Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
HENRY PLANTAGENET—THE STORY OF GILBERT AND ROHESIA
 HENRY II., as you know, got his name Plantagenet from his
father, Geoffrey of Anjou, who used to wear a piece of
planta genista in his helmet. He was the first of several
kings ruling England who were all Plantagenets.
Henry II. was only twenty-one years old when he began to
reign, and, like his grandfather, Henry Beauclerc, he
reigned thirty-five years. Like him, too, he did much to
draw the English and Norman people together.
The misrule and confusion of the reign of Stephen had been
so great, that Henry had to work very hard to bring his
kingdom into order again. He not only worked hard himself,
but he made other people work too. It is said of him that he
never sat down, but was on his feet all day long.
The first thing Henry did was to send away all the foreign
soldiers who had come to England to help Stephen and Matilda
in their wars. Next he made the barons pull down their
castles in which they used to do such dreadful deeds of
cruelty. He told them they must live in ordinary houses and
not in fortresses which could be turned into fearful prisons
and places of torture.
The barons were very angry; but like his grandfather, Henry
Beauclerc, Henry II. was stern, and forced people to obey
 These are only a few of the things which he did, for the
reign of Henry II. was a great one. To help and advise him
in his work, Henry chose a man called Thomas à Becket.
Thomas à Becket's father was called Gilbert, and his mother
Rohesia. Gilbert was a London merchant, and when he was
young he had made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, as was
common in those days.
At that time Jerusalem was in the hands of people called
Saracens. They were pagans and hated the Christians
and they treated very badly those who came to
visit the sepulchre of Christ.
While Gilbert was on his pilgrimage, a rich Saracen seized
and put him in prison, saying he should not come out until
he had paid a great sum of money.
This Saracen had a beautiful daughter. Rohesia, for that was
her name, had seen the handsome young Englishman before her
father put him in prison, and she felt sorry for him. She
used to come to the little window of his cell to speak to
him, and to bring him things to eat and drink.
night she came, and they whispered to each other through the
bars of the little prison window. There was no one to hear,
and only the stars and the moon to keep watch. All day long
Gilbert used to wait impatiently until night came, when
Rohesia would creep quietly to the window, and he would hear
her whisper, "Gilbert, Gilbert," and she would slip her
little hand through the bars and touch his.
Rohesia could speak no English, but Gilbert could speak her
language, and he taught her to say his name. She learned to
say London too, and knew that that was where he lived.
Gilbert and Rohesia grew to love each other very
 much, and
all the day seemed long and dreary until night came and they
could whisper to each other through the prison bars. But one
night Rohesia came breathless and pale. "Gilbert," she
whispered, "Gilbert, my father is asleep, and I have stolen
the keys. I will unlock the door. You are free."
Gilbert hardly believed the good news until he heard the key
turn in the lock. Then the door swung open and he knew that
he was indeed free. He took Rohesia in his arms and kissed
her, promising that he would never forget her. "As soon as I
get back to England, I shall send for you," he said. "You
must come to me, and we shall be married and never part any
Then Gilbert went away and Rohesia was left all alone. She
felt very sad after he had gone, but she comforted herself
always by remembering that he was going to send for her, and
that then they should be together and happy ever after.
Gilbert arrived safely in England, but he forgot all about
the beautiful Saracen maiden and his promise to her. He had
so many things to do when he got back to London that the
time for him went very quickly. But for Rohesia the time
passed slowly, slowly. Day after day went by. In the morning
she said, "To-day he will send." In the evening she wept,
and said, "He has not sent."
At last she could bear the waiting no longer, so she set out
to try to find Gilbert. She knew only two words of English,
but she was not afraid. She travelled all through the land
until she reached the seashore. There she said, "London,
London," to every one whom she met until at last she found a
ship that was going there. She had not much money, but she
gave the captain some of her jewels, and he was kind to
her and landed her safely in London.
 London in those days was much smaller than it is now, but
Rohesia had never seen so many houses and people before, and
she was bewildered and frightened. Every one turned to stare
at the lovely lady dressed in such strange and beautiful
clothes, who kept calling "Gilbert, Gilbert," as she passed
from street to street.
Gilbert was sitting in his house when suddenly he heard his
name. He knew the voice, yet he could hardly believe his
ears. Could it indeed be Rohesia? In a flash he remembered
everything; the dark little prison; the lovely Saracen girl;
his love for, his promise to her. He ran to the door and
opened it quickly. The next minute Rohesia was sobbing in
his arms. Her long journey was ended. She had found Gilbert.
As Gilbert held Rohesia in his arms, he found all his old
love for her had come back. So they were married and were
happy. They had a little son whom they called Thomas. He
grew up to be that Thomas à Becket, who was King Henry's
great chancellor and friend.
I must tell that some people say that this story of Gilbert
and Rohesia is only a fairy tale. Perhaps it is.