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'Tis not her sense, for sure in that
There's nothing more than common;
And all her wit is only chat,
Like any other woman.
 THE high-born Berengaria, daughter of Sanchez, King of Navarre,
and the Queen-Consort of the heroic Richard, was accounted one of
the most beautiful women of the period. Her form was slight,
though exquisitely moulded. She was graced with a complexion not
common in her country, a profusion of fair hair, and features so
extremely juvenile as to make her look several years younger than
she really was, though in reality she was not above one-and-twenty.
Perhaps it was under the consciousness of this extremely
juvenile appearance that she affected, or at least practised, a
little childish petulance and wilfulness of manner, not
unbefitting, she might suppose, a youthful bride, whose rank and
age gave her a right to have her fantasies indulged and attended
to. She was by nature perfectly good-humoured, and if her due
share of admiration and homage (in her opinion a very large one)
was duly resigned to her, no one could possess better temper or a
more friendly disposition; but then, like all despots, the more
power that was voluntarily yielded to her, the more she desired
to extend her sway. Sometimes, even when all her ambition was
gratified, she chose to be a little out of health, and a little
out of spirits; and physicians had to toil their wits to invent
names for imaginary maladies, while her ladies racked their
imagination for new games, new head-gear, and new court-scandal,
to pass away those unpleasant hours, during which their own
situation was scarce to be greatly envied. Their most frequent
resource for diverting this malady was some trick or piece of
mischief practised upon each other; and the good Queen, in the
buoyancy of her reviving spirits, was, to speak truth, rather too
indifferent whether the frolics thus practised were entirely
befitting her own dignity, or whether the pain which those
suffered upon whom they were inflicted was not beyond the
proportion of pleasure which she herself derived from them. She
was confident in her husband's favour, in her high rank, and in
her supposed power to make good whatever such pranks might cost
others. In a word, she gambolled with the freedom of a young
lioness, who is unconscious of the weight of her own paws when
laid on those whom she sports with.
The Queen Berengaria loved her husband passionately, but she
feared the loftiness and roughness of his character; and as she
felt herself not to be his match in intellect, was not much
pleased to see that he would often talk with Edith Plantagenet in
preference to herself, simply because he found more amusement in
her conversation, a more comprehensive understanding, and a more
noble cast of thoughts and sentiments, than his beautiful consort
exhibited. Berengaria did not hate Edith on this account, far
less meditate her any harm; for, allowing for some selfishness,
her character was, on the whole, innocent and generous. But the
ladies of her train, sharpsighted in such matters, had for some
time discovered that a poignant jest at the expense of the Lady
Edith was a specific for relieving her Grace of England's low
spirits, and the discovery saved their imagination much toil.
There was something ungenerous in this, because the Lady Edith
was understood to be an orphan; and though she was called
Plantagenet, and the fair Maid of Anjou, and admitted by Richard
to certain privileges only granted to the royal family, and held
her place in the circle accordingly, yet few knew, and none
acquainted with the Court of England ventured to ask, in what
exact degree of relationship she stood to Coeur de Lion. She had
come with Eleanor, the celebrated Queen Mother of England, and
joined Richard at Messina, as one of the ladies destined to
attend on Berengaria, whose nuptials then approached. Richard
treated his kinswoman with much respectful observance, and the
Queen made her her most constant attendant, and, even in despite
of the petty jealousy which we have observed, treated her,
generally, with suitable respect.
The ladies of the household had, for a long time, no further
advantage over Edith than might be afforded by an opportunity of
censuring a less artfully disposed head attire or an unbecoming
robe; for the lady was judged to be inferior in these mysteries.
The silent devotion of the Scottish knight did not, indeed, pass
unnoticed; his liveries, his cognizances, his feats of arms, his
mottoes and devices, were nearly watched, and occasionally made
the subject of a passing jest. But then came the pilgrimage of
the Queen and her ladies to Engaddi, a journey which the Queen
had undertaken under a vow for the recovery of her husband's
health, and which she had been encouraged to carry into effect by
the Archbishop of Tyre for a political purpose. It was then, and
in the chapel at that holy place, connected from above with a
Carmelite nunnery, from beneath with the cell of the anchorite,
that one of the Queen's attendants remarked that secret sign of
intelligence which Edith had made to her lover, and failed not
instantly to communicate it to her Majesty. The Queen returned
from her pilgrimage enriched with this admirable recipe against
dullness or ennui; and her train was at the same time augmented
by a present of two wretched dwarfs from the dethroned Queen of
Jerusalem, as deformed and as crazy (the excellence of that
unhappy species) as any Queen could have desired. One of
Berengaria's idle amusements had been to try the effect of the
sudden appearance of such ghastly and fantastic forms on the
nerves of the Knight when left alone in the chapel; but the jest
had been lost by the composure of the Scot and the interference
of the anchorite. She had now tried another, of which the
consequences promised to be more serious.
The ladies again met after Sir Kenneth had retired from the tent,
and the Queen, at first little moved by Edith's angry
expostulations, only replied to her by upbraiding her prudery,
and by indulging her wit at the expense of the garb, nation, and,
above all the poverty of the Knight of the Leopard, in which she
displayed a good deal of playful malice, mingled with some
humour, until Edith was compelled to carry her anxiety to her
separate apartment. But when, in the morning, a female whom
Edith had entrusted to make inquiry brought word that the
Standard was missing, and its champion vanished, she burst into
the Queen's apartment, and implored her to rise and proceed to
the King's tent without delay, and use her powerful mediation to
prevent the evil consequences of her jest.
The Queen, frightened in her turn, cast, as is usual, the blame
of her own folly on those around her, and endeavoured to comfort
Edith's grief, and appease her displeasure, by a thousand
inconsistent arguments. She was sure no harm had chanced—the
knight was sleeping, she fancied, after his night-watch. What
though, for fear of the King's displeasure, he had deserted with
the Standard—it was but a piece of silk, and he but a needy
adventurer; or if he was put under warding for a time, she would
soon get the King to pardon him—it was but waiting to let
Richard's mood pass away.
Thus she continued talking thick and fast, and heaping together
all sorts of inconsistencies, with the vain expectation of
persuading both Edith and herself that no harm could come of a
frolic which in her heart she now bitterly repented. But while
Edith in vain strove to intercept this torrent of idle talk, she
caught the eye of one of the ladies who entered the Queen's
apartment. There was death in her look of affright and horror,
and Edith, at the first glance of her countenance, had sunk at
once on the earth, had not strong necessity and her own elevation
of character enabled her to maintain at least external composure.
"Madam," she said to the Queen, "lose not another word in
speaking, but save life—if, indeed," she added, her voice
choking as she said it, "life may yet be saved."
"It may, it may," answered the Lady Calista. "I have just heard
that he has been brought before the King. It is not yet over
—but," she added, bursting into a vehement flood of weeping, in
which personal apprehensions had some share, "it will soon,
unless some course be taken."
"I will vow a golden candlestick to the Holy Sepulchre, a shrine
of silver to our Lady of Engaddi, a pall, worth one hundred
byzants, to Saint Thomas of Orthez," said the Queen in extremity.
"Up, up, madam!" said Edith; "call on the saints if you list,
but be your own best saint."
"Indeed, madam," said the terrified attendant, "the Lady Edith
speaks truth. Up, madam, and let us to King Richard's tent and
beg the poor gentleman's life."
"I will go—I will go instantly," said the Queen, rising and
trembling excessively; while her women, in as great confusion as
herself, were unable to render her those duties which were
indispensable to her levee. Calm, composed, only pale as death,
Edith ministered to the Queen with her own hand, and alone
supplied the deficiencies of her numerous attendants.
"How you wait, wenches!" said the Queen, not able even then to
forget frivolous distinctions. "Suffer ye the Lady Edith to do
the duties of your attendance? Seest thou, Edith, they can do
nothing; I shall never be attired in time. We will send for the
Archbishop of Tyre, and employ him as a mediator."
"Oh, no, no!" exclaimed Edith. "Go yourself madam; you have
done the evil, do you confer the remedy."
"I will go—I will go," said the Queen; "but if Richard be in his
mood, I dare not speak to him—he will kill me!"
"Yet go, gracious madam," said the Lady Calista, who best knew
her mistress's temper; "not a lion, in his fury, could look upon
such a face and form, and retain so much as an angry thought, far
less a love-true knight like the royal Richard, to whom your
slightest word would be a command."
"Dost thou think so, Calista?" said the Queen. "Ah, thou little
knowest yet I will go. But see you here, what means this? You
have bedizened me in green, a colour he detests. Lo you! let me
have a blue robe, and—search for the ruby carcanet, which was
part of the King of Cyprus's ransom; it is either in the steel
casket, or somewhere else."
"This, and a man's life at stake!" said Edith indignantly; "it
passes human patience. Remain at your ease, madam; I will go to
King Richard. I am a party interested. I will know if the
honour of a poor maiden of his blood is to be so far tampered
with that her name shall be abused to train a brave gentleman
from his duty, bring him within the compass of death and infamy,
and make, at the same time, the glory of England a laughing-stock
to the whole Christian army."
At this unexpected burst of passion, Berengaria listened with an
almost stupefied look of fear and wonder. But as Edith was about
to leave the tent, she exclaimed, though faintly, "Stop her, stop
"You must indeed stop, noble Lady Edith," said Calista, taking
her arm gently; "and you, royal madam, I am sure, will go, and
without further dallying. If the Lady Edith goes alone to the
King, he will be dreadfully incensed, nor will it be one life
that will stay his fury."
"I will go—I will go," said the Queen, yielding to necessity;
and Edith reluctantly halted to wait her movements.
They were now as speedy as she could have desired. The Queen
hastily wrapped herself in a large loose mantle, which covered
all inaccuracies of the toilet. In this guise, attended by Edith
and her women, and preceded and followed by a few officers and
men-at-arms, she hastened to the tent of her lionlike husband.