Richard the Lionheart spent Christmas of 1192 imprisoned in Dürnstien Castle, after being taken prisoner as he returned from Crusade by Leopold V of Austria. Little is known of his experiences during his 14 months of imprisonment –only that after the ransom asked for the King of England was paid, he was released.
During his time in prison, there was ample time for Richard to father an illegitimate child on a servant girl should once have been sent to wait on him. But what if the woman was Leopold’s own disgraced and disowned daughter?
Marie of Austria: The daughter of Leopold and Helene, Marie is betrothed to a man she has never met to cement a treaty that means nothing to her. She has fallen in love with a palace guard and is with his child so that she may escape her arranged marriage.
Richard the Lionheart: Richard is imprisoned because he cast down Leopold’s banner over Acre while on Crusade, and likely instigated the assassination of Leopold’s cousin. Since he refuses to apologize for either of these slights, imprisoned he will remain.
Marie is sent to Dürnstien to gain leverage over the Lion – what better way to his heart than for the girl to seduce him and then claim her child is the illegitimate heir to the English throne?
The Captive Crusader: King Richard the Lionheart is on his way home from Crusade when he is captured and held prisoner by Leopold of Austria. Leopold is dealing with problems of his own – his young daughter Marie, disgusted with the idea of an arranged marriage, has found a way out of it and gotten with child by someone within the Ducal palace at Vienna. The Duchess Helene launches a dastardly plan to save the treaty between Austria and Styria – remove Marie and replace her with an impostor to marry the Styrian Duke – and Marie herself will seduce the Lion and convince him the bastard she carries is his own illegitimate heir to the English throne!
The Virgin’s Lover: Leopold has an insidious plan – to take his own young lover and pawn her off to the Styrian heir as his own daughter Marie. Once they are married, the contract binding Styria to Austria will be complete without the brat who had threatened it. But at Dürnstein Castle, Marie is not out of danger – she has convinced Richard the child he carries is his, but if the Duchess believes the advanced timing of Marie’s pregnancy is too difficult to explain to the Lionheart, she will direct Hadmar the ministerialis to end it – by any means necessary.
The Impostor’s Truth: Marie’s betrothed arrives to finally meet his fiancée and is immediately enraptured with the girl, even before Leopold allows him to taste her charms before their wedding night. She may be less than perfect, but once she is bedded by her betrothed, the contract binding Styria to Austria will be complete. And at Dürnstein Castle, The Lion vows to protect Marie and his child always, but he is taken away to be held for ransom, and Marie is held prisoner in her father’s palace to ensure the heir of the Lion remains under Leopold’s control!
The Noble’s Conspiracy: Marie of Austria has one goal – get with the child of the King of England. But Richard the Lionheart resists her advances. After the loss of her pregnancy, he has no desire for his jailers to harm Marie’s child a second time. But Marie is desperate to seduce him, and finally succeeds, living a life of ecstasy in Richard’s cell, until she becomes pregnant and Richard is transferred to another prison. The impostor Marie must also get with child to ensure her marriage to the Okatar of Styria takes place – he has his own lover, and without a pregnancy, the marriage might falter.
The King’s Ransom: Richard’s companions return with the ransom, and he is released. His first desire is to return to Durnstein Castle to find Marie and his child. There he finds out the truth: that Marie is the daughter of his enemy and that she was sent to get with a child that Leopold can use against him. Against the wishes of his friends, Richard sets out to rescue her. In Leopold’s dungeon, Marie has birthed the Lion’s son, and he has been taken from her. Marie has to escape her prison to find him and flee her own prison – will she succeed?
The author’s role is to provide the worst possible voyage through life for their characters, and in the Medieval Era women were treated extremely poorly. This opens up the possibility of terrible mistreatment for our protagonist. Should anyone be offended by her life so far at Dürnstein, my most deep and abiding apologies – while it is true that my role is to torture my fictional characters for the sake of creating drama in their story, I do approach it from the sad understanding that these plot elements exist because they are present in real life and can have a tremendous negative impact on those who experience them.
My interest in Richard stems from my fascination with his mother Eleanor – it does follow that this fascinating woman would be the matriarch of a bevy of English royals, including two kings. Both sons who ascended to the throne are uniquely interesting – Richard, who lived (and fought) enough in his 41 years to have lasted an old man’s lifetime, and John, who history declares was as poor a monarch as his brother was a great one.
Richard’s dedication to battle seems a good reason why he had no legitimate heirs. But he also had only one illegitimate son, which seems unreasonable. These descendants may be lost to history, but might there be more of them? So, I invented a story regarding one, filled with lies and deceit, of course.
Marie of Austria herself is an invention – it is unknown whether Leopold V and Helene of Austria had other children beyond the sons who ruled after them. But there were months when Richard could have fathered a child at Dürnstein Castle if he seduced a servant girl – so now the servant girl is a disgraced child of the Duke and the goal of the seduction is to gain power over the heart of the Lion!
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