The Lion in Winter
With Christmas fast approaching in the winter of 1183, King Henry II is planning festivities in his castle in Chinon. The young, newly crowned French King, Philip, will be attending to discuss a treaty in England. Also called to attend will be Henry’s three sons-- Richard, Geoffrey, and John-- and his estranged wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor had been under house arrest for attempting to overthrow Henry’s throne (with her sons’ help).
In the midst of the preparations, Henry steps aside to discuss affairs with the beautiful Alais, his young and impressionable mistress. She is King Philips’ sister, and was originally intended to marry Henry’s son Richard. Henry took the dowry given for Alais, but instead of marrying her off he decided to make her his mistress. Henry shares a plan with Alais: he wants her to marry his son John. Henry intends for John to inherit the throne, even though he is the youngest son and Eleanor wants Richard to be king. Alais protests, declaring that she doesn’t want to marry her lover’s son. Henry waves away her worries, and states that John wouldn’t mind if they kept the affair going after the marriage. Alais states that she will fight Henry on any upcoming nuptials with all of her might.
All of the holiday guests have arrived in the castle’s reception hall: Richard,