[How Grasinda’s challenge was delivered to the court of King Lisuarte, and how it was received.]
[A corner of the Archbishop’s Palace in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. The oldest parts date back to the 13th century. The statue is of Catalina of Aragón, Princess of Castile and Queen of England, who was born in that palace in 1485. Christopher Columbus had his first meeting with Queen Isabel there in 1486. Photo by Sue Burke.]
The Greek Knight and Grasinda and their company hastened to where King Lisuarte was in his town of Tagades. Many grandees and other noblemen of his kingdom were with him, whom he had called to advise him about what to do regarding the marriage of his daughter Oriana, whom the Emperor of Rome had sent an urgent request to wed. They all told him not to do it, for it would be an error against God to take the reign from his daughter and send her to be subject of a foreign man with a changeable and inconstant moods. While he might deeply desire her now, soon he might chase after someone else, for that truly was the way of fickle men.
But the King, annoyed by this advice, remained firm in his resolve. God permitted this because Amadis had secured his kingdom and his life so often with notable services and given the King greater fame and height than any other king of that time, yet from that Amadis received such undeservedly poor thanks. Now the King’s grandeur and honor would be discredited and humbled, as the fourth book shall tell farther on.
Lisuarte would not change his mind, and his stubbornness and rigidity was made clear to everyone. Yet he thought it good to summon his uncle, who was very old and suffering from gout. Although the man did not wish to leave his home because he understood the error of the King’s plans and disagreed with him entirely, when he saw the King’s orders, he immediately left for the court. When he arrived at the palace, the King came out to receive him, took him by the hand to his dias, had him sit next to him, and said:
“Good uncle, I had you called along with these noblemen that ye see here to provide counsel for what I ought to do about the marriage of my daughter to the Emperor of Rome, and I ask you to tell me how it seems to you, and I ask the same of them.”
“My lord,” he said, “it is a very serious thing to provide advice as ye have ordered us because there are two issues here: one, a wish to fulfill your will, and the other, to disagree with it. If we disagree, ye shall become angry as most kings do, who in their great power wish to content and satisfy themselves in their opinions and not be berated and opposed by those whom they command. However, if we agree, ye put us all in a fine condition with God and His Justice and with the world, due to the great disloyalty and treachery that we would commit, since your daughter, being the heir to these reigns after your days, would lose them. She has the same right and even more to them than ye had to be King after your brother.
“Then look well, my lord, at how ye would have felt when your brother died if what ye ought to have possessed had been taken from you and given to someone it did not belong to. And if by chance your intention is that by making Oriana an empress and Leonoreta the lady of these reigns, both would be very grand and honored ladies, if ye look at it with the utmost rationality, it could turn out to be the contrary. Ye do not have the right to change the order of your ancestors who were lords of this realm and take one away or add another.
“If the Emperor were to have your daughter as his wife, he himself would have the right to inherit them through her. If ye do not agree, he is so powerful he could take them without much effort, and so both your daughters would be disinherited, and this land, so honored and outstanding in the world, would be subject to the Empire of Rome without Oriana having a thing to say except for what the Emperor may permit, so ye would leave her without a realm. And for that reason, my lord, if God wills, I wish to be excused from giving advice to someone who much better than I knows what ought to be done.”
“Uncle,” the King said, “I understand well what ye have told me, but I would rather that ye and those here were to praise me for what I have said and promised to the Romans, since by no means may I go back on my word.”
“Do not hesitate because of that,” the Count said, “for everything consists in how it ought to be done and made certain. In that, ye can protect yourself from shame and keep your word, and yet ye may decline or promote what would be best for you.”
“Ye speak well,” the King said, “and for now it shall not be spoken of more.”
Thus he ended that meeting, and everyone went to their lodgings.
In the ships where the beautiful Grasinda traveled with the Greek Knight, Sir Bruneo of Bonamar, and Angriote d’Estravaus, voyaging in the sea as ye have heard, one morning the sailors spied the mountain named Tagades, where the town called by the same name and King Lisuarte were at the foot of the mountain. They went to the lady, who was speaking with the Greek Knight and his companions, and they said:
“Lords, give us a reward for good news, for if the wind does not change, within an hour ye shall be docked in the port of Tagades, where ye wished to go.”
Grasinda was very joyful, as was the Greek Knight, and they all went to the railing of the ship and happily saw the land they had so much wished to see. Grasinda gave thanks to God for having guided her there, and with great humility she asked Him to direct her affairs so she could leave there with the honors she wished.
But I tell you that the eyes of the Greek Knight took great comfort in seeing that land where his lady was, from whom for such a long time he had been away. He could not hold back his tears, and he turned his face away from Grasinda so she would not see them and wiped them away as secretly as he could.
Putting on a happy face, he turned back to her and said:
“My lady, have hope that ye shall leave this land with the honor ye desire. Your beauty gives me great courage, and I feel certain that right and reason are on my side, and as God is the judge, He shall wish to have the honor be yours.”
Grasinda, who had felt afraid, as one whose moment was arriving, took courage and said:
“Greek Knight, my lord, I have much more faith in your good fortune and blessings than in the beauty of which you speak. Having that in your mind, ye shall cause your praise to be increased in this as in all other great deeds ye have brought to completion, and ye shall make me the happiest of all women alive.”
“Let us leave that to God,” he said, “and let us speak about how it may best be done.”
Then they called Grinfesta, a damsel who was the daughter of the majordomo and was good and wise and knew a good deal of French, which King Lisuarte spoke. They gave her a letter in Latin that had been written earlier to give to King Lisuarte and Queen Brisena. They ordered her not to speak or answer except in French while she was with them, and when she had the answer, to return to the ships.
The damsel took the letter and went to her lady’s chamber and dressed in fine and beautiful clothing, and as she was in the flower of youth and extremely beautiful, she seemed quite lovely to all who saw her. Her father, the majordomo, ordered palfreys and horses to be taken out of the ship and given fine saddles and reins, and the sailors put a boat into the water and took the damsel and her brothers, both knights, and two squires who carried their arms, and quickly brought them to land outside the town.
The Greek Knight ordered another boat put in the water to carry Lasindo, Sir Bruneo’s squire, and told him to go by another route to the town and ask there for news about his lord, saying that he had been ill when Sir Bruneo went to seek Amadis. With this excuse, he should try hard to find out what answer they gave to the damsel, and in any case, to return in the morning in a boat that would be waiting for him. Lasindo left to fulfill his orders.
And I tell you that when the damsel entered the town, everyone found pleasure in looking at her and said that she came marvelously attired and well-accompanied by those two knights. She asked where the King’s palaces were.
It happened that the handsome young childe Esplandian and Ambor of Gadel, son of Angriote, who by orders of the Queen were to serve her as long as the people from foreign lands were there, were both on their way to hunt with goshawks, and they met the damsel. When they learned that she was asking about the King’s palace, Esplandian gave the goshawk to Sargil and went to her, seeing that she wore foreign clothing, and spoke to her in French:
“My good lady, I shall guide you, if ye please, and I shall identify the King to you, if ye do not recognize him.”
The damsel looked at him carefully and was impressed by how handsome and charming he was, so much so that it seemed to her she had never in her life seen a man or woman so attractive, and she said:
“Gentle childe, may God make you as blessed as handsome. I thank you very much for what ye say to me, and I thank God for meeting such a good guide.”
Then her brother gave the reins of her horse to the childe, who took them and led them to the palace. At that moment, the King was in the courtyard under some finely worked porticos, and with him were many noblemen and all the men from Rome. He had just promised them they could take his daughter Oriana to the Emperor, and they had promised to accept her as their lady.
The damsel, who had dismounted, entered the gate with Esplandian leading her by the hand, followed by her brothers, and when they arrived at the King, she knelt and wished to kiss his hands, but he would not give them to her because he only did that as a sign of granting a great favor to a damsel.
She gave him the letter and told him:
“My lord, it is necessary for the Queen and all her damsels to hear it, and if by chance the damsels become angered when they hear what it says, they may wish to have a fine knight represent them, as my lady does, and by whose orders I come here.”
The King ordered King Arban of North Wales and his uncle, Count Argamon, to go to the Queen and bring with her all the princesses and damsels that were in her palace. This was done, and the Queen came with such a company of ladies, all of such beauty and fine apparel as would be hard do find in all the world, and she sat near the King, with the princesses and all the other women around her.
The damsel bearing the message kissed the Queen’s hands and told her:
“My lady, if what I seek seems strange, to not be surprised, since for such things God made your court excel over all others in the world, and the excellence of yourself and the King are the cause of this. Since only here can be found the remedy that in all other places is lacking, hear this letter and grant what is asked in it, and a beautiful lady shall come to this court with the valiant Greek Knight who protects her.”
The King ordered her to read it, and it said:
“To the noble and honorable Lisuarte, King of Great Britain: I, Grasinda, the most beautiful lady of all the damsels of Romania, send my greetings and would have ye know, my lord, why I have come to your land under the protection of the Greek Knight. The reason for it is that I was judged to be the most beautiful lady of all Romania, and to follow that glory which made my heart so delighted, I wish to be judged more beautiful than any of the many damsels in your court, because having defeated them first in one place and then in another, I shall have achieved the joy that I desire so much.
“And if there be a knight who wishes to contradict that on behalf of one of your damsels, he shall have to do two things: first, fight with the Greek Knight, and second, to place in the field of battle a fine crown, such as I bring, for the winner to take as a sign of having won that victory and give to she for whom he fought.
“And, most high King, if what I propose pleases you, order safe passage for all my company and the Greek Knight, who shall only fight those who wish to fight him. And if a knight fighting for the damsels is defeated, let there be a second fight, and a third, and he in his great skills shall hold the field against all.”
After the letter was read, the King said:
“May God save me, I believe that the lady is very beautiful and the knight esteems himself quite a bit at arms, but however that may be, they have embarked on a great fantasy that could have been avoided without harm to them. But people’s will comes in many ways, and people put their hearts in them and do not consider the fate that may result. And ye, damsel, may go, and I shall order the safe passage proclaimed as your lady asks, so she may come when she pleases. And if no one is found who contradicts her quest, her will shall be satisfied.”
“My lord,” she said, “your reply is as we had hoped, and she can come to your court without complaint. And since the Greek Knight is coming with two companions in search of jousts, they require the same safe conduct.”
“So be it,” the King said.
“In the name of God,” the damsel said, “then tomorrow ye shall see them in your court. And ye, my lady,” she said to the Queen, “order your damsels to be where they can see how their honor is increased or decreased by their protectors, as my lady shall do. And may ye be commended to God.”
Then she bid them farewell and they went to the ships, where they were received with great pleasure. She told them how her message had been delivered, and they immediately ordered their arms and horses be taken ashore, where they put up a fine tent and two smaller tents on the seashore, but that night only the majordomo and some servants came to the shore to protect them.