The Book of Alys
King Henry II, exhausted from everlasting conflict with France and the bad habit of his sons rebelling against their father finds love, solace, and passion after falling for the youthful beauty of Alys and makes her his mistress.
Alys’ father, King Louis VII of France was a man in desperate need of an heir. Alys was his fourth daughter from two wives. After divorcing Eleanor, he married Alys’ mother Constance.
The desperate need for a son meant that King Louis was striding down the aisle just five weeks after Constance’s death (not to say that he wasn’t grieving, it was said he was deeply affected by his loss), this time with Adele of Champagne who was twenty years his junior. Alys was finally joined by the longed-for brother when she was five years old, and then another sister named Agnes.
Long before Alys came on to the scene her father had been at war, on and off, with Henry II of England. While Louis needed a son to inherit his throne, his daughters were also important as diplomatic tools. Alys first played her part in January 1169, when Louis and Henry met to sign the Treaty of Montmirail near Le Mans.
The treaty set out Henrys plans for his lands. His eldest son also Henry would inherit the English throne (he had been married to Alys’ sister Margaret in 1160). His second son, Geoffrey, was already betrothed to the heiress to the Duchy of Brittany, Constance.
As the third son Richard would inherit Aquitaine. The treaty formed the official betrothal of Alys to Prince Richard and agreed that she would be raised as a ward of King Henry, in the household of Queen Eleanor.
At this point Alys was never considered to be a future English queen. Richard was third in line to the throne, his older brothers were both healthy and had survived the worst dangers of infancy, and their marriages would take place before his.
Although she was only eight years old at the time, Alys was handed over to the English court to be raised alongside her anticipated future sister-in-law Constance of Brittany, and her own sister Margaret.
How much time she spent with her betrothed isn’t really known. Especially since Richard and his brothers then got into the bad habit of rebelling against their father.
As Alys grew up and the wedding with Richard didn’t take place, rumours began to circulate that she had become mistress to King Henry, and thus could not marry his son. Henry’s wife Eleanor of Aquitaine had been imprisoned in 1174 after supporting her rebellious sons. Henry reportedly was considering getting an annulment for his marriage to Eleanor so he could marry his mistress ‘Fair Rosamund’. However, one chronicler claimed that Henry was actually considering marrying Alys himself.
She was young, she was the daughter of a King of France, and her sons might have a potential claim to the French throne. It was even rumoured that Henry would disinherit his sons by Eleanor and replace them in the line of succession with any sons he might have by Alys. It was even stated that Alys already had at least one child, possibly two, by Henry in the time she was his mistress.
Queen Eleanor of England and Aquitaine gripped the arms of her seat in fear for her safety, waiting for the coming onslaught. Although she was seated on the periphery of the dais, she knew from painful experience that when her husband’s temper was roused, anybody within range of his fists or feet or sword could suffer imminent death.
Alan Gold began his career as a journalist, working in the UK, Europe, and Israel. In 1970, he emigrated to Australia with his wife, Eva, and now lives in St. Ives, Sydney, where he divides his time between writing novels and running his award-winning marketing consultancy.
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