The next month passed quickly as there was so much to do. John was thrust back into the role of Ximene’s Ambassador. Estevan excluded John from Ximene’s care other than bedside visits of limited duration.
‘She desperately needs rest, both physical and emotional. Some people never recover from an experience like this’
John was tempted to dismiss this advice, but the lodge was now continually disturbed by a succession of discrete visits by local sympathisers. Most of the visitors expected that Ximene would marry the Prince.
He waited his opportunity and eventually slid into Ximene’s bedroom . “And now it should be my turn to help you recover, but I am being kept away from you. ‘
She nodded and squeezed his hand.
John it is partly my request. I am not ready for contact with anyone just yet. The problem is mental not physical.’
Wether she wanted to or not Ximene was forced to play a greater and greater part in the discussions. On Estevan’s advice John produced a schedule, which limited the bedside conferences to no more than two a day. A recurring topic was that there should be a widespread uprising to throw the Northern Franks out of her lands.
John scheduled a private meeting for himself. ‘Ximene, Do not encourage them to revolt. There are thousands and thousands of Northern Franks who have been in Occitan for over a hundred years and are devoted followers of the Church of Rome.’
‘But they have no right to be here, they have stolen my people’s land.’
‘Try and tell that to them, Ximene. They are third or even fourth generation, they think this is home.’
‘We would welcome them to stay, we would permit them to follow their own religion, as long as they allowed us to follow ours.’
John hoped that putting his point firmly would not alienate Ximene.
‘That is not true Ximene, you talk about righting wrongs, about returning land to it’s former owners… and then alternate that with concerns that the Prince has not thought it through, which incidentally I now know to be true.’
‘You know to be true’
“ Yes, the Chevauchee was badly conceived. He thought that he could engage the Franks in battle and beat them. That everyone in Occitan would then swear allegience to him in accordance with the principles of chivalry and everything would be wonderful.’
‘They wouldn’t fight! They ran away and then attacked us on the flanks as we advanced’
Ximene’s eyes dulled.
‘ But I have been told that in the eyes of these soldiers in Couisa you are a hero. You personally won a major battle,
‘ Not a major battle. Well, I suppose I did play my part, but I was not fighting soldiers who understand chivalry and would comply with its rules. I was fighting thieves and vagabonds! It had nothing to do with ownership of land or religeous beliefs. ’
Ximene did not give up her previous argument.
‘The only place I would change land ownership would be at the upper level , there would be no need to throw people off their land at the lower levels.To keep their lands all they would have to do is swear allegiance to me.’
“ Ximene you are wrong, all these bastides are outside of the feudal system, They are owned and governed by their own elected representitives,’ he struggled to think of a comparison ‘ Like minature Holy Roman Empire’s.’
He look as deep into her eyes as possible.
“For longer than I care to remember our main activity was throwing the northern French out of their homes. It requires force. It is not a pretty business; if you throw a man out of his home there are women and children affected as well”
“ I didn’t know that was what you were doing.”
“ Well not me personally, but I was part of an army which was doing just that. There were thousands of them, left without shelter, and that is what the native Occitanes expected us to do. All these people who cluster around you now are I fear more concerned with personal financial advantage than freedom of religious belief”
“ So what do you recommend”
“Now I am going sound like the Prince. There must be an honourable war against the Franks who created this problem. If we win that then we can change the government of Occitan. Remember Aristotle; constitution, lawmakers, politicians, militia.”
“ Yes I remember you asking did every state need these elements and my answer was yes. Even though it is so personal to me, there is no reason why this should be different. What must we do”.
‘Well the question you ought to ask is how do we make them fight. Probably by attacking their home territory up North. If we win, and the Prince became King of the Franks we would then be able to allocate royal estates to those who have been dispossessed and discriminate favourably in favour of those who have suffered.
We could look carefully at deeds and perhaps split lands between traditional and new owners. It becomes a governance issue. It could be controlled! And you don’t have to rush! We have negotiated for settlement on the treasure in advance of any marriage contract.
Ximene reached out and grasped John’s hand.
Oh! Something has changed! He is becoming the man I wanted him to be! Even now he begins to stride the stage!
“You have learned well John, and I understand what you say, it is just that I so desperately want to help my people”
She cast her eyes downwards “Do I need to marry the Prince?”
“Wouldn’t it be unfair to acquire the wealth he is offering me and then refuse to marry him.”
“ Emphatically not. It is their idea to separate the treasure negotiations from the marriage”
Ximene nodded approvingly, she had noted the ‘their’. “If I did not marry the Prince, would he then, if he defeated the Franks, help change the government in Occitaine”
“ If he can take the Frankish throne, yes. He would make you Duchess of Occitan. If he simply wins a war, probably not.’
“You sound very sure about some of this John, has he decided not to marry me?”
“No, I am perturbed that he has paid little attention to you but I don’t think he has made that decision, and don’t assume that his decision to delay the marriage negotiation means anything. The Earl tells me his father intends to make him Prince of Aquitaine and virtually split the English empire in two at least until his death.
“ So I would be a princess?”
John sighed. This conversation was now not going the way he wanted.
“Yes indeed you would”
“ Tell me again, why would it suit the Prince to delay the marriage negotiations”
“It would suit the Prince very well to separate your wealth from the English crown before he marries you. Then he could fund the expansion of Aquitaine from your income and if everything went wrong still be a wealthy & powerful man”
“Oh!” Ximene had obviously never thought of such a concept.
She tightened her grip on his hand.
“ Well I have decided I do not want to marry him. I will do the best I can without marriage. We must turn our attention to developing a t
John did however get the opportunity to brief Ximene on the presence of a Guard Ecosse in Carcassonne.
‘Who could possibly have known that you were at Mazerou?”
“Certainly not Phillipa this time” she said “She never left Mazerou the whole time you were away. Neither did Don Fenandino”
“Oh!” Said John “Then it must be Thierry”
‘ I doubt it, but Estevan also had the opportunity!’
‘ I doubt it too…’ John stopped in mid sentence. .
“They both know where the treasure is!”