--------In the midst was seen
A lady of a more majestic mien,
By stature and by beauty mark'd their sovereign Queen.
* * * * *
And as in beauty she surpass'd the choir,
So nobler than the rest was her attire;
A crown of ruddy gold enclosed her brow,
Plain without pomp, and rich without a show;
A branch of Agnus Castus in her hand,
She bore aloft her symbol of command.
The Flower and the Leaf
William de Wyvil and Stephen de Martival, the marshals of the
field, were the first to offer their congratulations to the
victor, praying him, at the same time, to suffer his helmet to be
unlaced, or, at least, that he would raise his visor ere they
conducted him to receive the prize of the day's tourney from the
hands of Prince John. The Disinherited Knight, with all knightly
courtesy, declined their request, alleging, that he could not at
this time suffer his face to be seen, for reasons which he had
assigned to the heralds when he entered the lists. The marshals
were perfectly satisfied by this reply; for amidst the frequent
and capricious vows by which knights were accustomed to bind
themselves in the days of chivalry, there were none more common
than those by which they engaged to remain incognito for a
certain space, or until some particular adventure was achieved.
The marshals, therefore, pressed no farther into the mystery of
the Disinherited Knight, but, announcing to Prince John the
conqueror's desire to remain unknown, they requested permission
to bring him before his Grace, in order that he might receive
the reward of his valour.
John's curiosity was excited by the mystery observed by the
stranger; and, being already displeased with the issue of the
tournament, in which the challengers whom he favoured had been
successively defeated by one knight, he answered haughtily to
the marshals, "By the light of Our Lady's brow, this same knight
hath been disinherited as well of his courtesy as of his lands,
since he desires to appear before us without uncovering his face.
---Wot ye, my lords," he said, turning round to his train, "who
this gallant can be, that bears himself thus proudly?"
"I cannot guess," answered De Bracy, "nor did I think there had
been within the four seas that girth Britain a champion that
could bear down these five knights in one day's jousting. By my
faith, I shall never forget the force with which he shocked De
Vipont. The poor Hospitaller was hurled from his saddle like a
stone from a sling."
"Boast not of that," said a Knight of St John, who was present;
"your Temple champion had no better luck. I saw your brave
lance, Bois-Guilbert, roll thrice over, grasping his hands full
of sand at every turn."
De Bracy, being attached to the Templars, would have replied, but
was prevented by Prince John. "Silence, sirs!" he said; "what
unprofitable debate have we here?"
"The victor," said De Wyvil, "still waits the pleasure of your
"It is our pleasure," answered John, "that he do so wait until we
learn whether there is not some one who can at least guess at his
name and quality. Should he remain there till night-fall, he has
had work enough to keep him warm."
"Your Grace," said Waldemar Fitzurse, "will do less than due
honour to the victor, if you compel him to wait till we tell your
highness that which we cannot know; at least I can form no guess
---unless he be one of the good lances who accompanied King
Richard to Palestine, and who are now straggling homeward from
the Holy Land."
"It may be the Earl of Salisbury," said De Bracy; "he is about
the same pitch."
"Sir Thomas de Multon, the Knight of Gilsland, rather," said
Fitzurse; "Salisbury is bigger in the bones." A whisper arose
among the train, but by whom first suggested could not be
ascertained. "It might be the King---it might be Richard
"Over God's forbode!" said Prince John, involuntarily turning at
the same time as pale as death, and shrinking as if blighted by
a flash of lightning; "Waldemar!---De Bracy! brave knights and
gentlemen, remember your promises, and stand truly by me!"
"Here is no danger impending," said Waldemar Fitzurse; "are you
so little acquainted with the gigantic limbs of your father's
son, as to think they can be held within the circumference of
yonder suit of armour?---De Wyvil and Martival, you will best
serve the Prince by bringing forward the victor to the throne,
and ending an error that has conjured all the blood from his
cheeks.---Look at him more closely," he continued, "your highness
will see that he wants three inches of King Richard's height, and
twice as much of his shoulder-breadth. The very horse he backs,
could not have carried the ponderous weight of King Richard
through a single course."
While he was yet speaking, the marshals brought forward the
Disinherited Knight to the foot of a wooden flight of steps,
which formed the ascent from the lists to Prince John's throne.
Still discomposed with the idea that his brother, so much
injured, and to whom he was so much indebted, had suddenly
arrived in his native kingdom, even the distinctions pointed out
by Fitzurse did not altogether remove the Prince's apprehensions;
and while, with a short and embarrassed eulogy upon his valour,
he caused to be delivered to him the war-horse assigned as the
prize, he trembled lest from the barred visor of the mailed form
before him, an answer might be returned, in the deep and awful
accents of Richard the Lion-hearted.
But the Disinherited Knight spoke not a word in reply to the
compliment of the Prince, which he only acknowledged with a
The horse was led into the lists by two grooms richly dressed,
the animal itself being fully accoutred with the richest
war-furniture; which, however, scarcely added to the value of the
noble creature in the eyes of those who were judges. Laying one
hand upon the pommel of the saddle, the Disinherited Knight
vaulted at once upon the back of the steed without making use of
the stirrup, and, brandishing aloft his lance, rode twice around
the lists, exhibiting the points and paces of the horse with the
skill of a perfect horseman.
The appearance of vanity, which might otherwise have been
attributed to this display, was removed by the propriety shown in
exhibiting to the best advantage the princely reward with which
he had been just honoured, and the Knight was again greeted by
the acclamations of all present.
In the meanwhile, the bustling Prior of Jorvaulx had reminded
Prince John, in a whisper, that the victor must now display his
good judgment, instead of his valour, by selecting from among the
beauties who graced the galleries a lady, who should fill the
throne of the Queen of Beauty and of Love, and deliver the prize
of the tourney upon the ensuing day. The Prince accordingly made
a sign with his truncheon, as the Knight passed him in his second
career around the lists. The Knight turned towards the throne,
and, sinking his lance, until the point was within a foot of the
ground, remained motionless, as if expecting John's commands;
while all admired the sudden dexterity with which he instantly
reduced his fiery steed from a state of violent emotion and high
excitation to the stillness of an equestrian statue.
"Sir Disinherited Knight," said Prince John, "since that is the
only title by which we can address you, it is now your duty, as
well as privilege, to name the fair lady, who, as Queen of Honour
and of Love, is to preside over next day's festival. If, as a
stranger in our land, you should require the aid of other
judgment to guide your own, we can only say that Alicia, the
daughter of our gallant knight Waldemar Fitzurse, has at our
court been long held the first in beauty as in place.
Nevertheless, it is your undoubted prerogative to confer on whom
you please this crown, by the delivery of which to the lady of
your choice, the election of to-morrow's Queen will be formal and
complete.---Raise your lance."
The Knight obeyed; and Prince John placed upon its point a
coronet of green satin, having around its edge a circlet of gold,
the upper edge of which was relieved by arrow-points and hearts
placed interchangeably, like the strawberry leaves and balls upon
a ducal crown.
In the broad hint which he dropped respecting the daughter of
Waldemar Fitzurse, John had more than one motive, each the
offspring of a mind, which was a strange mixture of carelessness
and presumption with low artifice and cunning. He wished to
banish from the minds of the chivalry around him his own indecent
and unacceptable jest respecting the Jewess Rebecca; he was
desirous of conciliating Alicia's father Waldemar, of whom he
stood in awe, and who had more than once shown himself
dissatisfied during the course of the day's proceedings. He had
also a wish to establish himself in the good graces of the lady;
for John was at least as licentious in his pleasures as
profligate in his ambition. But besides all these reasons, he
was desirous to raise up against the Disinherited Knight (towards
whom he already entertained a strong dislike) a powerful enemy in
the person of Waldemar Fitzurse, who was likely, he thought,
highly to resent the injury done to his daughter, in case, as was
not unlikely, the victor should make another choice.
And so indeed it proved. For the Disinherited Knight passed the
gallery close to that of the Prince, in which the Lady Alicia was
seated in the full pride of triumphant beauty, and, pacing
forwards as slowly as he had hitherto rode swiftly around the
lists, he seemed to exercise his right of examining the numerous
fair faces which adorned that splendid circle.
It was worth while to see the different conduct of the beauties
who underwent this examination, during the time it was
proceeding. Some blushed, some assumed an air of pride and
dignity, some looked straight forward, and essayed to seem
utterly unconscious of what was going on, some drew back in
alarm, which was perhaps affected, some endeavoured to forbear
smiling, and there were two or three who laughed outright. There
were also some who dropped their veils over their charms; but, as
the Wardour Manuscript says these were fair ones of ten years
standing, it may be supposed that, having had their full share of
such vanities, they were willing to withdraw their claim, in
order to give a fair chance to the rising beauties of the age.
At length the champion paused beneath the balcony in which the
Lady Rowena was placed, and the expectation of the spectators was
excited to the utmost.
It must be owned, that if an interest displayed in his success
could have bribed the Disinherited Knight, the part of the lists
before which he paused had merited his predilection. Cedric the
Saxon, overjoyed at the discomfiture of the Templar, and still
more so at the miscarriage of his two malevolent neighbours,
Front-de-Boeuf and Malvoisin, had, with his body half stretched
over the balcony, accompanied the victor in each course, not with
his eyes only, but with his whole heart and soul. The Lady
Rowena had watched the progress of the day with equal attention,
though without openly betraying the same intense interest. Even
the unmoved Athelstane had shown symptoms of shaking off his
apathy, when, calling for a huge goblet of muscadine, he quaffed
it to the health of the Disinherited Knight. Another group,
stationed under the gallery occupied by the Saxons, had shown no
less interest in the fate of the day.
"Father Abraham!" said Isaac of York, when the first course was
run betwixt the Templar and the Disinherited Knight, "how
fiercely that Gentile rides! Ah, the good horse that was brought
all the long way from Barbary, he takes no more care of him than
if he were a wild ass's colt---and the noble armour, that was
worth so many zecchins to Joseph Pareira, the armourer of Milan,
besides seventy in the hundred of profits, he cares for it as
little as if he had found it in the highways!"
"If he risks his own person and limbs, father," said Rebecca, "in
doing such a dreadful battle, he can scarce be expected to spare
his horse and armour."
"Child!" replied Isaac, somewhat heated, "thou knowest not what
thou speakest---His neck and limbs are his own, but his horse and
armour belong to---Holy Jacob! what was I about to say!
---Nevertheless, it is a good youth---See, Rebecca! see, he is
again about to go up to battle against the Philistine---Pray,
child---pray for the safety of the good youth,---and of the
speedy horse, and the rich armour.---God of my fathers!" he again
exclaimed, "he hath conquered, and the uncircumcised Philistine
hath fallen before his lance,---even as Og the King of Bashan,
and Sihon, King of the Amorites, fell before the sword of our
fathers!---Surely he shall take their gold and their silver, and
their war-horses, and their armour of brass and of steel, for a
prey and for a spoil."
The same anxiety did the worthy Jew display during every course
that was run, seldom failing to hazard a hasty calculation
concerning the value of the horse and armour which was forfeited
to the champion upon each new success. There had been therefore
no small interest taken in the success of the Disinherited
Knight, by those who occupied the part of the lists before which
he now paused.
Whether from indecision, or some other motive of hesitation, the
champion of the day remained stationary for more than a minute,
while the eyes of the silent audience were riveted upon his
motions; and then, gradually and gracefully sinking the point of
his lance, he deposited the coronet which it supported at the
feet of the fair Rowena. The trumpets instantly sounded, while
the heralds proclaimed the Lady Rowena the Queen of Beauty and of
Love for the ensuing day, menacing with suitable penalties those
who should be disobedient to her authority. They then repeated
their cry of Largesse, to which Cedric, in the height of his joy,
replied by an ample donative, and to which Athelstane, though
less promptly, added one equally large.
There was some murmuring among the damsels of Norman descent, who
were as much unused to see the preference given to a Saxon
beauty, as the Norman nobles were to sustain defeat in the games
of chivalry which they themselves had introduced. But these
sounds of disaffection were drowned by the popular shout of "Long
live the Lady Rowena, the chosen and lawful Queen of Love and of
Beauty!" To which many in the lower area added, "Long live the
Saxon Princess! long live the race of the immortal Alfred!"
However unacceptable these sounds might be to Prince John, and to
those around him, he saw himself nevertheless obliged to confirm
the nomination of the victor, and accordingly calling to horse,
he left his throne; and mounting his jennet, accompanied by his
train, he again entered the lists. The Prince paused a moment
beneath the gallery of the Lady Alicia, to whom he paid his
compliments, observing, at the same time, to those around him
---"By my halidome, sirs! if the Knight's feats in arms have
shown that he hath limbs and sinews, his choice hath no less
proved that his eyes are none of the clearest."
It was on this occasion, as during his whole life, John's
misfortune, not perfectly to understand the characters of those
whom he wished to conciliate. Waldemar Fitzurse was rather
offended than pleased at the Prince stating thus broadly an
opinion, that his daughter had been slighted.
"I know no right of chivalry," he said, "more precious or
inalienable than that of each free knight to choose his lady-love
by his own judgment. My daughter courts distinction from no one;
and in her own character, and in her own sphere, will never fail
to receive the full proportion of that which is her due."
Prince John replied not; but, spurring his horse, as if to give
vent to his vexation, he made the animal bound forward to the
gallery where Rowena was seated, with the crown still at her
"Assume," he said, "fair lady, the mark of your sovereignty, to
which none vows homage more sincerely than ourself, John of
Anjou; and if it please you to-day, with your noble sire and
friends, to grace our banquet in the Castle of Ashby, we shall
learn to know the empress to whose service we devote to-morrow."
Rowena remained silent, and Cedric answered for her in his native
"The Lady Rowena," he said, "possesses not the language in which
to reply to your courtesy, or to sustain her part in your
festival. I also, and the noble Athelstane of Coningsburgh,
speak only the language, and practise only the manners, of our
fathers. We therefore decline with thanks your Highness's
courteous invitation to the banquet. To-morrow, the Lady Rowena
will take upon her the state to which she has been called by the
free election of the victor Knight, confirmed by the acclamations
of the people."
So saying, he lifted the coronet, and placed it upon Rowena's
head, in token of her acceptance of the temporary authority
assigned to her.
"What says he?" said Prince John, affecting not to understand the
Saxon language, in which, however, he was well skilled. The
purport of Cedric's speech was repeated to him in French. "It is
well," he said; "to-morrow we will ourself conduct this mute
sovereign to her seat of dignity.---You, at least, Sir Knight,"
he added, turning to the victor, who had remained near the
gallery, "will this day share our banquet?"
The Knight, speaking for the first time, in a low and hurried
voice, excused himself by pleading fatigue, and the necessity of
preparing for to-morrow's encounter.
"It is well," said Prince John, haughtily; "although unused to
such refusals, we will endeavour to digest our banquet as we may,
though ungraced by the most successful in arms, and his elected
Queen of Beauty."
So saying, he prepared to leave the lists with his glittering
train, and his turning his steed for that purpose, was the signal
for the breaking up and dispersion of the spectators.
Yet, with the vindictive memory proper to offended pride,
especially when combined with conscious want of desert, John had
hardly proceeded three paces, ere again, turning around, he fixed
an eye of stern resentment upon the yeoman who had displeased him
in the early part of the day, and issued his commands to the
men-at-arms who stood near---"On your life, suffer not that
fellow to escape."
The yeoman stood the angry glance of the Prince with the same
unvaried steadiness which had marked his former deportment,
saying, with a smile, "I have no intention to leave Ashby until
the day after to-morrow---I must see how Staffordshire and
Leicestershire can draw their bows---the forests of Needwood and
Charnwood must rear good archers."
"I," said Prince John to his attendants, but not in direct reply,
---"I will see how he can draw his own; and woe betide him
unless his skill should prove some apology for his insolence!"
"It is full time," said De Bracy, "that the 'outrecuidance'*
* Presumption, insolence.
of these peasants should be restrained by some striking example."
Waldemar Fitzurse, who probably thought his patron was not taking
the readiest road to popularity, shrugged up his shoulders and
was silent. Prince John resumed his retreat from the lists, and
the dispersion of the multitude became general.
In various routes, according to the different quarters from which
they came, and in groups of various numbers, the spectators were
seen retiring over the plain. By far the most numerous part
streamed towards the town of Ashby, where many of the
distinguished persons were lodged in the castle, and where others
found accommodation in the town itself. Among these were most of
the knights who had already appeared in the tournament, or who
proposed to fight there the ensuing day, and who, as they rode
slowly along, talking over the events of the day, were greeted
with loud shouts by the populace. The same acclamations were
bestowed upon Prince John, although he was indebted for them
rather to the splendour of his appearance and train, than to the
popularity of his character.
A more sincere and more general, as well as a better-merited
acclamation, attended the victor of the day, until, anxious to
withdraw himself from popular notice, he accepted the
accommodation of one of those pavilions pitched at the
extremities of the lists, the use of which was courteously
tendered him by the marshals of the field. On his retiring to
his tent, many who had lingered in the lists, to look upon and
form conjectures concerning him, also dispersed.
The signs and sounds of a tumultuous concourse of men lately
crowded together in one place, and agitated by the same passing
events, were now exchanged for the distant hum of voices of
different groups retreating in all directions, and these speedily
died away in silence. No other sounds were heard save the voices
of the menials who stripped the galleries of their cushions and
tapestry, in order to put them in safety for the night, and
wrangled among themselves for the half-used bottles of wine and
relics of the refreshment which had been served round to the
Beyond the precincts of the lists more than one forge was
erected; and these now began to glimmer through the twilight,
announcing the toil of the armourers, which was to continue
through the whole night, in order to repair or alter the suits of
armour to be used again on the morrow.
A strong guard of men-at-arms, renewed at intervals, from two
hours to two hours, surrounded the lists, and kept watch during