Atlantic ports

Naval activity in the fourteenth century was split into two zones; firstly the north sea, with the main ports in the Thames Estuary and secondly the Channel (La Manche) with the main ports down the south coast. The choice of port along the south coast was determined by a balance between the ease of access to the Atlantic and therefore Aquitaine, on the one hand and the distance from London on the other hand. Portsmouth, Southampton, Poole, Weymouth,Brixham,Plymouth and Penryn were all used.

The importance of these ports may explain the fact that two oF Edward III’s main private residences were at a discrete distance from the south coast, at King’s Court, Gillingham in Dorset and at Clarendon Palace near Salisbury.

The Atlantic ports were the lifeblood of the english economy. The long running trade between the various parts of the Plantagenet empire had made fortunes for a large number of people, a fact which was not lost on the king who determined through a system of licensing traders, to obtain a large share for himself.

It seems incredible, but the French were confined to the Channel and the Mediterranean. Apart from a small area at the mouth of the Loire all the Atlantic ports were English, Castilian or Portugese. The wars which erupted were as much about control of the shipping routes as they were about ownership of land.

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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.’