Hugh’s relationship with his father, both as a child and as a young man
Alison: Laughs. Hmmm! He likes running into his father and trying to push him over but at leg level but of course his dad is like a mountain in comparison and he’s got no chance, but it’s good fun. And he especially likes it when his dad’s got armour on and padding. He likes biting the padding, and his father encourages him to do that, to test it, feel how strong it is, how thick it is. See if you can crush the hand guard. It’s all a bit of a game for him, but he enjoys it. And prising fingers up as well. His father plays that game with him and does silly things, so suddenly all his fingers will come up at once and come after him! But ahah, you didn’t get the sword quick enough! I can sense that he and his father have a little drink together as well even from when he was very young. And his father lets him occasionally on the front of the horse. His father likes to challenge him, but challenge him in a much more gentle way than his own father did, he really learned from those lessons of the past.
And their relationship once Hugh is older? Hugh’s very proud of his father and he thinks his father is a man in every respect. Alison laughs. Oh, I can see Hugh looking at Roger’s hat. He’s got a side-slanting hat, sticks well out at the side, and it’s as if when he thinks of his father and he’s proud of his father, he sees the hat as well. He wants to be like his father and at the early stages he felt that he would grow into that role and become that person, but its not happening and it’s probably not in his capacity to do because he’s a very different sort of person. He hasn’t got that steady stillness of purpose that his father’s got. He’s a much softer, artistic, more flexible person. He’s forever seeing the other side of things, the rotations of things, the cycles of things, interrelationships, perspectives.His father is an intelligent man, but is much more clear-cut and can go to the centre of a matter with confidence and knowledge. He builds up different perspectives in order to gain knowledge. Hugh builds up perspectives in order to see how they fit together in cycles. So it’s a different kind of knowledge. It’s a moving, flexible way of looking at things.
A very short extract describing Hugh during the marriage negotiations.
He’s a courtier. He’s a prince of his generation and not contaminated with the political shenanigans of so many barons. He has pale brown curls, blue eyes and dresses very well. He has an eye for clothes, wears a little hat that’s very becoming. It’s a new style and he’s into fashion (but not a fop). He’s a lovely man, likes poetry and he’s interesting to talk to. There’s lots of things to find out about him.
Hugh's favourite horse.
It’s black, glistening black. So smooth and shiny when you run your hand over it. Moves beautifully. When you look at it from a distance it’s perfectly proportioned, the legs and back and head. The head is so well balanced. It’s even tempered and intelligent, but willing to cooperate. Aaah, and it has soft emotions too. When Hugh gives it an apple, it makes its eyes dance. It looks kindly at Hugh, as if he knew and was pleased to have the apple from him. There’s an emotional bond there. The horse knows when Hugh is leaving the stable and doesn’t like Hugh to go away. When Hugh’s there the horse feels comfortable. They act like a team. The horse takes it for granted that Hugh’s there. It’s as though they might not take any notice of each other and take each other for granted, but somehow they know the other’s there, and somehow their movements are coordinated.
Hugh’s very careful with the looking after of the horse – making sure it has the right fodder and grooming. He tries out all the latest techniques that he can. Hugh likes to get the latest harness, but not over the top stuff. It has to have a practical use as well as to be beautiful. It has to be efficient. It has to be lightweight and fit the horse completely. Earlier I could see Hugh rubbing the horse down around the shoulders with a handful of straw. He’s looking at the horse’s knees and hooves. He likes to do that and the horse is really cooperative when he does that. The horse likes its exercise and I can feel it looking out of its stable and stamping its feet. It wants to get out. It likes fresh air. Hugh has taken its blanket off. He’s getting on the horse and they’re going for a bare-back ride. He hasn’t even put the saddle on.
Any idea of the name? (names are difficult to suss) I’ll try to get into Hugh to get the name. Alison is silent for a couple of minutes. Hmmm, well it has a rhythm like
Hefon….It ends in ‘N’ and I think it’s a vowel at the beginning. It could be ‘Ebon, (Alison pronounces it ‘Eh-bon’). I got the sense of ‘ebony’ – Ebon, so black definitely featured in the sense of the word. I say I’ll look up this word in my Anglo-Norman French Dictionary when I get home. Having done so, 'Hebon' is the Anglo French word for ebony.
Hugh's marriage to Mahelt Marshal
! It feels very right to Hugh. His full feeling has gone deeper into his solar plexus as he kneels down and puts his head down in front of his lectern. I can see a cross and I can see that he feels this is a very serious thing now and a very serious commitment. He hadn’t quite appreciated how serious it was, but now he feels in the presence of God and now he feels the responsibility for this little girl beside him. So he still thinks of her as a little girl? Yes. Responsibility for this little being. It’s more than the responsibility of a husband because it’s bringing her up as well. To do that well and then to have a wife and be a husband – it’s major. He feels that it will take up all of his time, even if he had nothing else to do. He feels a bit overwhelmed by the responsibility. He knows what it will take and for a while he feels quite awed. It’s not his usual confidence. Then he refocuses on the words of the sermon and tries to go along with that. He feels a little bit relieved. He smells something and it reminds him of the petals. He thinks ‘that’s how a man should feel on his wedding day.’ Then he thinks of the little girl and he feels quite a disappointment and sadness. Because she’s not a grown woman? Yes. This is not going to be a joyous wedding day. He knows it will come, but the joy of the wedding day is not there for him on that celebratory day. In a way he has to be older than his years to bear that. He thinks it is all for politics and he must try to bear his emotions in that mindset – it is for politics. But it will bear fruit later. He darts a look at her and sees that she is a character and forceful. He sees it just in her eyes. He knows this is no namby pamby person, no wedding in principal, but this is a really strong person. He feels in that moment that together they could fight anything. They could be invincible together. And his heart feels almost vulnerable. Can you qualify that? Because he is letting someone else into his heart. He’s opening his heart to do that, which makes him vulnerable. To make it work they would have to work to the same point of principle and goals. If there was disagreement between them it wouldn’t work, and because she was inside his heart, it would be difficult. But having done that, there’s a true affection there and very much a protection and a sense of ownership – proprietorial. A feeling of blessing her and thanking God. A very holy moment and he seems to accept his fate and be at peace with God. He can take the sacrament and it feels right. And he can watch her take the sacrament and feel concern. I can feel the ring going on her finger. They’ve finished the service and they’ve turned and are going back out of the church and into a courtyard – like a cloister courtyard with shady places to sit and colonnading. People are milling about and there’s wine being brought round.
Some time after the marriage - which wasn't consummated at the time due to Mahelt's very young age.
Alison. Hugh is doing some writing and he’s banged his pen down. He can’t concentrate. He’s pacing about the room – not a very big room but with a couple of windows in it. It’s like a tower room. He’s looking out of the windows although he’s not right up against them and he’s distracted. He’s thinking about the horses in the field and the cows, but mainly the horses. He is thinking that they just go ahead and do it, no time schedule on them. Why should it be different for him? Now he’s thinking darkly and deeply, which is very unusual for Hugh. It’s about his physical needs. He imagines the feel of Mahelt's hair, the dark smoothness winding round him. That’s what he’s sensing. I comment how erotic hair could be to a man of that period because it was all you’d get a chance of seeing in the day to day – and even then you’d be lucky and it was a husband’s privilege! It’s like a whirpool going down, dark, twined round with skeins of hair. He’s trying to write again and he can’t do it. He’s slammed his pen down again and this time he doesn’t want to go back to it. He wants to get out of the room. He wants to go riding in the wild. It’s very frustrating because he knows he’s got other things to do and he doesn’t want to be driven in this way. He’s starting to think that he needs to do something about it.
Hugh's reaction to the birth of his son.
Alison: Oooh, now Hugh. Oh! Pleased as punch! He’s pushing his right shoulder up and his head and his nose are up. And his hat is at a sort of slant because he’s got his head so high! He’s proud as punch! That’s the feeling with him. I need to just stay with that for a while to find out when he first saw the baby. Yes, I can see him looking at Roger (baby is called after granddad!) and he’s tickling him with his index finger, just around the chin. And Roger is laughing, smiling at him and waving his little arms about and going like this with his arms as if to catch the thing that’s tickling him. He’s a sweet baby. Hugh keeps looking up at Mahelt but he’s fascinated by the baby. He can’t believe that he’s created something so miraculous and wonderful. He’s just got this smile from ear to ear. In his own fairly quiet way he’s over the moon. He’s speechless. He wants to pick Mahelt up and fling his arms round her and just spin round with her, but he daren’t in case it hurts her….No, just a minute, he is! He’s doing that.
I asked to see Hugh’s reaction later on to the birth of his daughter Isabelle.
Alison: Oh this is different for Hugh! His head lurched back. I think he’s just heard the news. I’ll see if I can find out what’s happening. He’s been told the news by a woman. He wasn’t quite expecting that, I think that’s the sudden surprise. He’s used to having boys. He nods and asks if she’s well i.e. healthy. He’s told ‘Yes, my lord, very strong and well limbed.’
‘And my wife?’
The woman says ‘She’s recovering.’ And then Mahelt shouts from inside the room. (breaking protocol a bit!)
‘I’m all right, I’m all right.’
He replies ‘Oh my love, you do well, and I will send you….’ And then I saw flowers and cloves (gillyflowers are strongly clove-scented?) and I hear ‘Marguerites’ and I see fabric with flowers on, white daisy flowers. And ‘I will see you anon, keep well for me.’ He has an initial impulse that he wants to go in to see her, but it quells and then he’s back to his more relaxed self.
He’s with his sons who are playing. Alison ‘loses the picture’ for a moment. I ask her to go to where Hugh first meets his new daughter. He’s looking into her eyes; he’s looking into Isabelle’s eyes. They’re blue. It’s as if he’s looking deep, deep into her eyes and she’s doing the same to him. And he says ‘My daughter’ and he kisses her on the forehead. She’s wrapped in swaddlings and he has her cradled on his arm, and he runs the forefinger of his other hand down the centre of her body, stroking. He says ‘She’s lovely.’ It’s a very deep, instinctual feeling, an ancient feeling. It makes him feel even more at peace than usual – it’s deeper than usual. It intensifies his usual calm, thinking about the doors opening and the connections being made. I’m thinking he might be thinking about this in terms of the connections that will eventually be made in relation to her marriage. Aaaaah, this is nice! The ladies want to take her back, but he says ‘It’s all right, you can leave her with me,’ and he sits down still cradling her. Aaaah. He says ‘attend to your mistress, and when he goes in to see Mahelt, he’s carrying the baby. Mahelt says ‘She’s lovely isn’t she?’ and he says ‘I know.’ He kisses her on the side of the forehead and I can see that her hair is plaited so they must have done it up again afterwards. She says ‘Let me hold her.’ So Mahelt wants to hold her as well. She says ‘She’s got your nose. And he says ‘I hope she has your sweet nature.’ Amused looks from me and Alison, as Mahelt may be genuine and true and lovely, but she isn’t always sweet natured! Alison thinks that Hugh is truly besotted with Mahelt and does think she has a sweet nature. He kisses her on the other temple. It’s getting to feeding time, so Hugh, rather reluctantly, gets shooed out. What about the brothers seeing their sister? What about ‘Whizzy’ Roger?
Alison goes into Whizzy Roger’s mindset. Oh yes! Oh! Hopping up and down, one foot after the other. ‘And me, and me Daddy!..... Ugggh! yuk! What? That’s what he says. He takes one look at her face and says ‘Ugggh yuk! She got white flakes on her – Ugggh! She’s got lips that go (Alison demonstrates smacking sounds). Euwww!
He thinks he’ll go and play being a standard bearer because obviously this so boring and why people get worked up about babies he can’t understand. It was Hugh who was showing him the baby. He was standing up with the baby and Roger couldn’t quite see, so he was hopping up and down to have a look, had a look, having to really stand on tip-toe and peer over, went ‘yuk’ and immediately ran off to play with his standard.
Hugh learning of the death of King John
Now to Hugh receiving the news of John’s death. There’s a horrible smell. Pooh! Alison recoils. It’s not as if even my nose can smell it, I just know it’s there. My face sort of rebounded from it. I felt it was like something burning, charred. Then there was this rotting smell, then this gooey rotting smell. Just horrible. I would guess some sort of war has been going on. Hugh is heaving. He has to keep a cloth and spit into it every now and again and to hold against his face as he goes around issuing orders. There’s smoke in the air. Eeeuwww, horrible sights. Bodies of people and animals slit open, rotting. The red of fire and blood. It’s just all horrible. He’s giving orders to people to do the burying and clearing up. FFW to when he receives the news of John’s death. Oh, there’s a boy who I thought was bringing the news because he knelt down in front of Hugh, but then he just keeled over. He had his hands tied behind his back. Oh God. Alison covers her face with her cardigan. Oh God! I’ve got detach a bit. What they’ve done to this little boy – he’s a prisoner. He’s been tortured. He’s the one who says that the king has died. And they’ve tortured him to make sure that it’s true. They’ve grabbed his hair and pulled his head back and asked him again ‘Tell him what you’ve told us. That the King is dead.’ And Hugh’s reaction to this? Hugh kicks the boy in the stomach. ‘Little squirt.’ He has this feeling towards the boy because he represents part of the contingent that did all this damage. He’s holding him responsible. He’s the only bit he can get hold of. Then he turns away. He’s disgusted. Thinking ‘All this for nothing. Gone.
Hugh's reaction to the death of King John
Alison: Goes to Hugh finding out about John’s death. Hmmm, he’s got a cynical look on his face with the left side of his mouth curved, almost twisted. There’s a feeling distaste and harshness there. This is not the soft side of Hugh that we’ve seen before, it’s a hardened side of him, hardened through experience. He’s saying ‘I’ll never stop fighting, never. For the honour of my family, for the safety of my family, until I’m sure I’m on safe ground and I have proper recompense. Not until I have a written guarantee. Until I get that I can’t go back because I am not on firm ground and when I am not on firm ground, I can fall through so easily just like that and be lost forever. I’d rather be lost fighting knowing that I’ve done my best to save myself than to fall through the earth with untrustworthy people and shifting situations. I can’t trust to those. I must trust only to my own arm and the people around me who I trust. He’s thinking all the time of Mahelt in the sense of defending her and his family. It feels like a harsh, thin steel which is not particularly to his taste, not what he would choose for himself, but this is something he has to do.
From Matthew Paris
On September 21st he (John) set out to begin the work for which he had come from the west. The story of that day and the next as told by Matthew Paris – how the king went first to Oundle and thence to the other manors of the Abbey of Peterborough, burning the houses and barns; how he passed on to Crowland and bade Savaric de Mauleon fire the abbey church and the village while he himself stood at a distance to watch the blaze; how Savaric yielded to the monks’ prayer for mercy, and accepted from them as the price of their escape, a sum of money which he brought back to John, and how the furious king, after overwhelming his too placable lieutenant with abuse, helped with his own hands to fire the harvest fields, running up and down amid the smoke and the flames till the whole territory of St. Guthlac was a blackened desert…..After that John sent his mercenaries into the Isle of Axholme with fire and sword…. ‘From Lincoln northward to Grimsby, and thence south again to Spalding, the Lincolnshire fields – now at the beginning of October, all white to harvest – were given to the flames and the houses and farm buildings sacked and destroyed by the terrible host with the king at its head.’
Hugh deciding what to do now John is dead.
Alison: Hmmm, he’s got a cynical look on his face with the left side of his mouth curved, almost twisted. There’s a feeling distaste and harshness there. This is not the soft side of Hugh that we’ve seen before, it’s a hardened side of him, hardened through experience. He’s saying ‘I’ll never stop fighting, never. For the honour of my family, for the safety of my family, until I’m sure I’m on safe ground and I have proper recompense. Not until I have a written guarantee. Until I get that I can’t go back because I am not on firm ground and when I am not on firm ground, I can fall through so easily just like that and be lost forever. I’d rather be lost fighting knowing that I’ve done my best to save myself than to fall through the earth with untrustworthy people and shifting situations. I can’t trust to those. I must trust only to my own arm and the people around me who I trust. He’s thinking all the time of Mahelt in the sense of defending her and his family. It feels like a harsh, thin steel which is not particularly to his taste, not what he would choose for himself, but this is something he has to do.