Bertand du Guesclin – 7th August 1355
‘Sir Bertrand du Guesclin? May we talk?’ Du Guesclin was in the restaurant attached to the baths, and for once he was dining alone. He looked up at the tall slim man who was immaculately dressed and had an air of great confidence, He had asked for permission to talk but obviously did not expect to be refused.
Bertrand had no intention of refusing. He gestured with his hand to the empty chair on the other side of the table believing that this was another potential victim. There was a difference, however; this potential victim spoke with a heavy accent, possibly Provencale, perhaps Aragonese or Castilian.
The tall man reached out and shook Bertrand’s hand. “Henri de Trastamara, I am here seeking treatment for an injured shoulder. I am currently in residence at the Château Peyrepertuse.’
Neither the man’s name or the Château he mentioned meant very much to Bertrand.’And?’
‘Forgive me. A few words of explanation. The Château is only 12 miles from here but it is on a high ridge of the Pyrenees. It is a Frankish outpost on the border with Aragon. I am pleased to be allowed to use it as a refuge but it does leave me somewhat isolated… He paused. ‘I can see from your face that you still do not know who I am?
Bertrand nodded and then shook his head.’No, sorry, but I don’t.’
‘I am the Count of Trastamara, rightful king of Castile. My throne has been usurped by my younger half brother Pedro.’
Really? So why are you here, isolated in the Pyrenees.
My brother murdered my mother and illegally seized my throne. I made several attempts to dislodge him but underestimated the support he has amongst the Jews and the Moors. Initially, in July, I fled to Bordeaux, hoping to get support from the Black Prince but discovered that although there is no formal treaty between them he is committed to the cause of Pedro.
Tastamara sighed. ‘I was surprised; I have a just cause but clearly, he had been influenced by someone and I think I know who. Ximene Trencavel, the heiress to Occitan, is a celebrity in Bordeaux and preparations are being made for her marriage to the Prince. She is a close relative of Maria Padilla, Pedro’s mistress…I need to look no further.
‘Ximene Trencavel is in Bordeaux?’Bertrand shook his head. ‘Now it is my turn to be surprised, perhaps shocked might be a better word. Are you sure?’
‘Absolutely, yes, there is no doubt. Even if I am accused of paranoia as to why the Black Prince will not give me support, there is no doubt that Ximene Trencavel is in Bordeaux, at the Prince’s shoulder.
Du Guesclin groaned.’Before I tell you anything else, please explain how you ended up here or more precisely at the Château Peyrepertuse.’
From Bordeaux, I went to Paris and after nearly two weeks of being given the diplomatic runaround, I was sent to grenoble to meet the Dauphin Charles. After lengthy discussions he gave me permission to seek refuge in the Château Peyrepertuse. I think it is a case of out of sight, out of mind until he works out how I might be useful to him.’
Du Guesclin rolled his head to the awkward angle only he could achieve.’Thank you but you obviously knew of me. From the Dauphin?’
Trastamara hesitated, but only temporarily. ‘Yes, he gave me your name. He suggested I might contact you through a member of the Guarde Ecosse in Pamiers but I have not done so. As I said I came here to Rennes Le Bains get my shoulder fixed. It was a great surprise to find you here.’
Du Guesclin frowned and pinched his nose. ‘Did the Dauphin tell you anything about Ximene Trencavel?’.
‘Only to denigrate her claim her claim to Occitan. I was puzzled, as in the same breath he told me he was determined to prevent her marriage to the Prince. If her claim is invalid why would the marriage be a concern? I also got the impression that you were, are, involved in preventing that marriage…by disposing of Ximene.’
Trastamara grimaced. ‘In which case you are in totally the wrong place?’
Du Guesclin put his head in his hands. ‘If you are right, I have just wasted more than six weeks of my life. I have been made a fool. The Black Prince and the Earl of Salisbury have worked some sort of an illusion. I had become convinced that the Trencavel girl was hiding somewhere local to Rennes le Bains. Somehow we must have missed her. However, I have used the time to create some additional opportunities.
Trastamara nodded eagerly. ‘The Dauphin told me you have been given some sort of a charter to raise a private mercenary army to fight against the Prince… This is of great interest to me. I have a use for a mercenary army and it could prove a very profitable venture for you.
Du Guesclins eyes opened wide. ‘ Tell me more’
‘The situation in Castile is unstable when the moors displaced the Visigothic rulers they used the Jews to administer the territories they conquered. During the Reconquista, the grandees of Castile used both Jews and Moors in the same way. my own father continued a trend of promoting both Jews and Moors to positions of authority leaving the old families of Castile with little more than an empty title if that, many of them are left with nothing more than a famous name.
Pedro is following, perhaps even accentuating that trend he exerts his authority through Jews and Moors in positions of power and enforces his rule using armies raised and commanded by these same people. Jews and Moors even in small villages have become incredibly wealthy.
It is my intention to change all that to give both power and wealth back to the traditional families of Castile. I have great support from those families but even taking into account their total extended families they are relatively small in number. My attempts to overthrow Pedro have been relatively easily defeated, hence my flight into exile.
Du Guesclin rotated his head. ‘Not a very promising tale. Why would I want to be involved?’
You could totally disrupt Pedro’s power base; raid and destroy villages and small towns, you could choose a location to set up your power base and if Pedro tried to move against you simply move to a different place. All the wealth would be yours to keep and believe me these people have great wealth.’
The great families who support me have not the resources to provide much assistance but they would keep you informed of any attempts Pedro might make to attack you.
‘What I have done to date is to demand a tax in return for ‘protection’ from future violence. This is not what you want?’
‘No, emphatically not, what I want is the destruction of towns an villages and the execution of people. I want Pedro’s power base destroyed.’
Hmm, that might be of interest. Give me the contacts of your supporters and after the completion of my current activities, I will visit Castile. Oh! that may take a couple of months. Can you let the Dauphin know about this conversation? It lies outside of the charter I have been given and I would not want him to think I had switched allegiances.’