There were a large number of hostelries along the waterfront in Bordeaux. They varied both in the type and quality of the services they offered. “Le Golfe de Gascogne” was the most exclusive. The accommodation offered was for a suite of rooms rather than for a single room and the restaurant was renowned for the inventiveness of its menu. Its reputation was enhanced by its clientele. The most successful merchants and vintners, and the masters of the biggest ships all patronised “Le Golfe, but perhaps, more importantly, it was the venue where the overflow from the court of Aquitaine conducted their business.
John was sat on the balcony of “Le Golphe”, overlooking the quay, with a network of masts in the background, stretching as far as the eye could see in either direction. Across the table from him sat Juan Perez. The table which could be accessed via double doors directly from the apartment currently occupied by Juan.
John was still not entirely comfortable in his uniform or the attention it attracted. The waiter addressed him as “Monsieur Stanley” despite the fact that he had never previously been in the establishment.
Juan smiled a little weakly. ‘Thank you for coming to see me, John. I really did feel I had to talk to you.’
‘Well, it has been a while. John narrowed his eyes, So, how do you organise this, Juan? The waiter knew my name, and I can hardly move without being recognised. In any case, how did you make the transition from being Lady Eleanor’s troubadour to court chronicler.’
Juan winced. ‘I am not entirely sure I approve of the profession I have now entered. On the journey from Foix to Bordeaux, in the evenings, I sang a couple of songs in praise of the Prince. I used information provided by Lady Eleanor. Then both Paon de Roet and the Countess of Kent approached me with additional information which they asked me to weave into a song. Next, the Earl of Salisbury wanted to praise my sister Alyse in her role as Ximene Trencavel, the heiress of Occitan. In order to give some credibility to what I wrote he arranged for me to be appointed the Chronicler of the Court of Aquitaine.
My initial chronical was received with polite indifference, people did not know who Ximene was or why she was important. The Prince took my role seriously and asked me to prefix every chronicle with a court circular. The court circular announces new court appointments but also important news from England, Brittany, Navarre and Castile. I see the Prince’s mail before he sees it himself. He personally approves each circular before it is distributed. I now employ half a dozen clerks to make copies and arrange for distribution.’
John frowned. ‘So you are successful. Why would you have any doubts about what is your new career?
It is not the circular I have doubts about. It is the chronicle. People from all levels of society come to me with positive stories about themselves or negative tales about others which they want me to include in the chronicle. I have discussed it with the Prince and he wants me to use some of these stories as there is a ready audience, keen to hear scurrilous tales. It provides a wide circulation for the court circular itself. He trusts my judgement to include enough to titillate the interest of my reads but exclude anything with might reflect badly on the state of Aquitaine. It is nearly as bad as the Inquisition. People telling tales about each other to blacken someone else’s name or distract attention away from themselves.’
‘Oh I see.’ but you are working closely with the Prince?’
‘Well, I was initially, but as you know yourself since September the Prince has not spent much time in Bordeaux; he was away on the invasion of Armagnac, the famous chevauchee, and now he is away in England.
‘So who currently approves the court circular.’
‘In theory, it is Payne de Roet, he has been appointed Guyenne King of Arms, a role with can be interpreted as including the issue of court circulars but he has had little involvement.’
‘In practice, the approval of the court circular and increasingly the content of the chronical is carried out…By the Countess of Kent’
‘ Yes and let me tell you, since the time we were all at the Château de Termes when my sister Alyse pretended to be Ximene and left for Castile and then Ximene adopted the alias of the Comtess of Lavison there have been two issues of the Chronicle. Suddenly there was tremendous interest in the chronicle. Everyone knows that a wine cellar had been emptied of wine to accommodate the contents of the baggage train which had accompanied the Prince on his return from the Chevauchée.
The rumour spread that it was a vast treasure trove but no one ventured to explain it’s origins. Encouraged by Joan I explained in the Chronicle that the chevauchée had brushed aside all opposition and had reached Beziers on the Mediterranean cost.
That the content of the baggage train was a mixture of goods confiscated from enemies and tributes from those who wished to be his friends. I am afraid I did use the phrase ‘vast treasure’
The content of the baggage train is still of interest, many people do not accept my explanation and to be honest I don’t really believe it my self.
I have interviewed soldiers who were with you on the chevauchee and they believe it is something to do with Ximene. Joan has told me quite specifically not to use that information in the Chronicle.’
Juan raised his eybrows. ‘I have been in this business for several months and already I have learnt to interpret peoples reactions. From your reaction, I have just learned that the treasure is something to do with Ximene, but I accept your demand. I will not use it.
Anyway… I gave a number of stories to illustrate what had been achieved during the chevauchee. I gave prominence to what you did during the chevauchee and then told a number of other stories about you based mainly on what I learned from Lady Eleanor, but with some input from Lady Joan.
At Joan’s instigation, threaded in with these stories were segments about you and The Comtesse de Lavison. Though I say it myself the chronicle is analysed and discussed by every public gathering in Bordeaux. It is really not surprising you are readily recognised. It will get worse. The next issue will speculate on whether you and the Comtesse de Lavison are lovers. The headline is “Society beauty could not resist heroic soldier”. The segment has been written by Joan of Kent personally. She is of the opinion it will result in dozens of other women throwing themselves at you. It is part of her masterplan to make you a legend.’
All the women living in your embassy does nothing to negate the legend she is trying to create. To me, it is perfectly legitimate to house the ladies from Occitan in the Occitan embassy whilst their fathers are away on state business in London. But that is not the way my readers see or want to see it; they think you have set up a harem
Also the countess knows how to use her influence, for months now I have been sending copies of the chronicle to monsieur Frossart in London, at his request, so knowledge of your activities is not necessarily confined to Aquitaine.’
At Joan’s suggestion, I have anglicised my name. From now on I will call myself Janyn Perrers.
‘Yes it is a French diminutive for either John or Juan but it is apparently common in England
‘John, I invited you here so that you might know in advance about the next issue of the Chronicle.’
‘Thanks, perhaps I should make a point of reading the Chronicle so that I have some idea of what people think I have been doing; who they think I am. Is this sort of gossip the reason you find it difficult to be comfortable in your new profession?
‘Well, it might give you some idea. Joan of Kent is a lovely lady but I do occasionally feel that I am being used.’
Hmm. I know the feeling. So are you thinking of giving it all away?
I have thought about it but I just can’t. There is another aspect of all this which represents an unbelievable opportunity.
John shook his head. ‘And that is?’
Soon after I started distributing the Chronicle I was approached by both merchants and shipowners to publicise the arrival of ships In bordeaux and list the cargo’s they carried. I created a third element of my publication which I called ‘Les Navires”. Once it became known that copies were being sent to London those exporting goods demanded similar publicity. I now know of nearly every ship arriving in or leaving Bordeaux, I know its cargo and what the intended selling price for each item in the cargo might be. Ship owners and merchants are now prepared to pay me to put their entry at the top of the list.
It is incredible, I haven’t got a single ship. I do not buy or sell anything but I am moving closer and closer to controlling all the trade through this port. Now I am being asked to organise warehousing for goods which don’t find an instant sale and to organise and advertise sales to dispose of the goods stored.
‘As I said you are obviously successful’
‘Ah! but the problem was that I could not cope with this extra activity. At the same time, I did not want to give it away to someone else.
‘Was a problem?’
‘Yes, was. Joan of Kent became aware of this opportunity and introduced me to an experienced ship’s master who knows the Atlantic trade routes and is used to dealing with both cargo and passengers. We have now reached an agreement. He will manage the trading activities and as payment take a share the profits with me. He says he knows you… His name is Thierry d’Arques.’
‘He is here in Bordeaux?’
‘Of course. most of the time. but he intends to go visit England in the near future
”Oh no! The man with the perfect body. Possibly the most arrogant, self-opinionated person I have ever met and in addition; he has designs on Ximene. Oh! and one other thing, he knows all about the treasure. In fact, he found it!’
‘I must talk to him.’