April Queen

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Authors: Douglas Boyd
himself as the Good Shepherd, bringing compassion and generosity to the needy while dealing harshly with pillage – and rape, inevitable among the rabble with camp followers forbidden by the papal bull.
    The punishments by mutilation and death he personally meted out were not only for the sake of keeping order and from the sensible desire not to alienate too far the people through whose lands they travelled, but also because he believed the failure of the First Crusade had been divine punishment for the misbehaviour of the rabble led by Eleanor’s godless grandfather. It was an argument that Abbé Bernard was to dust off for reuse when the Second Crusade failed so dismally.
    Odo had commenced his preparations by consulting an account of the First Crusade in the library at St Denis. 20 For the benefit of future pilgrims following the same route, his own diary anticipates Baedeker in describing scenery but also giving useful directions:
    Three-day stages separate the prosperous cities of Metz, Worms, Würzburg, Ratisbon and Passau from one another. From the last-named city it takes five days to Wiener-Neustadt and thence one more day to the Hungarian border.…

    The cities of Nish, Sofia, Philippopolis and Adrianople are four days’ apart. From Adrianople is five days to Constantinople. Close on right and left, mountains hem in the fertile and pleasant plain. 21
    Apart from a few hints, 22 the diary maintains a diplomatic silence about the activities of Eleanor, barred from Louis’ celibate tent by Thierry Galeran, the eunuch who considered it his duty to keep away from the impressionable young monarch all time-wasters and opportunists, including his strong-willed queen.
    This left her free to make a virtue out of the necessity that dictated travelling in linguistic groupings to avoid friction and conflict. Revelling in the company of her fellow countrymen after eight years cooped up in the stifling court on the Ile de la Cité, she spent the warm summer days on the plains of Hungary and the banks of the Danube flirting and being flattered in her own language by her young gallants in what passed for normal behaviour in Aquitaine but was considered scandalously intimate by the Franks. Her enemies of both sexes in the royal entourage watched and bided their time as she passed the balmyevenings entertaining the other finely dressed noble ladies with the music and wit of her favourite troubadours, brought along regardless of the papal interdiction.
    While the mass of the army slept under canvas or the stars and devout Louis offered prayers in his spartan quarters policed by Odo and Thierry Galeran, the ladies retired to comfortable, if chaste, beds in elegant pavilions and tents. On waking each morning encamped among her own vassals and the spirited, emotionally and territorially unattached younger sons of her nobility out for adventure and romance, Eleanor must have felt that she had come back to life in the glorious southern sun after a long sleep beneath gloomy northern skies.
    Disapproval or discretion stopped Odo from commenting on how she and the other Amazons dressed and behaved in daytime while on the march but Nicetas Acominatus, the Byzantine statesmen and historian, reported that there were indeed in the Frankish train some women dressed as men, armed with lances and riding astride, of whom the most richly apparelled was known as the lady of the golden boot. 23 Even in the context of a huge crusading army, the April Queen stood out a mile.
    But the idyll of summer days and nights on the road in convivial company was not to last.

SIX
Luxury in Constantinople, Massacre on Mount Cadmos

    O nce on Byzantine territory the reality was harsher. To buy provisions for themselves and fodder for the animals, Eleanor’s household servants were obliged to exchange their silver and gold coins for copper ones bearing Comnenus’ likeness. Odo describes their reaction:
    After entering Greek territory [Bulgaria], we loaded up with

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