The Skills of Count Bérenger French folktale

An empress of Germany was beautiful, wise, honest, but had the misfortune to inspire a violent love from one of the noblemen at the court of her husband.

This noble was a disloyal traitor, but he was also valiant, warlike and skilful in all sorts of fights. When the empress indignantly rejected the dishonest proposals of this man and drove him away from her, he spread slanderous rumours about her, and they were so serious and precise that the reputation of the poor woman was tarnished.

The emperor, her husband, came to believe in the rumours and decided on a trial where she would be sentenced to death if she was found guilty.

The court assembled, the accuser was overwhelming, and the poor innocent woman could not defend herself well enough. In a short time it was decided that she would be executed unless someone would show up, armed, to prove the charges were false by a fight.

But the accuser was a terrible and knighted warrior. Several days passed and no nobleman took the side of the empress.

At that time Count Bérenger of Provence came to the court in some business. He was both prudent and brave, so he disguised himself as a monk and asked to see the prisoner. He found her in tears and exhorted her to piety and prayer so well that the empress took him for a real man of the church and wished to confess to him. He learnt from her confession that she was completely innocent.

Count Bérenger left her without telling he was no clergyman, and told her to pray a lot. Then he went and put on his armour.

The last day of the period specified by the court had come. The empress was led to the assembled lords. The accuser was riding in the enclosure tournament field next to their tribune. He was armed and ready to combat anyone to defend what he had said against the empress.

The public executioner stood ready to carry out the sentence of the court while a herald made the customary summon, asking if nobody would defend the honour of the accused.

Suddenly a knight came riding, visor down. He made it clear he would fight to defend the wrongly accused empress.

The other accepted the challenge. The gathered people thought the newly arrived knight would soon be killed in the fight, for the other had a reputation of being a cruel opponent. But Bérenger was fighting for a wrongly accused innocent woman, and did not falter.

The fight was terrible, and for a long time it was uncertain how it would end, but, finally Count Bérenger fell his opponent and forced him to declare his crime. The knight confessed, was hanged and the empress rehabilitated.

The emperor and empress wanted to know the brave knight who had upheld rights of innocence. But as soon as Bérenger had won the fight, he left for his own his country. No one at the court would know it was him who had fought for the life and honour of the empress that day.