Ximene Trencavel- 17th July 1355
Don Fernandino pulled Ximene to one side, He had a very determined edge to his voice. “Ximene, you know I intend to meet the Prince when I am in Bordeaux. I have been talking to Guillam about what you see as your destiny, what you intend to do, what you expect from the Prince. Guillam has told me that your commitment is to free Cathars from prosecution, but that I should talk to you directly. So let’s put it all in terms of what you expect from the Prince. That is what I need to understand.’
Ximene frowned. ‘One of the reasons I want my complete independence is to decide just that. I have had several discussions with the Prince and various options have come out of those discussions.
His father King Edward would like him to marry me, invade Occitan and make me Princess of Aquitaine and Duchess of Occitan. Oh! and at a sort of betrothal ceremony, the Prince also called me the future Queen of England, Ireland Wales and France. Incidentally, that option included the Comte de Foix becoming Duke of Gascony and swearing allegiance to King Edward.
Betrothal ceremony? You are betrothed to be married?
Yes, I suppose I am, but I don’t think it will ever happen, not least because he is infatuated with his cousin, Joan, Countess of Kent.
The same lady the Earl of Salisbury saved from Du Guesclin.
The same. But not only that. He has never satisfactorily described to me how he would defend our new empire, and I am unwilling to expose the people of Occitan to another crusade. In conversation, it became obvious that the Prince himself has a specific objective. He wants to control the trade routes from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, which pass through Occitan. He thinks he might be able to do that without marrying me. once again if he set me up as Duchess?Princess?Queen? of an independent Occitan there would still be the same question. How would I defend it?’
Don Fernandino cupped his face in his hands. It was over a minute before he raised his face and stared directly at Ximene. ‘Thank you, I needed to know that. Is there anything else I should know?’
No, except to repeat that what I am supposed to be doing now is spelling out what are the conditions I would insist on if I were to marry the Prince. In practice I have been somewhat distracted, which you may have noticed.
Don Fernandino smiled. ‘Yes, I have. Ximene there is another option which would not require an invasion or any problems of defence. We could start a completely new organisation. Initially, the organizing group should be only the two of us. The organization should have some perfectly legitimate occupation. Trading is ideal. It generates income and will, within a short period, be self-supporting.
‘But you had something else in mind?’
“Of course, it would give dispossessed Cathars a way of creating an income, but it would mean we could give good performers more and more responsibility and trust. We could have a series of stages of promotion and at each stage reveal more and more about our true purpose.’
‘And that purpose would be?’
‘To take over control of trading towns and in secret create a culture which would allow the Cathar faith to flourish. If the towns were in strategic positions on trade routes, trading would be profitable. ’ There would be no need to establish an independent state. In fact, no one outside of a small core group would ever know about it.was happening’
‘Each town would develop on its own merits. We would supply finance, strategic planning skills, training, but they would never know who we are or how many other towns were involved. They would pay a tax for the trade brought to them, which would allow a continual expansion. That would not surprise them. It is the way things are done. If one town suffered from a breach of security, it would have no effect on the others. After a short period, the town could be reactivated.’
‘The way les Étoilles used to be?
‘And we would be called?’
Don Fernandino smiled broadly. ‘You already know. You heard me tell you the first day she arrived here’
‘We would be L’Ombre sans Nom. ‘The shadow without a name.’
‘Perfect… but how do we get it started ? We need a wealthy and trustworthy patron.’
‘ I think we can rule out the Compte de Foix.’ They both chuckled.
‘Nevertheless, we need someone like him, someone with power, influence and wealth.’
Don Fernandino stroked his chin, ‘You know… the Black Prince would be ideal. Perhaps whilst I am in Bordeaux I could reopen negotiations with him…on the subject of your marriage but with this alternative objective.
Ximene frowned… Something she did not want to hear.
‘No, Don Fernandino, emphatically not. If you have doubts about our ability to reach Sicily in safety then we will have to find somewhere else. But if there are to be negotiations about marriage they must take place from a position of strength. I will not even consider marriage until I have a contract in my hands which gives me what I want from the marriage. Is that clear?’
Don Fernandino smiled but nodded and gave a small bow of deference,
Despite her objection, Ximene realised that his dream could become her dream. However, it was a dream which probably did need a wealthy, powerful patron!