Henri de Champagne, consort of Queen Isabella of Jerusalem, sometimes still felt as if he were a schoolboy who hadn’t done his homework. He was not yet twenty-five, and he had not been raised to be a king. Furthermore, the laws of the Kingdom of Jerusalem were unique; he could not just apply his experience from home. He was completely dependent on the (not always patient) explanation of the customs and usages of his wife’s kingdom provided by his bishops, barons, and counselors. Sometimes he wondered if everything they told him was absolutely true.
Take the custom of “restor,” for example. Who had ever heard of such a thing? But the seneschal and chamberlain both insisted that it was the custom of the Kingdom of Jerusalem that the king was responsible for compensating knights and sergeants for horses lamed or killed in battle. This seemed a huge and unreasonable expense to Henri, who pointed out that in France a knight was responsible for supplying his own horses at his own expense.
“You are not in France,” the Archbishop of Nazareth, his chancellor, reminded him in an unsympathetic voice.
“Obviously,” Henri retorted, annoyed, “but this is quite unreasonable. A knight enjoys his fief and the profits thereof in exchange for owing service with horse and squire. If the king assumes the costs of the horse—”
“Only if it has been killed or lamed in his service,” the chancellor corrected him.
“Yes, but that’s when most horses are killed!” Henri protested. “You’re talking about over fifty horses—Ah! Just the man I need!” Henri had caught sight of the Baron of Caymont in the doorway. “My lord of Ibelin” (everyone still called him Ibelin, even though the land that went with the title was in Saracen hands), “no one knows the laws of the Kingdom better than you, and as you’re also an expert on horses, I’m sure you know this one doubly well. Tell me, is it true that the King of Jerusalem is responsible for compensating knights and sergeants for horses lost or irreparably injured in battle?”
Ibelin smiled faintly as he came deeper into the room. He bowed his head to the Count of Champagne before answering, “It is called ‘restor,’ my lord, and it is the law of the land—”
“But I’ve never heard anything like it,” Champagne interrupted in protest.
“The spoils of war go to the King,” Ibelin tried to explain, “including the countless Saracen horses we usually capture. I think you’ll find that the drain on your treasury is bearable.”
“Ah, but don’t the Saracens ride mares?” Champagne asked, puzzled.
“They do, but not only mares, and sergeants can be compensated with mares or geldings.”
“Hmm.” Henri did not sound entirely convinced, but he was somewhat mollified, and stood scratching his head as he tried to come to terms with yet another curious custom. Then he started, realizing that Ibelin was supposed to be in Caymont. “What brings you to Acre, my lord? I thought you had planned to stay in Caymont until Easter?”
“I had planned to, yes. My son John, however, rode through the night to bring me word of the Constable’s arrest.”
“Oh!” Henri’s face clouded, and a frown of annoyance crept over his features. Ibelin could almost see him regretting that he had not ordered John’s arrest. Since it was too late for that, however, he went on the offensive instead, declaring indignantly, “The Constable’s brother Guy has been inciting the Pisans to prey upon shipping bound for Acre. They’ve seized at least three ships that we know of, and this isn’t just piracy! The Lusignan is trying to undermine my authority by proving I cannot protect my subjects, as well as denying me valuable revenue that I would otherwise have from the customs duties on the cargoes of the seized ships.”
“That could well be,” Ibelin agreed steadily with a glance at the other men in the room, one after another. The chancellor, seneschal, chamberlain, and viscount of Acre each looked away as if ashamed. He wondered which of them had advised Champagne to arrest the Constable. The Chancellor Archbishop of Nazareth should certainly have known better, he thought, looking again to the senior churchman, but Nazareth had barely escaped Saracen capture after Hattin. The months he had endured in reputedly wild, dangerous, and terrifying circumstances until he finally reached Tripoli had left their mark on him. He was said to bear a bitter, almost ulcerous, grudge against Guy de Lusignan—which was one reason Champagne had selected him as his chancellor. The seneschal Ralph of Tiberius was the younger brother of the Prince of Galilee, and he was likewise an outspoken and bitter opponent of Lusignan. He was also very young, roughly Champagne’s own age—which, Ibelin supposed, might have been a factor in his appointment: Champagne probably did not want to be surrounded by old men. That left the chamberlain and viscount. The former was one of Champagne’s knights, a man who’d come out to Outremer with him—and was, Ibelin presumed, blindly loyal to his lord while equally ignorant of the laws of Jerusalem. The Viscount of Acre, on the other hand, was the elderly and highly respected Peter de Gibelet, a man with a long history as a juror and counselor of the law. He was well qualified to preside over the Court of the Bourgeoisie—but not the kind of man to challenge a king, even a young and inexperienced one.
“Then you approve of the arrest?” Champagne broke in on his thoughts.
“Of course not,” Ibelin answered firmly, turning his attention back to Champagne. “Everything you said pertained to Guy de Lusignan; the man you arrested was Aimery de Lusignan. He is also the Constable of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.”
“Blood is thicker than water, Ibelin. You know that. I cannot trust the brother of a man who is set upon my destruction!” Champagne balled his fist as he spoke, adding passionately, “You saw how Burgundy constantly undermined the authority of my uncle King Richard. I don’t want to have to deal with the same situation—where the man who ought to be my deputy is actively working against me, trying to destroy me and humiliate me at every turn!”
Ibelin nodded, thankful for Champagne’s candidness. He was beginning to comprehend, and said out loud in a reasonable tone, “I can understand that, my lord. May I sit?”
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Champagne was instantly contrite, ashamed of his bad manners. He gestured for Ibelin to take a seat at the table while sending a page to fetch water, wine, and nuts.
Once Ibelin had taken a place at the table, he looked again at the other men gathered around it. The Archbishop of Nazareth looked wary, the Chamberlain confused, the Viscount and Seneschal worried. Ibelin’s eyes circled back to settle on Champagne. “My lord, I doubt any of us here would suggest that you be forced to depend upon a man you do not feel you can trust.” This statement elicited vigorous nods from the Chamberlain, but the Chancellor still looked wary and the other two men puzzled. “However,” Ibelin continued, “regardless of your personal trust—or lack thereof—in Aimery de Lusignan, he remains the Constable of the Kingdom. I would therefore like to know by what authority he was arrested.” As he spoke, Ibelin looked directly at the most experienced jurist in the room. By the way Gibelet sucked in his breath, he was sure he’d hit a nerve.
“I arrested him on my own authority as King, of course,” Champagne answered innocently and confidently.
Ibelin met his eyes and took his time answering, but when he did it was to declare bluntly: “You did not have that right.”
“What do you mean?” Champagne bristled. “I may not have been anointed King, but—”
“This has nothing to do with being anointed. Even if you were, you would not have the right to arrest any member of the High Court on your own authority. Only the High Court can order the arrest of any member, and I know the High Court did no such thing, because I was not summoned.”
The Viscount was nodding vigorously. “My lord of Ibelin is correct, my lord,” Gibelet hastened to say. “I tried—”
“A King has executive authority! I can order the arrest of any of my subjects!” Champagne countered hotly.
“Not in Jerusalem,” Ibelin answered without raising his voice. “Since the Kingdom was established under Baldwin I, the Kings of Jerusalem rule only with the consent of the High Court, and no member of the High Court can be arrested, sentenced, or deprived of his rights without a judgment of their peers.”
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