20 The Agreement

 

‘ I can’t remember the details of the marriage, but I do remember the consummation. That was my invention…pure theatre, I lay on the altar, draped in white…a virgin princess sacrificing herself to a barbarian invader to save her people.’

Joan of Kent-10th March 1355

Memories came flooding back. Joan repeated the question. ‘Do you think you have treated me well mother? She found full voice as she established firm eye to eye contact with the Queen. ‘Yes,it is true, I entered into a stupid marriage at a ridiculously early age, but it should never have been taken seriously. I was seduced by the environment you created, at your own court.’


‘At my court?’

‘Yes at your court, where you gathered around you the best of English society. Not just the lords, nor even the knights—though they were not excluded—but the artists, writers and musicians. The walls at Gillingham were lined with fine art and tapestry and the court was filled with music and resounded with laughter and the buzz of conversation as the nightly drama of courtly love unfolded. When I was very young, I used to peep through the spindles of the balcony, whilst you thought I was in bed.’

‘No, we knew you were there.’

‘As I got older, I watched more closely as the rules of courtly love played out. Men were expected—as the central feature of social activity—to pay court to a lady of their choice. The lady might or might not have been married but, in any case, the man could not expect any formal response until he had displayed total devotion.’

‘As men’s skills varied enormously, admiration could be expressed through song, poetry or prose. The whole process was presented as perfect unrequited love, but the possibility remained that the lady might eventually succumb. In practice, everybody knew that many of the ladies did succumb. The ladies used to confide in me as they prepared for an assignation.’

‘Too late now, Joan. We should have had this conversation long ago. You immersed yourself in the game of courtly love but at an age and with a disposition that has led you to ignore the rules. And the marriage to John Holland?’

‘My love of the game led me to give my favour. I was only twelve—too young and inexperienced to realise he was taking advantage of me. I cannot remember how I came to be in the church, who organised it and arranged for the Roman priest. Possibly no friend of mine. I can’t remember the details of the marriage, but I do remember the consummation. That was my invention— pure theatre, I lay on the altar, draped in white—a virgin princess sacrificing herself to a barbarian invader to save her people. There were many observers, although again I have no idea who invited them. But I was pleased to have an audience. Those people, whom I hardly knew, gave witness later that the consummation had actually occurred.’ Joan sighed. ‘The truth is, that is not what I remember. I remember the richness of the tapestries and furniture, the nights of music and laughter, the elaborate costumes and the endless expressions of love. I just wanted to be a part of it.’ She paused. ‘But I have always loved the Prince. It is you and the King who have never accepted the inevitability of our love.’

‘But what about William Montacute?’ asked Philippa sharply. ‘You do still see him, don’t you?’

Joan looked firmly into Philippa’s eyes. ‘You married me to William. You hoped it would make me unavailable to the Prince, but you forgot that he was the Prince’s best friend. At first, my marriage was unconsummated, as we used it to cover my continuing love for the Prince, but I spent so much time with William that we came to love each other. It is a short step from being in love, to becoming intimate.’ She took a deep breath. ‘It was the happiest time of my life.’ Her cheeks reddened. ‘Have you any idea how wonderful it is to be adored by two men, who have no jealousy for the other’s involvement? But be aware, I did not create this situation. You did.’ Joan’s breasts heaved. She had long desired this conversation.

Philippa’s voice quavered. ‘And my husband, the King?’

‘My lady, I think you probably know as much about that as I do.’ Joan tried hard to weed the accusative note from her voice. ‘That night at Calais, the King was disturbed. When he decided to execute the Burgers for their unlawful opposition to him, you gave spirited objection. From that point, temporarily, you remained as King and Queen, but you were no longer partners. He wanted solace, and he picked on me. I tried to resist, but he forced himself on me. Ever since the court has attempted to place the blame on me. Attack is obviously the best form of defence. He has made his possession of my garter as the symbol of his new order of chivalry, Knights of the Garter. I ask you!’

Philippa looked away. ‘What about your subsequent appearance at court dinners with your breasts barely covered, men clustering around you as if there were no other women in the room and your claim that there was no man alive that would not bed you if you asked them to. You deliberately confronted me with the knowledge that one of those men was the Prince.’

‘When you became aware that my marriage to William was not separating me from the Prince, I was forced to divorce William and to submit to the advances of my childhood husband, a man I no longer loved or even knew. There seemed to be no difference between lying with him or any other man. I made it clear that I was available. In this way, I built my power, wealth and influence.’

Renewed courage welled up inside her. ‘You know, some of them actually loved me. King David Bruce of Scotland was a major conquest, during his captivity in England. He left his wife and never married again. I didn’t intend for that. In the end, there were only two men I loved.’

Philippa moved forward and stroked Joan’s hair. ‘Froissart christened you the most beautiful and amorous woman in Europe, and there could be no doubt what he really meant. Now, Joan, what about the present?’

‘It is all over. I found that even men in whom I had no interest expected to bed me, simply because so many others had done so. Suddenly, it was not the life I wanted. There was one particularly dreadful man who was nothing less than a nightmare! Bertrand du Guesclin expected my favour just because he asked for it. Du Guesclin’s parents were relatively close neighbours of mine in Brittany but on the Frankish side of the border. Their son had a reputation for mindless violence and cruelty. When I firmly rejected his advances, he laid siege to me in the Château Suscinio. I could not leave for fear of being abducted by him. He threatened to kill my friends and servants if I did not submit. I was terrified.’

‘I knew nothing of this.’

‘William arrived in Brittany as if by magic when I needed him most. He brought a small army from Brest and confronted Du Guesclin. Du Guesclin was given twelve hours to leave and told that if he ever returned he would be executed. William then spent several weeks at Château Suscinio, while he confirmed that Du Guesclin had left. While William was there, I happily fell back into a loving relationship with him.’

‘And does that relationship still exist despite the renewal of your relationship with the Prince?’

Joan found it necessary to lower her eyes. ‘Yes, Mother.’

Philippa held Joan’s hands to her lips and kissed them tenderly. ‘The King has instructed the Prince to marry Ximene Trencavel, the heiress to Occitan. He has also instructed him to terminate his relationship with you. If you really do want to marry the Prince, I will give you a tiny window of hope. Almost anything might go wrong in arranging the marriage with Ximene, and if it does fall through, I could persuade the King to look more favourably on you. However, you will be marrying a future King. Any children you may have will rule this kingdom. There must be no doubt about their parentage.’ She narrowed her eyes. ‘Therefore, here is my ultimatum—end your involvement with William and end it soon. If the marriage with Ximene does not occur for any reason I will intercede on your behalf, but only if you distance yourself from William.’

Joan’s eyes rested on the older woman’s. A promise. ‘Yes, Mother.’

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents

References

characters

List of Places

Table of Contents

Reference

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.