Surrounded by their escort, the Earl of Huntingdon and his daughter crossed the drawbridge of Nottingham Castle and rode into the crowded yard. As they entered the Great Hall they were just in time to see King Richard leaving the Council Chamber with his mother Queen Eleanor and his brother Prince John. Alongside them was the Archbishop of Canterbury and many of the most powerful barons in England.
The King smiled as he saw Marian’s father.
“Welcome Huntingdon!” He cried. “Now truly we can say that the bravest of our realm are gathered here.”
“God make us worthy of your trust sire,” said the earl as he bowed gracefully to the king and his mother.
“Sire,” continued the earl, “ I have a boon to ask the Queen your mother.”
King Richard nodded graciously.
“I pray you madam,” he asked, “ take my daughter into your house hold until my return.”
“Come here child,” said Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Marian approached them timidly and dropped to her knees to kiss the Queen’s hand.
“What is your name, child?” The Queen asked.
“Marian,” said the girl.
“A sweet and gentle name,” the Queen reflected, “ does your nature match it?”
“If it pleases the Queen,” replied Marian in a whisper.
The Queen looked carefully for a few moments into the girl’s face and then answered, “I will have her!”
Marian’s father bowed gratefully as the royal family moved to the outer door. But then they all stopped as the Sheriff of Nottingham went down on one knee.
“My Lord King,” he said, “I too would beg a boon. My men and I would follow our king across the seas.”
The Sheriff looked up nervously as King Richard hesitated.
“Find a new sheriff for Nottingham,” the king said to his brother John, “and men to serve him.”
“God save King Richard!” chanted the assembled knights.
“My Lord Archbishop of Canterbury,” said King Richard as they went down the castle steps, “We ask a blessing on this most holy enterprise.”
Heads bowed as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York blessed the many armed soldiers gathered in and beyond the castle walls. Then King Richard drew his sword and kissed the hilt. “To horse!” he cried. “Advance my banner! God wills it!”
With the sound of trumpets the great cavalcade began winding its way along the dusty road. Someone began singing a marching song and soon the whole army seemed to be singing along as the great Crusade left Nottingham Castle.