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GEOFFREY VINSAUF Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land

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Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page 42

unceasingly anxious, as he judged delay to be dangerous, whilst it was of consequence to commence the journey which was due: wherefore he wrote to the king of France that he was quite ready to set out, and urged that he should be ready also, shewing by his father’s example that delay was hurtful when every thing was prepared. Therefore, in the year of our Lord 1190, with the dominical letter G, the kings met at Dreux to confer about the arrangement of their journey. After many had communicated their opinions, and while the conference was going on, there suddenly arrived a messenger with the news that the queen of France was dead. The king, smitten by the bitterness of this news, was greatly cast down, so that he almost thought of laying aside his premeditated journey; and to augment this bereavement, news was brought that William, king of Apulia, was likewise dead. Overwhelmed by these adverse occurrences, and utterly overcome by the belief that they predicted ill, they abstained from the transaction of the business, and the fire of their zeal in a measure grew lukewarm. However, by the favour of the inspiration of God, who guideth the footsteps or man, and in whose hands are the hearts of kings, to prevent the ruin of a work planned with so much toil and solemnly arranged, and the turning into condemnation and disgrace what had been disposed for the attainment of good, they recovered their strength, and were animated to proceed and set out, and not to grow lukewarm by unpardonable slothfulness. Now they had agreed together to set out on the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, in order that the kings, together with their men, should meet on the eighth day at Vezelai. Whereupon Philip, king of France, setting out from the city of Paris, which is the capital of France, with a large quantity of provisions, shortly afterwards marched by the chapel of St. Denis, to whose prayers and merits he commended himself, and thus commenced his journey accompanied by a very large multitude. There also set out with him on his journey, the duke of Burgundy and the count of Flanders. Who can relate the progress of each with their forces? You might meet them on all sides flocking together and assembling from different parts, and joining together in one army, amidst pious tears; while those who went forward with their friends or kinsmen, regarded them with a look of love, and on their departure were unable to restrain the tears from bursting forth, as devotion or sorrow affected them.

Chapter VII. - How King Richard, being at Tours, commanded his fleet to proceed and go round Spain by the Straits, and wait for him at Messina.

King Richard was at Tours with a chosen body of soldiers. Both the city and suburbs were so crowded with the multitude of men that they inconvenienced each other from the crowd and the narrowness of the streets and roads. Therefore, by the command of the king, the royal fleet, being collected together, was ordered to proceed in order, being in number a hundred and eight, not including the ships that followed afterwards. Thus the royal fleet, having been set forward on its voyage by the command of the king, with a fair wind and in close company, reached the destined port of Messina, after having safely escaped the dangerous sandbanks, and the perils of the terrible rocks, the stormy straits of Africa, and all the dangers of the ocean. Here they awaited the arrival of the king, according to his command, who was marching with his army by land. When the king departed from Tours with his forces, the inhabitants of the land were terrified by the appearance of so great a multitude. Who could relate the numbers of those who accompanied him, the variety of their arms, the trains of nobles and chosen hands of combatants? Or who could describe the troops of infantry and their bodies of slingers, which those who saw as they advanced in order, from their inmost hearts, and with pious zeal forcing out the tears, equally mourned and congratulated their lord the new king, who thus, at the commencement of his reign, without having tasted the sweets of rest, so devotedly and so speedily left all pleasures, and, as if chosen by the Lord, he undertook a work of so great goodness, so arduous and so necessary, and a journey so commendable. O the miserable sighs for those that left them! O the groans of those who embraced at parting! and the good wishes for those who were going away! O the eyes heavy with tears, and the mutual sobs interrupting the words of the speakers amidst the kisses of those who were dear to them, not yet satisfied with the conversation of those who were leaving them; and although they grieved, those who were setting out feigned equanimity by the gravity of their countenances, and separated from each other, after long conversations, as if choking for utterance, and often interchanging a farewell, staid a little longer, and repeated it to gain delay and to appear about to say something more; and at last, tearing themselves from the voices of those that cheered them, they bounded forward and extricated themselves from the hands of those who would detain them.

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