A short but firm knock was followed by the stentorian announcement: “His Grace, King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem!” With this announcement, the man-at-arms at the door brought the Council to their feet—but did not stop the various conversations from continuing as the men stood up.
The King paused in the doorway, taking in the scene. Had any of his councilmen been looking at him, they would have seen his lips pull back in controlled anger—but no one stopped to watch their King advance to his large, armed chair, covered by a baldachin of satin bearing the arms of Jerusalem. Baldwin took his seat and waited, his inner anger simmering. He allowed himself only one glance at his uncle, who winked at him, but otherwise retained his impassive pose.
At length the Regent nodded to the Chancellor, and together they stepped down from the window niche to take their places on either side of the King. This signaled to the others that the meeting of the Privy Council was about to begin. The other members broke off their own conversations, while the clerks squirmed themselves comfortable and waited expectantly.
“The most important item of business today is, of course, the marriage of—”
“My lord.” Baldwin had to speak out loud to stop the Regent’s flow of words, because the Count had ignored his raised hand.
Tripoli looked over, startled and annoyed. “What is it, your grace?” he asked, obviously irritated by the interruption.
“Before we take up the agenda, can anyone in this room tell me what day it is?”
The men around the table looked blankly at one another—except for Jocelyn de Courtney, who looked down at his hands with a smirk playing around his lips.
“It’s the Feast of St. Alexis of Edessa—” the Patriarch began automatically, and the Chancellor caught his breath so loudly that they all turned to stare at William of Tyre.
Only Baldwin remained cool, remarking, “I believe the good Archbishop has grasped the significance of the date—at last.” There was a well of bitterness in those last two words, and the Archbishop of Tyre flushed as he bowed deeply to his King.
“Your grace does well to admonish me. I can only beg indulgence that negotiations over the marriage of your sister to William of Montferrat . . .” He fell silent, conscious that no excuse was good enough.
Baldwin offered the Archbishop no respite from his embarrassment, staring at him in his discomfort for several seconds before enlightening the rest of the baffled Council. “Exactly fifteen years ago, on the Feast of St. Alexis of Edessa in the Year of Our Lord 1161, I was born. In consequence, according to the laws and customs of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, my lords, I am no longer a minor.” The meaning of his words had dawned on all the Privy Council members long before he finished speaking. No one replied, however. They just gazed at him, wondering what would come next—except for Edessa, of course, who was grinning triumphantly.
King Baldwin turned to the Count of Tripoli and spoke slowly and deliberately. “I wish to thank you, my lord, for the great service you have rendered the Kingdom by so ably governing during the years of my minority. I appreciate the great sacrifices you have made in my service, and I wish to state explicitly that I am most pleased with your stewardship.” Baldwin paused and looked directly at the clerks. “Note down that King Baldwin IV thanks the Count of Tripoli warmly and sincerely for his stewardship, and wishes as a token of his gratitude to bestow upon him the right to marry the widow Eschiva of Galilee.” That brought a gasp from some of the men in the room, because Galilee was one of the richest baronies in the Kingdom, owing one hundred knights. To join this with Tripoli made Raymond the richest and most powerful baron in the Kingdom. The gesture was also well calculated to silence any protest from the recipient of the favor—and any suggestions that Baldwin was not pleased with Tripoli’s stewardship. “Now, let us turn to the agenda. You were saying, my lord of Tripoli?”
Tripoli recovered quickly from his initial surprise. Two years earlier he had believed that Baldwin might die before he came of age, but frequent contact with the King had convinced him otherwise. While Baldwin’s leprosy was irreversible, it appeared to have been arrested. Baldwin’s increased activity after his coronation had given his face a healthy complexion without a trace of corruption. His riding had improved to the point where ordinary men compared him to a centaur, and he walked without apparent difficulty or impediment. His hands and forearms, to be sure, were discolored and lifeless, but they were not covered with ulcers, and none of his limbs had actually become deformed, much less fallen off. Tripoli had long since accepted that Baldwin would reach his maturity and take power for himself; it was just that he had hoped to conclude a few items of business first. For some reason, he’d thought Baldwin’s birthday was not until the end of the month. Now Tripoli bowed his head to Baldwin and thanked him for his “kind words and generosity.” He added, “I have always served you, your grace, with the utmost conscientiousness and with all the facilities in my power.”
“Thank you,” Baldwin replied simply. “Now, to the first order of business: the marriage of my sister Sibylla.”
“Yes, your grace. The Marquis of Montferrat has agreed to all our terms with only minor alterations, and is prepared to sail before the autumn storms. He expects to arrive no later than the end of October.”
“What alterations?” Baldwin wanted to know.
“They were—” The Chancellor had been about to say they were of no consequence; but reading Baldwin’s mood correctly, he cut himself off, turned to one of the clerks, and set him scampering for a copy of the revised marriage contract.
“You are certain that the Marquis will sail before the winter?” Baldwin asked the Chancellor after the clerk had departed.
“Quite certain, your grace.”
“Then we need to start making plans for the wedding. I want it to be very splendid—almost like a coronation. And my sister has asked that she be attended by our mother on the occasion.”
The consternation in the room was tangible but unspoken. All eyes turned instantly on her brother, the Count of Edessa, whose smug expression seemed to confirm all suspicions that he was behind this surprise move.
“I will ask Queen Maria Zoë to return to court as well,” Baldwin continued, as if seeking to mollify his obviously outraged Council. “I want my little sister Isabella to grow up at court.” It sounded innocent enough, but Tripoli’s face revealed just how much he disapproved. He opened his mouth to protest, but then snapped it shut again, unable to think of a way to word his objections that would not sound selfserving.
The King beamed at his Uncle Jocelyn and declared, “We can all be together. A family at last!”
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