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.