Ximene Trencavel-12th March 1355
In the Château de Foix, Gaston’s guards became increasingly intrusive, positioning themselves inside Lady Eleanor’s apartments, something they had never done before. Initially, Ximene had reacted to their attention by hiding and then going to a different part of the Château. The guards did not find it amusing and neither did Gaston.
Eventually, they swept the Château end-to-end, room-by-room, to capture her. They dragged her kicking and screaming to a tiny room at the top of one of the towers. Lady Eleanor protested vigorously but Gaston told her it was for Ximene’s own good.
At the end of the first day that Ximene spent in the tower room, Gaston came to see her, whip in hand.
‘So, Ximene, will you see sense? Will you stop these silly games?’
‘Will you tell the guards to leave me alone?’ She raised her chin as she spoke.
Gaston’s response was slow and measured. ‘Once again, give me your word that you will not attempt to leave the Château unless I or my guards accompany you.’
‘I will not give my word.’
Gaston slowly and deliberately uncoiled his whip and flicked it across the floor. ‘I take no pleasure in doing this, Ximene. But it is for your own good. You must be made to realise how dangerous it is for you outside the Château. Take off all your clothes and bend over the end of the bed. I am going to give you a taste of the whip to see if that will bring you to your senses.’
Ximene took a step back.
He waited but she did nothing.
Gaston’s voice acquired a steely edge. ‘It’s your decision.’ He waved the handle of the whip idly, making the laced tip twitch and turn on the floor. ‘If you don’t take your clothes off now, we will call the guards and make it a public spectacle in the main hall. I think some of my men would enjoy ripping off your clothes and tying you around one of the pillars.
As quietly and as decorously as possible, Ximene removed her dress and underclothes. She turned and, putting her hands on her hips, thrust one leg forward.
‘Is that what you wanted?’
‘Ximene this is not for my gratification and unless you have forgotten, I have seen you naked many times, just bend over the bed.’
When she had taken the required position, he reached behind the headboard and released two ropes. He looped the ropes around Ximene’s wrists and pulled them tight, pinning Ximene against the bed. He released two further ropes from under the bed and looped them around her ankles, pulling them tight to part her legs.
She flinched as he applied the whip. Internally her mind was in a whirl. Instinctively she knew this was not punishment. He was enjoying this.
‘I am an expert with the whip. You will find I have not broken the flesh.’
Gaston released the ropes. Moments later, Ximene heard the door close and the lock turn as Gaston left the room. She listened as he descended the stairs. A long time passed before she allowed a sob to leave her lips.
Twelve hours later, Gaston sent a guard to bring her down to the great hall.
‘Ximene, darling, such good news. Do you remember Monsieur Froissart? The ambassador from the King of England.’
Ximene narrowed her eyes. It was as if his use of the whip had never occurred.
Gaston continued. ‘He has now made his decision. He is going to recommend you as a suitable wife for Prince Edward. Prince Edward, Duke of Aquitaine, the Black Prince. Isn’t it exciting? The Pope will be so pleased.’
She half turned away in despair that these vital arrangements concerning her future life were without her involvement but realised that if she did, her involvement would continue to be forfeit.
She chose a political, rather than emotional response, which she knew would appeal to Gaston. ‘Good news, indeed, but what will the Prince bring to the table? How will it benefit me? How will it benefit you?’
Gaston’s eyes glowed. ‘Just the question I have been asking myself. And I don’t yet know the answer, but now we have a clear commitment from him to come here to see you. Well, not exactly here, as this is in Frankish territory. He will come to Muret on the banks of the Garonne where I will hold my summer hunt. You will accompany me. The hunting there is superb. You will meet the Prince and you will fall in love. How could he resist you, you are so delicious!’ He gently, lovingly, raised her hand to his lips and allowed the contact to linger a moment.
‘You will be able to persuade him to give you anything you want.’ He paused, still holding her hand close to his lips. ‘For yourself… ‘ a moment’s hesitation, ‘And for me.’
His speech quickened. ‘But all that is for the future, for now, we must place even more emphasis on your safety. From now on we, you, must be extra careful. We are not the only ones who have enemies; there are those who have no love for the Prince. As his bride to be, you would be an easy target. I will again emphasise to the guards that you must not be allowed to go anywhere outside the Château. I don’t want to send you back to the tower room. I don’t want to punish you again. What I want is for you to promise never again to leave the Château without my express permission. If you cannot give me your promise, I must continue to confine you to the tower room.’
Ximene took a deep breath, searching for control.
‘I give you my promise.’
‘Then you may return to your rooms.’
Ximene stormed from the hall and nearly fell in her haste to descend the spiral staircase.