19 Fair Maid of Kent

Queen Phillipa sighed. ‘Despite everything, I love you. I can’t help it. Oh, Joan, I look at you now, you still appear virginal, despite everything you have done.’

Joan of Kent-10th March 1355

Five hundred yards of riverbank separated the Prince’s stables from the Palace of Westminster, although it took longer to reach them by road. The rooms above the stables gave a lie to the term ‘stables’. They were far more luxurious than the palace itself.


Long-pile eastern rugs in cream and gold covered the floor. Even at this early hour, light streamed from a window set into the sloping roof, highlighting the pure white sheets and covers Joan of Kent nestled within. As she curled up on the tightly stuffed ducks-down mattress, she felt as if she was lying on a cloud. The beams and panelling of the room were fashioned from a dark timber, accentuating the beams of light from the roof window, made visible by a myriad of minute dust particles. Two flags pinned tightly to the ceiling were the only decoration of the mezzanine level. On one side was the single lion rampant of the Prince and on the other the silver and blue montage of Kent; subtle symbolism. Even when the Prince and Joan were apart, in this room they were always together.


Joan of Kent woke to the sound of cheering. She turned over lazily and stretched out her hand to find the Prince, before remembering that the Prince had left, somewhat noisily, many hours earlier.

The cheering now seemed to be below her room. She heard the unmistakable sounds of two sets of guards negotiating someone’s passage and knew the new arrival must be of some importance. The door swung open. Joan of Kent pulled the sheets up to her chin as Queen Philippa entered the room.


‘Hello, mother. How…’

There was no sign of any affection in Queen Philippa’s voice. ‘How did I find you? I make it my business to know where you are. Sometimes you manage to disappear but for the last twelve months, it has been comparatively easy. All I have to do is find the Prince and you will not be far away.’ Philippa turned away and gazed through the window at the river. ‘Ah, so, Joan, there is something I did not know about. The Prince has a private dock. Is that how you get in and out of the country? Everyone else seems to think you are in Brittany at the moment.’

‘Not exactly.’ Joan hesitated. ‘Do you really want to know?’

‘I do. Satisfy my curiosity.’

‘I do use the dock, but I don’t travel via the mouth of the Thames. Going all the way around Kent and down the Channel just takes too long. I go down the river as far as Staines, where the Prince has another stable and from there I am taken to Old Sarum or Clarendon by one of William’s coaches.’ I then have an arrangement with a French shipping company, which sails out of Poole Harbour. I come back the same way. William often travels with me to prosecute the war in Brittany. She hesitated. ‘Which he is winning,’ she said, unable to keep a note of pride from her own voice. ‘As you correctly say, I am invisible. Even the redoubtable Monsieur Froissart has no idea of my comings and goings.’

‘Let me guess. If you stay at Clarendon you sleep with the Prince and if you go to Old Sarum, you sleep with William.’

Joan realised she had told the Queen more than she should. She lifted her shoulders coquettishly and looked at the Queen out of the corner of her eye, in what she hoped was an appealing manner.

The Queen ignored her. ‘Or do you still take both of them to bed as you used to do… incidentally what exactly do you do with two men at the same time?’

Joan softened her voice. ‘Oh, Mother!’ The Queen’s voice also suddenly softened. ‘Sometimes I wonder why I took such an instant liking to you. Why I brought you into my family, treated you as my daughter. Her lips curled into a smile. ‘I used you, Joan. My skin, hair and eyes are all deep brown because I have Arab, Moorish and African blood in my veins.

When Bishop Stapledon was sent to examine me as a potential bride for Edward, I was surprised that he insisted I should strip completely naked, so that he could examine me. I still have a copy of the bishop’s report. It goes something like this: Her nose is fairly smooth and even, save that it is somewhat broad at the tip and flattened, yet it is no snub nose. Her nostrils are also broad, her mouth fairly wide. Her lips are somewhat full, especially the lower lip. Moreover, she is brown of skin all over, and much like her father, and in all things, she is pleasant enough, as it seems to us.’

Philippa raised her brow, her smirk still present. ‘The colour of my skin set me apart. At first, I found that to be a problem, but soon I was proud to be different, proud of my heritage. I used you, Joan—you have fair hair, pale skin and eyes of the brightest blue. You provided such a perfect contrast to me. It made it possible to emphasise and glorify my differences.’ She sighed. ‘Despite everything, I love you. I can’t help it. Oh, Joan, I look at you now, you still appear virginal, despite everything you have done.’

Joan momentarily lowered her eyes. ‘Forgive me, mother, for I have sinned, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.’ Joan lifted her head and looked the Queen in the eye. ‘Do you think you have always treated me well, mother?’

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents

References

characters

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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.’