Agnes of Navarre- 22nd 1355
Agnes had never seen her husband so subdued.
Gaston Phoebus, Comte de Foix, sat slumped in a chair. They were in the great hall at Chateau de Foix. The hall was still littered with the debris of the dinner which had been held two days earlier. It had been planned to be the best formal dinner ever held but in the event, it had been the cover for Ximene’s escape.
Agnes could hardly hear what he said.’Not more than ten minutes which have destroyed my work of the last five years. It must have been planned for a long time. It wasn’t only that Ximene was snatched away. So many others Lady Eleanor, Alyse, the whole of the de Roet family, Henri de Vivar and another half a dozen of my guards, all spirited away into the night’
He groaned. ‘Ximene Trencavel was my greatest asset, and now she has gone. At least four members of various royal houses wanted her hand in marriage. In almost every case I could have gained a significant advantage from giving my approval for her marriage to any of the candidates. Now, all that has gone. Worse than that I have been made to look a fool.
Agnes was aghast. ‘Gaston, I understand all that but I do think that some of it is your own fault. Before Ximene’s escape from your clutches, I had already decided to go to Bearn. Why? I found out about the temple dedicated to Ximene, There was also the camp on the way to Muret. Did you really think I would not have found out about that? Before that, there was the issue of your infatuation with Alyse, but that was less important, she had made it clear that she was prepared to become your mistress.
Agnes sighed. ‘I just wanted to get away for a while; but now you want me to go, to Pamplona not to Bearn.’
She sighed again. ‘Gaston, I am sure that Ximene had no interest in you, but you put continual pressure on her. Now Ximene has gone somewhere beyond your reach, so there is absolutely no reason to stay here in Foix.’
Gaston shook his head. ‘Except that Foix is not readily accessible to either the English or the Francs whereas if I move permanently to Bearn it will be difficult to avoid the dominance of the English.
‘Is that why you are asking me to return to Pamplona, not to Bearn?’
Gaston grimaced. ‘It is not so much what I want Agnes. It is what you must do. I am sorry you lost your mother almost immediately after we were married, but the fact remains that you dowry has never been paid.’
He raised his eyebrows. ‘Well, now I need it. Ximene Trencavel was my greatest asset, and now she has gone. I hear rumours that she has run away from the Prince as well; with a member of the Prince’s guard. She will almost certainly now be regarded as “damaged goods”. Neither the Prince or anyone else will want to marry her.’
Agnes jaw dropped. ‘You amaze me sometimes. No, I will re-phrase that. You astonish me all of the time. You say you are a Cathar. Therefore, you believe that affairs of the heart are far more important than dynastic marriages and yet you use a term like “damaged goods”. I any case I hear rumours she is travelling with the Prince on their way to Bordeaux.’
She paused, breathing hard. ‘Damaged Goods? So am I also “damaged goods” because I have had a relationship with Guillaume de Machaut. That did not seem so much of a concern when you married me to cement your military alliance with Navarre.’
Gaston winced. ‘In fact, it was a barrier for a time but I overthrew my scruples for our mutual interests.’
Agnes snorted. ‘Our mutual interests? I gave up any claim I might have had to the French throne as part of the contract for our marriage. I have tried to be a good wife and I do get some satisfaction out of occasionally getting you to make love to me. Oh! is that it? Your reticence has always been because you do see me as “damaged goods”. You moved me here to Foix not so you could be with me but to keep me away from Guillaume?
Gaston rubbed his hand over his face. ‘Maybe I did and maybe I didn’t. I certainly don’t want the heir to Foix and Bearn to be a child fathered by a musical priest. Anyway, this discussion is irrelevant. I now believe I must advance my ambitions in a totally different way. I need to raise a larger standing army and that requires money. So for both our sakes go and remind your brother Charles of his obligations. Go to Pamplona and get the dowry.’
Gaston narrowed his eyes. ‘The Black Prince has returned to Bordeaux. If Charles will not pay what is owed to me ask the Prince to exert pressure on him. Charles is supposed to be negotiating a deal with the English so that might be possible.
Alternatively write to your sister Blanche, Dowager Queen of France, no less, She is supposed to be helping Charles to come to terms with the French. If that is so perhaps she might help.’
Agnes narrowed her eyes. ‘And why aren’t you coming with me?’
Gaston winced. ‘I think we can assume that as the Prince was willing to snatch Ximene away from me, he is not currently full of good will towards me. I am going to have to work on that. In the meantime, you may well do better than I could. Agnes don’t argue with me… just go.’