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.
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.
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?