104 About Occitan

In 2002 I started a somewhat futile search For John Stanley’s first wife.

I had decided to follow the path taken by the Black Prince in 1355 on what has become known as Le Grand Chevauchee.

As a young man John had been with the Black Prince in 1355. If he did marry a frenchwoman then this would probably be where he met her.

The Grand Chevauchee is well recorded by several different people including Jean de Froissart and the Herald  of Chandos. but each of the chroniclers listed different places visited and indeed  different times  of the year when the Chevauchee took place.

Everywhere I went I visited whatever large houses welcomed visitors, the mayors office and the local library. They all offered snippets of information but the story they told was mainly about Occitan.

Almost everyone was proud of what they regarded as a unique culture and I could not help being swept up by the enthusiasm.

I attended rallys protesting for Occitan Independance but discovered that there was one small flaw. Occitan is a language, not a physical location. There never had been a County, Provence, Departement  or Region known as Occitan. However everyone I spoke to knew where Occitan should have been and told stories of why it had never achieved independance.

At this point the conversations invariably switched to discussions of the Cathar religion. I learned about the Albigensian crusade and the subsequent persecution of Cathars. Many, and particularly the women I talked to, professed to still be adherants to the Cathar faith and the underlying themes of vegetarianism, feminism,  sexual liberality, promotion of democratic principles,  lack of discrimination, support for euthanasia, etc.

What no one talked about was what it would be like to live in a society run by those with Cathar beliefs and practices.

With the help of a librarian in Limoux I managed to stitch together a credible picure, but there were still many gaps. It was her suggestion that I fill the gaps in  a work of fiction.  A story about living in a Cathar society,  but also a story about why Occitan only just  failed to make itself independant.

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents



List of Places

Table of Contents


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.’