Chapter 11(Edit) The Black Prince 19/3/55

19 March 1355

The Black Prince strode towards Westminster Hall, the public entry to the Royal Palace of Westminster. On the journey from Shrewsbury, he had used two of his own horses—riding one, whilst leading the other on a loose rein, giving each appropriate respite. Post horses would have quickened the trip, but at least he now had his best horses with him in London.

He kept a stable of horses, both racehorses and tournament chargers, in a professionally managed stable outside the palace. The stable also used land by the river at Staines for pasture and breeding. This arrangement allowed him complete control of the management and training of his horses, but also concealed the costs from his father.

The Hall of Westminster was nearly three hundred years old. In winter, smoke bellowed eagerly from the fireplaces, but today it spewed only from the stalls of food vendors that lined the walls. Even on a pleasant morning such as this one, the hall appeared dark and gloomy.

The hall was packed with people who wished to plead their case to the King or his councillors. Two sets of columns ran the considerable length of the chamber. These columns gave the effect of an exceptionally large hall, separated into three exceptionally long cloisters. Due to the pitching of the pillars, one could not see from one cloister to the next. On days such as today, the main activities of the King’s Court occupied three of the corners of Westminster Hall.

The fourth corner was reserved for the King’s visitors. People who had appointments to see the King himself or one of his senior courtiers could wait there until a lackey escorted them to their appointments. The Prince had heard stories of people meeting their wives, getting married and having children in the King’s corner while waiting for an appointment! He chuckled at the thought.

Like all public places, commerce took place. Clerks, legal advisors, lobbyists, food vendors and even prostitutes plied their trade. Even today, the Prince found himself confronted by a particularly young and particularly pretty girl.

The girl moved to separate herself from the crush, leaning against a column, allowing herself to be noticed. Her low-cut bodice, made of the finest cloth, constrained her breasts. The Prince offered but a glance in her direction and immediately she pulled aside her blouse to reveal a superb breast. She added a cheeky wink and an alluring smile. He shook his head and moved on. He heard her swear in annoyance.

Only a couple of months earlier, he might have been interested, but currently he revelled in his reunion with Joan of Kent, and so he cut through to the royal lounge with minimum delay.

He knew he was late! He recognised and greeted Sir Ralph Stafford, Seneschal of Aquitaine, who was waiting outside the lounge. The Prince burst open the door without waiting to be announced or to receive assistance.

‘Ah! Here at last. Did you read the note I sent you?’

The Prince nodded to his father and then rushed to his mother, kneeling before her and kissing her hand.

‘Edward?’ repeated his father.

The Prince rose and kissed his mother’s forehead.

‘Edward, did you read the note?’

The Prince finally turned and faced his father.

‘Of course, you want me to marry the daughter of some minor lord from the Pyrenees. That is why I am here.’

‘Did you really read my note; are you aware of whom this lady is?’

The Prince knew everything his father knew and a little more besides.

‘Yes, I know, father, and it seems to me…’

But King Edward cut him off. ‘I think I would like to hear some additional information before coming to any conclusions.’ He turned to the flunkey. ‘Bring in Sir Ralph.’

Sir Ralph Stafford, younger than King Edward, was clearly overweight. Nevertheless, it would not have been unreasonable to take them as twins. Sir Ralph wore the same full moustache and beard and had the same shape nose and ears. The King greeted him as a brother, patting Sir Ralph’s stomach, his other hand on Sir Ralph’s shoulder.

‘The Seneschal of Aquitaine eats well, Sir Ralph?’

‘Eating well is an essential element of entertaining your friends… and enemies, Sire.’

The King’s philosophical mood showed. ‘The last ten years have brought the worst and the best to all of us.’

‘The worst would be the Death?’

‘Without doubt. We have all lost people we loved.’

‘And the best?’ Sir Ralph cocked his head.

‘The truce with the Franks, despite the Death or perhaps because of it. We have been given years of peace, time for my son and many others to grow to manhood, time for me to get to know my wife. Soon, I fear, it will end. On the last day of the tournament at Woodstock, I had a premonition that we are at the end of an age, the age of chivalry.’

‘I fear, Sire, that in Aquitaine, it has already ended.’

‘Is there, then, little consideration for rules of combat or chivalry in Aquitaine?’

The Prince gazed into the roaring fire. In his opinion, Aquitaine was a mess.

‘No, Sire. The French have tolerated, perhaps encouraged, roving armies, known as Routiers. They are led, and mainly comprised of, mercenaries, which both the Franks and ourselves have used.’


‘Travellers, if you like. They have no apparent territorial ambitions, but they prey on unguarded houses or even towns in the border areas and increasingly outside of the borders. Our supporters suffer more than the Frankish supporters. Murder and rape are tools of trade for these animals. They use terror to extract payment, which they call taxes, and even payment does not guarantee safety.’

‘Can’t you control them?’

‘We use many of our resources making regular forays into the wider area nominally under our control, to relieve towns and where possible attack the Routiers. We are successful in repelling them, as the last thing they want is a set-piece battle, in which English and Welsh archers could be employed. They are cowards; they simply vanish, retreating to the east, beyond Toulouse. The entire charade wastes time, money and manpower.’

‘They retreat to areas controlled by the Franks … and what happens there?’

‘The Franks have occupied old Occitan by building new towns, bastides, and populating them with Northern Franks. The Routiers leave the bastides alone but prey on the settlements inhabited by Occitaines. Steadily but surely, the Occitaines are leaving for Aragon or even Grenada, the Moorish kingdom in the south.’

‘They would prefer Moorish rule to dealing with these Routiers? Do the Franks do nothing to control them?’

‘No, Sire. Then the Routiers reform at another place and another time and return to our lands. Consequently, towns are wasting resources turning themselves into fortresses complete with moats, battlements and fortified drawbridges. Trade has collapsed. Farmers have left the fields; the economy is in ruins. Without fighting a single formal battle, the Franks continually extend their territory. And everywhere they go they build bastides.’

‘And does this affect all of Aquitaine?’

Sir Ralph explained that he had brought his own map, which showed the current territories under English control. He unrolled it on the table in front of the King.

‘Over the last hundred and fifty years, we have lost control of huge swathes of our own lands. Our strategy was to establish secure frontiers with major geographic features delineating the boundary. Long before my time, we chose the Loire and the Massif Central—’

‘I don’t require a history lesson, Sir Ralph.’

‘Of course, Sire. We now try to use the Garonne River as our boundary. We would like to extend it north as far as the River Lot or even the Dordogne, but those lands are currently in dispute. Even during the Death there has been sporadic fighting. We have managed to secure harbours on the northern bank of the Garronne. La Reole, Aigullion and Agen have all fallen to us, and the other ports tolerate our presence. In the aftermath of the Albigensian Crusade, we lost control of the area around Toulouse, including the river crossings. The area to the east of Toulouse, Occitan, was at that time part of Aragon, governed by the Comte de Carcassonne, Raimon Trencavel.’

‘The present, the present, Sir Ralph!’ The King slammed a fist on the table.

‘Yes, Sire, but this is relevant. Under the excuse of eliminating heresy, during the Albigensian Crusade the Franks stole the Trencavel lands. This is where the Routiers now hide from us, and it is the route the Northern Franks use to consolidate gains. The Franks move down the Rhone valley, though the Occitan territories, Beziers, Narbonne, Carcassonne and then up through Toulouse.’

‘So the lands of Occitan are important to us?’

‘Absolutely, Sire. There is no doubt that the Comte d’Armagnac is defecting partly because we cannot protect him from either the Franks or the Routiers, who use the river crossing at Toulouse to infiltrate his territory.’

‘And the supposed heiress to Occitan territories, Ximene Trencavel?’

‘I know little about her, Sire, but one does hear rumours.’

‘She is the niece of the Comte de Foix, both the Comte and his Holiness seem to think her claim is genuine, and they want to marry her to the Prince.’

‘Really?’ Sir Ralph said. His cheeks reddened and he turned his head away, only to look back at the King again, wide-eyed.

‘Really!’ His smile grew too big for his face. ‘If we could gain control of Occitan, we might be able to stabilise the whole of Aquitaine.’

‘That is useful information,’ said the King. ‘Now, I must tell you that Monsieur Froissart has spent most of the winter negotiating with the Comte de Foix and the Pope to obtain an agreement on a marriage between the Prince and Ximene Trencavel.’

Sir Ralph pouted a little. ‘As Seneschal of Aquitaine, I do believe I should have been told of this.’

The King rose from his table and put his arm around Sir Ralph’s shoulders. ‘I did not want to bother you with something that could have been of little importance. But the information you’ve just given me confirms its importance and the Prince has heard for himself.’ He glanced at his son. ‘You have heard, haven’t you Edward?’

King Edward gently steered Sir Ralph towards the door. The King now spoke in a regal tone. ‘Sir Ralph, you must report all this to my lords in Parliament.’ He lifted his eyebrows. ‘Do your best to convince them, Sir Ralph. If they do not give me more of their wealth, we will not be able to extend or even defend our empire in the south and in the end, that will affect them all, even those who have no possessions in Aquitaine.’

When the door had closed, the King walked back to the window. ‘This is probably the most important year of your life, Edward. Aquitaine is in great strife and in need of a strong leader. If I move to Bordeaux, it is likely we will lose the north of England to the Scots and, perhaps, England itself to one of the more powerful barons. We need a new initiative against the Franks. I will play my part to communicate to everyone that you have my support, but you must take control in Aquitaine, and build a new and more powerful state!’

The Prince heard the opportunity he had been waiting for. ‘We must wage war more vigorously and make it clear that it is in pursuit of your claim to the Frankish throne. If we can win that war then all the French lords will be forced to swear fealty to you. Any who refuse could be replaced by lords or the younger sons of lords from English families. That may well win the support of our nobility, and not a moment too soon, as they have become increasingly disinterested in the needs of Aquitaine.’

The King nodded once. ‘The same tactic the Franks used in Occitan.’ He raised a hand. ‘Talking of which, what say you to Ximene Trencavel and her inheritance?’

‘The same applies to Occitan. It must not be a question of making them independent. The lords of Occitan must be made to swear fealty to you. Any other solution will simply extend our difficulties. The only way to defeat these routiers is to drive them out of Occitan and then impose our rule.’ He hesitated. ‘I am not sure whether this solution will be acceptable to the Comte de Foix or his ward.’

The King smiled icily. ‘Ximene, Edward! Her name is Ximene.’ He sighed. ‘But you are right. We must find out exactly what terms will be acceptable to the Comte … and to Ximene.’ He flicked his head in exasperation. ‘She apparently wishes to re-establish the Cathar faith in Occitan.’

The Prince stared carefully at his father, considering his reply.

‘The religion is an issue,’ the Prince said finally. ‘It will be up to us to persuade her to adopt our model, where we tolerate rather than support the Cathar religion, and we shall limit the activities of the Inquisition to a point where they cannot uncover privately held beliefs.’

The King smiled and approached his son. ‘Edward, you live in a world of black and white—no room for shades of grey.’ He put an arm around the Prince’s shoulder. ‘In this case, I agree with you, but do not look for differences that will cause difficulty. Let the details of an agreement unfold. I believe that an essential part of your strategy must be to marry this girl. To find out what she wants, you will meet her at Muret at the beginning of June. The details, I leave to you.’

The Prince eyed his father. ‘I will do as you wish and to show our commitment to… Ximene, once we have dealt with the Comte d’Armagnac, we will invade Occitan and disturb these Routiers in the places they like to hide. If the Franks in their bastides do not wish to assist us, so be it. We will disturb them also. By the time I have finished, the Routiers will no longer see Occitan as a safe haven. While I am there, I will seek conference with lords and nobles, to test out their support for … Ximene.’

The King’s eyes bulged. ‘Edward, the details are yours, but be careful. Do not over extend yourself. These Routiers will not comply with rules of chivalry. They will attack without warning. They are devious and, from what we have been told, ruthless.’

He relaxed then. Looking at his son, he sighed and then smiled.

‘You must do what you must do. In any case, the Routiers business will be later in the year. In the meantime, to meet Ximene at Murat in June, you will have to leave in advance of the main army.’

From her seat by the fire Queen Phillipa nodded her agreement. The Prince walked to his mother and kissed her cheek. He turned and gave a curt half bow to his father, signifying that he believed his audience over.

‘And so I will leave immediately to make the necessary arrangements.’

The King had followed the Prince across the room and hurriedly reached out and caught him by the arm.

‘One last thought. Terminate your relationship with Joan of Kent. She will never accept a position as your mistress, so you must never see her again…’

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The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents



List of Places

Table of Contents

Pseudo History


Extract from The Prisoner of Foix--Chapter 43 -The EntranceNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley-26th April 1355


'Looks like we are going to see a bit of excitement, John. The Captain tried to get an agreement from the Prince that if there is surf running across the channel to Arcachon we will turn back to Bordeaux, but the Prince would hear none of it. Instead, he has offered to provide insurance for all three ships. If they are damaged or sunk, the owners will be compensated and every sailor who makes the passage will be given a bounty payment. What none of this seems to take into account is that if we sink in rough, fast-flowing waters we might all drown.'

John raised his eyebrows. 'But that is what we are going to do?'

'Yes, despite the fact that surf running accross the entrance is not uncommon and the deep water channel moves continually. In the end, the Prince attacked their captains on their weakest point, their professional pride! He threw down the gauntlet. He offered to take the Sally first through the channel, and to take control during the passage.' He raised his brow. 'We are going into the Bay of Arcachon, come what may! '

Extract from The Eagle of Carcassone -- Chapter 24-- A Real GoddessNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley - 22 July 1355

An hour later John walked with Ximene close to the river along the valley below St Feriole. It was the very essence of a summer’s day. The sun was fierce but in the shadow of the trees, it was cool and fragrant. The trees and shrubs along the riverbank hid their progress, from the Château, from St Feriole.

Eventually they reached a point where John thought it was safe to emerge from cover. To his satisfaction the stream extended into a pool with a sandy beach, shaded by trees. Where the stream entered the pool there was a flat grassy area, almost circular. Behind this, the bulk of two mountain ridges provided a splendid backdrop. He looked around once more ‘Not just a good training ground but a great training ground. If the Greek heroes knew about this they might be tempted to join me, to train with me’

Ximene laughed out loud. He turned to look at her. She had removed her outer clothes and was wearing a white chemise, cut short so that it barely reached her knees. Around her waist, she wore a plaited leather belt, obviously fashioned from the multitude of leather straps to be found in the tackle room.

She ran her hands down over her breasts. ‘When you were unconscious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so  I have decided that from now on, for you, I will be the goddess.’

The Prisoner of FoixVol 1 of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

Aquitaine, an English possession, is in crisis. It is under threat from neighbouring nations and internal dissension.

The Black Prince, King Edward III’s eldest son has been given the task of taking command in Aquitaine.

Suddenly there is an opportunity. Ximene Trencavel is the heiress to the lands of Occitan, to the east of Aquitaine: lands controlled by the Franks. Ximene wants independence, both for herself and for Occitan.

A union between Aquitaine and Occitan would be mutually beneficial. The Black Prince undertakes a secret journey to meet Ximene to negotiate a marriage contract. It is, however, a marriage neither of them really wants.

Meanwhile, the  Franks plot to murder Ximene to prevent ,not just the marriage, but any kind of union between England and Occitan.

The Eagle Of CarcassonneVol II of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

The loose alliance between Ximene Trencavel and the Black Prince is under threat.

The Prince invades Occitan, to show his support for Ximene but it becomes an invasion which creates more problems than it solves.

The Prince has fallen hopelessly in love with Joan of Kent and Joan is now determined to marry him and become the next Queen of England.

Joan is therefore  determined to convince Ximene that she should not marry the Prince.

Part of her strategy is to encourage Ximene’s relationship with John Stanley—one of the Princes bodyguards—not an easy task as both John and Ximene have doubts about their compatibility.

However, John is grievously injured in a battle and Ximene commits herself to nurse him back to health.