At the end of Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett’s marvelous historical novel about the building of a Cathedral, King Henry II is led through the streets of London for the murder of Thomas Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Ken Follet writes:
A stocky man with a large head was walking toward the city out of the mist of rain. He wore no boots or hat. At some distance behind him followed a large group of people on horseback.
The man was King Henry.
The crowd was as quiet as a funeral while the rain-drenched king walked through the mud to the city gate. Philip stepped into the road, according to the prearranged plan, and walked in front of the barefoot king, leading the way to the cathedral.
Henry followed with head bowed, his normally jaunty gait rigidly controlled, his posture a picture of penitence. Awestruck townspeople gazed on in silence as the king of England humbled himself before their eyes.
The king’s entourage followed at a distance. Philip led him slowly through the cathedral gate… The mighty doors of the splendid church were open wide. The crowd parted to let them through. People spoke in whispers, stunned by the sight of the proudest king in Christendom, soaking wet, walking into church like a beggar.
They went slowly along the nave and down the steps into the crypt. There, beside the new tomb of the martyr, the monks of Canterbury were waiting, along with the greatest and most powerful bishops and abbots of the realm.
The king knelt on the floor. His courtiers came into the crypt behind him. In front of everyone, Henry of England, second of that name, confessed his sins, and said he had been the unwitting cause of the murder of Saint Thomas.
When he had confessed he took off his cloak. Beneath it he wore a green tunic and a hair shirt. He knelt down again, bending his back. The bishop of London flexed a cane. The king was to be whipped. He would get five strokes from each priest and three from each monk present.
Of course, it turned out the story of Mr. Follett’s novel is historically accurate. As most people, I have always be interested in the Royals. They provide a tremendous microcosm for the human drama and it is heightened by family and political conflict.
Witness the Acabelles from Florida State covering Royals by Lorde which is quite sensational. Just click here.
So the Barefooted King Henry II got me to thinking. I remembered how Alexander the Great, in his fiery arrogance, actually fought battles in his bare feet. I also recalled how King Arthur was known as the ” Barefoot King”, not because of his fighting, but because of his casual nature when not at war.
Here Alexander the Great is memorialized in bare feet with his horse, Bucephalus.
A while back a photograph was “discovered” of the current royals as children in bare feet. The picture was taken by Lord Snowdon.
As it turns out, Prince Harry continued his barefoot status through teen-dom and early adulthood. There are some odd websites that feature hundreds of pictures of him barefooted.
So I thought there was an interesting historical fiction saga about certain “Barefoot Kings”.
I came upon a rather remarkable set of texts from the 13th century.
They are poems written by French poet, Robert de Boron.
The poems chronicle the life and times of great magical adviser to Kings, Merlin the Wizard.
So Merlin became the thread that wove the tapestry of the royals together.