Boniface, a servant of the Lord and by His good grace, prior of the Cistercian House of Roche in the County of Yorkshire to my lady Rosamunde, greetings. Forasmuch as it has pleased your ladyship to make enquiries regarding the life of Arthur, late of blessed memory, although I am but a humble scribe, I trust that you will permit me to lay before you now the true story of his life. I know before God and all his saints that it is true, for although I am an old man now, when I was young and scarcely a twelvemonth in my Order, I had the story from the very lips of Arthur himself. This is no Vita Arthuriensis in the traditional sense, for the words are his and written in the first person as dictated to me (although he was an educated and great man, he never mastered the mysteries of writing). The words are true, but my memory and eyesight are not what they were, and if by any chance, God forbid it, I have erred in my recollections or transcriptions of my notes taken at the time, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. May God have mercy upon Arthur and grant his soul peace and refreshment and may light perpetual shine upon him. This is Arthur’s Tale.
Item: CONCERNING MY BIRTH
I was born in the town of Nantes in April in the year of Grace 1186. In those days, as now, we did not reckon the exact date, but it was after Easter, and I recall my mother telling me that the songbirds were in full voice, and the meadows dappled with spring flowers – periwinkles and poppies, celandine and cornflowers – so maybe it was towards the end of that marvellous month.
My mother was Constance of Penthievre, a gentle yet determined lady who took a keen and personal interest in my upbringing. For one born of noble blood this was most unusual; not for me a wet-nurse, but instead my own mother’s milk. Now that I am nearer to death than to birth this is a source of great pride and comfort, but when I was but a child, I was frequently called a mummy’s boy and ridiculed by those, admittedly low-born, children with whom I occasionally spent my time. Verily, my mother was a wonderful person who would have done anything for me, even lain down her life had it ever been so demanded. I was her fourth child, but her first son, and I truly think she had given up hope of ever providing her lord, my father, with the son he so cherished, for she was around 25 summers old when I was born and would soon be approaching the end of her child bearing days. I shall return soon and often to my mother, for she was by far the most important person in my childhood, but now it is time to speak of my father, because for all my mother’s gentility and love, it was my father’s blood that marked out my destiny.
That blood was the royal blood of England, for my father was Geoffrey the Angevin, but known increasingly as Geoffrey Plantagenet, a nickname coined by his grandfather, another Geoffrey, from the sprig of bloom that he oft-times wore on his bonnet. Father was one of the brood of vipers that had sprung from the fertile loins of Henry Plantagenet, the second of that name to be king of England. It is now, of course, common knowledge how Henry, a direct descendant of the great Conqueror himself through his mother Mathilde, had become king upon the death of his cousin Stephen. This Henry had married the formidable lady Eleanor of Aquitaine, and she had provided him with a succession of sons, of which my father was the fourth born. However, his two eldest brothers died before their father (it was said that the death of young Henry stole all the life force from his father king Henry) and thus for a while, father found himself separated from the throne of England only by the life of his remaining older brother, Richard, coeur-de-lion as he became know. He it was who became king upon the death of King Henry in December 1192. My father’s other brother, and my other surviving uncle was named John. He was said to be his father’s favourite; I know not whether this be true, but apparently the three surviving brothers fought oft with their father the king and fell into disagreement and quarrels with one another as easily and as regularly as the sun rises and sets in the heavens.
It was in fact to one of these quarrels that I owed my early accession as Duke of Brittany. This had been my father’s principal title, but after one of his frequent arguments with his son my father, the king had forced Geoffrey to relinquish his title as duke of Brittany and elevated me, a mere babe in arms, to the dignity and honour of that ancient title. My father retained his title of Earl of York, for I suppose that even in his anger, the king my grandfather could not see his son disinherited entirely. A consequence of this action was that my mother spent her time with me in Brittany, away from my father’s side in York. Mother said how he would visit her periodically, but that over time, these visits became less and less frequent until in time he stopped calling altogether. Thus was I swaddled and weaned in the bleak citadel of Nantes, subjected as it was and is to the frequent Atlantic storms that batter the old town, especially in the winter months. Meanwhile, my elder sisters were in far away York with my father, for whilst he tolerated his father’s decision, possibly for my sake, he was determined not to lose control of his daughters, for despite his fierce temper and rashness, he loved my sisters with that tenderness only possible between father and daughter, and which, by dint of gender and geography was denied me.
I spoke of my father’s royal blood as being my destiny, and so it was, yet my mother could also claim royal descent for she was the daughter of Margaret, a princess of Scotland, who had married Conan, duke of Brittany. Some even say that as the duchy fell into Angevin hands, she reigned briefly as duke, although the title was soon conferred upon her husband, my father, Geoffrey, upon their marriage. Needless to say though, after my father was stripped of his title, and with me still sucking on my mother’s nipple, she assumed effective control of the duchy through a regency council until I came of age, and much of what follows in my early years, was the direct consequence of her actions rather than my own. As I grew in age and wisdom, I became increasingly grateful for her wise and sensible stewardship of my domain, such that by the time I was of age and entered my majority, I inherited a duchy with a well-developed infrastructure, inhabited by people with such a positive disposition to my mother and her rule, that I was accepted without demur throughout the length and breadth of my lands.
The game setup gave me a few problems vis a vis historical reality and forced me to take some liberties to establish a rationale for the AAR. IRL, Arthur was born posthumously on 29 March 1187 (in the scenario he is born at the end of April 1186). His ancestry is as described, but his father Geoffrey, died in August 1186, the result of his horse falling on him in a tournament near Paris. Thus IRL Arthur inherited his title posthumously, but legitimately. However, in the game, Geoffrey is alive and kicking as Count of York, with the infant Arthur ensconced as Duke of Brittany. His mother, Constance, is however, a courtier of his in Brittany, and not of York as I would have expected? Given the well-documented and turbulent relationships between Henry II and his sons, it seemed to me entirely conceivable that the king should revoke Geoffrey’s title as Duke of Brittany and hand it to Arthur instead. IRL I imagine this would have created considerable tension between father and son, but unfortunately the game dynamic cannot do this for me as the revocation is my device. I shall endeavour, of course, to develop this aspect of the storyline as it unfolds. Curiously, Arthur is a vassal of Phillippe II Augustus and not Henry II. So far all characters are in game, apart from our scribe Boniface, and the lady to whom his work is dedicated, Rosamunde. Arthur’s birth stats by the way are not massively impressive at 4/6/7/6. he starts with 100 each of gold, prestige and piety. He is born deceitful (hardly surprising as an Angevin!) and zealous. The game is normal/normal patch 1.04a.