Alyse intervened. With your permission Madame President I would like to introduce a little structure into proceedings. Perhaps I might ask Diana a few questions.
Joan thoghy about the reques for several seconds before nodding. ‘Very dood, but do remember Alyse this is a court of love nota court of law.
Thank you Madame President. she stood up moved to the centre of the circle and adressed Ximene. Diana. what do you think is the most important aspect of the Cathar faith?
Ximene glanced around the room. ‘My Grandmother taught me that one of the central tenants, perhaps the central tenant of the Cathar faith is that women must be in control of sexual relationships. That affairs of the heart are more important than marriage.
Alyse moved to one side tuning in a gesture of deference to Joan. ‘I see, Diana and did you accept that teaching?’
‘Yes I did’
‘And, do you see taking pleasure from sexual acts as sinful?
Absolutely not. Sexual pleasure is god’s gift to the human race. It is a sample of what re-union with the good god will be like.
‘Not that sexual pleasure should be reserved for the procreation of children.’
‘Again absolutely not, in fact during sexual activity care should be taken to avoid the procreation of children.The only justification for the procreation of children is to provide heros who will carry our faith forward to future generations, to teach those future generations how to attain reunion with the Good God.
‘I need to ask you to expand on that, Reunion?’
‘Well, that this world is a material hell, the realm of the bad god… Set or Satan if you must. Our objective must be to escape from this hell to regain unity with the good God, the power behind the universe.’
Alyse did a pirouette. ‘ Thank you, Diana. and now i must ask the members of the court are these the princles on which the court will make it’s decisions. Do you share Ximene’s Faith?
Joan nodded, ‘You have completed your questions Alyse? ‘
Then we should continue,
The members of the court of love discussed the information Ximene had put before them. The conversation eventually dissolved into several different conversations. As they competed with each other for attention , members of the court raised their voices louder and louder.
Joan rang her bell. ‘Ladies, ladies! Can we try to concentrate on Diana’s problem? Of course we first have to define Diana’s problem. Eve?
Eve de Clavering cleared her throat. ‘Thank you Joan. Diana is describing a world we would all like to live in, but for most of us it is just not achievable. As I understand it Diana, all this…’ She waved her hand above her head gazing to every corner of the great hall, ‘is yours and yours alone. You could do whatever you want within these walls. Courts of love are intended to offer advice, what advice do you need. Why are you appearing before us?’
Ximene sighed. ‘ What I have described is an ideal, given to me as a reality by my grandmother.’ She sighed again. ‘I do not know wether this ever worked, perhaps it did in times when most households were Cathar, but it certainly doesn’t now where most of the households are adherents of the Church of Rome and consider such activities at the very best sinful and at the worst heretical.
I have a group of friends who increasingly do not comply with the model I have just described. They are forming relationships with men who can offer them security or give them access to power but who have no particular romantic skills. my friends appear to be willing to be treated as possessions.’
Eve attempted to speak again but was waved down by Joan.
Joan nodded in Eve’s direction. ’Sorry Eve but I must have my say. Diana, I have always regarded your situation as almost ideal but I have known for some time that it was not working out quite the way you intended. You have told us about your ideal world. However what your friends do is up to them. What exactly is your problem?’
Ximene frowned. ‘The men who come calling on me are interested mainly in my wealth. They come to negotiate mergers or alliances not to give me expressions of love. Despite the approaches being almost business proposals the idea that I may choose to share my favours with other men is abhorrent to them.’
‘Do they know that is your intention.’
Only when they are actually listening to what I say. And may of them do not listen at all.’
Now Eve did prevail.’ Are surprised by that?’
Elizabeth de Badlesmere shook her head. “Welcome to the real world Diana. It has been this way for at least one hundred years. I have no idea where your grandmother lived or where you were brought up but it must have been the last bastion of the Cathar faith. What advice do you now want?’
‘From what I was taught, I do not believe that men and women are naturally monogamous. Even in the environment imposed on us by the Church of Rome there will be from time to time other relationships. In my opinion it will better if those relationships occur naturally with the knowledge of both partners. It would, I believe be better to associate with the best men in the full light of day than with the worst of men surruptiously in the dead of night.’
Eve groaned. ‘Wonderful concept, but I wonder, in the world we live in who would want to share that life? Have you got someone in mind?’
‘I am considering, well perhaps a little more than that, extending a relationship with a man I like and respect. I have somehow got to get him to accept this different way of living.’
Joan leaned forward. ‘As president of this court Diana I must tell you you must give specific details. You are protected by the privilege accorded to the appellants to this court. You must tell us with whom you are considering a longer term relationship, how long you have known him and what he has to offer.’
Ximene gulped. ‘Joan you know who it is’
‘I think I do, but the members of the court also need to know’
‘It is John Stanley, he is a captain in the Prince’s Guard and the tournament champion of Europe.’
Eve was the only one who reacted ‘Oh, just let me get this right, you have an existing relationship with John Stanley, but you want to share him with other women?’
‘ Well, yes, robbed of the Cathar culture, I would like to simulate the Cathar experience, to avoid circumstances in which he feels a need to find other relationships without my knowledge.’
Joan threw her arms up in the air. ‘And you have a plan to achieve that?’
Joan of Kent asked the question again. ‘Have you got a plan.’
Suddenly Ximene was heading towards an area she felt reluctant to enter.
‘Alright then. Answer this. Has he already got a relationship with another woman.?’
‘His relationship with my best friend Pipa is wonderful, but she has never been in bed with him on her own. I have always been there.’
‘And Pipa is?’
‘Joan…you know her well.’
‘I do indeed but the others possibly do not.’
‘ Pipa is Philippa De Roet, is my oldest and closest friend. She is the niece of Queen Phillipa, although I did not know of that relationship until quite recently. We met when her father was constable of the castle at Beaufort in Comminges, which is close to where I was living.
Pipa has always wanted to be part of my relationship with John and John has tolerated that.’
Joan laughed. ‘Tolerated?’
Ximene blushed. ‘ No he enjoyed it. Joan you have too much inside information. It is preventing you from being impartial.’
‘Not true. But you must tell us the truth if we are to advise you. Tell me Diana why did you stop seeing John Stanley?…and stop seeing Pipa in the same period? I can understand there may possibly be reasons to have kept your relationship secret from the general populace, but why no little trysts?’
There is another complication in my life. I decided to create enough wealth to establish a haven for Cathars. I thought that all that would be necessary would be that I would become a landowner and obtain the protection of a benevolent king.
In order to pursue this objective I expose myself to significant risk. I felt some secrecy was needed. I decided to cut off contact with many people who without intending to, might help lead agents of the Church of Rome to my various refuges. My relationship with John and Pipa suffered as a result.’
‘And have you succeeded in this endeavor of setting up a haven?’
To a certain extent, but it has become increasingly obvious that although kings are prepared to turn a blind eye if there is no evidence of any Cathar activity, it quickly changes if a Cathar presence becomes obvious. The King, any king will be forced by the Pope to take action against us. Therefore probably in some way, I must become the absolute ruler of a territory.’
Joan laughed and again stroked the arms of her chair. ‘ So you told me false, you do want to be Queen. At least Queen of somewhere.’
‘I honestly don’t know. Even if I was Queen, it would still be possible for another ruler to attack me and again eradicate those who cling to the Cathar culture. I am becoming aware that Cathars will have to become a secret sect. Without wanting to, we will have to follow the church of Rome’s conventions on marriage.’
Joan buried her forehead in her hands.
‘So you cut yourself off. However I happen to know John and Pipa were in both Paris and Bordeaux at the same time. In fact John has acquired a reputation as a ladies man mainly because of his association with Pipa. Is it not possible that they did go to bed together without your prescence.
Ximene snapped ’It is possible but I doubt it.’
Eve de Clavering narrowed her eyes. ‘Interesting, just for a moment your voice changed. I think you may be jealous of that possibility.’
Ximene ignored the suggestion. ‘ I feel that I must find other women for him. Despite what he says I believe he still would like to keep me for himself…not the cathar ideal. Relationships with other women would put a stop to that.’
‘And Pipa will not provide that, Pipa has not provided that?
‘No it is different. Pipa is part of a menage à trois. It is “our” relationship; not “my” relationship, not “his” relationship.’
Isabel von Julch sighed and straightened her back. ‘ But now you do not see either of them. Do you plan to have relationships with other men.? Or Women?
‘Possibly but not until I have made it work for John.’
‘Until you have made it work for him? Isn’t he capable of living his own life?
‘John is wonderful. I think anyone would want to be with him. He is courteous, brave and very talented as a soldier, as a troubadour… Ximene lowered her voice, ‘And as a lover.‘
Isabel sighed again. ‘But? I sense there is a but.’
Sexually he does not take the initiative. He will go along with anything I want, but like the good soldier he is, he waits for his orders.’
Now Isabel laughed. ‘ Where do I find this man? I volunteer to be the other woman.’
‘They all roared with laughter.’
‘And for you Diana, has there already been someone else?
Ximene blushed. ’Yes there is, Thierry d’Arques. His skills are as a sailor, navigator, merchant and trader. I have know him as long as I have known John. He has a superb physique. He is however self absorbed. He is good at what he does…’ Ximene seached for the correct words. ‘Perfectly acceptable as long as you know that is how it is. It is a bit like making love to machine. A woman is just another tick on his list.’
Joan chuckled. ‘Oh, I think he is a bit better than that.’
She hid her eyes with her hand. ‘Of course, it was many years ago.’
Elizabeth de Baldesmere’s eyes widened. ‘ If he has your seal of approval Joan, then he must be quite something.’ She looked carefully at Ximene. ‘He was the only one?’
Not quite, Some years ago when I became disapointed with the men I was meeting, I joined The Society. I wanted to meet men in something which approximated to the cathar experience. The Society is a very secret organisation. Invitation only. In theory no one knows the identity of other members.
Membership fees are high which in itself provides security and there is a complicated initiation ceremony. They hold enjoyable social functions but there is also the opportunity for sexual encounters with a number of different partners. Both men and women take part in games of various kinds in which sexual favours are exchanged. However women are always in controI. I think it might originally been a Cathar society but if so there have been many changes.
One of the regular features of the society is tournaments between the men. No horses, no lances, just bare knuckles. They fight virtually naked, wearing very brief shorts and ther bodies covered in oil. The winner of the tournament gets to choose the woman with whom he wants to spend the night.
The woman can say no, but social pressure in the room, women as well as men, makes that difficult. I did succum on a couple of occasions. I have discovered that I have penchant for men who are athletic , slim and well muscled.
Elizabeth of Baldesmere groaned. ‘Don’t we all?’
Joan looked around. ‘Are we ready to give advice? There was murmured assent. ‘Very well I will go first.’