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 hunting dogs and turned to face his guests.

Shall we continue with our Winters’ Tale?


Henry d’Acre raised his mug in the air. ‘Wonderful food, great beer, of course, let’s continue.’

There was a murmour of assent.

Henry still held his mug in the air. ‘However I must confess to being somewhat puzzled. We learned at the last session that King Edward and the Pope… now there is a surprising combination… both wanted the Prince to marry Ximene Trencavel, but she could not make up her mind. Ximene was the heiress of Toulouse, Albi, Carcassonne and Beziers, and she had ambitions of bringing them together, as the independent state of Occitan.’

He paused and frowned. ‘Joan of Kent was involved in all this as she had ambitions to marry the Prince herself, against the wishes of his father, King Edward. Was that problem resolved? Did Joan outmanouvre Ximene? I don’t think that was clear.’


Andrew stoked the heads of both his dogs before he took a circuitous route 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, and to answer your question; Joan of Kent’s position was strengthening but still not resolved.

He pulled out his chair,  sat down and took a sip of beer. ‘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 what she saw as the potential control of the Prince. She was politically adept, adaptable and an able negotiator.’

He glanced down, disturbed as 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.

He paused and nodded to the far end of the table. ‘Yes Bart?’

Bartholomew de Burghersh pushed his chair back from the table and stood up. ‘We heard a lot about John Stanley. Do you think Ximene deliberately manipulated him? She went to a lot of trouble to win his support. The most elaborate seduction I have ever heard about.  It did not work out very well for him. did it?  At the end of our last session he was critically injured on a battlefield whilst helping Ximene escape.

Andrew frowned. ‘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 own 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.’

Bartholomew objected. ‘How can you possibly know that? You told us that this is based on a story Geoffrey Chaucer stitched together. As you said at our last meeting, Geoffrey 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.

We did cover that. Alyse, who many people judged to be a twin of Ximene, impersonated Ximene in Bordeaux to draw attention away from where she really was.

Ralph Basset now jumped to his feet. ‘We learned that Pipa was the  Prince’s cousin, can that be right?  She is now Chaucer’s wife? I did not know that Chaucer was so well connected.’

Edward le Dispenser frowned. ‘We are supposed to be learning about the background of the Countess of Shaftsbury, the source of her wealth and power, and that is important to me, but we havent heard a whisper about her yet.’


Andrew looked around, not attempting to hide his amusement. ‘Good, you really were listening carefully last time. I am surprised however that you have not mentioned the evil du Gueslin and what a threat he was to Ximene and John Stanley. 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, and filled his mug.

‘We are near 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, she decides he must be saved…

 

The most dangerous woman in the world

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