King Alexander. King Eric does not mind which lands are granted to his daughter, so long as they are fitting for a lady of her station.”

King David looks thoughtful at this before he finally says. “Truthfully, this is a perfect suggestion for me Sir Thorfin. For it means that I now have the ground for a plan that has long been working in my mind. Ireland the place where my family has history, is under English occupation and that is something that I find to be a grievous insult. It is time that that wrong was righted. I intend to ensure that this is achieved, and if King Eric is willing, I will not only give my niece her inheritance here, but also her rightful inheritance in Ireland.”

Thorfin is surprised by this, this was not something he had been expecting, and he knows it was not something his king was expecting and yet it is far better than what they might well have hoped to receive. It takes him a moment but eventually he says. “That is a great honour, I know that His Majesty will be most thrilled with this, and I am sure he will be very willing to commit troops to aid in the conquest of Ireland.”

A smile greets the king’s face then. “Good, very good. That is the most excellent of news. Now I know that there has been trouble in Denmark as of late, for my men keep me well informed of news on the continent. Tell me, the extent to which King Eric will need to work before his rights to his mother’s lands are given to him.”

Thorfin considers this a moment and then says. “I believe Your Majesty, that His Majesty King Eric is best placed to tell you that. What I know is that, he wishes to not impede on your own ambitions. For the King knows that you wish to expand beyond Berwick into the old lands of your ancestors.”

King David is silent a moment and then responds. “Whilst I would most desire to aid in my brother in law’s attempt to take what is his, I must look toward my own lands for now. Once this is done, I shall reconsider and continue forward down the right path.” The king stands. “But enough of this discussion, it is early yet, and I have to prepare for my marriage. Let us part now, and meet again when the dust is settled.”

Thorfin bows before the King of Scotland and walks out of the King’s solar, he returns to his own chambers, and sees to it that he is rested before getting changed into his most formal attire for the ceremony, which is to take place in the royal chapel. As Thorfin is led to his place within the chapel, he watches as the King speaks with an old lion of a man whom Thorfin knows to be Lord James Steward, the High Steward of Scotland. From what he can tell, there is a great deal of pride in the Lord’s eyes as he looks at the king. Thorfin looks around and sees that there are similar looks of pride in the other nobles gathered here, and it is all directed at the king. He senses these are a people slowly coming together once more under their heritage.

All falls silent then as the doors to the chapel open and the King’s intended, the Queen to be, Isabel De Bruce walks in looking like an angel, her hair done up in a simple yet beautiful style, her dress as far as Thorfin can tell is elegant. She glows in the morning sun, and her grandfather, who leads her into the chapel, that great lion of a man, looks proud so very, very proud. He leads her to the isle where her future husband, and the King waits. They smile at one another briefly and then the Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart begins the ceremony and all grow serious listening as the bishop begins the vows. As the Bishop speaks and the ceremony goes on, Thorfin finds his thoughts drifting toward his own family back home. His wife Ingeborg with her long blond hair and her blue eyes, and her full lips. He misses her, and he knows he will not see her for a little while yet. King Eric had asked him to remain in Scotland for some time, until after the wedding to get a true feel for the new king of Scotland. As Thorfin looks at the King and his soon to be queen, he suspects that the words he will be using to describe David, are strong and composed. Much like his father, and grandfather before him, he will be an interesting king to follow, Thorfin thinks, very interesting.

As his mind drifts back to Ingeborg and their soon to be born son, he wonders what he will call his son. Various names drift through his head, but he decides that perhaps Eric after the King will do just fine. And it might even curry more favour with the King. One can never be without too much favour he has found. Eventually his attention is brought back to proceedings when he hears the chapel begin to clap and he looks and sees the King and his new wife kissing. An interesting time indeed.

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