The Politics of Love
She had looked forward to the wedding ceremony and even mingling with the King’s noble guests and the newly coronated Queen’s exotic family from Kievan Rus, but her heart bled from the game at foot. Standing alone among the guests with the chaotic chorus of minstrels ringing in her ear, she realized her white-knuckled grip on her tumbler and the grit of her teeth. She took a deep breath to let go, as she gazed around for her husband, Count Raoul de Valois. Not seeing him, she wondered if he was with her...the Queen. Had they found a cozy corner to pronounce their secret love? Adela wouldn’t put it past her husband. He could be that devious and even dare to be that dangerous.
Scouring the shadows, she found Queen Anne huddled deep in conversation not with Raoul, but Matilda of Flanders. It did help to settle her raging heart...a bit.
The King’s sister neared, “Countess, you don’t look like you are enjoying the festivities,” she said taking her aside.
“Not feeling well,” she said and it was the truth. The achiness in her heart caused her stomach to churn. “Have you seen my husband?”
“Briefly. He was talking to the Grand Prince for a bit.”
Adela looked past the King’s sister to view the crowd, now seeing William, the Duke of Normandy engaging in conversation with the Grand Prince of Kiev. “I must have missed him,” She rested her hand on her belly. “I am going to go lie down. Too much excitement for me.”
The King’s sister smiled warmly. “Raoul needs to get you out of the castle more.”
“That would mean he would have to spend less time politicking for the King. I doubt that will happen. He has his priorities.” She lowered her head. “If you excuse me.” As she walked through the hall, she envied the King’s sister, wife of Count Baldwin, former wife of a Duke of Normandy. She had so much power and yet wielded it so softly, and yet was unable to control her rebel daughter, Matilda.
Making her way outside, to the exterior grounds the celebration was even louder and more raucous. The Kievan Druhinza celebrated with French knights. Townspeople from around the region mingled with foreign visitors. The festivities were high, and all she could do was drown in doubts about her own marriage.
The lump in her chest grew to the point of explosion. She swallowed hard to keep down the cries of pride. Lifting her head, she saw the wedding celebration through in a dusky haze. Smoke from bonfires burned her eyes and nostrils. Meandering through the maze of drunk guests, spilled wine and vomit. Obviously, the King and Queen would not have to traverse such a mess to get to their wedding night chambers. Despite being a noble woman, she had to take her rest in a nearby tent shared with her husband, where ever he was.
Nearing the tent, a light illuminating from inside surprised her and her first thought was it was thief. Carefully, she pulled back the flap and found Raoul seated on the edge of his cot removing silk tunic. Upon her entrance, they looked at one another without a word. Typical for a couple married of nearly ten years, and then he gazed away, folding his tunic and placing it on a table alongside the bed.
“Must you make a fool of me,” she finally said, which provoked laughter from him. “I am the King’s cousin. I deserve respect.”
“Second cousin, a provincial cousin of his insane mother,” Raoul rattled off carelessly. “Henry would have done better if he locked her up.”
“She was my aunt!”
“Constance d’Arles was a lunatic!” He rose from the bed and walked to another small table which held a wine carafe and a few tumblers. “She should not be used by you as a point of pride.”
Adela regarded her husband, several years her junior, she beginning to show the signs of age with gray hair streaming from her temple, and him growing broader, stronger...and damn it...more handsome. She missed it when he was a young man and when she held a bit more dominance over him, now she had absolutely no power. He now had her money and he absorbed her land in his domains. She was only good for wiping his feet. “Raoul,” she said in a much tender voice trying to appeal to his quieter side.
“What do you want, Adela?” he asked as he poured himself a cup of wine.
“To stop making a fool of me.”
He walked closer to her. “And how exactly am I doing that?”
“By drooling all over the Queen…Anna. You look at her as a young man whose cock rose for the first time.”
His eyes darkened, his gaze grew dangerous and his body stiffened in a position as if he was about to strike, but instead he just turned away. “You are mistaken.”
She laughed. “Raoul please. I am your wife. We have three children together. I know your desirous side, but you act as one of your boot-licking hounds around Anna.”
And this time, he violently lifted his fist close to her face, just short of punching her. “You do not speak of Anna.”
Adela looked into his pale-colored eyes unafraid. “How can I not? She is now Queen.” She took a deep breath to diffuse the tension and studied her husband. She had to admit she had come to love him and it hurt that he most likely never loved her in the way he did Queen Anne. What could a woman do in such circumstances? She was quick to wonder. “I know you Raoul. I know you love her. You can’t take your eyes off her, and she always lingers to you, but remember, you have a wife. You have children. You have a station in the King’s court which controls even you. You simply can’t have everything you desire.”
Finally, she had gotten him to settle into calm and deliberate thought. He stepped back and poured her a tumbler of wine. “What do you want from me, Adela?” he asked.
She took the tumbler from his grasp and sipped, thinking. Lifting her head to him she replied,
“I want another child. I want to show those in France you still desire me. It will show your devotion to your wife and not the Queen. It will do us both good...politically to have another child.”
He nodded. As he was a player of politics, so was his wife and he came to realize his appreciation for her. Sure, Adela didn’t lure him with romantic notions of love, but they had a successful political marital arrangement. A charming boyish smile crossed his face. “That has never been a problem for you and I,” he said.
And with that Adela’s crisis of the heart had been temporarily averted.