Guillaume d’Anjou unplugged…
I met Guillaume d’Anjou two years ago, when he arrived in Venice after searching for his half-brother, Guy of Gisborne. He was a quiet man, obviously worn down physically and mentally by the Third Crusade. But within the Gisborne house, he was nurtured by the family and presently became someone of great import in their daily existence.
Lately he has been sent to Lyon on behalf of Gisborne, to take up a position as the head of the merchant business of de Clochard, after the sad demise of its founder, Jehan de Clochard. Despite his retiring and dour manner, he appears to have courted trouble in his life and appears now to be courting it in Lyon.
He interests me and I asked him if he would allow me to interview him. He was surprised but decided it would be good for de Clochard’s friends, and their enemies to understand what he is like. He tells me that de Clochard was almost consumed by a not-so-accidental fire recently…
PB: Guillaume de Guisborne, we know you are from Anjou but you are something of an enigma. Perhaps you can divulge a little more for us. What kind of childhood did you have?
(Guillaume’s toe begins to tap the floor at this first question and he looks into the middle distance. I wait…)
G: I left my childhood behind many years ago, Madame. I doubt that it has any relevance here…
PB: Messire Guillaume, I am sure it does. How do you think it may have shaped the man you are?
(He sighs. Not in temper, but I can see he feels cornered.)
G: My mother was originally a maidservant to Lady Ghislaine de Gisborne in England. After … (he clears his throat) … later she became a wet-nurse for the lady’s infant son. Later still, Lady Ghislaine sent my mother and myself to her family in Anjou… (he clears his throat again and looks down at his boots).
My stepfather was a fletcher and bowyer and passed his skills to me.I had a good draw and aim with bow and arrow so I became an archer. That is all…
(He shrugs. I can see he is unhappy with delving into his past, so…)
PB: Let us move on to another subject shall we? What is your idea of perfect happiness?
G: To live free from constraint and concern.
PB: And do you?
PB: What then is your greatest fear?
G: That the ones I love will be threatened.
(Should I pursue this? I want to… Ah, perhaps not because I look at him and his face is shuttered. His eyes do not engage with mine and his mouth is stretched in a tight line. He draws two fingers of one hand down the lines either side of his mouth as if trying to wipe away some sort of emotion. But what? I take a breath to enquire, but turn from the question to ask…)
PB: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
G: Apart from being an archer in King Richard’s army against Saladin? Apart from using my bow to kill repeatedly? That is surely deplorable, would you not say? But let me see if I can answer your question more broadly. (He broods. Contemplative? No.) I do not trust easily and having found trust, I second guess myself.
(That is a surprising answer. I would love to ask for instances of when he has second-guessed himself, but I suspect he will not expand. This is a difficult interview.)
PB: What is your current state of mind?
G: What an odd question! (He laughs wryly at this point and then grins, but I suspect the amusement is at my expense.) Let me think on it. Ah … (He brightens, this time really laughing and it catches me off-guard as I do not see merriment as part of his persona.)
Chaotic! Learning to accept responsibility for a household and a business takes immense effort. Living with two women does the same! Ah …by God and the Angels, I would give my bow for the sound of masculine voices within our house!
PB: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
(His face hardens instantly to ice. The speed of the change is breathtaking. I have hit a nerve…)
G: Justice in the eyes of the law. One meets out one’s own justice.
(This is a jaw-dropping answer and I should follow it through, I know. This is surely what makes the man what he is. Instead, I take a different tack.)
PB: On what occasion would you tell a lie?
G: To save myself or someone I cared for and respected. And I would not be afraid to be judged by God for that lie.
(This man is worth admiring. Strength AND loyalty!)
PB: What do you most dislike about your appearance?
(Another laugh, dry and a touch phlegmatic.)
G: I have never thought about my appearance. It is what it is. One can’t change it.
PB: What is your most marked characteristic?
G: My height. (He grins.) It stands me in good stead.
PB: What or who is the greatest love of your life?
G: A woman called Cateline, another called Ariella. And a man called Anselin.
(I wait for more information but it is not forthcoming. The grin has flown away as swiftly as an arrow. Here and gone. He looks down at his clasped hands. Clasped so tight the knuckles show bone white, they tighten and loosen, tighten and loosen, and I wonder what he is remembering.)
PB: What is your most treasured possession?
G: My Saracen bow. I stole it from one of Saladin’s men after he fell from his horse at Arsuf in 1191. I pierced him through the eye. I told you I was a marksman. It is a light, well crafted weapon and I can use it with great speed to brilliant effect.
(He scrutinises me as if waiting for a reaction to the brutality of his exposé. I remain unmoved. With difficulty.)
PB: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
G: Grief for those one loves.
(This then, might be the ‘Ah ha’ moment. Tread softly.)
PB: What do you most value in your friends?
PB: Who are your heroes? A friend, a king? A knight?
(He snorts. And then looks me straight in the eye.)
G: My stepfather. A truly honourable man with a code of chivalry that makes knights and nobles look like peasants.
PB: What is it that you most dislike?
G: The arrogance of the nobility.
(And so I have a man who despises the nobility, meets out his own justice and grieves for a stepfather he loved. I am putting together a picture. Are you?)
PB: How would you like to die?
G: Swiftly. And with honour.
PB: What is your motto?
G: ‘Where a man’s heart is, there is his treasure also…’ Saint Ambrose said these words, I believe. Eight hundred years before my time…
(I am breathless. He is a man filled with brilliantly lit corners juxtaposed with depthless oubliettes. So much more to give but he shifts in his chair and I can see impatience beginning to fill him…)
PB: Messire Guillaume, thank you so much…
(He reaches for my hand, kisses it in a chivalrous but politely dismissive fashion, effectively concluding the conversation. He stands, bows his head and walks away, leaving me unsatisfied, curious and wanting…)
NB: Irish actor Eion Macken, in his role as Sir Gawain in Merlin, inspired the character of Guillaume.
The novel, Guillaume – Book Two of The Triptych Chronicle is due for release in mid-2016.