By Heather Cooper
A sequel to "Worthy is the Lamb". Hugh and Justina fell in love in "Worthy is the Lamb". In "A King is Born", they are married and expecting a child around Christmas time. The story is set in the historical context of the Baron's Revolt in England in the mid-1200s. Ranulph de Burgh's leadership in the revolt makes life dangerous for his unborn grandchild and heir, and Hugh and Justina are forced to flee their home at the same time as she is due to give birth. They gain a new understanding of the plight of Mary and Joseph as Mary gives birth to Jesus, and for God's faithful provision to those who trust Him.
Henry III of England was the son of King John I. He came to the throne in 1216 at the age of nine. His reign began immersed in the rebellion created by King John, when the Barons restricted Royal authority with the Magna Carta. As Henry was too young to rule, England was governed by two regents, William the Marshall and Hubert de Burgh. Hubert de Burgh was able to restore order to England in the wake of the Barons' unrest and war with Prince Louis of France, until Henry assumed power at age twenty.
By the year 1254, Henry's rule had done nothing to promote peace with the Barons. He infuriated them by appointing foreigners to all the Royal positions and by taxing his subjects heavily to pay for his alliance with the Pope. Henry had agreed to finance the Pope's campaign to add Sicily to the Papal holdings, but the Barons refused to provide the needed funds. Threatened with excommunication by the Pope, Henry was forced by an alliance of barons, led by Simon de Montfort, to sign the Provisions of Oxford, which set up a council of nobles that the King had to consult in every matter of state. Divisions among the Barons allowed King Henry to repudiate the Provisions and take back power for himself.
Prince Edward, Henry's son, initially sided with the Barons but as the conflict went on, he joined forces with his father against them. War broke out in 1264 at Lewes, in Sussex. The Barons were victorious and took both Henry and Edward captive. Simon de Montfort then ruled England with a council of nine in Henry's stead. Later, however, Edward escaped and formed an alliance with the Earl of Gloucester. They raised an army and defeated Simon de Montfort and the Barons at the Battle of Evesham, freeing King Henry. An old man by this time, Henry assumed the throne again, but gave the real authority to Edward, who later went on to institute parliamentary reform in England.
Hugh de Massingham
Justina de Massingham (de Burgh)
Henry de Massingham
Juliana de Massingham
Nigel de Massingham
Anna de Massingham (Nigel's wife)
Ranulph de Burgh
Alaina de Burgh
Elizabeth de Cornet
Stephan de Parmenter
Simon de Montfort
(Music - medieval processional sounding music)
(All actors process down center aisle, nod regally at congregation as they pass.
Order of procession:
Bridegroom's party -
Nigel and wife Anna
Henry and Juliana
Bridegroom Hugh and best man Stephan
Bride's party -
Ranulph and Alaina
Attendants Elizabeth and other
Bride - Justina
(They go through church doors held open by apprentice monks, then the doors
are closed. Lights go down for a moments. Music changes to become joyful. Doors
open again and Hugh and Justina emerge, hand in hand and process back down the
aisle followed by:
Henry and Juliana
Ranulph and Alaina
Nigel and Anna
Stephan and Elizabeth
(Behind the church "front" when it is removed, are tables set up for a feast at the de Massingham's castle.)
Ranulph: (standing for a toast) Welcome to one and all. My wife, Alaina and I, are grateful to you all for sharing our happiness at the wedding celebration of our daughter, Justina. But today, we celebrate more than a marriage, we also celebrate an alliance - an alliance wrought by Almighty God - between two formerly bitter enemies, the de Burghs and the de Massinghams!
Guests: (various cries of assent): Hear, hear! Amen!
Ranulph: I know you rejoice with me at the new peace between us. As my daughter Justina is my only offspring, any son born to her and my new son-in-law will become my heir and the estates of de Burgh and de Massingham will be forever joined, God willing. Raise your goblets and join me in a toast to our good neighbours, our hosts and our family through marriage, the de Massinghams! (Toasts, then sits again.)
All: (Raising goblets) The de Massinghams!
Henry: Thank you, Ranulph and thank you all. This is indeed a happy occasion and I congratulate my son, Hugh on his choice of a bride. One would have to search long and hard to find a lady more fair and more wise than Justina de Burgh. I, too, thank God for His wondrous work on our behalf as 50 years of constant battle and bloodshed have ended in alliance and friendship. My wife, Juliana and I would like to welcome the fair Justina to our family and we ask you to raise your goblets as we salute her family, the de Burghs.
All: (Raising goblets.) The de Burghs! (Henry sits as Hugh rises.)
Hugh: Tonight I consider myself the most blessed of all men. I stand here with beloved family (indicates Juliana, Henry) and dear friends (indicates Stephan), in the sight of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ and present to you all my beautiful bride and dearest companion. We are blessed because we begin our life together in a new atmosphere of peace between our families. We pray that our children will never have to experience the heartbreak of war and unrest. But you have had enough of speeches this evening. Let us raise our cups in one last toast tonight - a toast to my new wife, the beautiful Justina.
All: To Justina!
Hugh: Now let the festivities begin! (Music begins, guests eat, jugglers or musicians come out…for a moment. Then music is silenced as a servant enters before Henry.)
Servant 1: My lord, may I present Simon de Montfort!
Henry: (glances at Ranulph and Hugh.) What could this portend? Show him in.
Simon: (enters and bows.) Gentlemen, and noble ladies, I earnestly beg your pardons. I have arrived at a most inopportune moment. Pray do not let me interrupt this celebration. I will return on the morrow.
Henry: Nonsense, Sir Simon. Join us in the feast. There is plenty to go around. You are most welcome. (To servant) Make a place for Sir Simon. (Simon sits beside Henry.)
Henry: Pray, what brings you all the way to Warwickshire, Simon?
Simon: The unrest among the barons has come to a head, Henry. The king goads them beyond endurance. I would have a word with you and Ranulph, at your convenience.
Henry: You shall have it. I am eager to hear the news. It has been a good two months since we've had word from the south and the east. (Servant 2 brings Simon food.)
Simon: All in good time. Let us not diminish the joy of the celebration now! (Begins to eat.)
(In the de Massingham solar, Ranulph, Henry, and Nigel are seated near fire. Simon de Montfort paces in front.)
Simon: (pacing) King Henry has gone too far, once again. He has attacked and captured my castle at Northampton and taken my son, Simon, prisoner. He has completely repudiated the Provisions of Oxford, which he swore to uphold, and Prince Edward, who sympathized with the barons at one time, has now completely changed his loyalty and has joined forces with his father.
Henry: Surely King Henry sees the folly in his disdain for parliamentary reform. The people will not continue to suffer the oppression brought about by his harsh taxation and disastrous military campaigns in France.
Nigel: Not to mention his slavish devotion to the Pope, which is costing us dearly. He imports foreign clergy and foreign advisors and pays all the Pope's military debts! We might as well have the Pope as king!
Ranulph: What is to be done, Simon? You know how recently I have joined with the Barons' cause. But I have not entered lightly into this allegiance. I do not hold with rebellion.
Simon: Nor do I, Ranulph. All our efforts have been aimed at negotiation and diplomacy. I have even handed over to the King my castles at Odiham and Kenilworth as an act of good faith. But the King is set on civil war with the Barons and is massing his troops even now in Sussex.
Henry: And what is your purpose here with us, Simon?
Simon: Twofold, Henry. First, I seek the military support of the newly united de Burgh and de Massingham armies, a force to be reckoned with, indeed.
Henry: I believe you can count on our presence, can he not, Ranulph? Do you think combat likely?
Simon: Perhaps not, if the strength of our forces is convincing enough. But that will depend on the King.
Ranulph: And what is your other purpose, Simon?
Simon: You, Ranulph. The Barons have repeatedly proposed your name as a possible leader, one likely to gain the respect of King Henry.
Ranulph: They have a respected leader in you, Simon! You have had the vision of parliamentary reform all along. It was you who crafted the Provisions of Oxford and created the governing council of nobles that has ruled so effectively.
Simon: The unity among us is crumbling, and my marriage to the King's sister, Eleanor, is a cause for suspicion among some of the barons. I need a leader to rally us, Ranulph. I believe you are the man.
Ranulph: Me? I confess I am taken by surprise, Simon!
Simon: Your father, Hubert de Burgh, ruled for 13 years as regent before King Henry was old enough to assume the throne. He was a fair man but strong enough to restore order in the country after the conflict with Prince Louis of France. The Barons find that same mix of justice and strength in you, Ranulph.
Ranulph: But I supported the king for so many years. It was the reason for the hostilities between myself and Henry de Massingham, as you well know!
Simon: But that quality of loyalty is just what attracted them to you, Ranulph. Yours is not a fickle pledge of allegiance. Your support, once given, is not withdrawn on a whim.
Ranulph: I am now dedicated to the concept of limited power for the monarchy and parliamentary rule. But I will have to take some time to prayerfully consider this proposal.
Simon: There is little time to lose! How long will it take to gather your men in arms?
Henry: Three days at the most, I should think. We are not far spread in our holdings. I will send out heralds this very evening.
Nigel: I will go now, Father, and send for the messengers. Shall I send for yours as well, Ranulph?
Ranulph: Yes. It may take my men three or four days to gather here. The sooner word is sent the better. (Nigel exits.)
Simon: God bless you both. I knew I could count on you. I must head out at first light tomorrow but I will meet you on the road to Oxford in four days' time. You can let me know your decision then, Ranulph.
Henry: God speed your way, Simon. (The three men shake hands.)
(All are gathered in the solar, Henry and Juliana, Ranulph and Alaina, Nigel and Anna, Hugh and Justina.)
Henry: We have gathered a force of 500 men between us, Ranulph. We have provisions for at least a month.
Ranulph: Then let us take our leave and be on our way. We must meet Simon tomorrow in Oxford.
Hugh: Father, I am torn. You will need me if it comes to battle, but…
Henry: You are only four days married, son. You cannot desert your bride so soon! Besides, I need someone to watch over things here.
Hugh: (puts an arm around Justina) Thank you, sire. I will daily pray for your safety and God's protection for Nigel and Ranulph.
Juliana: (draws Henry aside) I am loath to let you go, Henry. It has been such a short time since your newly awakened faith has allowed us a closer relationship.
Henry: Hold strong to your faith, Juliana, as I will to mine. The time will not be so long. (He kisses her hand and leaves.)
Justina: Good-bye, Father. Hurray home for I shall miss you.
Ranulph: Nonsense, child. You have a new husband to occupy your thoughts and hours.
Justina: Nevertheless, I will miss you dearly. Keep safe.
Ranulph: (takes her hand) And you.
Alaina: (to Ranulph) I am resigned to your going to war, Ranulph. But this position of leadership you will agree to truly frightens me. You know the fate of a leader, should his side be defeated.
Ranulph: Who knows, Alaina, but that I was put here for just such a time as this? I feel the hand of God on this decision.
Alaina: (quietly) I couldn't bear to lose you, Ranulph.
Ranulph: We must leave it all in God's hands and trust in His care for us.
Alaina: (turns away) I have an uneasy feeling about all of this. (rallies and turns back) But you mustn't worry about Justina and me. We will be fine, and well cared for here until you return.
Ranulph: Until I return then…(Kisses her hand, touches her cheek. Nigel bids farewell to Anna in a similar fashion and leaves. Sounds of horses leaving are heard. Women comfort each other.)
(The women are gathered in the solar, weaving or embroidering.)
Catherine (Ferris): The days are long now. The warmth of the sun is so comforting.
Juliana: Even so, God be praised for the rain we've had. The crops are doing well. The drought of the past two years was causing a dreadful scarcity.
Anna: The villages already begin to make preparation for the Feast of St. John.
Elizabeth: I'm looking forward to that celebration!
Justina: (teasing) The villagers say if you carry a bit of St. John's wort with you that day, you will find the "love of your life"!
Elizabeth: (scornfully) I need no help from plant life, thank you very much. I am quite able to find romance on my own.
Anna: (grinning) That would not have anything to do with a certain Stephan de Parmenter, would it?
Elizabeth: (gives here a disdainful look) What would you know about it, Anna? You've spent the last two months by the window, pining for your Nigel.
Justina: (still teasing) You and Stephan could hardly take your eyes off each other at my wedding, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: (on the offensive) I'm not the only one keeping news to myself, am I, Justina? How are you feeling in the mornings, now?
Justina: Hush, Elizabeth! I was waiting for the family to be all together again before I broke the news!
Juliana: What is this? (Goes to Justina and takes her hands, pulling her to her feet.) You are expecting our first grandchild! Wonderful news!
Alaina: (hugs Justina) My own daughter! How could I have missed it!?
Justina: (gently) You have been much distracted these days, Mother!
Alaina: (goes to the window) Yes. It has been almost two months since they left, and not a word!
Juliana: It is a fearful wait, Alaina, I know.
Alaina: This is not the first time by far that I have waited for Ranulph to return from war. But it is the first time I've felt so uneasy about it.
Juliana: Whatever the outcome, we must trust in God to carry us through.
Alaina: Ummm. (Sits again to embroider.)
(Servant 2 enters, in haste.)
Servant 2: My ladies - the men - they have returned! (Ladies jump up and rush to the door. Henry and Stephan enter, Hugh follows. Ladies fall back.)
Henry: We are just in. We rode hard from Oxford this morning. The battle has been won! The King and Edward, his son, have been captured and Simon de Montfort now rules England with his council of nobles!
Juliana: Praise God for this victory!
Alaina: (alarmed) Simon de Montfort?! What about Ranulph? Did he decline to take leadership? Where is he?
Justina: (taking Alaina's arm) Yes, where is my father?
Henry: (taking Alaina's shoulders) Lady Alaina, Ranulph was slain on the field of battle. We had been losing badly when he insisted on leading a small charge on the King's heavily armed right, as a distraction, so that a large force could attack the King's weaker left flank. It was a brilliant maneuver that resulted in our victory, but Ranulph was struck down.
Stephan: He fought valiantly!
Alaina: (quietly) No! (Catherine comes to her.)
Justina: Father! (Hugh quickly comes to support her, as does Elizabeth.)
Henry: He did not suffer, Alaina. It is a great loss for us all. You have our entire resources at your disposal. You need not fear for your own well-being.
Anna: Nigel? He isn't…
Juliana: Yes, Henry. Where is Nigel?
Henry: Nigel is safe and well. He was asked to accompany Simon de Montfort to London to serve on his council in my name. He sent you this letter, Anna. He asks you to join him in London, once the country is stable again.
Alaina: (sitting) Somehow, I knew. I knew.
Juliana: Let me get you something, Alaina, to help you sleep.
Alaina: (forcefully) No! No, I need to awaken now, not sleep. I am so numb, I feel… nothing!
(Late evening. Hugh and Justina are alone in the solar. Justina is grieving.)
Justina: Hugh, it is so easy to love God when all is well. But how can I trust Him when He takes away what is so dear to me?
Hugh: Let Him comfort you, Justina. He cares.
Justina: My father and I didn't always see matters in the same light, Hugh, but I loved him dearly.
Hugh: I wish I could take your pain for you.
Justina: Now he will never know his grandchild. And our son will never know what manner of man his grandfather was!
Hugh: We will keep your father's memory alive for our child, Justina. Remember that your father was a believer. This parting is only temporary. Some day, we shall see him again.
Justina: Right now, it seems such a long time to be without him. (Hugh comforts her. Alaina and Juliana enter tentatively.)
Alaina: Justina, are you here? How are you faring? (Justina gets up and embraces her mother.)
Justina: As well as can be expected, Mother, and you?
Alaina: I am bearing up, my dear. I was concerned about you being with child and having the shock of this terrible news.
Justina: I don't know how to deal with this! Part of me wants to rage at God for this injustice. But the other part wants to collapse in His arms.
Alaina: Truthfully, I feel more inclined to rage! Ranulph needn't have gone. He was past his fighting prime. But he said he felt God calling him to take leadership. Was God calling him to his death? Why?
Juliana: The rage will pass, Alaina. I wasn't much older than Justina when I lost my dearest brother in battle. It seemed such a waste of a life. My questions were never really answered, but my overwhelming recollection of that time, as I look back, was how God carried me through it all, and how I grew to depend on Him.
Alaina: Yes. Thank you, Juliana. I am weary now. I need to be alone.
(Family is gathered in the solar, putting up greenery to decorate for Christmas.)
Elizabeth: Christmas is my favourite time of year!
Stephan: Could that be because of the mistletoe? (Holds it over his head and follows her.)
Elizabeth: (scornfully) Perhaps for you! I don't have time for such nonsense! All my time has been spent overseeing arrangements for the feast - to make sure there is food enough for you - and still some left for all the other forty guests!
Stephan: (pretends to be hurt) A cruel blow, Elizabeth! I hardly ever think of food these days! I have other things on my mind. (He holds up the mistletoe again and Elizabeth ducks past him to go to Justina who has just entered, 9 months pregnant).
Elizabeth: Here, Justina. Let me find you a chair. You should be resting!
Justina: Rest! How can I rest? There is no way to get comfortable. Besides, I miss the Christmas preparations. What can I do sitting down? Perhaps weave a garland?
(Enter Juliana and Henry.)
Juliana: The last of the food will be brought in today, Henry. Have you found entertainers yet?
Henry: I assigned that job to Hugh. He has been trying to locate his friend Geoffrey Reynard and his troupe of jongleurs. Where is Hugh?
Justina: He is accompanying my mother and Catherine Ferris here. They should be arriving soon.
Juliana: (with satisfaction) Then we shall all be together for Christmas. All except Nigel and Anna. Justina, do you think you will be able to celebrate all of Christmas?
Justina: All 12 days? The way I feel now I would say that was unlikely. But who is to know? Mother! Catherine!
(Enter Hugh, Alaina and Catherine. They greet everyone.)
Alaina: Everything looks so festive, Juliana. Thank you for inviting us. It will be so good to be here when the baby is born. How are you, Justina?
Justina: I am fine, Mother. I am just anxious to have it over with.
Alaina: By the look of you, it will not be long! (sits down by Justina)
Catherine: What can I do to help? (Elizabeth takes her to help)
Henry: Hugh, were you able to contact Geoffrey Reynard?
Hugh: Yes, sire. He and his troupe will arrive tomorrow, eager to perform for us.
Henry: Splendid! Then all is in readiness!
(Servant 1 enters.)
Servant 1: Horsemen, sire, and in great haste. (Everyone looks at one another in surprise.)
Henry: Show them up at once, John, and care for their steeds.
Servant 1: Yes, sire. (Bows and leaves.)
(Nigel and Anna enter, breathless.)
Juliana: Nigel, Anna, you are home for Christmas! What a wonderful surprise!
Nigel: Yes, Mother. I am happy to be here. Father, I must have a word with you.
Juliana: You have barely made your greetings, Nigel. Is the news that urgent?
Nigel: I am afraid it is, Mother. Father? (indicates that they should leave)
Henry: We can talk here, Nigel. We will all know sooner or later.
Nigel: Very well. (removes cloak) The council has failed. The alliance of barons is broken, and Edward has escaped.
Henry: The alliance has broken?
Nigel: The Earl of Gloucester has defected and has joined with Prince Edward. They have raised an army in an alarmingly short time.
Henry: Where is Simon de Montfort?
Nigel: He has retreated to his castle in Leicester to rally the Barons yet again.
Henry: And where is Edward's army?
Nigel: From Gloucester, they are headed northeast toward Leicester. That puts us directly in their path!
Henry: What is Simon's plan?
Nigel: After gathering his army, he will head southwest. They will meet somewhere in between!
Henry: (grimly) Rally our men, Hugh! I judge that we will not have far to ride either way and we may end up defending our own castle!! (Hugh leaves.)
Stephan: What about the women, sire? Shall I accompany them to safe haven?
Henry: I considered that, Stephan, but we don't yet know where safe haven may be until we know where the armies are. They are safer here, I believe, under our protection. Come with me while we check the state of our defenses. Nigel and Anna - rest from your ride and take some nourishment.
(The men exit.)
(Tthe family - Henry, Juliana, Hugh, Justina, Alaina, Stephan, Elizabeth and Catherine - has gathered to await battle or siege.)
(Enter Servant 2.)
Servant 2: Simon de Montfort, sire!
Simon: Ahh, Henry. (shakes his hand) I see that Nigel has reached you with his news. I regret that it was so ill. But you have taken steps in your defense?
Henry: Yes, as soon as we heard. But where are the armies now located?
Simon: At Evesham, half a day's journey from here. I am heading there now.
Henry: How does it look, Simon?
Simon: Not well. We were ill prepared for this surprising development. They outnumber us both in men and supplies.
Henry: Where do you want my men?
Simon: Here, I think, Henry, to be our rear guard. If our front lines give way, this will be our place of retreat. We will send in our supplies in case of siege.
Henry: Our castle is at your disposal, Simon.
Simon: (looking around) I ask your pardon, ladies, at the rough way I have delivered this bad news, but I am hard pressed. (pause) Is this Ranulph de Burgh's daughter?
Justina: Yes, my lord.
Simon: Henry, this young woman and her unborn child are in great danger. They must be moved to safety and as soon as possible! Edward feared Ranulph's influence among the nobles and his heir would pose a threat to him taking the throne. He will stop at nothing to ensure his line continues to hold the throne of England.
Justina: (frightened) Hugh, what shall we do? I am in no condition to flee!
Simon: I will leave you to your deliberations. I must make haste. Farewell.
Juliana: God go with you, Simon. (Simon exits.)
Hugh: Father, what shall we do? Justina can't travel. I must remain here to defend the castle!
Henry: We have enough men to defend the castle should the need arise, Hugh. But I believe Edward will try to prevent Simon's army from making it here and holing up within. If there is nothing here he wants, I believe we will be safe.
Stephan: Unless Ranulph's heir is here! Hugh, you and Justina must leave…for her safety!
Hugh: How? Where will we go?
Juliana: (slowly, thinking out loud) You must go in disguise and find shelter in one of the villages between here and Stratford. Justina could ride in a pony cart.
Elizabeth: I will go with you, Justina. You will need a woman to care for you.
Stephan: I will go as well, if you can spare me, sire. Two men will be more daunting than one to outlaws and brigands.
Henry: By all means, Stephan.
Juliana: Catherine, can you find peasant's clothing for them all?
Catherine: Yes, Lady Juliana. I won't be long.
Juliana: I will go and get the servants to pack food and bedding and firewood for their journey? They must leave this very evening.
(Catherine and Juliana exit.)
( Lights down.)
(On the road, Stephan, Elizabeth, Hugh and Justina are walking. Justina is exhausted and is helped by Hugh and Elizabeth. They are carrying bags with their supplies.)
Justina: I can go no further, Hugh. I must rest. (Hugh spreads a blanket for Justina by a tree and helps her to sit down.)
Hugh: Blast that wretched dog. If he hadn't startled the pony, the axle on the cart would not have broken. Things are going from bad to worse. If only we could have managed to carry all the supplies.
Stephan: We must find shelter soon.
Elizabeth: (standing up) Look - a cottage in that clearing. We must be near a village.
Stephan: Wait here…I'll go inquire.
(Stephan walks up to cottage and knocks repeatedly. Finally a woman opens the door a crack.)
Village Woman: What is it?
Stephan: My friends and I need shelter for the night. His wife is near to giving birth and is exhausted. May we come in? We have food.
Woman: I do not know ye at all. There are strange things afoot. Soldiers, weapons, treachery. Be gone with ye! (Slams the door.)
(Stephan comes back to the others.)
Stephan: Wait here. I'll go further into the village and try some more cottages. Surely someone will take pity on us.
Elizabeth: If you are all right, Justina, maybe I should accompany him. The presence of a woman may soften some of the villagers.
(Justina nods. Stephan and Elizabeth leave.)
(Blue filtered lights up on Hugh and Justina where we left them. Justina is sleeping. Enter Stephan and Elizabeth.)
Hugh: Any luck?
Stephan: Same response as before. They are all terrified of the soldiers.
Elizabeth: All the same, I can't believe they would turn away someone as deeply in need as Justina!
Hugh: I guess we will have to make ourselves as comfortable as possible. If only we had the firewood. It is so cold.
Justina: (awakens suddenly) Ohh! (breathes hard) Oh, no! Hugh! I think my time has come. The baby! I'm so frightened!
Hugh: (looks distressed, then determined) It is time we looked to God in prayer. (all bow in prayer) Our Heavenly Father: Look down and see our need! Many years ago, Mary and Joseph were in just such a situation and You found them shelter. Undertake for us, Lord. I pray in the Name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Elizabeth sits and ministers to Justina, while Stephan collects firewood. A face appears near a wall.)
Wren: (cautiously) Psst! Who goes there?
Hugh: (startled) Who are you?
Wren: (coming closer) I asked you first, and since you are trespassing on my property, so you must answer!
Hugh: I am Hugh and this is my wife, Justina. Our friends Elizabeth and Stephan accompany us. And you are?
Wren: I am called Wren. My father is the cotter that lives in yonder clearing. You should not be out in this weather!
Stephan: (coming up) Well, that is good news, indeed! Now what shall we do about it, since not a soul in five miles around will have mercy on us and take us in?
Justina: (moans) Oh-h-h! Hugh! (grabs his hand)
Wren: Is she well?
Hugh: She's having a baby! Her time is nigh!
Wren: Why do you wander the countryside under these conditions? I know you are not peasants. Those clothes fool no one. You must be on the run from someone.
Hugh: Yes, you are right, but tell us if you know of a place where we could take shelter for the night? It is urgent, as you can see!
Wren: Everyone around here is in dread of the armies. They won't let you in if they do not know you. Even my own father wouldn't. Hmmm…. but I do know of a place that might do. It is not pretty, but it is sheltered and dry and could be warm with a fire and some hay! Yes! Follow me! (They get up slowly and follow Wren off stage.)
(Cave backdrop, a few boulders strewn around, some hay bales, a fire. Use filtered lights. Hugh sits beside Justina on a bed of hay and blankets. Justina sleeps fitfully between contractions.)
Elizabeth: (softly) Hugh, I am worried. I have never been present at a birth before. I do not know what to do. What if something should go wrong?
Stephan: (more loudly) This is no place for a de Massingham to be born. How could this have happened?!
Justina: (awakening) We are where the Lord wants us, I imagine, Stephan. We're warm, dry and relatively comfortable. He has answered our prayer. All will be well.
Elizabeth: Are you afraid?
Justina: A little, Elizabeth! But I have no choice but to rely on Him, and I think that is exactly where He wants me. I trust Him. (Breathes heavily with a new contraction.)
Elizabeth: It is Christmas Eve. I wonder what is happening at home?
Hugh: This is all so strange - so like the first Christmas Eve. I have never really stopped to think before about the circumstances under which God's own Son was born. Why a stable and not a palace? And why peasants and shepherds and not nobility?
Wren: Here are some more blankets for you. And I had a spare loaf of bread you are welcome to.
Hugh: Thank you, Wren. You have done so much for us. We are deeply in your debt.
Wren: I heard your prayer, Hugh. I know the Lord brought me near to hear it. He wanted me to help you, I am certain.
Stephan: And why were you not cowering inside like the rest of the villagers?
Wren: I know every stick of this forest. I spend most of my time in these woods. I know hiding places no soldiers would ever find. My family cares little what I do, provided I don't eat much of their food, and do my share of the work. I feel safer in the forest than I would inside.
Justina: (gasps with a sharp contraction)
Wren: She will need assistance when the baby comes. I could stay and help if you wish it.
Elizabeth: Do you know what to do? I have never helped anyone give birth before?
Wren: Put your mind at ease. I have done this many times, for my mother and many other villagers. All will be well.
( Justina's child, a boy, has been born. Hugh, Elizabeth, Stephan, and Justina are in the cave, seated around the fire, eating bread and drinking water.)
Stephan: Here's to Christmas!
Elizabeth: And the birth of our Saviour!
Hugh: And thanksgiving for the safe arrival of our son, Ranulph de Massingham.
Justina: (holding the baby to look at) He is so tiny and helpless. He can do nothing without me. I wonder what Mary thought as she held her new Son? Did she fully understand that she held the Son of God in her arms? That Jesus gave up all the power and splendor of heaven to become a powerless peasant child on earth?
Stephan: And did the shepherds realize what they were privileged to witness - the birth of a King? The King of kings!
Justina: Did Mary and Joseph know what their Son had come to earth to do? To die on the cross for our sins, to give us the gift of eternal life? Did they really understand it all?
(A noise is heard outside. Enter Wren.)
Wren: Good morning to all within. I bring you the gift of Christmas cheer! I have a surprise! (Turns and leads Nigel in.)
Hugh: (jumping up to greet him) Nigel! What news!
Nigel: Brother! Thank the Lord you are all safe!
Hugh: How did you find us?
Nigel: I found the pony and cart and traced your tracks to these woods. I was wandering around when this young maiden found me and brought me to you!
Stephan: What of the castle, Nigel? And the battle?
Nigel: The battle is done, Stephan. Simon de Montfort is slain. Edward has the victory and has freed King Henry. But his armies have left to return to Gloucester. The battle never reached our home.
Hugh: What vengeance will Edward exact now from the barons?
Nigel: I know not, Hugh. But he did not press his advantage, which is a good sign. Once Simon was felled and the King rescued, they left. It is safe for you to return now. (notices the baby) Your child has been born!
Justina: On Christmas Day! Greet your nephew - Ranulph de Massingham!
Nigel: A fine looking fellow - just like his namesake! Congratulations! I have brought horses for you all. Shall we return home now?
(The family is gathered in the Great Room for the feast of Christmas. Henry, Juliana, Alaina, Nigel, Anna, Hugh, Justina, Stephan, Elizabeth and Catherine are seated at three tables.)
Henry: We have much to be grateful for this Christmastide.
Juliana: Our first grandson!
Alaina: An heir and namesake for his grandfather.
Hugh: Our love for each other and our relationship with Jesus!
Justina: Who demonstrated His faithfulness to us in many adverse circumstances.
Elizabeth: A new understanding of the meaning of Christ's birth.
Hugh: In spite of all the tribulations we have encountered, this has been the best Christmas I can remember!
Henry: Well, I believe Geoffrey Reynard and his troupe have a performance for us this evening to complement these thoughts.
All: Geoffrey! You've come!
Geoffrey: It is wonderful to see you once again, my friends. We have had our own adventures, getting to your castle! Our presentation this evening for your entertainment and contemplation tells the story of the birth of a King! Please enjoy!
(Drime is presented - something to do with the birth of Christ and its impact on earth and in heaven. We did a lyrical dance to "Breath of Heaven" sung by Amy Grant, and a drime to "Mary Did You Know?" sung by Kathy Mattea.)
(Wren is part of the drime troupe.)
Justina: Wren, how can this be?
Wren: Geoffrey found me just after you left. He kindly took me in as part of his troupe.
Geoffrey: (laughs) She rescued us when we lost our way en route to your castle, trying to avoid the armies. She's a natural performer!
Stephan: (rises to speak) Before this Christmas, I would have been grateful for the chops, or the ale…. or the mistletoe! But I've seen God work in wonderful ways this past year. I have finally understood something important. There really was a night 1264 years ago when the Son of God became flesh and dwelled among us. And it was all part of God's plan to provide for us a way to be forgiven for our sins; through faith to be reconciled to Him. On the cross, Jesus paid my debt, took the punishment due me. I put my faith in Him!
Hugh: Stephan, I had no idea you were such a deep thinker!
Elizabeth: (coming and taking his arm) Nor I, Stephan. There is more to you than first I thought.
Stephan: (winking) But I am still grateful for the mistletoe! (He pulls out
a sprig and goes to kiss Elizabeth. Lights go down right away!)
Copyright Heather Cooper, all rights reserved.
This script may be performed without royalty payment, provided no charge is made for entrance to the performance. In return, the author would like to be told of any performance. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org