All Things Are Lights – Day 49 of 200

The King’s servants put platters of lobsters and new beans boiled in milk on the serving window of the solar, and equerries carried them to the tables and began to break the lobsters up for the diners. The guests fell silent as they began to eat. The royal cook, Isambert, was generally acknowledged the best in France.

Amalric felt Blanche, Marguerite, Nicolette, and the others at the high table waiting for him to speak. How could he convince Louis that the war against heresy in Europe was more important than his so-called pilgrimage to Outremer?

He reviewed the plan he and Hugues had worked out. If he could turn Louis to a war against the Emperor Frederic, the Pope’s enemy, the need for unity within France would mean a wide campaign against heretics. And he, as the leader who had destroyed Mont Segur, could ask for the power to seek out and destroy heresy everywhere in the kingdom. Working with the Inquisition, he would be the most powerful seigneur in France.

“Amalric,” said Blanche, “tell my son why this crusade of his is a mistake.”

Amalric turned to Louis. “Have I leave to speak freely, sire?”

“Always,” said Louis.

“Sire, there is another holy city much closer to us that also is in the grip of infidels — Rome. Is it not a scandal to us that Emperor Frederic has driven our Pope out of Rome and forced him into exile at Lyons?”

Louis nodded soberly. “It is a scandal. But equally great a scandal is that the Pope is not satisfied with being Holy Father. He wants to be King of Italy as well. That is what he and the Emperor are fighting about. I say let popes be popes and kings kings.”

“But, sire,” said Amalric, “His Holiness has preached a crusade against Emperor Frederic. It is our duty to answer the call.”

A war in Outremer would bring the Gobignons nothing. Just a huge waste of treasure and perhaps even death. But if Louis made war on Frederic, Amalric could take enough land in Germany to be almost a monarch in his own right.

“Frederic has not attacked me,” said Louis shortly.

“Neither have the Turks attacked you,” said Blanche.

“Mother,” Louis sighed, “Jerusalem was a Christian kingdom for a hundred years and more, ever since the first crusaders captured it. It has been our holy city since the time of the Seigneur Jesus.” He bowed his head reverently. “When Baibars the Panther took Jerusalem last year, he was attacking all Christendom.”

“When the Emperor attacks the Holy Father, he makes war on all Christendom,” said Amalric.

“The Pope may call his war with Frederic a crusade if he chooses,” said Louis, “but really it is only a clash between two Christian monarchs.”

“The Emperor is not a Christian,” said Blanche.

“Absolutely true,” said Amalric, grateful to his aunt. “Sire, surely you have heard about the testimony at the Pope’s council at Lyons. They are calling him the Antichrist, and I believe they are right. Frederic may pretend to be a Catholic, but he consorts with heretics and Muslims. He has a whole army of Saracens. He even made a treaty with the Sultan of Cairo.”

“That treaty restored Jerusalem to Christian hands for sixteen years,” said Louis.

“Yes, but then the Egyptians took it back,” the King’s brother Robert put in. “It was a bad treaty. You cannot trust the Saracens.” Robert was almost as tall as his brother, but much broader in the shoulders and chest. He was a simple soul who enjoyed war, and Amalric rather liked him.

Queen Marguerite spoke up. “I thought it was the Turks who captured Jerusalem.”

Why does she not keep her ignorance to herself? Amalric detested Marguerite almost as much as he disliked Louis.

“They are one and the same, my dear,” said Louis patiently. “Turks are Saracens, and the Turks have ruled in Egypt for hundreds of years. At any rate, Frederic had nothing to do with the breaking of that treaty. No, I do not think he is an enemy of religion. He is just unwilling to let the Pope have the territories in Italy that he wants.”

Louis’s serene stubbornness infuriated Amalric.

“The Emperor not an enemy of religion?” Amalric cried, and heads turned and bent forward at the lower tables as people strained to hear what he was saying. “He harbors heretics and rebels, and the disease spreads. They sneak into France and infect our people. Frederic has agents all over this kingdom sowing dissension.”

He noticed that Nicolette, beside him, was twisting her hands nervously in her lap.

“In Beziers,” Amalric went on, “I have found evidence of a network of heretics that spreads across all of Europe, like a spider’s web.”

Blanche of Castile gasped.

Amalric hoped he would not be asked to produce his evidence. It had convinced him, but Louis, in his present frame of mind, would dismiss it as mere conjecture. Yet there was a pattern to it: the Cathars and other heresies; the troubadours and their courtly love, which had infected Nicolette; the similar ideas advocated by Frederic; the attack on the Pope; the unruliness of students and the rebelliousness of commoners against their seigneurs. Something was gnawing at the foundations of the world. It all fit. There had to be a single plot behind it all.

And, he thought, with the cold hatred he had felt as far back as he could remember, they killed my father. I will not rest until every heretic in Christendom has been consigned to the flames.

“Amalric, Amalric,” said Louis, resting his long-fingered hand on Amalric’s arm. “It is possible to be too zealous, believe me. Did not you yourself overcome the last armed heretic resistance at Mont Segur? Heresy in the future will be dealt with by the Dominicans. Good preaching friars like your brother Hugues.”

Pious hypocrite! Louis’s father wasn’t murdered by heretics.

“The more devious heretics have survived and have hidden themselves. They are more dangerous than ever, sire. The preachers cannot prevail without the help of your knights.”

“What are you suggesting, Amalric?” Louis asked softly.

“If you want me to crusade for you, I will , most gladly. Here in France. Give me the authority, I beg you, sire, to discover and destroy the enemies of the Church and the kingdom, wherever they may be found.”

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)