At first, they did not speak, just walked side by side, but eventually Sir Balian spoke his mind. “You will have heard what the Archbishop of Nicosia did.”
“Yes,” Gerold agreed cautiously.
“He ripped up the dispensation you issued.”
“I presumed he had either seized it or destroyed it,” Gerold conceded.
Sir Balian clearly wanted to say more and was having a hard time spitting it out, but Gerold decided to let him take his time. “The Archbishop has gone to Rome, I’ve heard.”
“Yes,” Gerold conceded, adding, “Where he is poisoning the ear of the Holy Father. That was one of the reasons I felt it was imperative I go there. Unfortunately, I have now been persuaded my journey must wait a bit longer.”
Sir Balian nodded. “When the time comes, I wanted you to know that, if it would help convince the archbishop of the validity of our marriage, Eschiva and I are willing to cede to the Church four of the five estates that he, mmm, retained.”
Gerold stopped dead in his tracks, making Balian stop as well. “Say that again?”
“You know the Archbishop managed Eschiva’s estates after her marriage to Montaigu.”
“No, but I suppose it makes sense.”
“Her husband was intent on the crusade and felt she was too young and inexperienced to manage them, so he turned them over to his uncle of Nicosia. After she was widowed, she requested the Archbishop to return them to her along with an accounting. He resisted at first, but then gave her what appeared to be her inheritance. However, the testament of her mother listed five estates, in addition to those he turned over to her. I visited them and obtained fealty from the tenants—”
“Right from under the nose of Archbishop Eustace de Montaigu?” Gerold asked shocked, adding in a reproachful tone: “What audacity.”
“I was only protecting my wife’s rights—or, well, she’d turned them over to me as her dowry, so they are now Ibelin estates. Naturally, I gave other properties to her as her dower. We thought men would find it easier to swear fealty to me.”
Gerold raised his eyebrows and prompted. “Which went down very well with the Archbishop, I’m sure.”
“Yes. Exactly. That’s why I’m asking you to mediate, Your Grace. I recognize now that I acted impetuously. I should not have humiliated the Archbishop. I should have sought to persuade him with arguments, not deeds. I can’t undo what I did. I just thought you might be able to help. If these estates stand in the way of our marriage being recognized by the Archbishop, then Eschiva and I are prepared to grant them to the Church.”
Gerold considered the young man opposite him. “Does your father know that you would be willing to give up four estates—what is that? A fifth or more of your wife’s inheritance?—to secure the Archbishop’s agreement?”
“No, he does not, but he’s not the one threatened with excommunication!” Sir Balian’s tone was pointed.
“True, but surely the whole purpose of this marriage was to ensure the Montbèliard inheritance on Cyprus went to the Ibelins?”
Sir Balian looked at him blankly for a moment before shaking his head vigorously. “No! That’s not what this marriage was about.”
“In that case, why not appease the Archbishop by separating?”
“What God has joined together, should no man tear asunder, my lord Patriarch!” Sir Balian retorted sharply, his face set rigidly and his eyes hard. “Lady Eschiva and I, trusting to your dispensation, have taken vows to one another in the presence of the Holy Spirit and witnesses. We are man and wife in the eyes of God—no matter what the Church finds politic!” The words were said with so much passion they seemed to set the air on fire.
Yes, this young man was very different from his father. He would make an uncomfortable enemy, but Gerold was not intimidated. Rather he asked calmly, “Have you considered the fact that your lady may be barren? Her womb has not quickened for either Montaigu or you.”
“For better or for worse, Your Grace. For richer and for poorer. In sickness and in health. I did not vow before the altar of our Lord Jesus Christ to take Lady Eschiva only if she gave me sons.”
Gerold was impressed. It would seem that this young man, so often dismissed as a ladies’ man and dandy, was genuinely devoted to his wife. And she to him. That cast things in a different light. Still, it was his father who mattered most, and his father to whom Gerold owed so much. So, he asked, “does your father agree with you in this?”
“I have not discussed it with him, but I do not see why he should see it differently. If I have no heirs of my body, I still have four brothers. I do not think there is any risk of the House of Ibelin dying out—regardless of whether Lady Eschiva gives me sons or not.”
Gerold nodded, seeing the marriage in a new light. Still he would have to wait and see what the pope’s objections were.
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