Pipa de Roet- 11 November 1363
Joan welcomed her visitors on the waterfront just in front of the Palais de l’Ombriere. ‘I am so pleased to see you. I think you already know that there will be a state dinner in your honour in three days time, but there will be a small private dinner to morrow night.
As they turned turned to enter the Porte Cailhau Joan remembered to ask the right question. ‘Blanche how are your children?’
Phillipa is fine, we will visit Portugal after we leave here to finalise arrangements for her betrothal to the heir to the throne. John however is a sickly child. I did not want to leave him but I was convinced he would be well looked after by doctors and nurses.’
‘I am glad to hear it.’ She choked on the words. inside she was burning because after more than two years of marriage to the Black Prince she had failed to concieve. She was still yearning for a son to secure the succession. If she failed to produce son, there was a possibility that Philippa’s sickly son would inherit the throne.’
She took a deep breath and stopped in the centre of the great hall. gentlemen I want to take the ladies to my private appartments where they can refresh themselve. We should meet later in the state reception room, up there.’
She pointed to the balcony which ran the full length of the inner wall of the great hall. She turned to the cluster of servants now gathered aroud her. Please show the gentlemen to their rooms and move all the luggage. The servants moved of to one end of the great hall and Joan guided the ladies to the other end. She led them up a wide staircase where they were faced with a long, blank wall and one central door.
She threw open the door and they were faced with a blaze of light and views down the river. She pointed at the overhanging roof. ‘ it is very clever from nowuntil april light floods into this room but in summer, when the sun is higher, it is totally shaded.
She produced two bottles of Limoux ,suitably cool. ‘Something I have caught from you Pipa. The local wine merchants find it impossible to forgive me for importing wine to bordeaux.’ She fluttered her eyelashes, ‘Until I smile at them of course.
Now to business. Blanche I take it you know Pipa? Blanche smiled icily and nodded in Pipa’s direction. I know of her of course, my husbands clerk Geoffrey Chaucer never stops talking about her. I believe they were in Ireland together in the Court of the Duke of Clarence.’
Pipa blinked and her face stiffened
‘And Alyse. of course The Queens companion or should I say the Kings companion. I am a little surprised you managed to sneak away. I believe the King can be quite demanding. She turned and gazed intently at Joan
Joan groaned, this was not a good start, how on earth could she break down the barriers she could see forming before her eyes,
‘Downstairs we have a place where we might bathe. It is newly constructed and very pleasant, we should continue our discussions down there.’
‘Oh! But this is unbelievable. Alyse stood on tip toe hands over her face gazing through her fingers. It is exactly the same as the cavern at Foix.
Joan nodded. ‘Except it is marble, not stone’
Pipa chipped in.
Joan chuckled ‘I never visited the cavern. only heard about it from other people.’
Alyse continued. ‘Same four baths cut in the floor. same waterfall, and streams of water floor.’
‘It is so warm down here.’
Heating under the floor warmed by flues from a concealed boiler and that is where it is different the water which runs into the baths stays there and drains away continuously the waterfall can be swithed on and off because the boiler has a limited capacity. Nevertheless it is a wonderful experience.’
Joan removed her clothes and descended fom the balcony immersing herself in the nearest bath. Pipa and Alyse followed suit but stopped half way down the steps as blanche lingered full dressed on the balcony.
I cannot do this I have never been naked in front of other people not even servants.’
Once again Joan groaned. she sees pipa and alyse as servants she has not even taken the trouble to ask who they acually are.she climbed out of the bath and climbed back up the stairs.
She signalled Pipa and Alyse to come back to the balcony and when they had all pulled on a gown they settled down round one of the tables on the balcony.
Truly, the fairest company
Of ladies that ever man might see
All together in one place.
Shall I call it luck or grace
Among these ladies thus each one
Truth to tell, I saw only one
In all the world so did she
Surpass them all in her beauty,
In manners and in comeliness,
In stature and in fitting gladness,
In excellence, and form’s display –
In short, what more can I say?