While Richard was at this place, there arrived a messenger from England, a clergyman, by name John de Alençon, to inform the king of the disturbed state of England, owing to Earl John, his brother, who would not listen to the persuasions of his mother the queen, nor to those of any other person, but was led on by his own will, and the frequent solicitations of the king of France; and he assured the king that unless the infamous treason was put a stop to by some means or other, England stood in danger of being alienated from the dominion of King Richard. The king was troubled at hearing this news, and reflected in his mind, for a long time, what would be the best course to adopt; at last he confessed that he must return home, if he would not have his native land, and the kingdom of his fathers, wrested from him. As the report of the king’s intention was not made public, some said he was going away; others said that he would remain, and not allow uncertain reports to call him away from the accomplishment of so pious an undertaking; an act which would neither promote the recovery of the Holy Land, nor redound to his own honour.
Chapter XLIII. - How the whole army unanimously agreed that Jerusalem should be besieged, whether King Richard should return home directly or not.
While people differed in opinion as to the departure of King Richard, all the leaders and officers of the army, English, French, Normans, men of Poictou, Maine, and Anjou, met together, and agreed with each other, that whether King Richard returned or not, they would proceed to the siege of Jerusalem, and that nothing should prevent them. When this was known in the army, the people were filled with exceeding joy, and all, rich and poor, high and low, rejoiced in common; and there was not a man in the army but evinced by outward signs the most immoderate joy each in his own peculiar manner; wherefore they made a brilliant illumination, and danced and sang nearly all the night; and thus They passed the livelong night in wakeful glee. The king was the only one troubled with care from what he had heard, and he fell into a long train of thought, until, overcome with the weight of it, he threw himself, in an angry mood, upon his bed. It was now the beginning of June, and the whole army was animated with the desire of setting out for Jerusalem.
Chapter XLIV. - How the flies called cincenelles stung the soldiers in the face, at Ybelin, so that they looked like lepers.
The king and the army started from the Brake of Starlings, and proceeded through the plains to Ybelin, of the Hospitallers, by Hebron, near the valley, where Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary, is said to have been born. Here, the army made a halt, exceedingly rejoiced at the prospect of proceeding towards Jerusalem. And here the men were beset with swarms of small insects, which flew about like sparks of fire, and were called cincenelles. The whole region round swarmed with them, and they annoyed the pilgrims horribly, with their sharp stings in the hands, neck, throat, forehead, and face, and in whatever part of the person happened to
be exposed; their stings were immediately followed by burning and swelling, and those who were stung looked like lepers. They could scarcely keep off their troublesome attacks with veils thrown over the face and neck. But they were in high spirits, and thought they should bear these annoyances with patience; for they were all pledged to advance to the siege of Jerusalem, and the king was the only one troubled at the news which he had received from England.
Chapter XLV. - How one of King Richard’s chaplains addressed him, and dissuaded him, by every argument in his power, from returning home.
One day a chaplain from Poictou, named William, saw the king sitting alone in his tent, with his eyes fixed on the ground, in meditation, and he felt grieved for him, for he knew that he was exasperated at the news brought from England; but he did not venture to come up to him, to lighten his mind of the cares which oppressed him; so he regarded him with a respectful look, and shed tears, but without uttering a word. When the king saw by his manner that the man was desirous of addressing him, he called him, and thus spoke to him: "Sir Chaplain, I pray you, by your allegiance to me, tell me, without delay or dissimulation, what is the cause of your weeping, and if occasion of your distress has any reference to me." The chaplain, with eyes swollen with tears and humble voice, replied, "I will not speak before I know that your highness will not be angered with me for what I say." The king, with an oath, gave him free leave to speak. Upon which, the chaplain, taking confidence, thus began: "My lord the king, I weep on account of the ill repute in which you stand with the army, because you intend to return home, and especially amongst those who are