Monday 23 December 2019

The Cloak by Elizabeth Chadwick - a story inspired by a song

An Exclusive 'out-take' scene from 
Elizabeth Chadwick's novel
Templar Silks

Read the Story
Guess the Song
here's a clue...

Family Anno, Anno, Family, 19, Year
Author's Note:
When I write historical novels, the early drafts sometimes contain scenes that do not make it into the final version of the book. This is usually the result of me having to produce a word count that will not give my agent and editor a heart attack.  Sometimes too, the scenes, although perfectly good in themselves, turn out to be a distraction from the main flow of the novel – tributaries in the river you might say.
    The Cloak, is an out-take from my bestselling novel Templar Silks and this is the first time that this scene has been aired in public. My editor loved it, but felt it was one of those tributaries that meant my hero was not arriving swiftly enough at his destination where the main action rightly takes place.   
    To set the scene for this out-take my protagonist, William Marshal, a senior knight and office holder in the household of Henry, the twenty-eight year-old son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, has vowed to travel to Jerusalem and present his young lord’s cloak at the tomb of the Holy Sepulchre. Henry, known as The Young King because he had been crowned in his father’s lifetime to secure the succession and had made the request of William on his death bed.  The Young King died from dysentery while in rebellion against his father, and shortly before his demise had robbed several holy shrines in order to pay his mercenaries. William himself had been heavily involved in the matter.
     William set out from England with the cloak in the late summer of 1183.  Part of his journey may have taken him through the territory of The Young King’s sister, Joanna, who was Queen of Sicily. This out-take scene, titled ‘The Cloak’ is a moment when William and his men seek an audience with her.

Brindisi, late Summer 1183

Eight days of brisk travelling brought William and his men to the port of Brindisi on the shores of the blue and gilded Adriatic Sea, there to procure a ship to carry them across to Durazzo where they would pick up the ancient Roman Road to Constantinople - the Via Egnatia. But first they had to pay their respects to Joanna, Queen of Sicily, King Henry’s daughter who was lodged in the port. 

The Silhouette, The Stroke, Character

Leaving his entourage to stable the horses and settle into the pilgrim hostel by the harbour, William folded his former master’s cloak under his arm and went to seek audience with the Queen, taking Ancel and Geoffrey with him.
Having closely scrutinised the seal on the letter William bore from King Henry to his daughter, the guards admitted William and his companions into an ante chamber while a servant went to inform the lady of their arrival. After an age he returned and summoned William alone, bidding Ancel and Geoffrey to remain behind. William shot them a look, warning them wordlessly to be on their best behaviour, and followed his silk-clad escort through a door with a golden lion’s head knocker, into a spacious chamber with pale stone window arches framing the twin azure plains of sea and sky. Hangings of gossamer linen floated on a salt-scented breeze and the walls were painted with images of peacocks displaying their iridescent eye-fan tails amid stylised lemon groves. 

Peacock Feathers, Plumage, Iridescent

Joanna Queen of Sicily sat on a padded seat by one of the arches, surrounded by her ladies. A square of needlework occupied her hands, and a basket of brightly coloured silks rioted at her side.  Her smooth, upright posture and taut figure were so reminiscent of her mother, Queen Alienor, that William’s heart gave a painful jolt. The last time he had seen Joanna, she had been eleven years old and on her way to this marriage in Sicily, although he had known her almost from birth. Reconciling the poised, grown woman with the infant and child of his memory, was like watching tiles of time slide over each other from past to present, superimposing one reality upon the next.  
He crossed the mosaic floor, and knelt at her feet. ‘Madam,’ he said, and the word felt strange on his tongue because of his vision of her as a little girl with pig-tail plaits.             
Her eyes, ocean-blue like her mother’s, held none of Queen Alienor’s warmth and compassion, but were guarded, almost hostile. ‘Messire Marshal,’ she said curtly. The letter he had brought lay open on the table beside her embroidery threads.
William wondered what the letter had said to make her stare at him so coldly. ‘I thank you for granting me an audience, Madam.’
‘I was in half a mind to refuse you,’ she said, ‘but I wish to be fair and I try not to consider you impertinent or lacking in respect to request such a thing. My brother was beyond dear to me and I am in mourning for his untimely death.’
William was unsurprised by her attitude.  He was the scapegoat; the one to blame for the young man’s demise, and he blamed himself anyway because he had been unable to save him.  ‘Madam, it grieves me too – greatly.’
‘Yet you allowed it to happen.’
‘I tried to reason with him, but nothing I said or did made a difference. ‘My lord was bound upon his path.’ He had to swallow before he could continue. ‘It is to my sorrow and great shame that I failed in my duty.’
‘Indeed, you should feel sorrow and shame,’ she said with the cruelty of grief. ‘You were his tutor in chivalry – his teacher, his protector and safeguard from harm.’
‘What you say is true,’ William replied, accepting her scorn as his due, indeed welcoming it for he deserved every blow she struck. ‘He was my lord and I let him down.’ He bowed his head but he was still aware of her merciless scrutiny. ‘That is why I am bound on this pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Before he died, my young lord charged me to take his cloak and lay it on Christ’s tomb at the Holy Sepulchre in expiation of his sins. For love of him and for my own redemption, I have undertaken a solemn vow to do so.’ He produced the folded bundle from under his arm and spread the fabric out before her – a semi-circle of crimson wool with a white linen cross stitched over the left breast.  And then he looked up at her, willing her to see what was in his eyes.
She gave a cry like a wounded animal and pressing her veil over her face turned away from him, her shoulders shaking. Her ladies crowded around, exclaiming full of sympathetic concern, and sending him dagger-looks.
‘You are dismissed.’ Her voice cracked with grief as she waved her hand in his direction. ‘Get out.’  
He started to gather up the cloak, spread like a pool of blood between them, but she turned on him, savage and tearful. 
 ‘Leave it!’
William’s stomach plummeted. ‘Madam, with all respect, I cannot, it is my sacred charge.’
‘It was your sacred charge to keep my brother alive. I am his kin, not you!’ she was radiant with anger. A swift gesture brought the guards to William’s side, ready to march him out at sword point.
‘Then I shall await your pleasure Madam.’ He gave a stiff bow.
The guards escorted him out of the door and then shut it in his face.  He stared at the brass lion’s head gripping the latch ring, and clenched his jaw.

Lion, Door, Doorknocker, Knocker, Old

‘What has happened? Ancel demanded, ‘What’s wrong?’
William shot him an irritated look.  ‘Nothing. The Queen is distraught and in grief for her brother, that is all.’
‘Where’s the cloak?’
‘Where do you think?’ William snapped before compressing his lips in a tight line.
‘What do we do now?  What if she doesn’t...?’
William’s glare was enough to silence Ancel who sat down on the bench, folded his arms and hunched over them. Geoffrey prudently did not venture an opinion.
The light changed mellowing and darkening as the day advanced and they were offered neither food nor drink, but William took hope from the fact that they had not been dismissed outright. He went to talk to some of the courtiers in the ante chamber to garner information about the crossing to Durazzo – how long it would take, which captains to approach, who to avoid.
It was nearing dusk when the door eventually re-opened and William was summoned back into Joanna’s presence.
She sat in her chair of authority now, not the window seat. Her women had kindled the glass oil lamps and their light cast a gold patina across the mosaic-diced floor. The cloak was spread out before her in a wide scarlet fan that draped over a footstool at her feet.  She was tightly clutching to her body, the area that would have circled her brother’s shoulders and chest when he wore it.
Once more, William knelt at her feet.
‘Get up,’ she said. Her voice was hoarse with grief and her eyes swollen from weeping, but the storm had passed and she had control of herself. ‘Messire Marshal, you have brought my brother’s cloak to me and I thank you although it has caused me great sorrow. I realise it was not an easy thing for you to do and I know you must continue with your pilgrimage to Jerusalem to redeem his soul. I shall not stand in your way. Indeed, I shall aid you if I can  while you are in Brindisi.’
It was as close to an apology as he was going to receive. ‘Madam, I am grateful, and it grieves me to be the harbinger of so much sorrow.’
She shook her head. ‘You have given me the means to mourn.’ she answered, and a solitary tear trickled down her face. ‘Before today I could not acknowledge that my brother was dead, and now I have both the wound in my hands and the healing.’  Her expression suddenly sharpened. ‘For my brother’s sake and your own, see that you do not fail this time, or you shall never rest, in this world or the next.’  
 ‘I shall not spare myself Madam, and if I die in the attempt, then so be it.’
She gestured him to take the cloak, relinquishing her grip on it finger by slow finger, until her hands were empty and William’s were full. 
He laid the garment reverently on the lamplit floor, smoothed it out and folded it into a neat bundle with the cross uppermost and said nothing about the piece of cloth that had been cut from the hem. It was a small enough sacrifice to bind a wounded heart.
The Queen of Sicily rose from her chair and took from the middle finger of her right hand a sapphire ring set like a midnight-blue teardrop in a surround of filigree gold. ‘Take this to the Sepulchre with the cloak,’ she said. ‘My brother gave this to me when I came here as a bride. Let it be sold for alms to bestow on the poor for his soul…and for mine.
‘It shall be done, Madam.’
She gave him an eloquent look, her eyes a quenched blue like the sapphire in the ring. ‘I believe you, even perhaps against my will.  You may go, and God speed your journey.’
William bowed from the chamber, the cloak once more secure in his possession, apart from one small, scarlet square, and the doors closed behind him.

Wooden Door, Nailed, Old, Wood, Texture

‘Thank God!’ Ancel cried, springing to his feet.
 ‘I told you,’ William said, although he too had not been sure. He had felt the resistance in each of her fingers as she surrendered the garment into his keeping like notes plucked on snapping heart strings.

Image result for red cloak white cross

‘We should not have come here,’ Ancel said.
‘Yes, we should,’ William contradicted. ‘It was God’s will and we have the benefit of the Queen’s help and protection to make the crossing. Come, we have a ship to find, and a journey to continue.’

© Elizabeth Chadwick

Did you guess the title?

Ed Sheeran  - Photograph
(Official You Tube Video)

Note from Elizabeth:
All of my novels have soundtracks, usually of modern music. It has been part of my creative process since I began writing historical fiction when I was fifteen.  I use lyrics and melody to inspire scenes, to evoke emotions and to get into character feelings and motivations.  The song for the scene in this outtake is Ed Sheeran’s ‘Photograph’. Its poignant lyrics and melody just ache with wistful longing.  There were no photographs in the 12th century - indeed, not even realistic portraits, but the cloak itself is the medium of the memories here.

Elizabeth standing beneath William Marshal's
plaque at Cartmel Priory
Elizabeth Chadwick was born a story teller. At the age of three, before she could read or write, she remembers opening picture books and making up new tales. She came to love historical fiction partly through drama, partly through books and television. In 1994 she was hired by Columbia Pictures to turn the script of First Knight starring Sean Connery and Richard Gere into a novel. In 1998, her novel The Champion was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists Association Parker Pen Award for the best Romantic novel of the year and she has been shortlisted three more time since then and longlisted twice. In 2011 To Defy A King won their award for the best work of historical fiction.  A Place Beyond Courage, the story of the great William Marshal’s father John FitzGilbert was selected by UK bookshop chain Waterstones as one of their Best Books of 2008 in historical fiction. In 2010 The Scarlet Lion was nominated as one of the ten landmark historical novels of the decade. In 2009, Sourcebooks US published  The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion. The Greatest Knight became a New York Times bestseller. 

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Reviewed by Discovering Diamonds

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There will be another story inspired by a song tomorrow!

The Full List of Authors

2nd   M.J. Logue   First Love 
3rd   Richard Tearle Chips and Ice Cream
4th    Helen Hollick Promises, Promises
5th    Paul Marriner Memories
6th    Pam Webber One Door Closing
7th    Louise Adam Hurt Me Once
8th    Barbara Gaskell Denvil Sticks and Stones
9th    Judith Arnopp Secrets
10th  Erica LainĂ©  Silk Stockings
11th   Anna Belfrage Hold Me, Love Me, Leave Me? 
12th  Annie Whitehead Frozen
13th  Tony Riches Alas, My Love
14th  Clare Flynn, Zipless
15th  J.G. Harlond The Last Assignment
16th  Elizabeth St John Under The Clock
17th  Alison Morton Honoria’s Battle
18th  Jean Gill The Hunter
19th  Patricia Bracewell Daddy's Gift
20th Debbie Young It Doesn't Feel Like Christmas
21st   Ruth Downie  Doing It Properly
22nd Nicky Galliers What God Has Joined
23rd  Elizabeth Chadwick The Cloak
26th  Helen Hollick Ever After
27th   Barbara Gaskell Denvil Just The One... Or Maybe Two
28th   Deborah Swift Just Another Day
29th   Amy Maroney What The Plague Brings
30th   Cryssa Bazos River Mud


 Note: There is copyright legislation for song lyrics 
but no copyright in names, titles or ideas

StorySong graphic by @Avalongraphics 
additional images via Pixabay accreditation not required


  1. Such a natural movement between metaphor and period background to evoke emotion - the 'tiles of time' and the mosaic floor; the photograph and the square of cloak - beautiful link between song inspiration and story. A meander in the river that deserves to reach Elizabeth Chadwick's many fans (of whom I'm one). I love this period of history and her historical fiction is so authentic.

    1. Thank you Jean - I agree, Elizabeth's unique feel for time, place (and accuracy) combine to make such absorbing reading.

  2. Lovely. I've read nearly all of the William Marshal books and feel that I 'know' him, such is the quality of Elizabeth's writing. Templar Silks is on my shelf and I'm very much looking forward to getting back to William and his story.

    1. And isn't it nice to know, when the To Be Read pile becomes enormous that any Elizabeth Chadwick taken from the pile will always be a darn good read!

  3. Such a poignant memory and so vividly portrayed. It's a strong human moment especially as you know the brother and sister hadn't seen each other for so many years. I didn't guess the music, but it fits perfectly.

  4. Such wonderfully descriptive and taut writing with that authentic 'feel'. Loved the story - didn't guess the song!

  5. A beautiful scene, and a lovely way to illuminate William's own emotions. This will stay with me for a while. I didn't guess the song, and certainly perfect musical accompaniment.

  6. This scene has the special Chadwick quality I discovered when I began The Scarlet Lion (my first Marshal novel). I know next to nothing about the period, but I was there, watching what was happening.

  7. Great, as one would expect. The Scarlet Lion has been on my kindle for a while now, might bump it up the list a bit now :)

  8. A wonderful piece. I could feel the strong emotions between the Queen and William. Thanks for sharing this with us!


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