I go through periods during which I’m obsessed with genealogy and family history, the further back the better. It’s given me a great deal of pleasure over the years to reach far back into the past and to touch the life of, for example, a 28th great-grandfather who conquered England. 1066 never meant much to me until I realized that the guy who so rudely did the conquering, William the Bastard, was my grandpa plus 28.
Most of the sources I find while doing this kind of work are pretty dry. Late one night clicking through some newly digitized records, however, I found a document about an obscure ancestor of mine that, thanks to my classical training, I was able immediately to recognize was quite different.
First, I noticed that the narrator seemed to be using the Latin word for “ass” or “bottom” a lot. The first time I ran across the Latin phrase that I realized had to mean “spank”, I knew I had something really special. And then I hit the first sex-scene, where an unsuspecting young count gets a blow-job (seriously!) from his more experienced countess.
I don’t think I’ve ever been quite as diligent in my Latin translation as when—with one hand on my keyboard and the other, um, elsewhere—I rendered the scene where the count has all the women of Beaumont-sur-Louen stripped naked and spanked in the market square.
And I’m not even telling you about the incredible (and incredibly hot) love story between the narrator and the count. I don’t want to spoil it, but I promise you, if you push through all the medieval stuff at the beginning, you’re not going to be disappointed!
So, I present the first part of the document here, translated and in certain respects modernized. From time to time I intrude to offer such annotations as I hope may be helpful. I hope you get as much pleasure as I have from—
The Private History of Robert de Lourcy, Comte de Gassein, and of His So-Called “Monstrous” Practices of Discipline, as Written and Gathered by a Chronicler Appointed by Him, Sophia by Name, Born in Rouen Nineteen Years Before Duke William’s Conquest of England.
The count of Gassein has been reviled (rightly, according to most) as a monster, and I bring not my chronicle before you to exculpate him. But I would not have the means to write it had he not sent me to study with the sisters of Brionne, and though the price my poor bottom paid for the learning of my letters was great, my advancement because of that learning is something upon which I could never think without gratitude beyond measure. I shall tell the tale of my education in due course. For the moment, let it suffice me to say that the count upon his deathbed appointed me his chronicler, with the words, “Sophia, I ask not that you excuse me, only that you attempt to explain me.”
Through my tears, I replied to his lordship, “I shall, My Lord.” Those were the last words my count ever spoke to me. After that, I could not stay by him, for Lady Ermengilde, his daughter, had come, with whom I have never been in favor, as you will well understand after you have read this chronicle.
The count’s last words—I shall say it, let the world say what it will—Robert’s last words were, as I hear, “God forgive me.” I believe it, for his monstrosities, as they have been called, never ceased to trouble him all the days I knew him. It is his last words to me that I shall cherish, however, as I nurture the belief that God has nothing to forgive where Robert, Count of Gassein, is concerned, and that my beloved lord sings now with the angels and awaits me in the heavenly court, where he will, as he always said he someday would, give me the coronet he was pleased to say I, born fatherless to a woman of the town, truly merited.
Robert of Lourcy was born to Gilbert of Lourcy, Count of Gassein and his wife Ermentrude of Troyes, in that town (that is, Lourcy) in Normandy, thirty years before the conquest of England. His life until his succession to the county was that of an ordinary nobleman; he was knighted by the young Duke William himself, but that was hardly notable in those days. According to everyone with whom I have discussed the matter, the young Robert was unremarkable, except perhaps for the stubbornness of his intellect. I heard several stories of his failure to stop inquiring long after his tutor, the monk Jehan of Falaise, had grown unhappy of answering his penetrating questions about, for example, the ages of the patriarchs or the practicability of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.
Privately, the count told me many times, the interests that would later render him unusual in the eyes of the world were developing apace; there was not a young woman in Lourcy castle that he did not want to spank when he was eighteen years of age, he once laughingly told me, and though he tried to express the thought to me as if it were a jest, I can well believe it was in all verity a fact, for the greatest of his so-called monstrosities was (as the reader may well be aware) to spank every young woman in a castle he had taken.
[Let the reader note that the Latin phrase that I translate here consistently as “to spank”, “flagellare nates manu passa”, is literally “to whip the bottom-cheeks with open hand” and is not a common one, although at a guess, Sophia of Rouen uses it several hundred times in this text. We have virtually no evidence for what we think of as spanking in the ancient and medieval periods, but I firmly believe that is a result of how commonplace the practice was, rather than how rare. In this work, because of the nature of Count Robert’s proclivities and of his relationship with Sophia, it seems we have precious witness to the fact.]
According to his own report, the count of Gassein’s interest in the disciplining of young women began in his eighteenth year with a fascination with the possibility that he might be whipped himself, though being high-born (certainly there are noble families in which young persons’ posteriors, noble as they be, are not spared the rod, but Robert’s was not one of these), he was never himself struck. He remembered to me an occasion upon which he saw a blacksmith’s apprentice, of about Robert’s own age, spanked to tears by the blacksmith for ruining a blade.
“That’s ill-done!” said the blacksmith.
“Sir, it was not my fault,” the apprentice replied.
“The devil it wasn’t! That blade is trash now!”
The apprentice seemed to know what was coming. He tried to run away, but the blacksmith grabbed him with his enormous hands and dragged him to an anvil. The blacksmith held the young man down over it with one hand while with the other he ripped up his tunic. Taking up a rod, the master began to beat his apprentice over and over.
Robert, he told me, felt horribly frightened and ashamed—in sympathy with the young man but also very excited. He made his way immediately (it still makes me blush to think of, let alone to commit to writing!) to his own chamber in Lourcy castle, and unable to discover for a long while how to assuage the irritating but delicious new feeling, finally fell to playing with his male part for the very first time, which he had never felt grow so hard. Thinking of being whipped like the blacksmith’s apprentice, he had his first taste of Venus’ blissful reward, though I venture to say that even that shameless pagan goddess must have looked a bit askance at the initiation!
After that, the count told me, he lost no occasion to discover who about the castle might be punished and to try to witness their punishment, though he was rarely as successful as he hoped to be. Before very much time had gone by, as the hair grew ever thicker upon those parts which had themselves grown and with which he now (he confessed) lost no chance of toying, his interest in seeing young men punished had become an interest in seeing young women punished, and specifically upon that portion of the anatomy to which he now developed what would be a lifelong attraction.
(As an example of this attraction, perhaps I may impart to you, reader, the picture of his weekly inspection of my bottom, from the time when at the age of eighteen I entered his service as secretary. Twenty-two years later, when the count was upon his death bed, he commanded all but me to leave his chamber, and commanding me to lift my skirts as I had so often done in the past, he bid my backside a fond farewell and gave me a final spanking, the weakness of which made me cry out of all proportion to the slightness of the sting—though the memory will always be sweet to me beyond measure, for seeing my tears and knowing very well what they meant, Robert said, “I haven’t lost my strength, eh?” and thus made both of us laugh instead of weep.)
Though you may expect that as Robert was the heir to the county he could have spanked whom he liked of the maids, he was not naturally of so forward a character and contented himself with tales overheard and the occasional distant sight of a scullery wench weeping over the knee of the cook as her heavy hand, wielding a big wooden spoon, fell again and again on the girl’s shapely bottom.
When the count was eighteen, he was betrothed, upon the untimely death of his father in battle (his mother having died birthing him), to a lady twenty years his senior, Richildis of Sens, blessed with raven locks and bewitching dark eyes, widowed two years before of another baron of an important Norman ducal fief. The marriage was of course to the dynastic advantage of the houses of Gassein and Déride (from which house Richildis sprang). They were quickly married, there being no impediment, and Richildis was with child almost as quickly.
The count’s description of his wedding night makes me smile even now, I must confess; when he told me it ten years ago it made me giggle very unbecomingly. The count had been told of his duty in the marriage-bed but had been unable to take very much interest in it—except as he considered that he would now have the right to spank his wife.
When the newly married couple were alone in the bridal chamber, Robert, having allowed the bishop to bless the couple at their door but not to proceed further, the bed already having been blessed, the count said, “My Lady, take off your clothes, now, and lay yourself over the bed. I am going to give you a spanking.”
The shock upon Richildis’ face, the count told me, made his young heart a little fearful, but he repeated the request, as follows: “Richildis, you are my wife now. I am the lord of your person, and I am going to spank your bottom before we enter the lists of Venus and Mars, if you please.”
The count had by that age achieved almost his full growth (and he was an imposing man in every department, as I shall relate), and the lady Richildis was small and slight of stature, but the withering look she gave him, he told me, put a quick end to the youthful idea he had entertained that despite the great disparity in their ages, amorous interests might bind them closely together.
“Sir,” Richildis said, “the lists of Venus and Mars are well known to me, but the practice you suggest is not one that is fit for your countess. Chambermaids and peasant girls there are enough, I think, for you to spank, and may it be far from me to say my lord husband nay should he decide that he will spank them—provided they require chastisement. But I require no chastisement, My Lord, and even if I should displease you, I will demand that you tell me in what respect you are displeased, and I will endeavor to mend.”
Though they would one day be estranged from each other thoroughly—through Count Robert’s persisting in these practices that he, upon long reflection (and, I humbly declare, with my help), had decided were not harmful to his soul nor to the souls of such as I who entered with him upon them—nevertheless Countess Richildis was at the time of their marriage quite fond of him. Indeed, their bond of respect and affection continued until her death, and I believe that she never viewed him as a monster, though their children, alas, did not share her view. All this is to say that Richildis, on seeing the stricken look on Robert’s face, seems to have rued the harshness of her refusal and said, “Come, My Lord. Though I do not wish to be spanked, I think you will find me a pleasant companion in the court of Venus. A married woman knows things a blushing maiden does not, and unless I am much mistaken, you will not find me forward or wanting in my submission to your lordly power.”
Then, he told me, she knelt before him and kissed him right upon his tunic, just below his belt. Robert’s interest in erotic matters other than spanking grew at the same rate as his manhood under the kisses of his new, experienced bride. She unfastened the belt and raised the tunic, and soon enough, Robert was enraptured by a sight he had never imagined: proud Lady Richildis with his manly part in her mouth.
“Do I please you, young Robert?” she asked, as she planted little kisses on the wrinkled purse beneath his rigid staff.
The count was an honest man and said, “Yes, Richildis, you do.”
“Then save the spanking for the scullery-maids and come and do your duty to your sainted father and your duke.”
Though it makes me blush, this private history concerns these matters of carnal love more than any other; and so, I feel bound to proceed farther and to tell you what Robert narrated to me when he told me this tale after our own first visit together to that same court of Venus.
His new wife was not loath to engulf him deeply between her lips or to play with his manly part between her soft breasts, still shapely even in a woman of thirty-eight years. She unlaced her red silk gown to give his rigid staff the freedom of her breast, which made him groan to feel the soft flesh and to see such a lascivious thing done by a noblewoman. Thus she brought him nearly to the point of spilling his seed where it would make no heir, but then she rose from her knees.
She stripped his tunic off him and laid him back on their bridal bed. Then, shame forgotten, she began to remove her own clothes; her gown dropped to the floor, and she stood in her shift before him, the light shining through the thin cloth and showing him the lovely shape of his bride within it. “My Lord,” Richildis said, teasingly, “I am yours to possess. Shall I remove my shift, or will you remove it for me?”
“You shall, My Lady,” Robert said. “I wish to see you unclothed.”
“For shame, My Lord!” said she with a smile and pulled the shift off over her head. She had borne no children in her first marriage, and so although she was a trifle thick, Robert told me, about her waist, she was still dazzling to him. She climbed onto the bed to join him and kissed him upon the mouth.
“Have you done this before, My Lord?” she asked.
“No, My Lady,” Robert confessed.
“You wished to see me unclothed—perhaps you should take a closer look?” She lay down on her back, her hands linked behind her head.
“By all means, My Lady.” Robert took his eyes’ fill of Richildis’ form. Experimentally, he put his hand upon her belly very lightly, and she made a little moan of pleasure.
“Would you care to play further down, My Lord?” she whispered. With his fingers, he did begin to play and found that his bride was responsive to his touch.
“Oh, Robert,” she said. “You naughty boy.” With fascination, he watched her move her hand to her own breast and toy with the little brown berry upon it, making herself cry out in a tone he had never heard from anyone. “Look—look where you have your fingers.”
Robert moved down the bed and watched his fingers at work among the crinkly dark hair. He saw the slopes and valleys of Venus’ garden and smelled the strange but lovely smell.
Richildis moaned again. “Oh, My Lord, did you like what I did with my mouth?”
“Yes,” Robert replied, confused. “Very much.”
“Does not a gracious lord return the favors done unto him?”
“He does,” replied the count, understanding, but of course hesitant (here perhaps above all I must express my gratitude to the Lady Richildis) at the thought of kissing a part so strange and new. But an adventurous man in all events, he brought his face closer and smelled more of the beautiful garden’s smell. He kissed and heard his bride cry out. He licked and heard her scream.
“At the top, My Lord—the top!” Richildis said, breathless. “Yes, just there—just there!” And for the first time, my count brought a woman to the summit of Venus’ hill.
Richildis pulled him gently up the bed and kissed him, nothing loath to taste the savor of her own sweet fruit upon his lips. “It is time for you to do your duty in Venus’ court, my Robert,” she whispered. She coaxed him on top of her and took gentle hold of his manly part, stiff as a sword if not as sharp, and guided it, and Robert felt the urges that take hold of every man so positioned: he had no need to be told to enter her, though of course he crested the hill of the amorous district almost on the instant.
It was not, Robert told me, quite as he had imagined it, but there was time then for him to lie back and let Richildis rouse him once more for another trial of the combat; this one was almost as short but left them both better pleased with one another. Richildis kissed Robert and turned upon her side, and slept, but Robert lay long upon his elbow, thinking, even then, after such a successful bride-night, about finding a girl whom he might spank. Richildis was a marvelous bed-partner, he had to confess to himself, and he could see that their marriage might provide prosperity to many, but even amid the pleasure, he had felt something he took a very long while to define as he lay awake. He had felt, he decided at last, as if he were pretending to be a bridegroom he was not.