‘No, Joan not just yet.’ Everyone turned to gaze at Alyse.
‘I believe Diana has answered your questions truthfully but it does not give you the whole picture. I would like to make a short presentation on her behalf’
Joan shrugged her shoulders. ‘Just remember Alyse, this is a court of love, not a court of law.’
‘The principles are the same.’
Alyse took a deep breath and engaged the eyes of everone present including Ximene. She took sometime over it.
Joan turned away but then returned Alyse’s stare.’ Please continue.’
‘Diana is in love with a remarkable man, who nearly lost his life protecting her. It is not lust, passion or pleasure. It is love. That feeling is reciprocated. However they made a decision to live separate lives so that they would be able to help each other to progress without any one else knowing of their relationship. The concept was to avoid the petty jealousy which could have occurred if their relationship was public knowledge. They became indivisably but invisibly entwined. It was a wonderful concept which with the benefit of hindsight was totally unnecessary.’
Joan interjected, softly, sympathetically. “Unnecessary?’
‘Yes. perhaps it was justifyable for the first couple of years. But Diana has made her way through society and John is highly regarded as a military strategist. The separation was totally unnecessary. No-one today would find it unusual forJohn stanley to be living with Diana. there would be no risk of Diana’s other “activities” being revealed.
But then there is the other side of the equation. Diana loves this man so much that she wants him to experience everything in life to it’s fullest extent. She is personally very selective in her choice of partners but she wants him to experience alternatives. She would extend her love to anyone with whom he developed a relationship.
As she told you earlier, her Cathar upbringing has made her believe that it is wrong for a man to own a woman and that it is equally wrong for a woman to own a man.
Madam President, Ladies of the Court, that is the issue you must address.
Alyse took a series of very deep breaths.
Joan nodded in her direction. ‘Thank you Alyse, your contibution has been helpful. It has significantly affected my reply.’
She started to speak stopped and then started again. ‘Diana I think you have got it slightly wrong. There is nothing in the Cathar faith which legislates against monogamy. Some people are naturally monogamous. It is of course extremely important that if that is to work, both partners in a relationship have this same preference.
The Cathar faith simply says that there is no sin in sexual pleasure. This makes it possible for those who are not monogamous, those who have relations with someone of the same sex, to live their lives without feelings of guilt or shame. It also means that those in a long term monogamous relationship can enjoy the pleasure of sex, even when there is no intention to have children.’
All the ladies, including Alyse, nodded sagely.
Eve de Clavering cleared her throat.‘I think there is another factor at work. I believe you have attended this court because you have a guilt complex. Whilst you have been separated from John Stanley you have taken lovers. As far as you know he has not.’
‘ Well as a matter of fact he did get married’
‘But he never consummated the marriage and his wife left him. It was in Armagnac at the time of redrawing the boundaries after the treaty of Bretigny. He agreed to marry a girl to save her from an unwanted marriage to someone else. Based on what I and my Grandmother had told him he thought that marriage was irrelevant. He never loved her nor was he sexually attracted to her.’
‘And how did you learn about this?’
‘Through Pipa.’ she sighed ‘I did not tell you this before, I was not trying to be secretive, but I visited him in Armagnac and tried to get them to consummate the marriage.’
‘That must have been interesting. What happened’
‘She was very resistant to any advice. I gave her a practical demonstration of John’s preferences. She was horrified. I believe she was totally indoctrinated by the Church of Rome. She believed that any pleasure from sex was sinful. Worse than that she did not want to discuss the matter. She found it distastful!’
Ximene shrugged. ‘Eventually, we left her to her own devices and spent a wonderful two weeks by the lake at Biscarrosse. She found out, obtained an annulment, and married the man from whom she originally wanted to escape.’
‘Oh! well! It does then take on a very different aspect, but it strengthens my opinion that you feel guilty about your relationship with Thierry d’Arques.. and the members of the Society.’
Joan broke in. ‘We must now offer Diana some advice. What is certain is that things cannot be allowed to continue the way they are.’
She gazed deep into Ximene’s eyes.
Diana, Diana if you are not careful John will change his lifestyle, independent of you and exclude you from it, which I think is exactly what you don’t want. You must take action. Let us deal first with Pipa.’
Eve de Clavering chortled. ‘Surely this is quite easily arranged. You all know and love each other. You are intimate friends. John and Pipa should just go to bed together.’
Ximene objected. ‘But she has never shown any inclination to do that.’
Joan stretched out her hand. ‘Play a game where John is the prize and make sure you loose.’
‘However, be aware she might not be willing to play that game, it is possible that it is you she wants, not John. Surely you could discuss this with her?’
Joan, I think you know, Pipa is now involved in a relationship with the Duke of Lancaster… and with his wife Blanche.’
Yes I do… but she lives independantly in the Duke’s house at Winbourne Minster, not far from here.
‘So what would I do if it is me she wants and would prefer to exclude John?
‘Recognise the depth of her love for you. Continue your relationship with her but never again let her join you and John in the same bed. Separate the two relationships. Be careful Diana. All this assumes that you do not want a long term relationship involving the three of you. Examine your conscience and then test it out with John and Pipa. It may be that a long term menage à trois is exactly what you all want.’
And what would the Duke think about that.’
‘ I suspect he would be not pleased, but as we have been discussing all sexual relationships should be under the control of the woman.’
Joan rang her bell. She gazed around the group. ‘Good now before we address the second issue, which is Diana’s plan to encourage John having relationships with women other than Pipa de Roet, perhaps we should have more drinks.’
It took some while to summon the stewards, order the drinks and have them delivered. As this was happening the ladies split into groups arguing their opinions assertively.
Eventually Joan again rang her bell ‘ And now, the second topic.’
Eve de Clavering was the first to speak ‘This is not the Cathar way. You may find this personally empowering, but what about the other women, how does this address their freedoms. It is up to John to approach them and for them to give their favour… remember there may be other men from whom they will accept favours.’
Ximene was thoughtful. ‘ I had not previously considered that aspect. Well I had because that is the Cathar way. But… the way we live our lives legislates against the Cathar way. I must admit that I was thinking of acting as a broker between John and other women.’
Cecily broke in. ‘Oh! It happens, but it means that you want to control John , possibly own him, I repeat, it is not the Cathar way. Will your conscience be clear if you do this? ‘
Eve continued. ‘I believe it is possible for you to find other women, who would like to share a relationship of that type . I have never thought about it before, but an arrangement where you share a man with other women and none of you are expected to give their favours to any other man, comes closer to a Muslim household than to a Cathar relationship.’
Ximene responded immediately. ‘So a lady from a Muslim household, might be more inclined to accept such a situation.’
‘No, that is not what I said.’
Everyone looked at Isabel as she was the one who had first raised the Muslim question. She responded without enthusiasm. ‘I would have thought that most women would want to escape from such a repressive environment, but no, no, I have no idea how a Muslim lady copes with what we see as repressive, how they might view such a situation, what her expectations might be or how in fact it might be possible to engage the interest of such a lady who probably is embedded in a harem somewhere.’
Maude de Grey responded with a note of incredulity in her voice, ‘Are we really talking about Diana introducing John to a member of a harem somewhere, how would she do that?’
Ximene smiled. ‘I don’t think it is impossible, but even if I were to succeed,or if I found some other solution, how would I know I have got it right?.’
Elizabeth de Badlesmere narrowed her eyes. ‘One more question, when did you last see John?’
‘1362 in Biscarrosse after the failure of his marriage.
Four years, quite a long time. he has not tried to contact you.?’
‘No but that is my fault. He does not know where to find me.’
‘Perhaps, but it is quite possible you are no longer as central to his aspirations as he is to yours. I think that before exposing him and other women to your own machinations…’
Alyse interrupted. ‘Madam President, Ladies of the Court. I am under the impression that the objective of this court is to offer Diana advice not critisise her concepts . I would like to remind you of that. Can you concentrate on giving that advice.’
Joan lifted her eybrows but nodded. ‘ Sometimes it is difficult to separate advice from critisism,
Alyse tightened her eyes, ‘Try’
Elizabeth de Badlesmere frowned. Thank you Alyse. You are correct. I will re-phrase my last sentence. ‘Diana please devise some test of John’s committment to you before you embark on your scheme. It would be unfair to him and the other women you might involve if he is not totally commited to you. It would be good if you could make sure that the other woman… women understand what your intentions are and willing to comply.
’Joan rang her bell. ‘And our overall judgement?’
Cecily de Weyland was decisive. ‘ It does not matter wether Diana wants to do this from a sense of guilt or because she is trying to recreate a simulation of cathar culture in a different world. This is something Diana clearly feels she must do, she knows John much better than we do, She should go ahead and do it.’
Isabel von Julich breathed deeply. ’I don’t think There is any specific advice we can offer. You will only know Diana, by trying your scheme and seeing if it brings happiness, for you, for John and for the other woman, or perhaps women.
Eve de Clavering had the last word.’ I believe your relationship with John can only thrive if one way or another you discharge your sense of guilt. There is no guarantee that what you propose will bring you together but it is a catharsis’ she chuckled and shook her head. ‘Did I really say that? Anyway a challenge you will have to endure.
Just be aware that any woman you introduce to John may decide on her own future without discussing it with you. From what you have told us, it sounds as if John is inherently monogamous. It may be that he wants only you.
You have admitted to us that you are not inherently monogamous.
However, you may introduce him to another woman who is also inherently monogamous. They could then decide to exclude you because of this incompatibility.
I must admit I am not optimistic but we all wish you good fortune. I have absolutely no idea how you will carry out your plan.
Joan rung her bell. ‘Good luck Diana. Perhaps we might meet again at sometime in the future and review the outcome.’
Ximene waited until the room was cleared before pulling Joan to one side. ‘ I think that was useful but now I need your help… where is John Stanley? Help me find him.’
Joan smiled. I will ask the Prince he will probably know where he is.
Joan gripped Ximene’s shoulders and laughed out loud. ‘You devil, you. Why should you get all the fun?’Can I come? No. forget I said that.’