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Token of Love

Everyone loves a happy ending, a story where true love prevails against all the odds. It warms our hearts, brings a tear to our eye and a smile to our faces. Well our tale this week is not just any love story, it’s a medieval love story, one filled with knights, crusades and despots.

In the thirteenth century in the manor of Much Cowarne in Herefordshire lived a knight called Grimbald Pauncefote (we do love a good name). He was what every young girl of the time dreamed of. He was brave, dashing, could leap upon his horse in full armour and was always the last man standing in any skirmish. He attracted many wealthy admirers but a beautiful childhood friend had captured his heart. Constantia the daughter of John Lingen was stunningly beautiful, with long blonde hair down to her waist, beautiful blue eyes and a smile that would melt the hardest of hearts. To her he had given a fine gold ring embossed with his insignia as a token of his love and devotion, which she wore with pride.

As time passed they married, life was good but Grimbald was a knight and had a desire to go and prove himself in the crusades. So he decided to leave his treasured wife and seek honour in battle. As he left that day, he turned back for one last glance of his wife. His heart ached at leaving her but his desire for glory pushed him on.

The crusade however did not go well, the Turks were well prepared and killed many of Grimbald’s fellow knights. Before long Grimbald was captured by the Sultan of Tunis and brought before the despot. Grimbald’s bravery knew no bounds as he spoke with the Sultan, explaining that it was customary to offer any riches that he had in return for his freedom. But the Sultan just laughed in his face. For the Sultan was surrounded by jewels and gold, lands in a far off country were of no interest to him. Grimbald feared for his life, knowing that he had nothing left to offer.

After a lengthy silence the Sultan spoke. He told Grimbald that he needed a eunuch for his harem. Complimenting his physique he continued that the knight would be perfect for the role. Grimbald’s heart sunk lower than it had ever been and he fell to his knees pleading with the Sultan to allow him to return home to his wife. Pondering his pleas for mercy the Sultan replied that he would consider it upon one condition. Grimbald was to send a message to his wife and if within a year and a day she returned a token of love that proved that she loved him above all men then the Sultan confirmed he would let Grimbald go. So a message was sent to Lady Constantia.

Back in Herefordshire Lady Constantia spied a weary traveller approaching in the distance. Curious to see who it was she rushed out to greet him. Intrigued by the letter he delivered to her, she hurriedly returned to her chambers to read it. All night she pondered about what she could send as her token of love, what would persuade the Sultan to send her husband home? Then suddenly it dawned on her.

A year and a day after the Sultan had imprisoned Grimbald the weary traveller arrived back carrying a small oak casket. Passing it to the Sultan he advised that the casket had been sent from Lady Constantia. The Sultan sent for Grimbald and asked him to open the box, he was intrigued to see what she had sent. As Grimbald lifted the lid he gasped in horror and let out a wrenching cry, sobbing in a pool of despair. The Sultan took a look for himself, what token of love could have provoked such a reaction? Inside the casket was a small delicate woman’s hand, although mummified it was still beautiful and on one of the fingers he saw a gold ring embossed with Grimbald’s insignia. A note was also enclosed saying, ‘This have I done for the love of my lord’.

After careful contemplation the Sultan turned to Grimbald and said, ‘Go free, this truly is the ultimate token of love. Take with you as much silk, coins and jewels as you can carry. But you must promise me one thing. Once you return home, you must never leave your lady’s side, for a woman with this much love for you deserves your utmost respect.’

Many months later a weary, aged and white-haired Grimbald made his way home to Much Cowarne and was enthusiastically greeted by his servants who were pleased to see him, although they were shocked by his appearance. At the back of the group stood Lady Constantia and Grimbald made a bee line for her. But before he could take her in his arms she said, ‘Please don’t come any closer, I am ashamed for you to see me like this’. But Grimbald took no heed and lifted her into his arms saying, ‘My Lady, you are more beautiful today than ever. Today I return to you a shadow of the man I once was. I was a fool but I have gained wisdom and a deeper love for you and I will never leave your side again.’

True to his word Grimbald never left Lady Constantia again, death was the only thing to part them. It is said that they lie side by side in Much Cowarne church.

We leave you now with a tear in our eye and a warmth in our hearts that love truly is a powerful thing and not something to be taken for granted.

In the words of Huey Lewis:

“Tougher than diamonds and stronger than steel

You won’t feel nothin’ ’til you feel the power of love”

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