Alyse Perez de Pedilla – 15th August 1355
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 generally 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.
Because of his association with Alyse, Juan had been found a single room at Le Golfe, admittedly at the rear of the establishment. Alyse was pleased as the rear entrance offered a degree of anonymity which could never have been afforded by entry through the front foyer.
The single room was somewhat crowded. Juan moved himself to a stool in a corned leaving centre stage to Piers de Windsor, who sat at a small table facing Alyse.
Piers lifted his eyebrows in an invitation to Alyse to speak.
Alyse cleared her throat and winked. ‘I am not supposed to see you and so I am using my visit to my brother as cover. You just happened to be here. I was surprised to find you here. Henry and three of my guards… Ooh! Did I say, my guards! Anyway, three of Henri’s men, they are waiting are downstairs.
Piers leaned across the table and held her hand. ‘I am very pleased to see you but I take it this is not meant to be an opportunity to make love to you.’
‘No emphatically not’ Alyse blushed and shook her head.’With the constraints placed on me you could not even formally make your suit. She smiled. ‘The constraints will not last forever. Be patient.’
‘So why have you sought me out?’
‘You are close to the Earl and I think you have a good feel for how he operates. Alyse frowned. ‘Look. Let me tell you my concerns and then we might consider if anything needs to be done, or whether I am worrying unnecessarily.’
‘I am flattered you sought me out. I will do my best to help. What is causing you concern.’
‘Everone I meet thinks that I am Ximene, heiress to Occitan and future Queen of England.
Piers chuckled. ‘Yeas, I think that is what we tried to achieve, hence the imposition of constraints, so you do not give the game away.’
‘But Piers, they take it seriously, they tell me about their concerns, their ambitions, they expect me to be able to exert my influence on the Prince. But I am not Ximene, I am not going to marry the prince and yet what they are telling me is I think very important.’
‘What are they telling you?’
‘That they support the Prince’s family but they want to be involved in the governance of their own lands. That the various seneschals of Aquitaine have gradually moved to a method of governance which excludes them, the citizens of Aquitaine from the decision-making processes. The seneschals govern as if they were an occupying force, involving only other English in their core administration. The people I have been talking to want to have a say in the formation of laws and the enforcement of laws. You know that is exactly what have learned in my studies of democracy.’
Piers lowered his head frowned and looked at her through raised eyebrows.’Your studies of democracy?’he said hesitantly.
Yes Ximene and I read Aristotle, Ethnica and Politica which explain his ideas about how a state should be organised and administrated. the roots of democracy.
‘Oh!’Piers sighed. ‘Serious stuff.’ Well, you spend a lot of time with the Prince, just tell him.
‘Do you think I could?’ I mean really I am a nobody, would he listen to me?’
‘Sometimes the best technique is to allow people to learn about a situation, the Earl tends to do that but not always. The more urgent the situation the more direct he becomes.’ Piers shrugged his shoulders. In my own experience, it is often best just to tell those you want to influence. Dress it up a bit to make it more appealing.’ He narrowed his eyes. ‘Is there anything else?’
For a moment Alyse thought she had said enough, but decided that if she was to seek advice from Piers she should tell him the whole story. She spoke cautiously. ‘They are pleased the Prince is here, they want him here but they want him to become one of them, become a Gascon, an Occitaine and to devolve the government not concentrate it in a handful of foreigners in Bordeaux.’ They want him to be king of their own country, not King of England.’
‘And is that a problem?’
‘I think it is. The fact that I am here in Aquitaine pretending to be Ximene tells me a lot.’ She forced a shrug. ‘Ximene is not committed to a marriage to the prince. Then, to my surprise, Joan has warned me off any entanglement with the Prince, She tells me she intends to marry him herself and she wants to be Queen of England and to found a dynasty of English kings. No mention of Aquitaine or Occitan. No consideration of how long the people of Aquitaine will be content to be ruled by a foreigner.’
‘You think it is that serious?’
‘Yes I do, what is done in England must be done here.
Piers lifted an eybrow. ‘So how much do you know about governance in England.’
Alyse smiled and reached out to touch Piers hand. ‘Not a lot. Except of course for the Magna Carta by which the king shared his powers with his subjects. It is highly regarded by the more modern authors I have read.’
‘Well it did not… it does not… work quite as well as it might. My father has made the study of the Magna carta his personal contibution to my education.
in 1341 only 15 years ago that right was extende to the knigts an burgesses through the new House of commons. i believe this was a response to the french creation of the estates general in 1302