25 Politics — Copy

‘I am aware that there has always been a hope that I would fulfil my​ destiny​. It is a responsibility I find myself reluctantly accepting. Whether it will ever come about, is, however, a different issue…’

Ximene Trencavel-15 March 1355

Ximene was in the library with Alyse when Guillam poked his head around the door, knocking as he did so.

Ximene responded instantly. ‘Come in Guilliam, come in.’

Guillam walked over to the table. ‘Piles of books.’ He glanced at the one nearest to him.


‘Oh, Greek! You both read this stuff? What on earth are you up to?’

Ximene winced; his tone of voice indicated a lack of sympathy, perhaps even disapproval, of what they were doing. Ximene had always retained a good relationship with Guillam but he was not an easy man. She had always found him controlling. He tended to reflect Lady Eleanor’s opinions and to assist Eleanor in imposing those opinions on others.

She spoke cautiously. ‘Look, we have found Aristotle’s Politika, Affairs of State and Ethika, Behavior of People. Together they give Aristotle’s view of how the world is, or should be organized and how to influence others to your own advantage.’

Guillam’s eyes opened wide and he scratched his head. ‘I had no idea you could speak Ancient Greek.’

‘I don’t very well but I can read it, with a bit of help.’ She nodded at her companion. ‘Alyse, however, is fluent.’

Guillam looked at the books scattered across the desk. ‘And all these books?’

‘Mostly from Lady Eleanor’s library. She has Frankish translations, but we wanted to work directly from the Greek, just to see if there are any differences, so we borrowed from the Comte.’

‘And are there differences?’

‘We think so, yes. Listen to this, from Politika. Aristotle states that a constitution is necessary for the organization of any city or state and that the constitution must reflect the objectives of the state.’

‘And the Frankish version?’

‘That the head of state has the right to tell his subjects how to conduct their affairs and everything they do must be in accordance with the rules he sets.’

Guillam laughed mirthlessly. ‘But that is totally different.’

Alyse disagreed. ‘No Guillam, technically it is not very different. No translation can be exact and translations will always be affected by local politics. Even here this morning Ximene and I have come up with slightly different translations.’ She gazed upwards, clearly searching her memory. ‘There is an inherent link to Ethika, in which he says that the objectives of the state must be morally good. The state should not be organized to maximize wealth for a lucky few or even at the other end of the spectrum to promote liberty and equality for all. The state should take the middle ground and promote a good life for the majority of its citizens.’

Ximene pointed to a translation of her own. ‘Aristotle puts lawgivers who create the constitution on a higher level than rulers and politicians who maintain and prevent subversion of the constitution. He emphasises the difficulty of selecting lawmakers who will not represent the interests of any one segment of society, perhaps to which they themselves belong, to the detriment of everyone else.’

Guillam stared at the two girls. ‘And this is how you spend your time? All this is part of Eleanor’s education programme?’

Alyse hesitated, so Ximene broke in. ‘Well yes in a way it is, we were taught both Greek and Latin, but Alyse showed talent and the Comte arranged for her to get advanced instruction. What is in the books we read, well… is what is in the books we read. It was not necessarily part of our curriculum.’

Gillam smiled and nodded. ‘Well, I suppose my visit is concerned with governance.’ He turned to Alyse. ‘Alyse, would you mind? I urgently need to talk to Ximene… privately.’


He waited until Alyse had left the room and the door had closed behind her.

‘Ximene, I had no idea you were taking your responsibilities so seriously.

Ximene chortled.’Don’t read too much into it, Guillam.’ She rocked her head to one side. ‘People keep telling me about my destiny and I do want to be aware of what I might face.’

Guillam guided Ximene to a window seat and smiled. ‘I have been asked by Lady Eleanor to make plans for your escape from Foix.’

Ximene’s eyes opened wide. A simple statement, so unexpected.

Guillam cleared his throat. ‘You may wonder why Eleanor has prevaricated.’

‘Well, yes, I do.’

‘First and foremost because she wants to protect you. She has, however, faced a terrible dilemma. Our faith is not in favour of forced marriages. Women are supposed to be in control of their own destiny, but she, herself, was made to undergo a forced marriage. She consoles herself that because of that marriage, she is in a position…through you…to create a new Cathar homeland.’

He cleared his throat. ‘For Eleanor, even the decision to ask me to help you escape has not been easy. She is now attracted to the idea of you escaping from the Comte’s control and thus avoiding a forced marriage, but she believes that might mean possibly giving up any chance of creating a Cathar homeland. Alternatively, if you were to agree to one of the marriages Gaston is considering, then a suitable union might make the creation of that elusive homeland more likely. She is reluctant to give up that possibility.’

‘But why has she never discussed this with me… In those terms?’

‘Perhaps she would have, but then the prospect of you marrying the Black Prince came up. To Eleanor, this was an almost perfect solution. She has never met the Prince but knows a lot about him. Gaston’s wife, Agnes of Navarre, is a close relative of Joan of Kent, who has been the Prince’s long-term mistress, and Eleanor has met Joan several times.’

‘So being asked to marry a man who clearly loves someone else is a perfect solution?’

‘In Eleanor’s eyes, yes. She has learnt that Joan and the Prince were brought up in the same household, the home of the Earl of Salisbury at Old Sarum…A Cathar household.’

Ximene frowned. ‘She has always told me that she is only concerned with my happiness, but I am aware that there has always been a hope that I would fulfil what she sees as my destiny. It is a responsibility I find myself reluctantly accepting. Whether it will ever come about, is, however, a different issue…’ Ximene sought eye contact with Guillam. ‘However, if you can help me escape, that will be an important first step.’

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel