21 The emperor’s crown - 1220
1220 - Rome
It was not until further negotiations between me, Innocent III, and Honorius III – who succeeded the papacy after Innocent's death – that I was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Rome by Honorius III, on 22 November 1220.
As I became accustomed to my daily tribunals, my private life became all the more gratifying once I invited Adelaine to court under the pretence of lady-in-waiting to my wife, who would visit the court in Italy in but a few months time.
The young virility in me knew no bounds; I soon found myself intoxicated by Adelaine' charms and by the time my wife was due to arrive, Adeleine had to be confined to a private estate with a fair round belly. My affair was a public secret - though to avoid the sufferings of an outright obstreperous scandal, Louis called me out in private to urge me to arrange a marriage between Adeleine and one of the bachelor noble sons.
Both of us were walking about the spacious room. Philip was seated at the far end of the extensive table that dominated the room, his hands clasped upon its surface. Alessandro was seated on his left. Julius was leaning halfway against the stone furnishment, his ankles crossed as he regarded the exchange between me and Louis. The bearded duke pinched the bridge of his nose as he listened to my arguments in favour of keeping Adeleine at court.
"Your majesty, with all due respect, you had your fun. We can't weaken your image by such," Louis waved his ringed hand about, "frivolities."
"No." The curtain swayed as I halted before the window. Looking up at the full moon shining its pale light down over the high glass panes, I witnessed a marvellous sighting over the gardens beneath us. Louis was right. Of course, he is - I told myself - I know him to get worked up over any kind of dissentient behaviour, certainly where it concerns the honour of women.
Behind me, resting his hands flat against the table, the man addressed Julius, "let him see reason, I beg you."
My friend opened his mouth only to close it again. Looking about between the two of us, he strayed from the table and joined me by the window. At first, I refused to look at him. He knew what to say, he knew how to have me yield. I locked eyes with him and begged; begged him to remain silent, to let me have this. I had given this throne my all, surely they could leave me my heart?
"Listen, I understand that you are fond of her,-"
"That doesn't even come close to it."
Julius stroked the back of his neck and leaned his shoulder against the glass, "I hear you. And that's exactly why you should give her the chance to regain an honourable position within a noble house. Let her keep the dignity she still has left and let the child be born under a noble family name."
My jaw clenched. My chest tightened. Ignoring his plea, I once again paced the room, four pairs of eyes following me. Frowning, Julius said; "You're playing with her future as well as that of her child."
A sting went through my heart. I turned around - the heels of my shoes all but tearing up the carpet - and regarded him.
"No," Philip, who had been silent till now, shook his head, "the child will never be spoken of as yours. It is hers, and whatever lord she marries."
"I won't abandon her, I'm protecting them."
"You really believe that, don't you?" Louis intervened, "and what of the girl's honour? The child's?"
"What gives you the right to judge me?"
I closed the space between the duke and me. Regardless of the anger resounding from Louis' visage. Julius stepped up as well, greeting me with a resolute gaze. I clasped the back of the chair before me.
"Calm down." Julius said.
"I'm making her my consort. I will protect her and the child from any prejudice here in court. Whoever dares to dishonour them, will undergo a death sentence."
Louis sighed. Frustration lined his words. "Are you mad? Do you realise the amount of nonsense you are conveying? Is that all it takes to fire you up, a young girl with starlit eyes, who feeds your delusions of grandiosity?"
"Louis!" Phillip warned.
"No, you listen to me boy!" The old duke of Bavaria rounded the table, ignoring Phillip' plea, "our position is not as strong as you have let yourself believe. Winning the war was easy, now we get to govern the empire - you have only been ceremonially crowned last autumn, and you are already causing havoc."
I threw the chair down the room. "Curse you! Be silent or I'll have your head for your derision."
"Hold it both of you!" Julius said, positioning himself between us.
Louis spoke up once more; "and do enlighten me; were she to stay, where would you have her once Her Majesty takes her place at court?"
"I see- as a lady in waiting to Her Majesty then, as it is the lady Urslingen' official position?" Louis shook his head. "No good man should ever let his wife go through such a case of blatant infidelity! Do you wish for Her Majesty to be shamed? Do you wish for her to witness your promiscuous affair on a daily basis, in the knowledge that all of society is aware off it?"
"You know nothing of it!"
"Do not mistake your dalliance for love! You and your naïve, romanticised ideas of such subjects would be laughable it not for the consequences they have on the lives of the very people in this room and the rest of the empire!"
Phillip rose. The indignant look in his eyes needed no further explanation. He paced towards his enraged friend and grabbed the man's shoulders. Speaking in a hushed tone, while forcing Louis to be silent, he ushered him to sit down.
"You are two of the same kind." The whispered words of denigration came from my right. Judging by the look on his face, Julius deemed us as intelligible as infants.
"We are nothing alike," I told him.
Julius' humourless laugh filled the chamber. "Hell and damnation - you are undifferential. Both so submerged in your little games."
"My little games are very real. You would do well to remind yourself that. And you," I heaved my hand. Provoked and armed for a new verbal sparing. I circled him like a predator, though my voice was timid and nigh breaking, "are no innocent in this either."
"I am aware of my own sins. Are you?" Julius put his hand to my chest, keeping me at a safe distance, and whispered, "it's no excuse."
"Have the goodness to let me have this," I said to him. Breathing heavily, I swallowed and looked back and forth over his shoulder towards the assembled men. I shook my head in denial, regarding Julius once more, "I beg you."
"Please, my friend, it's no use." He grabbed the back of my neck. Settling our foreheads together.
"I love her."
He remained silent- his blue eyes repeating his earlier statement.
"Yeah," I paused. Shrugged him off, "yeah, I know."
I aided in setting the abused chair back upright, waved Julius' efforts to console me away and bid him to leave. The small assembly dissolved. Remaining in the room only Alessandro, who smiled his incomprehensible smile and looked about the room as if he was merely a passing spectator in time. I set myself down next to him and requested his opinion on the matter. The old man sighed, clasped his hands, looked at me, turned his gaze momentarily towards the chandelier hanging overhead, and back to me.
"You may do as it pleases you, your majesty," he said, "but never forget, they all bid you nothing but good fortune."
"You would do well listen to people, with patience and consideration, so that in the future they will be willing to lend their minds to you again."
"What if I were to discard them?"
"You would do yourself no favour."
"It was merely a rhetorical question. I'm not so deluded that I would deem my own judgement above that of them."
Silence on his side.
"So you think I should let my mind and position rule my heart?" I asked.
"Would you wish me to answer as a man of the church? Or like a person who knows you?"
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"I prefer the latter."
"Then I shall do without the ecclesiastical recitation, and modestly say; close your heart to love, your majesty. It has been known to take down empires more swiftly than the plague."
Yet the fact that I would soon sire an illegitimate child was overshadowed by the anticipation of meeting my son, whom I had never met nor seen, his only reference being a small miniature hidden within the safety of my quarters.
On the day of their entry, the clouds overhead lay a dark curtain over the sky. The wind picked up slightly, yet still made for a pleasant winter day. Beckoning the guards and heralds to stand in ceremony at the entrance of the palace, I waited for the party to arrive.
The royal bearer of tidings proclaimed their approach, and within seconds the mass before my throne parted. Positioned on an elevated area, I must have been the first to spot her.
A woman with grand posture and amendable garments appeared within the entrance of the throne room. The Herculean doors made any passer appear small, but her majesty seemed to be the exception. She held her head high, her blonde hair braided with precision and put up with care. The red of her dress seemed to pale the tapestries and carpeting within the grand hall - while the chandeliers hanging from the bowed ceiling lighted her kindly. Her cheeks and chin had sharpened with the years, yet many a person gathered there that day had to confess that the slight signs of ageing in the corner of her eyes did not reduce her beauty. If anything, it gave her a majestic look that many may pursue, but most may never achieve. A fair maiden may have been praised for her beauty, but this was a woman formed by the challenges of a throne, and any fair maiden would pale and be deemed childish when placed next to her. Her Majesty. Queen of Germany and Sicily and Holy Roman Empress. My wife.