Prologue II

Andrew Danbray-20 December 1370

Andew Danbry peered through the window. The sleet had turned to snow. He closed the curtains, leaned down to comfort and quieten his dogs and turned to face his guests.
‘Not a very good turn out. Obviously the snow has put some people off. Do you you want me to tell you more about the Countess of Shaftesbury or shall we leave it over untill our next meeting? Andrew’s head nodded as he counted around the table. ‘Seven of you. If you dont want to brave the weather, I can give you all a bed for the night.’

Henry raised his mug in the air ‘Wonderful food, great beer, generous offer… Accepted, let’s continue.’

There was a murmour of assent.

Henry held his hand in the air. ‘However I must confess to being somewhat puzzled. We learned at the last session that Joan of Kent had ambitions to marry the Prince, against the wishes of his father, King Edward. That King Edward and the Pope… now there is a surprising combination, both wanted the Prince to marry Ximene Trencavel the heiress of Toulouse,Albi,Carcassonne and Beziers, but she could not make her mind up.’

Andrew stoked the heads of both his hunting dogs before he took a circuitous routewa back to the table  pausing to warm himself by the fire.   He turned to face the table and wriggled with pleasure feeling the warmth on his back. ‘Good summary Henry, However, we know that Ximene was a bit more than undecided, she was determined to escape from the control of her uncle, Gaston Comte de Foix and she was politically adept, adaptable and an able negotiator.’

The dogs jostled his legs hoping for a tit-bit of food. Andrew obliged, leaning over the table to pluck a couple of scraps of chicken from the nearest plate.

Andrew paused and nodded to the far end of the table. ‘Yes James?’

‘We heard a lot about John Stanley. Do you think she deliberately manipulated him? If so it did not work out very well for him. At the end of our last session he was critically injured on a battlefield whilst helping Ximene escape.

‘She certainly used him at the beginning but I hope I made it clear that their relationship gradually changed so that at the time he was injured she was no longer using him. In fact she was prepared to put her life at risk to save him. Perhaps they found a love which few of us have experienced. A love in which both participants are only concerned about the welfare of the other.’

‘How can you possibly know that? You told us that this is based on a story Geoffrey Chaucer stiched together. As you said at our last meeting, he certainly can tell a good story. Is it all just a story or is it fact?’

‘It is all based on what Geoffrey’s wife Pipa de Roet told him and she was Ximene’s best friend.’

‘ Ximene was trying to get to Sicily, but her friends Pipa and Alyse  had separated from her and gone to Bordeaux with the Prince. Alyse was going to impersonate Ximene in Bordeaux to draw attention away from where she really was, how did that work out’

Henry jumped to his feet to attract attention. ‘We learned that Pipa was the  Prince’s cousin, can that be right? I did not know that Chaucer was so well connected.’

Humphry frowned .’ We are supposed to be learning about the background of the Countess of Shaftsbury, but we havent mentioned her yet.’

Andrew looked around failing to hide his amusement. good you really were listening carefully last time. Perhaps we should continue, by the end of tonight you should  have a better understanding. It will all become much clearer.’

Andrew drew a deep breath, sat down and filled his mug with beer.

‘We are in the village of Monsegur on the northern edge of the pyrenees in June 1355. John Stanley has been critically injured and seems likely to die.

Ximene finds him on the battlefield and despite his injuries decides  he must be saved…

 

The most dangerous woman in the world

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