94 Betrothal

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‘I charge you, John Stanley, to assume responsibility for my granddaughter. Take over from me. Indulge her in trivial things, control her in important things. Learn the difference between the two. Care for her and always put her needs above your own. Will you promise me that?’


John Stanley – 8th June 1355

The music and singing commenced well before anyone arrived. Entertainment prefixed each course of food. Everyone seemed determined to enjoy themselves. Lady Ximene’s escape, which had become almost legend within the camp, contributed to the rejoicing.

Many people made a point of congratulating John on his part in her deliverance. Despite this, John found it difficult to join in the festive atmosphere. He watched with a heavy heart as, before she took her seat, Ximene chatted amiably to all those around her but continually turned back to converse with the Prince. Then when she did sit down at the Prince’s right hand it seemed to John that the Prince must be an accomplished raconteur as he spoke for extended periods, following which they both laughed.

John consoled himself by constructing an ode to Ximene, without having any idea when he would have the opportunity to deliver it. He struggled with concepts of the futility of his love, the lasting image of Ximene bathing in the Garonne, the gift of Helios and of his growing affection for this complex woman. In the midst of his reverie, John realised that someone else at the feast was as uninvolved in the celebration as he was. Sitting next to the Prince, who now seemed to be totally captivated by Ximene, Gaston Phoebus, the Comte De Foix, gazed around, his face expressionless. John wondered why, on the evening where his ambition seemed to be coming to fruition, he should seem so pensive, so glum.

Eventually, the Prince rose to his feet and proposed a toast to Ximene. He addressed her as the Comtesse of Carcassonne, Beziers, Albi and Razes, the Duchess of Occitan and the future Princess of Aquitaine, Duchess of Cornwall and Queen of England, Wales, Ireland and France.

John realised that though there had been no poetry and no song, the Prince had just made the most powerful statement of love for Ximene. He had promised her the whole world!

John disconsolately returned to his duty of guarding the ladies’ tent. Piers, who was now totally committed to his role of guarding Lady Eleanor, had taken the first watch because Lady Eleanor had retired early from the feast. John had only taken over from Piers for ten minutes when Lady Eleanor emerged from the tent. She stopped in front of him and studied him carefully. ‘John, thank you for what you did for Ximene yesterday afternoon. There is something special about you. I sensed it even before I met you.’

‘Before you met me?’ he asked with a frown.

‘Oh yes,’ Lady Eleanor replied. ‘I have known you were coming for a long, long time. You are the one who will bring about important change for my granddaughter. I know she shares my faith in you. Her gift of Helios is a testament to that. Now you are here, I confess I am frightened. You must never forget that even a good person can cause harm through the thoughtless use of power, influence or physical attraction.’

‘Are you talking about me, Lady Eleanor?’ He almost whispered the words.

She sighed. ‘Yes, I am talking about you and it concerns me not a little that you have no idea of the power within you and therefore the potential for good or evil.’ She grasped his shoulders and looked into his eyes. Her voice quivered slightly as she spoke. ‘I charge you, John Stanley, to assume responsibility for my granddaughter. Take over from me. Indulge her in trivial things, control her in important things. Learn the difference between the two. Care for her and always put her needs above your own. Will you promise me that?’

John struggled with a lump in his throat. There was only one answer he could give, though he had no idea how he could deliver what Lady Eleanor had asked of him. ‘Yes, Lady Eleanor, I will.’ He took her hands in his own and then slowly and deliberately kissed them both. ‘I need much training in this task, will you give me guidance?’

‘I will, John. I will tell you everything I know… about Ximene and about the world… but in a short time from now, I will be learning from you.’ She paused and sighed again. This time it was a much happier sigh. ‘Now I have a great need to look at the stars.’ She paused and looked John up and down. ‘And you have a great need to go into that tent and talk to Ximene. I watched you at the feast; I know how you suffered. To me, it is now more important for you to pursue your love for Ximene than for Ximene to arrange a dynastic marriage with some Prince or King.’ She looked at the tent and back at John. ‘Go to her now, John. In truth, I think she needs you as much as you need her, but remember in the end, you must make your suit and she will make her decision. It is her right, not mine, to decide if she will accept you and even then she will decide when to give you her favours and under what circumstances. This is our way, and you must accept that, or cease your involvement now.’ She reached up and gave John a gentle hug. ‘However, if I have learned anything in life it is that pure spiritual contact and the almost infinite pleasure which can follow is a precious gift. It does not occur very often. When it does, you must give it a chance. Go to her now!’

John hesitantly entered the tent. Ximene was still dressed in her finery, still looked haughty and uninvolved. Almost by instinct, she held out her hand to be kissed. John obliged with an accompanying bow. ‘Lady Eleanor believes you need company tonight.’

She smiled, but it was an icy smile, not the incandescent variety reserved for the other Ximene. ‘I do, John. My life is in disarray. The Prince is a charming attractive man but he was premature in announcing our betrothal at the feast. I still have to make my decision and there are other suitors. I am still under the guardianship of the Comte De Foix… Gaston. I believe the Comte and the Prince are in competition for my hand. I must escape so that any decisions are mine and no one else’s. However, Les Etoiles seem to have failed me. Worse, the arrival of those assassins may mean that security has been breached. As far as the Comte is concerned, it is simply an attempt to kidnap or kill me. I am valuable to him so he now intends to take me back to Foix as soon as possible.’

Her hand touched his. ‘If it wasn’t for you I might now be dead… or indeed something far worse.’ She moved her hand and turned away slightly. ‘Before we left the feast, Gaston proposed a second feast at Foix in two weeks’ time. This will allow for further negotiations with the Prince. After some discussion, the Prince agreed, so now I will rejoin Gaston’s party and be separated from you. I will once again be under Gaston’s control.’

He moved closer to Ximene and gently turned her to face him. He looked directly into her eyes. He had only heard the words separated from you. He searched his memory for the words he had prepared during the feast. There were no observers to worry about, but he desperately wanted his presentation to be flawless. To his surprise, some of the thoughts suggested by Lady Eleanor came to the fore.

‘For a thousand years, or so it seems,

you have been the vision of my dreams.

But now we have met I ache within,

and I cannot believe such desire a sin.

Only yesterday for the very first time,

I dared to think I could make you mine.

You went to bathe in a swift, cold stream,

That moment brought to life my dream.

Desire becomes now so severe

It may drive a wedge between us, dear.

Is it true you may be Queen,

before All Saints or Halloween?

Chivalrous men it is said, are prone,

To hopeless loves, and to die alone.

I have no wish their fate to share

To become a famous but tragic pair.

So now, tomorrow, before you are Queen,

Give me your love, fulfil that dream.’

The whole time John was speaking, Ximene maintained a serious look. Only towards the end did she smile. Slowly, she reached up to detach the lace mantilla from her tiara. ‘You must keep this forever,’ she said. ‘It is a sign that I accept your suit with my whole heart. It means that you will always be part of my life.’ She looked deep into his eyes. ‘Thank you, John. I really needed to know that whatever happens, you will be committed to me. However, in our faith, your declaration of love and my giving of my favour as evidence of my acceptance should be a public event. I think it would be wise… to save that until I come to a final decision on my future.’ She wound her arms around him and kissed him full on the mouth.

Once again, he was so surprised his hands hung by his sides. Ximene looked at him quizzically. Despite the formal dress, her eyes now held a devilish glint as she murmured, ‘For a man who is so good with weapons, you are not very good with your hands. You clearly need more practice.’


Table of Contents

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents



List of Places

Table of Contents

Pseudo History


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.