Maid of Maidstone
Margery quickly unpacked her few meager belongings into a chest near her straw bed and as she was doing so Kathleen entered the room. They introduced themselves quickly and Kathleen told her that she was glad for someone in the room with her, although duties here left little time to be lonely or get bored after one’s work was done.
Over the next year Margery’s quick wit and friendly demeanor made her a favorite among the ladies-in waiting. As such she became a welcome addition to Queen Matilda as well. When her roommate Kathleen had to leave the household after becoming in a family way by a nearby Fowler, Margery gained in having her room now to herself for the first time in her young life. Her demeanor was so appreciated by the women that they began to show her many things of a life she knew nothing about and she learned quickly with a desire to improve her station in any way she could.
All of the ladies would sneak her instructions as they could, including allowing her to learn to read Latin from poems and love letters they had and how to do simple mathematics that they were instructed in. They taught her some needle pointing as they would work on small projects as well as verses to songs they sang. Queen Matilda was well aware of all this and became as fond of her as her companions. Occasionally she would be in accompaniment when the King and Queens children were with her.
During this time of wonderment for Margery, a man just older than her started showing interest in her as well. He was in attendance to an ambassador from Greece who was here on a lengthy stay with the King. His name was Andreas of Corinth and he pursued her affections, but since Margery did not want to have happen to her what had happened to her one time friend Kathleen she stalled his persuasions without driving him completely off. Queen Matilda being aware of the man’s interest took Margery aside talked with her at length and then talked with her husband the king. In short order an arrangement was reached and Margery was married to this Greek, in somewhat less pomp and circumstance than she had dreamed as a young girl however.
Margery maintained her position in the King’s household and Andreas moved in with her in her accommodations, as her single yet once double room was roomier than his personal quarters. Her marriage and expected love life, although more than she had ever before known, also was not quite what her dreams and the poetry she had heard had given her hopes of. After a few months and with Margery still not with child, the two young people had a disagreement one evening during which Andreas hit her. That night Andreas left and did not return. By the next day she found out he had left for Greece without her and no promise of a return. Margery sunk into a personal loss, blaming herself as if she was not enough to make a man happy or had been the cause of his anger. With this she threw herself even more diligently into her duties as if they were all she would ever have.
A few months later Wilifred passes away one night in her sleep of her advanced years. Queen Matilda, with the consent of Stephen, takes this opportunity to promote Margery into Wilifred’s position of the household staff to the delight of her Ladies. During this time all hear the news that Henry II (son of Empress Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou) is made Duke of Normandy and that he marries Elanore of Aquitaine. One of Henry II’s men at arms is a man known as Beirheart from somewhere in hinterlands of England’s borders, it is rumored. He is one of the escorts with Henry II when Henry II claims Elanore only eight weeks after her annulment from King Louis VII of France.
In a short time another man, this time a provisionary to the castle’s storehouses, makes his romantic advances to Margery discretely, but continually. She does fall for his loving ways and becomes intimately involved with him whenever it is possible, him making her feel wanted and loved. Unfortunately Margery’s one time fears come true ; and just as she is sure she is with the man’s child she tells him the same and he disappears somewhere away from the surrounding area without a trace of where he has gone. In distress and not knowing what to do she confesses this to Queen Matilda begging not to be discharged as Kathleen had been years ago. To her amazement the Queen is totally sympathetic with her. After the Queen has a private talk with King Stephen she tells Margery privately that she is to go away very quietly for a fortnight to a lodge unknown to many that is near to Maidstone (her previous home) but not to let her family know she is there and then return. The Queen will make sure everyone thinks Margery is visiting her husband in Greece with the King’s permission. Once back they will announce to the household that Margery is with her first child and none will think much of it. Margery cannot be more thankful to her Mistress and Queen, thus complies totally.
A few months later Thain dies in battle, just one more bloody casualty in the continuing engagements in the strife between his King and those loyal to the Empress Matilda. His wife Wyetta is now alone in Maidstone except for the visits of those of her children living close. Margery grieves for them both but is too near the birth of her first child to be of any assistance. Queen Matilda is making sure her birth will go well by keeping her close with midwives at the ready. Queen Matilda is also grieving as she and King Stephen’s son Eustice had also just died. As fall begins to settle on the land Margery is blessed with her daughter whom she names Sidneigh.
When Sidneigh is one year old King Stephen dies in Dover Castle of dysentery some time after a peace was signed between himself and his cousin Empress Matilda where he agreed to name her son Henry II as his heir with Eustice now already dead. Stephen did this hoping to end the war tearing the land apart by passing over his younger son William, as well as three sons he had fathered through his long time mistress Damette.
Margery, with Sidneigh, have little time to grieve as she is accepted to stay in the royal service when the new king Henry II takes the throne with his wife Elanore.
King Henry II loves hunting and spends much time in its pursuit. He also spends considerable time in Normandy, more than he spends in England. This leaves Margery to handle the day to day tasks of the household in relative peace. Queen Elanore does bring Petrovilla (her sister), and brothers William and Joselin into the royal enclave however.
Life moves on at a leisurely pace; Sidneigh grows to a young girl with a love of music and is quietly mannered even though she has her mother’s beauty. Margery stays quite busy with her duties, leaving her little time to consider a future husband again. Especially since Sidneigh seems more agreeable with this life of her mother’s and her that way. The king has a torrid affair with the lady Rosamond de Clifford while he has problems with the clergy of the church. To that end he has his friend, Thomas Becket, made head of the church; but increasingly becomes dismayed at Becket’s change in loyalty afterwards. So much so that by 1170 four knights in Henry’s service kill Becket thinking it will please Henry. They could not have been more wrong with the political catastrophe it caused.
So much strife continues within the royal family and bleeds over into everything they are associated with those three years later Margery relinquishes her service and returns to Maidstone to live a life more peaceful around the same time of her mother’s passing away. Sidneigh joins a minstrel group as she reaches full womanhood and starts touring the country with them, living her dream of singing and playing her instrument to adoring crowds everywhere they go.
Once again Margery is now alone; older, no job to occupy her time, no daughter to care for everyday and a belief that no man will ever be what she dreamed of when she was a young girl. She is happy in her life and works with helping those not as blessed as she has been. She occupies her time with projects and trying to help both the very young and elderly near where she lives so close to where she was a young girl.
Beirheart is still in the service to Henry II, but no longer does he wear his weapons or stand abreast of other men at arms in battle. Instead he has been ordered to travel around the King’s holdings, inspecting for needed repairs or maintenance. During the performance of this while in London a name of a woman was given to him several times who would have in depth knowledge of the King’s holdings both there and now in and around the town of Maidstone. It was said that she had been of elevated service for many years to both Henry II and Stephen before him. He is told her name is Margery and that she now lives in or close to the town of Maidstone somewhat southeast of London.
Thus, Beirheart decides to travel to this Maidstone, find this Margery and talk to her if she is agreeable. Upon arriving in the town he inquires to her whereabouts of the local merchants. One such man tells him that usually on this day she can be found at the farmers market on the other end of town assisting the local priest obtain vegetables for the orphans in his care. Beirheart thanks the man and walks to the market area and starts to look for the priest and a woman with him.
As he is walking through the market area teeming with local patrons and almost festive with its air of flying pennants, smells of the farmers’ wares to be had, flowers, herbs and such, Beirheart sees the priest a few stands ahead of him but before he reaches the cleric, the priest and his companion turn to walk to the next booth in Beirheart’s direction. Beirheart stops dead in his tracks almost causing a woman behind him to crash into his back with her arms full. He turns and apologizes for the discourtesy and she says he should watch how he moves about in such a crowd. He sheepishly smiles, but his mind is more on the woman with the priest. She is the most intriguing woman he has ever seen and he has seen many. She, he guesses is a few years his junior, but with the most enchanting eyes and an air of inner beauty that he for once in his life is mesmerized.
Finally upon moving again and reaching the two of them, he asks to interrupt their discussion with the merchant of this booth.
“May I beg your pardon Father?” he asks of the cleric. “And of you lady and you sir, but I have come a long way to ask the Father a question, please.”
“Of course, my son, ask what you will.” The priest answers him.
“Father I am looking for a woman called Margery of Maidstone. A merchant in town said I might find her with you today. I have come from London seeking to talk with her. I am on the King’s business I assure you.” Beirheart explains.
“I am Margery, sir. What business has King Henry II with me might I ask?” The lady answers before the priest can speak. Margery now eyes this man head to toe. Tall he is, well over six feet and without the usual flab of a man of what appears to be his years. He also has long grey to silver hair hanging well onto his square shoulders. He has a voice with a slight hint of accent not of pure English decent as well.
“Lady, my name is Beirheart and I am still a sergeant-at-arms in King Henry’s forces; although my assignment for the past few years now is one of inspecting his holdings and seeing to any needed repairs or refurbishments. In this, your name came up while I was at the castle in London with the king abroad. You were mentioned to me as one who could give better account than any of the history or possible needs of both that castle and possibly any hunting lodges near here.” Beirheart explained as his mind swam with the lyrical sound of her voice and his body faltered at the closeness to her at the same time.
“I am flattered that those there still think of me with such worth. Yes, I probably could and will be most delighted to answer any of your questions, if you will but allow Father Bernard and I to complete our task already before us first.” Margery said to this Beirheart, strangely she felt she would like to talk with him considerably more and not solely on the business of her King. This thought though slightly embarrassed her to herself; she had not found such an interest in a male stranger in a very long time.
“Thank you, I will be most happy to accommodate any timeframe you deem appropriate.” Beirheart said to her, glad of a chance at meeting her in quieter surroundings.
“Then come by my cottage around mid-afternoon, the Father and I should be done before then and I will have time to be refreshed from our haggling with the merchants here.” She said to him, “If you see that crossroad ahead it is known as Castle Road and I am in the fourth cottage to the left from there.”
“Thank you, dear lady and to you Father, I will be prompt I assure you.” Beirheart said. Then lifted her hand ever so gently to kiss her fingers and bow in gentlemanly salutation. Afterward he turned and left the two of them to continue their business.
Margery’s heart skipped beat as he did; no man had paid her so intimate a compliment in many years.
“Well Margery, I believe you have pricked that man’s heart very quickly. He appears to be genuinely interested in more than the King’s business.” Father Bernard said in a slightly jovial manner.
“Father Bernard, you are being just a bit mischievous.” Margery said with just the slightest hint of flush to her cheeks.
“Maybe, maybe not.” was all the priest said in reply as they started to discuss options with the merchant at the booth again where they were.
This process went on with several booths before Margery and Father Bernard completed shopping this day and Margery was back at her cottage, now awaiting the coming of this rather tall, older, once soldier calling himself Beirheart to talk with her.
Right at mid-afternoon as Margery had told him, Beirheart was at her door with a light tap to its exterior. Margery welcomed him in cordially and then directed him to take a chair at the table near where she cooked. After placing a mug of water on the table in front of him she sat herself across from the tall man. Her glances took in every feature without being thought to stare or be openly rude.
During the next hour and more they discussed many things about the castle in London and some about the hunting lodge not far from Maidstone.
“I have not been to either in a while and not very often to the hunting lodge at all, and King Henry II has many such lodges.” She finally said.
“Your information has been quite worthwhile though, I assure you. Some I did presume when I was in London about the castle and other things. But other things I did not think of. I only wish you could be with me when I am at the lodge. I can perceive that you would catch things I might miss with only an old soldier’s eye.” Beirheart replied.
“I doubt there is much your eyes miss, sir. Not meaning any offence, of course, but you are quite an intense observer as I can see. When is it you plan to go to the lodge, if I may ask?” Margery said and ended asking. She had made her jab at his powers of observation because she could see that he appeared to be paying a great deal of attention to every movement and sound she made, not overtly intrusive but missing nothing. She thought to herself he seemed more interested in her than information on the castle and lodge. She felt a pang of slight embarrassment mixed with her own interest after so short a meeting.
“Why, tomorrow would be my plan. So I can then assess the breadth of work to be done and then plan how, when and who to perform the work. Would you be offended if I asked you to accompany me to the lodge for such a purpose?” Beirheart asked. “I could ask the good Father to accompany us as chaperone if you wish.”
“No, I would not be offended and I have nothing pressing tomorrow. I can quite well take care of myself without the Priest though, thank you for offering. Do you say this because you have thoughts of more than we have discussed?” Margery said in a bold move with this man she truly did not know yet and had no true knowledge of to trust.
“It is not my plan I assure you dear lady, I think only of your reputation. However, to be totally honest, I would at some day very much like to meet you on the occasion of more than my work if you would allow it.” Beirheart said in quieter tones.
“Thank you I am flattered, let us see how the next days go before I answer that question, if I may?” she answered.
“Anything at this point other than a flat no is heartily accepted. Would an hour past dawn be too early for you tomorrow?” Beirheart asked. “Also should I just bring two mounts or would you prefer a cart of some sort for the trip?”
“A horse will be fine I can ride quite well, and would find the ride a welcome excursion.” she said.
Shortly after that Beirheart thanked her and then excused himself until the next morning. Then he directly found a smith and stable where he could acquire what he needed for the next day.
Margery felt almost girlish once Beirheart left; there was something about this man that interested her more than any man had in a very long time. She was actually looking forward to tomorrow morning for more than just a day’s ride to the King’s lodge and back.
The following day went perfectly in every aspect; Beirheart was genuinely appreciative to Margery’s observations and suggestions. They found they laughed much together and easily at even small insignificant things. Margery had brought some food for them to have a lunch on while they were gone and so felt at ease with this tall man who treated her with every respect and courtesy.
Once they were back at her cottage, he helped her dismount and walked her to her door then excused himself to return the mounts and gear he had acquired for their trip. Before he mounted though Margery invited him to an evening meal with her and he accepted happily.
That evening when the meal was over, Beirheart arose from the table before Margery could and cleared it of the dishes she had set for them. He had seen where he thought she cleaned such things and after asking her to remain seated and allow him this in thanks, she just sat and watched in amazement that any man, especially a soldier, would be doing this. Afterwards they went outside and watched the night filled sky in its entire splendor. While they stood there Beirheart put his arm around her waist and, gently but firmly, pulled her close to him.
Margery felt the electricity in her and him as she was held in this way, she did not want it to end any time soon either. They turned many times looking at one another as they talked. Eventually Beirheart bent to her as she leaned up and they kissed deeply for the first time, long and warm, neither wanting it to end. Beirheart pulled her even closer to him and Margery’s arms went around his neck.
“I think I better leave before I make you sorry for being so kind to me today.” Beirheart said in tones of not really wanting to do what he was saying.
“I doubt you could do that. I wish you did not have to leave, I know I should not say that but it is the truth.” Margery said with complete honesty.
“I know now for the first time in my life what many have said they feel when they return to their wives and families. That coming home feeling they called it, I have never felt this until tonight.” He said.
“Truly, you are not just saying this?” she asked.
“I never say anything I do not mean fully to anyone and no, this feeling is almost scary in a way since I have never felt it. I have never said or felt this at home with any woman.” he answered.
“Those who feel at home do not leave for the night.” Margery said a crackle in her voice.
“Do you know what you are saying, Margery? For sure it is not that I want to.” Beirheart said stepping closer to her.
“I know. I can’t believe I am saying it, but I do not wish you to leave either.” Margery answered just as Beirheart took her in his arms and kissed her softly but passionately with his arms fully encircling her waist holding her as close and tight as he could without being crushing.
The embrace was long and the slightest of movements started between them as each could hear sighs and feel the extreme warmth of the other rising. Finally they parted long enough to turn, arms around each other’s waists and walked back in the door, closing and barring it behind them. Then they proceeded across the room until they were at Margery’s bed. Slowly as they kissed again and again, then let their lips explore other parts of each other’s bodies as they both began removing the clothes of the other until finally both wore nothing at all and Beirheart slowly lowered Margery onto her bed and then gently climbed in beside her. He marveled at the sight of her beside him and her glistening beautiful eyes in the moonlight.
They kissed warm, deeply and passionately. Then palms and fingers explored one another with and in between even more fervent embraces. Whispers soft and rapt breaths were all the sounds in the air this night.
Sleep did not come to them until the high wee hours before the first glimmers of dawn. As they finally slipped into slumber totally exhausted and completely relaxed in each other’s arms with their arms and legs fully entangled with each other. Perspiration glistening on each in the light of the moon’s rays into the room.
As Beirheart awoke he leaned to kiss Margery good morning. Her returning ardor kindled in them both a passion of renewed spirit, giving way to new and fresh intimacies. The sun was half way to midday before they rose from her bed and even thought about this new day.
“I love you, Margery. I know this sounds not possible since we have but just met but I do love you.” Beirheart told her looking directly into those eyes that captivated his soul.
“I love you, too, Beirheart, that scares me but I do.” Margery answered as her fingers played at the ends of his long hair.
“I will need to go into Maidstone and see any craftsmen there to start discussing options and schedules for the things we discussed at the hunting lodge yesterday. May I return here and see you when I have that done?” He asked.
“Yes, of course. I hope you will return when you can today.” Margery said in answer.
“I will make it as soon as I possibly can, I promise you.” Beirheart said as he lightly kissed her again.
“But you are not leaving until I can prepare you a proper morning meal. You need to replenish your strength.” Margery said with a small wry impish grin on her face.
“Dear lady, I feel younger and stronger right now than I have in years. But I would love to take my morning meal with you.” He answered with a smile beaming across his face.
Over the next fortnight there was not a day that Beirheart and Margery did not see each other nor was there a night that they did not sleep together and find ever increasing passionate ways to express their continually growing love of one another. Margery did everything she could for Beirheart as she felt him dote upon her in ways she never dreamed a man would for any woman. He helped her with house chores and saw that anything she expressed an interest in came to fruition. She made sure he ate well, that his clothing bespoke of a man who had a loving woman, and took deep interest in all that he did. For them both it seemed that they had always known one another, just been apart for too long a time.
So it was that on this day while they were at the market area of Maidstone, now the two of them a familiar site together; Beirheart stopped at one point in front of her and all there, getting down on his left knee and asked her to become his wife. Hands to her lips and shock on her face finally Margery said the words he had prayed for and agreed to marry him. Just as Margery said yes Father Bernard walked up and was the first to congratulate them both just as everyone in the immediate area was cheering or clapping their hands.
“I believe I can see a ceremony in our parish house before too long I hope.” The priest said smiling.
“Yes Father you can, but we will have to talk about a date first, and many other preparations as well before we tell you exactly when.” Beirheart told him, and then he turned to kiss his fiancé openly in public for the first time.
“It will be soon father that much I can tell you.” Margery said in between two kisses to her future husband.
During the ensuing next two months they went everywhere together, never spending a day apart. Even when Beirheart made short trips into London overseeing the work on the castle there, Margery went with him. As well when they found out that Sidneigh, Margery’s daughter, was performing in London they went together so Beirheart and she could meet and Margery give her daughter the news in person. Then Margery asked Sidneigh to be her maid of honor at the ceremony. Sidneigh agreed but telling her mother to be sure in the planning to do everything possible to make it at a time when she could be there in Maidstone.
Beirheart and Margery visited with Margery’s family as they could and her sibling’s extended families where possible. Margery’s sister Deanna especially took an interest in helping her with as many preparations as she possibly could.
They spent many moments walking about the forests and countryside when they had no work to be accomplished. One of their prime pleasures, other than each other, was to be outside in the evenings just watching the display of stars and the moon in the night sky. Beirheart made a few slight repairs and new remodeling improvements that Margery hinted at thinking about. Margery saw to it that he had more serviceable and appealing clothing to wear, even when he would assure her it was not necessary.
Everywhere they ventured, shopped, helped others or just relaxed, people remarked about the love that seemed to just beam from them at all times. As Margery once said to a merchant they met “Life is good.”