Henry Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster- 24th June 1355
Henry of Grosmont was somewhat surprised. King Edward had taken it upon himself to visit him at his home at the Savoy Palace instead of summoning him to Westminster.
The King gazed around the internal courtyard surrounded by cloistered walkways, the immaculate lawns, the profusion of roses. He sniffed the air and sighed. ‘Wonderful. Much more attractive, more comfortable than Westminster. I should come here more often.’
They walked through to the lounge, overlooking the river.‘Even your view of the river is better than mine.’
Henry winced, albeit internally. He did not believe that it was ever a good idea to rouse a king’s envy.
The King hesitated, then smiled. ‘So Henry, tell me what you think. You spent Christmas with the Pope at Avignon. I have not had the chance to talk to you since then. Was it useful? Did you learn anything? Did you reach any agreements?
Henry winced again, as he sensed a tone criticism creep into in the King’s voice. He had formulated a belief that he, not King Edward was the rightful King of England and he deeply resented the way the king treated him as an inferior. ‘Sire, I have kept you informed. I have sent you numerous notes.’
King Edward grimaced. ‘Ohhh! Notes are one thing but an eye to eye conversation is quite another. Talk me through what happened.’
‘Well as you know, it was supposed to be the Pope’s attempt toget us to agree on peace between Plantagenets and the Franks, but neither you nor King John thought it worth the time to attend. I represented your interests and Dauphin Charles represented King John. It was totally inconclusive. There was however a surprise which I did not mention in my notes.’
‘Charles d’Evreux, King of Navarre danced in attendance the whole time I was there. He took no part in the main discussions but was never far away. I got the impression he was having discussions with the Dauphin in-between meetings. He talked to me as well. I knew he believes he has a claim to the Frankish throne but I did not know how seriously he takes that claim.’
King Edward’s eyebrows rose on his forehead. ‘And?’
‘It may be the time is ripe. The Dauphin clearly was not representing his father’s interests. He was representing his own.’
‘I don’t know how it started and it is difficult to predict how it will end. There is animosity between the Dauphin and his father. He talks as if his father is no longer King. In my opinion, influenced by the Pope, King John would be prepared to recognise your holdings in France as a separate kingdom. The Dauphin emphatically would not. He would insist in you swearing allegiance to him.’
‘He made that clear?’
‘I believe he did.’
‘And Charles of Navarre?’
‘I don’t think there is any love lost between Navarre and the Dauphin but they may be prepared to work together to remove King John. If they were to achieve this, I believe they would be immediately at each other’s throats. Inevitably the result would be chaos. Not something we would want to be involved in.
Navarre spent the period in Avignon seeking our support. I would not trust him. I have set in place procedures which could perhaps appear to favour his requests, but our only intention is to distract the Dauphin and King John. What we should do is cross the channel and invade, we could strike a deal with King John before the Dauphin and Navarre try to remove him. I believe we could get his agreement for an independent Aquitaine and Gascony.’
The King strode the full length of the lounge and returned. he frowned You really should have told me about this earlier Henry. it is not the first time you have kept information from me.’ Henry bristled with resentment but managed to control his facial expression to reveal none of that resentment. King Edward continued. ‘There is something else you need to know Henry. The Prince is currently in the foothills of the Pyrenees travelling back towards Bordeaux. Travelling with him is Ximene Trencavel, recognised by the Pope as the rightful heir to Occitan. He will marry her, giving us the opportunity to extend our territory to the east as far as the Mediterranean coast.’
‘Trencavel? I think she was mentioned at Avignon… by Charles of Navarre, apparently his brother in law, Gaston de Fox is her guardian. However, you should know that the Dauphin was sceptical. He said he doubted her very existence.’
‘She exists all right and the Prince will marry her.’
‘In that case, arrange the marriage as soon a possible. What a wonderful opportunity. An independent Aquitaine, Gascony and Occitan. A realm stretching from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. But we must move quickly in case the Dauphin should seize power.’
Lancaster’s eyes gleamed. An independent nation in the south! A suitable reward for the false claimants to the English throne, perhaps the mechanism by which he could claim the English throne for himself and rid himself, forever, of this overbearing King.