Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Meeting Eleanor II

July 24th was the day.

As a child, whose mother consider going two towns away the end of the earth, I could only dream about seeing the things I'd read about.

As an adult, my geographic area has  expanded from a few miles outside my hometown to wherever I want to travel. Thus I feel I've "met" Elizabeth I, Mary Tudor,  Mary Stuart, Henry VIII, William the Conqueror and other historical figures because I've stood at their tombs.

I've touched Collette's tomb with a stone and keep the stone near my computer in The Nest (my studio) as well as the burial places of many other writers.

I've "heard" the guns at Lexington and Manasses and imagined the carnage at Culloden. The vibes of history transcend the centuries to today.

Today, though I "met" one of my heroines, Eleanor or Aliénor d'Aquitaine.

The weather is several degrees below the predicted heat, and my husband loaned me his jeans jacket. I had brought nothing warm enough. The ground as we walked to the visitor's center was wet. Bird sang in the trees.

"C'est en français," the woman who sold me the tickets for the abbey tour. I told her I understand
French much better than I speak it, Merci dieu. The guide, a blonde who knew her history backwards, forwards, up, down and around shared details of how the Abbey of Fontevraud came to be and then...then...then we were there.

Ahead of me were the tombs. It seemed forever to walk the distance to where Eleanor had once been put to rest. Her bones were later removed, but she had been there.

She was reading a book. I suppose it was meant to be a prayer book, but with her love of literature and music, a book of poetry may have been more appropriate.

I felt a little smug when I could answer who else was buried there, Henry II, Richard the Lionhearted and Isabella, King John's wife, although I flubbed the latter. I should have known.
I am not sure how Eleanor would have felt about spending eternity next to Henry II. His keeping her prisoner for years might not have endeared her any more than his famous love affair with Rosamond.
Still being close to her favorite son Richard should have pleased her.

The centuries have dulled the colors of the clothes the royalty were wearing on their tombs. Her belt was a pretty blue, and Henry still had his boots and spurs. Part of Eleanor's crown was broken.

The rest of the abbey was fascinating. The hotel where we are staying was once part of the leper hospital. A wall separated the nuns from the monks. The success of the abbey was correlated to its wealthy patrons and the economic times. Napoleon turned it into a prison. Walls today that are just white stone were once covered in religious paintings.

Today it is restored and a UNESCO heritage site. And today, I was so lucky to once again touch history.

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