Photo credits to Regia Anglorum.
Ida de Tosney, mistress of Henry II and her relationship with John in the 1170’sAlison: Euuwww – John has this effect on people – I felt a sort of lurching pulling in of the solar plexus – as if Ida was going to be sick. Eeeuwww. Ida finds John’s mouth particularly repulsive. He’s got a bottom lip that droops forward a little bit. She finds it repulsive and slimy. She doesn’t like his hands. It’s sexual connotations as well. She’s frightened of him. He’s very forceful in a very focused narrow way. When he puts his focus on someone he really focuses. She really doesn’t like him. If she has to have anything to do with him, she melts away, she goes into the furniture, it’s as if she’s not there. And what does John think of her? He’s a real predator. He regards her as a prostitute who’s fair game for anyone really. He’d be ready to get his leg over there. He likes to scare her by making a sort of false pounce on her to make her jump – pretend fighting. He does watch her out of the corner of his eyes. There’s a little bit of jealously there. Of his father? No, of her – being close to his father as he sees it. He likes to keep a clear field between himself and his father as much as possible. He’s a bit like a minesweeper round his father. It’s about the pecking order. So while he thinks she’s fair game does he not jump on her because his father would jump on him? What stops him from doing so?
How does Hamelin, Earl of Surrey, King Henry II's half brother feel about John his nephew? He feels sick in his throat. His mouth purses and it’s as if he’s got a bad taste in his mouth – like a lemon. He wants to suck his lips in, suck his teeth. It’s quite an unpleasant feeling. It’s almost as if he’s having to put his hand out to fend himself away from John and sort of step round him. Keep his distance. There’s a touch of ‘the younger generation, they’re so rough. Don’t approve of the younger generation, but in particular this one is distasteful. It doesn’t matter what he tries to dress it up with, syrup or cream, it still doesn’t taste right.
So his attitude towards John re John’s relationship with his daughter.
Hmmm, horrible sick feeling in the solar plexus now. His head is bowed and he’s sucking in his cheeks and his teeth. I would say defeated. A horrible feeling. It makes him feel unwell. From the waist down it makes him feel unwell. His legs have sort of shooting horrible feelings down them. But he will not be beaten. He comes up with this screwed up face ‘but I will not be defeated.’ Then a hardness comes into him, His whole being is pushing John away, keeping him at a safe distance. Unbeknown to Alison, John seduced Hamelin’s daughter and got her pregnant. This was seen as a distasteful scandal at the time because the kinship tie made it close to incestuous re the medieval mindset. So I wonder if his feelings from the waist down were connected with this – a sort of ‘shrinking of the loins?’
How does John he feel about William Longespee, his bastard half-brother? First when William was a little boy and then when he was older.
Alison: Initially John liked to tease William but the teasing didn’t have much effect so he got bored with it. I think William just glided over the teasing. It didn’t seem to upset him. I think also this ability to be very mannered and regal that William has, is not ruffled by other people being less mannered and less regal. It gives William more control in fact. It seems to me that because of this it’s as if he’s the older one in character rather than John. And how does John perceive this? He just gets bored with being nasty to him and he’s someone whom John feels safe in turning his back to. He thinks he’s safe. And he also takes William for granted. He just turns his back and goes to tease someone else.
And then older? When William in his teens?
John is more practised in being sly now. He’s looking through the corners of his eyes. He’s starting to get jealous of William. All the girls like William and John doesn’t like that at all. He’s nasty to the girls who like William. I can see him with a knife. I could see him cutting the tip off a woman's plait. William doesn’t know this is going on because he doesn’t particularly know the ladies like him. Everybody likes him, that’s just the way he is. Some people find him a bit superficial – his mannerisms are like a façade. People generally like him but some people find that they can’t really get close to him because of that façade and they can’t get that emotional response from him.
John feels as long as William keeps to his place, he can feel content. John doesn’t feel threatened. He watches like a cat watches a mouse but there’s a clearly defined gap between them and William doesn’t go over it at all.
Now to Eleanor of Aquitaine. What does she think about the fact that the King of
Alison: He’s reading. He’s quite on a level emotionally. He’s working with his brain at the moment. He’s reading mainly for information. Occasionally he’s noting something. I don’t know if it’s a mental note or a real note, but it’s like he’s noting important points now and then. He’s writing every so often as well. FFW to when William Marshal Junior arrives. John is mostly still in this level frame of mind. Very shrewd. Turning his attention to that matter. He’s focusing on William the person rather than what William is saying and he’s sizing up that person. It’s almost as if he’s got William Jnr on a bell rope – strung up. You know how a bell rope can take you up a little way and then back down – it’s that image. It’s a bit like weighing somebody up and also a bit like ‘I could string him up if I wanted and he’s weighing up what to do. He’s weighing up his physique too, the muscle power in the youth and his appearance, his face. FFW. He doesn’t take any notice of what William’s said. Ah! He’s got that letter that William had before. He’d been reading it earlier and it’s already on the table. He takes it out again and he’s kind of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s and asking about the details – such as ‘And how many men would that be? How many supplies? What would he be taking over there? You do realise that it would incur a tax of….’ William Jnr is having to say ‘I am sure
my father will have realised this and will be sending you that. He’s having to gloss it over. John’s doing this all the way down to the bottom of the page, and then he lets it flip. He’s putting his teeth edges together and opening his lips and bearing his teeth – almost as if he’s sizing William up to take a bite somehow and see what he would taste like. John is saying ‘As long as your father realises the costs involved, we will allow him to go. I don’t know if this is right or not because it’s words but I am getting ‘Be back by March.’ I got a feeling like a tennis ball just in my stomach. There are loads of issues going through John’s mind. He doesn’t like it but he seems to feel a bit powerless. He doesn’t like the machinations behind it. He’s not just seeing William, he’s seeing quite a few different people as well, including the ecclesiastical person I saw in an earlier session. It’s about trust and assessing the motivations behind William’s desire to go to
When William goes, there’s a look of hurt on John’s face, and then it’s thoughtfulness.
King John’s visit to Framlingham in 1213 from Mahelt’s viewpoint.
Alison: Well this feels very different. This feels like stopped in her tracks. Oooof!
I don’t want him here, I told you I don’t want him here! Ooh, she’s very strong-willed. I’ve told you before I don’t want him here. Her face is thunder. Ohh. He will find fault with everything. There is nothing I can do that will satisfy or please him. I know that that will be the case. So why should I bother trying? Oh, she’s so cross. She’s kicking things. She’s picking on people. She’s full of energy. Oooof, spiky. FFW to when he arrives. She’s calmed down. It’s more like she’s glowering from under her eyebrows now. Her mouth is pursed as if it’s trying hard to keep it closed. Oh God, she’s saying ‘I don’t like him for all that he’s done to my father. I don’t like him. He’s a nasty man. I don’t see why we should have him here.’ Who she’s saying this to? Mostly Hugh, but anyone else who’s around. Anyone who’ll listen. She’s not bothered in the least. And she’s so wound up she’s looking daggers at the servants. If they make one wrong move she pounces on them. They have to do everything she says.There’s real revulsion there. She’s having to swallow down her anger, and almost her sick. She hates the man with a vengeance. John’s coming in and she’s watching him from above. She comes down to meet him.When she was above she was filled with revulsion. She didn’t want to go down there, but she put on this façade and the revulsion evaporated somewhere and she was able to just be the façade which was completely neutral, the diplomat. Mmmm, she can do what her dad did, she can do that.
When she turns to show John the way to his chamber, her face changes completely, so she's not quite like her father. Some elements are like him but the face doesn’t stay. She shows John into the best room and she checks round it with a knowing eye for how everything should look and how everything should be and luckily for the servants it is. She has arranged everything for John’s entertainment. There’s a chess board he can sit at where she puts him right away. There’s a musical instrument – it’s stringed and it’s flat and it’s got two square sides and a bent side, so he can have someone play it. So she shows him all these things and then she’s just about to go and he says ‘Oh no, don’t go, not you.’ ‘Eeugggh,’ she thinks and her spirits sink as she thinks she’s got to stay there. She’s adjusting the candles and the curtains and she says ‘I must go and prepare the dinner. I really need to sort out one or two things.’ So of course John has to reluctantly be gracious and let her go then. She’s muttering all the way down to the kitchen. When she doesn’t like someone, she doesn’t like them. It’s a very cursory look round the kitchen because she knows everything’s okay and I don’t think she’d care very much if it wasn’t. She goes down even further into the cellars. She checks the wine. She has a drink of wine herself. She thinks, ‘Ah, peace and quiet. It’s cool down there. Dark and peaceful. No one will bother her.
Was John fancying her, or was it just part of his usual power games? It’s the same thing, that lecherousness is the same thing to him as power. It’s like spider and a fly. I don’t think he’s enamoured but it’s his way of imposing himself on everything and everybody.
Now Go to 1214 and Ela, wife of William of
Alison: This is a very still, self-contained person. I am tempted to say still water that runs deep. Very proper on the surface. She feels things very deeply and in a way that doesn’t always have words, just feelings. It’s as if certain things make the depth of her water fluctuate and change and that’s how she understands the world. If you imagine a very deep, pointed crevice of water, and when John is around, it vibrates the water and it’s like a warning message to her – almost fear. She can sense him, she can sense his predatoriness and his watchfulness. He doesn’t have to say or do anything and it’s just like she picks those feelings up, but she can maintain a courteous surface and do everything right, yet he tries to get round the back of her. He tries to move up closer and this is very uncomfortable because she doesn’t know how to move away from it because she has to not transgress any manners herself, so how do you do that and keep him at bay?
They’re having a meal. Ugggh. It seems like a buffet, it’s not a sit down meal because they’re not sitting at the table. He’s got this shelled egg, hard-boiled, so it’s white. It’s just revolting. He’s trying to get her to swallow it. He’s being very manipulative with it. He’s putting it in her mouth. It’s really unpleasant. He’s being pretend-nice about it. And of course she can’t get the whole thing in her mouth at once so she has to bite down and he just loves that, it’s just all so sensuous. Then she eats the part that she’s got and he’s almost forcing the other half into her mouth and he’s saying how wonderful this egg is and how immaculate. I think it may have been impregnated with something to make it exceptional. She’s gagging after he’s turned away. She’s absolutely gagging, wants to be sick.