The Black Prince

 

The Black Prince is the eldest son of Edward III of England.

Other than Ximene herself and her partner John Stanley, the Black Prince is the most important character in the stories about Ximene, Without the actions of The Black Prince, John would never have met Ximene .

The way the Prince plucked John from obscurity  and then gave him opportunity after opportunity to better himself, is typical of the way the Prince operates.

The Prince is  brave but headstrong and occasionally reckless. However he is considered to be a good military strategist which does not quite fit in with his reputation for recklessness.

However he has two close companions, firstly William Montacute, The Earl of Salisbury and secondly the worldly wise Joan of Kent. They may well have acted as mentors to the Prince  mentors, providing the the input which created a balance between planning and action.

The relation between these three is known to be a menage à trois. It was relatively easy for Joan of Kent to influence the Prince—he was hopelessly in love with her.  

There is another anomoly in the Black Prince’s character. History has him as the epitome of chivalry and yet he burned Carcassone and Limoux or at least parts of them. He then carried out a mass execution at Limoges. 

For the Prince it would appear that  Chivalry was extended to those who behaved in a chivalrous manner. Those who contravened the laws of chivalry should and must be punished.

The impact of this attitude was amplified by the fact that the Prince had a dislike for political processes and managed to alienate many of the aristocrats of Aquitaine. 

In our story

In 1355 Occitan was in a ferment of rebellion. If Ximene had been prepared to swear allegiance to the King of the Franks and marry his son Louis of Anjou she could well have regained the family lands, possibly in her own right.  She believed however that this could only been possible if she had renounced her Cathar faith, something she was never prepared to do. She was not only a commited to the faith but also to creating to creating a haven where the faith could be practiced without persecution.

Under the influence of her Grandmother she came to believe that the only way this could be achieved is by forming an alliance with the Plantagent rulers of England and Aquitaine. Aquitaine is one of the “Four Quarters” of  Occitan, speaking the same language and sharing the same culture.  The most obvious way to make such an alliance would be to marry into the Plantagenet family. The heir to  the Plantagenet throne is Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince. Ximene is told he is available and wishes to meet her. There is exited talk that it might be possible with the Prince’s support to unite all of Occitan into a new nation with its own language its own natural borders and its own culture.

The Sangreal

During the negotiations about the proposed marriage, Ximene discovers that one of the factors which has made her attractive to the Prince is that she has inherited the Sangreal, the Holy Blood. Those who carry this blood are considered to have the right to rule and every Royal family is keen to add the Sangreal to their own bloodline. There are however dangers as well as benefits in possessing the Sangreal.  Those who fail in a bid to acquire the bloodline may also be prepared to kill in order to prevent others acquiring it.

Occitan and Cathar culture

Whilst she grapples with the implications of her situation, Ximene is very much influenced culture. This very culture is an impediment to any proposed marriage. The culture of Occitan is inseparable from the Cathar faith. Cathars believe that marriage is simply a contract, a legal document to facilitate the transfer of property and wealth from one family to another or from one generation to the next. Cathars resent the Church of Rome’s attempt to control marriage and the marriage ceremonial. Within marriage Cathars believe that both men and women are entitled to have affairs of the spirit outside of marriage, which they regard as more important than the marriage itself. The Occitan culture supports this belief through the establishment of the “Progression” and the “Transition”, ceremonies marking a rite of passage to adulthood in which the participants are give lessons in how to give and receive sexual pleasure and to understand the workings of the “courts of love”, which in turn facilitate the extra maritial relationships.

A most important feature of the courts of love is that it is the women who are in control. A man is free to address his admiration to any woman of his choice, but that is all he can do. If a woman accepts the man’s suit  she will give him her favour, but it is then her choice and her choice only as to wether the affair will go any furthur and to decide when and where any further involvement will occur. Ximene  sets out to negotiate the Balck Prince’s acceptance of this way of living.

A marriage contract

Aware of the difficulties Ximene becomes determined to carry out the marriage negotiation herself, directly with the Prince, so that there is no possibility of any misunderstanding.

This determination to personally negotiate the conditions is strengthened by her knowledge of the agenda her guardian Gaston , Compte de Foix. she is sure that any negotiations under his control will pay little regard to Ximene’s requirements.

Now, suddenly, the Pope appears to favour a marriage between Ximene and the Black Prince and arrangements have been made to meet the Prince on neutral ground, during a summer hunt at Muret.  Ximene decides to take the hunt as an opportunity to escape from her guardian’s control hoping she will then be in a much better position to negotiate her own marriage contract.

The risks

Ximene is warned that that The Compte de Foix does not only control her but also protects her. If she puts herself outside his protective shield, she may be taken by the Holy Inquisition, who can declare someone a heretic, incarcerated them without trial, torture them and finally burn them at the stake. to this must be added the risk murdered by those who do not want the Sangreal to be shared with any family other than their own. As she prepares to attend the Hunt at Muret she asks herself the question; will she be hunter or hunted?

The most dangerous woman in the world

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Extract from The Prisoner of Foix--Chapter 43 -The EntranceNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley-26th April 1355

 

'Looks like we are going to see a bit of excitement, John. The Captain tried to get an agreement from the Prince that if there is surf running across the channel to Arcachon we will turn back to Bordeaux, but the Prince would hear none of it. Instead, he has offered to provide insurance for all three ships. If they are damaged or sunk, the owners will be compensated and every sailor who makes the passage will be given a bounty payment. What none of this seems to take into account is that if we sink in rough, fast-flowing waters we might all drown.'

John raised his eyebrows. 'But that is what we are going to do?'

'Yes, despite the fact that surf running accross the entrance is not uncommon and the deep water channel moves continually. In the end, the Prince attacked their captains on their weakest point, their professional pride! He threw down the gauntlet. He offered to take the Sally first through the channel, and to take control during the passage.' He raised his brow. 'We are going into the Bay of Arcachon, come what may! '

Extract from The Eagle of Carcassone -- Chapter 24-- A Real GoddessNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley - 22 July 1355

An hour later John walked with Ximene close to the river along the valley below St Feriole. It was the very essence of a summer’s day. The sun was fierce but in the shadow of the trees, it was cool and fragrant. The trees and shrubs along the riverbank hid their progress, from the Château, from St Feriole.

Eventually they reached a point where John thought it was safe to emerge from cover. To his satisfaction the stream extended into a pool with a sandy beach, shaded by trees. Where the stream entered the pool there was a flat grassy area, almost circular. Behind this, the bulk of two mountain ridges provided a splendid backdrop. He looked around once more ‘Not just a good training ground but a great training ground. If the Greek heroes knew about this they might be tempted to join me, to train with me’

Ximene laughed out loud. He turned to look at her. She had removed her outer clothes and was wearing a white chemise, cut short so that it barely reached her knees. Around her waist, she wore a plaited leather belt, obviously fashioned from the multitude of leather straps to be found in the tackle room.

She ran her hands down over her breasts. ‘When you were unconscious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so  I have decided that from now on, for you, I will be the goddess.’

The Prisoner of FoixVol 1 of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

Aquitaine, an English possession, is in crisis. It is under threat from neighbouring nations and internal dissension.

The Black Prince, King Edward III’s eldest son has been given the task of taking command in Aquitaine.

Suddenly there is an opportunity. Ximene Trencavel is the heiress to the lands of Occitan, to the east of Aquitaine: lands controlled by the Franks. Ximene wants independence, both for herself and for Occitan.

A union between Aquitaine and Occitan would be mutually beneficial. The Black Prince undertakes a secret journey to meet Ximene to negotiate a marriage contract. It is, however, a marriage neither of them really wants.

Meanwhile, the  Franks plot to murder Ximene to prevent ,not just the marriage, but any kind of union between England and Occitan.

The Eagle Of CarcassonneVol II of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

The loose alliance between Ximene Trencavel and the Black Prince is under threat.

The Prince invades Occitan, to show his support for Ximene but it becomes an invasion which creates more problems than it solves.

The Prince has fallen hopelessly in love with Joan of Kent and Joan is now determined to marry him and become the next Queen of England.

Joan is therefore  determined to convince Ximene that she should not marry the Prince.

Part of her strategy is to encourage Ximene’s relationship with John Stanley—one of the Princes bodyguards—not an easy task as both John and Ximene have doubts about their compatibility.

However, John is grievously injured in a battle and Ximene commits herself to nurse him back to health.