‘The Prince believes in freedom for the individual but also in protection of the individual. He enforces a system of justice to provide that protection. Transgressors will be punished.’
John Stanley-22nd May 1355
John had no ambition to end the night by diving into a chilly fast-flowing river.
He jumped to his feet, pulled out his sword, vaulted the rail of the balcony and landed on a table immediately below. He jumped from the table to the floor and landed legs astride Morgan’s body.
He adjusted his stance, making sure his balance was correct, his feet widespread and sword above his head, ready to strike in any direction.
He paused and looked around the room. He spoke to the little man wielding the frying pan. ‘I am John Stanley, Prince Edward’s guard. I am here to protect you and your daughter. The man who attacked her will be punished.’
He turned his attention to the group who had gathered to attack the little man.
‘Back off, or it will be the worse for you. All the people here are covered by the Prince’s safe conduct. As one of his guards, I intend to ensure that his honour is protected.’
Again he paused. He thought he saw one of the group move towards him. He reiterated his initial warning.
A voice came from the middle of the group. ‘John Stanley, you are just an untrained squire, who obviously has an inflated opinion of his own importance, you are not the Prince’s Guard.’
John recognised the voice. it was Ewan Fitzrobert.
Before John could reply, another voice came from over his left shoulder.
‘Well, in that case, you are faced with two untrained squires.’
John glanced quickly sideways. Piers had adopted an almost exact copy of John’s own stance. His position was perfectly judged. It would permit both himself and John a full swing of the sword on either side of their body without any danger of getting in each other’s way.
‘I can confirm that these two gentlemen are indeed members of the Prince’s Guard and that their express role is to keep the Prince’s peace.’
Emerging from the upper room, Lord James did not even trouble to draw his sword. He sauntered down the stairs and placed himself in front of Piers and John. He summoned John forward with a wave of the hand.
His voice was soft, verging on a whisper. ‘Tell me what happened.’
Lord James listened carefully and then lifted his head and spoke to the entire room.
‘What you have just witnessed is an unacceptable attack on a young girl. Such actions are specifically prohibited by the Prince’s rules for his army. The action of the girl’s father in protecting his daughter is understandable. What you then saw was immediate action by the Prince’s Guards to ensure that the Prince’s rules are enforced. It is an example of the kind of discipline that is applied in all the lands which fall under the Prince’s rule. The Prince believes in freedom for the individual but also in the protection of the individual. He enforces a system of justice to provide that protection. Transgressors will be punished.’
He then turned his head, only slightly, but it was enough to emphasise that he was talking to his own troops.
‘With freedom comes responsibility. There are two aspects of responsibility, the responsibility to comply with our code of conduct and the responsibility to administer justice. This man was clearly a transgressor against our code of conduct and will be punished.’
He then lifted his head so that it was clear that once again he addressed a wider audience.
‘The punishment will take place outside the mill tomorrow at dawn. You are all invited to attend, so that you may see the Prince’s justice at first hand. I want all of you here to spread the word about what you have seen. We are not proud of the transgression, which comes from the weakness of man. We are, however, extremely proud of the instant reaction of the Prince’s Guards to provide protection for innocent people.’
He paused at just the right point.
‘Now, I suggest you go back to your entertainment.’
Lord James turned to the group of Toulousaines who only a few moments before had seemed so threatening, ‘Can you allocate a secure room either in the mill itself or in some nearby house where we can keep this man overnight?’ He appointed two men to drag the still unconscious Morgan behind a Toulousaine, who volunteered knowledge of a secure place. John went to follow. Lord James caught him by the arm.
‘No John, leave it to others now. I suggest that Piers and yourself return to the balcony away from centre stage, but still visible. I will see that you are well looked after. I will sit with you a while. Come.’
He guided them back towards the stairs.
‘Sheath your swords, slowly.’
People walked back to the central table, but the game had lost its edge. One or two people started to lie down on the benches at the back of the room. The young girl reappeared, fully dressed once more and started to help in the process of tidying up. No one would have guessed what a rowdy scene the room had presented only moments earlier.
Later, as John and Piers sat outside their tent enjoying the warm night and several beers, they were accosted by Ewan.
‘You two are quite the heroes! I must say, I am sorry for Morgan. Women always lead men astray. They are the Devil’s agents.’
John waited for Ewan to speak his true objective, but it seemed he was only warming to his subject.
‘It was Eve who tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden. Women are still the agent by which the Devil distracts men from the path of righteousness. Thank God that the teaching of our Holy Church identifies this so clearly. Even women of noble birth are the Devil’s agents. They seek marriages with powerful and influential men, but as soon as the marriage contract is sealed they set about using their new husbands’ contacts to find ever more powerful partners. It is part of the Devil’s plan that his agents should ultimately seek out the rulers of every state, and by seduction, undermine the discipline and commitment required for good government. It has been one of the Christian church’s major achievements to establish a culture which brings to mankind an awareness of the wickedness of women.’
John kept silent during Ewan’s diatribe but now raised his eyebrows in astonishment. He could keep himself from making his feelings known.
‘But that young girl who had her clothes ripped from her,’ he said, ‘surely that cannot be considered to be her fault? If we had not been there—’
‘How naive you are, John. It was all part of the plan of seduction. First, she showed false modesty. Then she tore herself away so that her breasts were revealed. Did you not notice that she returned to the room? Did you not notice that the eye of every man was drawn to her? Did you not notice that she smiled in appreciation of the attention?’
He stopped as if these observations proved his case.
John stood up and eyed Ewan carefully, wondering if this was merely an attempt to bait him.
Ewan shrugged his shoulders and moved off, but as he left he could not resist a final challenge.
‘A man’s most precious possession is his chastity. It is women who conspire to rob him of it at every opportunity.’
John moved forward in anger, but Piers grabbed his arm. ‘No, John, you gain nothing, and there is everything to lose.’
Watching Ewan vanish into the darkness, John wondered how many others had such a cockeyed view of the world?
Piers leaned forward and touched his elbow. ‘Don’t read too much into it, my friend.’
John frowned. ‘I too was taught that ‘wicked women’ would use their womanly wiles to seduce me. We weren’t supposed to even to think of them; the sin of impure thoughts. I am seventeen years of age and have never so much as touched a girl.’
Piers grinned. ‘It did not affect me quite so gravely.’
John’s thoughts turned to the object of all their efforts. ‘From what I have been told, Ximene is about our own age and a member of a heretical faith, who from what we saw at Clermont will obviously have a different attitude to sexuality. Perhaps she will share her knowledge with us?’
Piers groaned. ‘Tell me you are not considering discussing sexual mores with the future Queen of England!’
Just then, the Earl reappeared.
‘John, Piers, come with me. The Prince wishes to see you both.’