Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chapter 32

How King Lusarte, having convened his court, wished to learn the counsel of his nobles about what he should do.

[A 1483 depiction of the imprisonment of Charles, Duke of Orléans, in the Tower of London. London Bridge is shown in the background.]


King Lisuarte remained with his noblemen to speak with them, and he said:

"My friends, since God has made me a rich and powerful man with more land and subjects than any of my neighbors, it is right for me, in His service, to try to do better and more praiseworthy things than any of them. Thus I want you to tell me all that ye judge wise so that ye and I may achieve greater honor, and I promise that I shall do it."

Barsinan, the lord of Saxony, who was attending the council, said:

"My good lords, ye have heard what the King has charged us with, which I hold to be good, and if he wishes, he should leave you so that ye may discuss what he asks without his presence and your judgement may be guided by reason rather than timidity, and afterwards he may take your counsel as it seems best to him."

The King said he spoke wisely, asked Barsinan to stay with them, and went to another tent while the nobles remained in that one. Then Serolois of Flanders, who at the time was the Count of Clare, said:

"My lords, the King has ordered us to advise him, and it is plainly known what will best maintain and increase his grandeur and honor. Men in this world cannot be powerful except by having large military forces to serve them or by having great treasuries, and since treasuries serve to find and pay these forces, this is the most fitting way temporal powers should expend their funds. It has long been fully proven that a large force of men is the principal means by which kings and grandees are not only protected and defended but also by which they are able to subjugate and reign over distant lands as well as their own. For this reason, my good lords, I would hold the King our lord wise if he took no other counsel but this: to look everywhere for good knights and pay them generously, hold them in esteem, and give them honors. This way foreigners in other lands will be moved to serve him hoping that their work will obtain the fruits it deserves. If ye look back, ye shall remember that never, even now, has any king been grand or powerful except those who sought and retained famous knights in their service, and by spending their treasury, they brought in the finest ones from abroad."

There was no man in the council who did not hold wise what the Count had said, and they supported him. When Barsinan, lord of Saxony, saw how everyone was agreed, his heart was heavy because by that means it would prove very difficult to bring about his plans, so he said:

"Truly, I have never seen so many noblemen so madly agree with a speech, and I must tell you why. If your lord were to do what the Count of Clare has said, within two years there will be so many foreign knights in your land that not only will the King give them that which he ought to give to you, but since he will naturally wish to make them grateful and contented as newcomers, ye shall be forgotten and bereft. So look well and more carefully at what ye must give as counsel. For me, nothing would make me more satisfied and content, finding myself here, than if my advice were to prove useful to you."

Some who were envious and greedy heeded to this advice, and soon there was discord among the nobles. Finally they agreed to have the King come so that with his great discretion he could chose the better council. When he came, he heard out in their differences, and the right course presented itself clearly before his eyes. He said:

"Kings are not only great for how many men they obtain but for how many they keep, since as a single individual, what could they do? Fortune may provide more or fewer, but how many would be enough? And to govern their estate, which as ye can see is the concern, would great riches be enough to free them from care? Certainly not, if these riches were not spent where they ought to be. Thus we can well believe that men's wisdom and endeavor is the true treasure. Do ye wish proof? Look at the feats of Alexander the Great, mighty Julius Caesar, proud Hannibal, and many others who could be recalled, whose money made them very rich and great in the world, and who freely shared it with their knights as each deserved it, whether more or less. It may be believed that they gave away most of it, for more than others they were loyally served and respected. Thus, good friends, I not only ought to try to have good knights but ye ought to try to bring them to me, for when I am more honored and feared in foreign lands, ye are more honored and safe. If any virtue resides in me, I shall never forget old friends for new. Now name me the best knights ye know of among those who have come to be present here in my court so that, rather than depart afterwards, they may remain in my service."

This was then done, and the King had the names taken down by a scribe. He ordered the knights to be called to his tent after he had eaten, and he asked them to render him loyal service and not to leave his court without orders. He promised to love and esteem them and give them many honors and gifts, so that by protecting his possessions they could maintain their own estates.

All who were there agreed except for Amadis, who, being the Queen's knight, could be excused.

After that act, the Queen asked them to please listen to what she wished to say to them. They all came close and grew quiet. She said to the King:

"My lord, since ye have so praised and honored your knights, it would be wise for me to do the same for my ladies and damsels, and on their behalf all women in general wherever and however they may be. For this I ask you and these good men to grant me a gift, for in celebrations like this one ought to request and grant good things."

The King looked at the knights and said:

"My friends, shall we do what our lady the Queen requests?"

"Let us grant everything she may ask," they said.

"Who would do anything other than serve such a good lady?" Sir Galaor said.

"Then, since it pleases you, the gift shall be granted," the King said, "even if it may be hard to do."

"So be it," they all said.

Having heard this, the Queen said:

"The gift that I ask of you is for ladies and damsels to always be well protected and defended by you from anyone who would do them injury or injustice. And in the same way, if ye have promised something to a man and something to a lady or damsel, fulfill hers first, for she is weaker and needs more assistance. By doing this, ladies and damsels shall be more favored and protected as they travel, and neither wild nor cruel men will dare to do them violence or harm, knowing that they have such defenders as yourselves on their side."

The King, having heard this, felt very content with the gift that the Queen had asked, as were all the knights who were before him. Thus he ordered them to maintain what she had asked, and so it was in Great Britain for a long time, and never did any knight break his vow after. But how it came to be breached we shall not tell you, since it does not serve the purpose of this tale.

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