Montferrat Coin Knight-Life


Na Mariana was a lady of Scotland who loved per fin amors the most noble and valiant Marqués de Monferrat, that was King of Jerusalem, without having seen him (he being no more among the living). And hearing false slander of him from base joglars such as En Gualtier of Abbotsford and En Graham of London, she grew angry and poured scorn on these lauzengiers. And though she never met him in life, yet he taught her a passion for the gai saber, and she wrote cansos and sirventes for the sake of his great valour and intelligence, and for his fair, torn body.

Version NOIR:

"We have a cold case for you, Doc," said the Chief of Time Police.
"How cold?"
"Over 800 years. King of Jerusalem."
"He still looks pretty hot to me," I said, as the Italian's morgue photo came up on the computer screen: not so young (but hey, I'm no spring chicken myself), but still - a blond to make a Prioress kick a hole in a stained glass window.* A necrophiliac Prioress, I thought, noting the knife-wounds to the torso. "A professional hit?"
"Sure - They caught the guys who carried it out: what we need to find is Mr Big - who paid them."
"Anyone in the frame?"
"The King had several enemies. But you'd better watch out for one of them - head of a major rival family. They call him Lionheart: Dick Lionheart. He's dangerous!"
I laughed: "Sounds like a big kitty-cat to me!" But I knew his reputation in Acre, and it wasn't pretty.
"It's possible his nephew was in cahoots with him: you know the kid - the one they call Champagne Harry. He married the widow a week later."
I shrugged. "I guess they had to find some excuse to eat up the coronation cake."
"She was pregnant."
"Whose is the kid?"
"The deceased's."
"Life's just not fair..."
I kept thinking about the dead blond, even while I downed a strong, sweet coffee at Nick the Greek's... Nick's a newshound - but he never uses one word when three dozen would do, and he's always spouting Homer and scripture. But it turned out he was a friend of the deceased, and that was kind of reassuring.
"You should visit Bishop Phil - his cousin - one of the last people to see him alive," Nick said, succinct for once.
I turned up the collar of my raincoat, pulled my hat down over one eye, like they always do in the movies. Whistling a Jeff Rudel number from the '40s, I went outside: just another a tarnished knight-errant on the mean streets of Outremer, where life was cheap - even a King's...
…Amors, de terra lonhdana,
Per vos totz lo cors mi dol...
…O Love, of distant land,
For you my whole heart’s pained…
*Gender-adapted from Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely.

So how, gentle reader, did this particular passion start?

Conrad of Montferrat, by PicotIt's funny, I'd forgotten some of the finer detail of this until my memory was jogged re: The Talisman while writing an article about English-language depictions of Conrad for the Nov. '05 issue of the Bollettino del Marchesato... It really was 1981 when I first carted the hardback vols of Runciman's History of the Crusades home from the public library in Hull, as a geeky, slightly eccentric teenager...

The BBC broadcast a serialisation of The Talisman over the winter of 1980-81, and that was what first got me into the Third Crusade in my late teens (we hadn't done it at school). It was so strange that I thought that: a) Scott must have been doing a lot of laudanum at the time, and b) the reality had to be interesting. I got curious about one of Scott's 'villains' (blame my over-developed h/c complex), decided to follow up his real story, and the rest, as they say, is Mediæval History...

...And was also why I did an 'O Level' Italian course (non-exam) in the Sixth Form. In fact, in class we each (there were about 6 of us) had to give a short talk (in English) on a celebrated Italian. Most people picked artists and composers. Guess who I did...?!!! (OK, not very celebrated. But he ought to be, poor dear!) I opened it saying that this was to prove that between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Renaissance, the Italians were not just sitting around bored and doing nothing! ;-D It's also because of Conrad that my passion for the trobadors was first kindled, and the gai saber philosophy of joia, pretz, valor and cortesia put in my heart...

And I still recall when I was a first year in St As in '83, drinking coffee in Lisa's room, listening to her Martin Best trobador tapes, and running past her a few paragraphs from what I had hoped would be a historical novel about Conrad. It was dire, and I'm glad I've turned to non-fiction: the poor man has suffered far too much at the hands of bad novelists.

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