Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chapter 29

How King Lisuarte held court, and what happened to him at it.


[Crown of Visigoth King Recesvinto (reigned 653 - 672 AD). It was made in the second half of the 7th century and discovered in 1858 as part of the "Treasure of Guarrazar" in a garden called Guarrazar in Gaudamur, a town near Toledo. The sapphires came from Sri Lanka. Photo by Manuel de Corselas.]

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King Lisuarte was made very happy by the news that the dwarf had brought him about Amadis and Sir Galaor, and he decided to convene the most honorable court with the greatest number of knights and nobles ever held in Great Britain. He was only waiting for Amadis and Galaor to arrive.

One day Olivas appeared before the King to complain about the Duke of Bristol, who had treasonously killed his cousin. After conferring with those who knew the most about this, the King set a deadline of one month for the Duke to come and answer the charge, and if by chance he wished to bring two knights with him as part of his response, Olivas would have two on his side who would be fully equal in their estate and skill to maintain law and justice.

This done, the King ordered all his nobility to appear with him at court on the Feast of Saint Mary in September [September 8]. The Queen gave the same order to all the ladies and damsels of high estate.

Although everyone in palace was happily speaking of the things that had to be done for the court, they did not know nor imagine how at times like those, changeable fortune wished to inflict cruel injury through its guile, for as we all know, the plans of men notoriously do not come to pass with the certainty that they expect.

Thus it happened that an extraordinarily well-dressed damsel entered the palace, accompanied by a noble youth. She dismounted from her palfrey and asked who was the King. He answered:

"Damsel, I am."

"My lord," she said, "ye seem to be a king in body, but I do not know if ye are one at heart."

"Damsel," he said, "ye see my body now, and when ye test my heart, ye shall find out."

"My lord," the damsel said, "ye respond to my wish, and remember these words that ye said to me in front of so many good men, because I want to test the strength of your heart when it seems necessary to me. I have heard said that ye wish to hold court in London on the Feast of Saint Mary in September. I will to see there if ye are worthy to be lord of such a great reign and so many famous knights."

"Damsel," said the King, "my works shall show my power better than my words, and I shall be happier the more good men are present to see it."

"My lord," she said, "if the deeds are as the promises, I shall hold myself well content. May ye be commended to God."

"Go with God, damsel," the King said.

All the knights also bid her farewell. The damsel left.

The King remained talking with his knights, but I tell ye that there were many who were troubled by what the King had promised, fearing that the damsel wished to put him in danger, since the King would not hesitate to avoid disgrace, no matter how great the danger. And he was so well loved by all his subjects that they would prefer themselves to be put in peril and disgrace rather than see it happen to him, and they did not hold it wise for such a high prince to make a debt by giving his word to an unknown woman without more deliberation, thus obliging himself to comply without knowing what she would ask for.

After many things had been discussed, the Queen wished to return to her chambers, when three knights entered by the gate. Two were fully armed and the third unarmed. He was large and well built, and his hair was almost all grey, but he seemed energetic and handsome for his age, and he carried a small chest.

He asked who was the King, and they pointed him out. He dismounted from his palfrey and knelt in front of him with the chest in his hands, and he said:

"God save ye, my lord, as the prince who has made the best promise in the world, if ye keep it."

"And what promise is this, or why do ye say so?"

"They tell me," the knight said, "that ye wish to maintain knighthood at its greatest possible height and honor, and because so few princes try to do that, ye should be lauded much more than all others."

"Truly, knight," the King said, "I shall keep this promise for as long as I have life."

"May God let ye do so," the knight said, "and because I hear that ye wish to hold court in London with many good men in attendance, I bring here that which is fitting for such a man as yourself and such festivities."

Then, opening the coffer, he took from it a golden crown beautifully made with so many precious stones and pearls that all were amazed to see it, and it well seemed that it should be placed only on the head of a very great lord. The King gazed at it and desired it for himself.

The knight said:

"Know ye, my lord, that this work is such that none of those who these days know how to work in gold could reproduce it."

"May God help me," the King said, "I think it so."

"However rare its workmanship and beauty may be," the knight said, "it more valuable in another way: the king who wears it on his head will always see his honor maintained and increased. So it was for the king it was made for until the day of his death. Since then no other king has worn it on his head, and if ye, my lord, wish to have it, I shall give it to ye in exchange for protecting my head, which I am in danger of losing."

The Queen, who was at the King's side, said:

"Truly, my lord, it becomes ye to have a jewel like this, and give the knight whatever he asks for it."

"And ye, my lady," the knight said, "may wish to buy a very beautiful cloak that I have brought here."

Then he took a mantle from the chest, the finest and most well worked ever seen, for besides having precious stones and pearls, all the birds and animals of the world were depicted on it, so well-wrought that it was a wonder to behold.

The Queen said:

"May God help me, my friend, this garment seems to have been made by none other than the hand of the Lord, which can do all things."

"Truly, my lady," he said, "ye may well believe that without a doubt that this garment was made and designed by man, but it would be very hard to find someone who could make another like it." And he said: "I also tell ye that this cloak is more fit for a married woman than a maiden, for it has the virtue that from the day she has it under her roof, there shall be no strife between her and her husband."

"Certainly," she said, "if that is true, it cannot be bought for any price."

"Ye cannot see if it is true unless ye have the mantle," the knight said.

And the Queen, who loved the King dearly, felt a deep desire to have the cloak so that anger between them could be prevented. She said:

"Knight, I shall give ye whatever ye wish for that cloak."

And the King said:

"Knight, ask for the cloak and the crown whatever pleases ye."

"My lord," the knight said, "I must go now, with great sadness, called by he whose prisoner I am, and I have no time to stay nor to learn what these items are worth. But I shall be with you in the court in London, and in the meantime I shall leave the crown with you and the cloak with the Queen, with the agreement that ye shall give me what I ask for them or return them to me, having had time to try them on and test them, and I know than ye shall pay me more happily then than now."

The King said:

"Knight, know ye now that ye shall have what ye ask or the cloak and the crown."

The knight said:

"My lords knights and ladies, have ye heard well what the King and Queen have promised me, that they shall give me my crown and my cloak, or what I shall ask for them?"

"We all heard it," they answered.

Then the knight bade farewell and said:

"Be with God, and I shall go to the most vile prison that any man ever had."

One of the two armed knights had taken off his helmet while he waited, and he seemed very young and handsome, but the other did not wish to remove his and hung his head low. He looked so big and strong as to be a foot taller than any of the King's knights.

So all three left, leaving the cloak and the crown in the possession of the King.
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