Research

Can you tell us a little about the research process? Any fascinating facts that didn’t make it into the final draft?

I visited Occitan (Languedoc), the Garronne valley, Aquitaine and Armagnac three times, Spain once and Turkey once.  I found a lot in local libraries which is not available anywhere else. The involvement of librarians was vital.

The Idea of writing a book crept up on me.

I used histories by Alison Wier and Ian Mortimer to get colour for my descriptions of life in the fourteenth century and started to write.


I struggled against continual criticism of my liking for the Omniscient point of view. Therefore I invented a scene which created a narrator.

“The Nest Of Vixens” is set in 1375 and utilises the fact that Pipa in later life married Geoffrey Chaucer, surely Chaucer would be able to tell a good story!?


My real story started with the Invasion of the village of Montaillou in 1308, which was carried  out at the instigation of Jaques Fournier (who was at the time the bishop of Pamiers).

Much of the original work has been “lost”, which means it is in my filing system somewhere, but I enclose snippets  which are described elsewhere on the website as ” potential prologues.”


Eleanor’s Marriage” deals with how the mother of Lady Eleanor’s lover, Guillam de Clermont-Dessous was interrogated by the inquisition and subsequently burnt at the stake.

Guillam takes flight and joins “ the Stars of the Sea’ to fight against the Roman Church.

Lady Eleanor enters into a (forced?) marriage with Raimond Trencavel.


The Last Perfect” deals with the fact that Jaques Fournier when Bishop of Pampers lured Gilliame Belebaste ( the last Perfect), who had escaped from Montaillou, from his refuge in Aragon and had him interrogated, tortured and also burned at the stake.

Jaques Fournier claimed he had finally eradicated the Cathar faith and used that claim to support his election as Pope Benedict XI.


Most Dangerous” is a scene in the Pope’s palace in Avignon where Benedict is told the Cathar heresy is still alive and of the birth of Ximene Trencavel. This is the occasion where the Pope declares Ximene to be “the most dangerous woman in the world”


It could all perhaps be another book but it has already been addressed by Stephen O’Shea (The Perfect Heresy) and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie ( english version -Montaillou the promised land of error).

In the end it all delayed the story I really wanted to tell, the story of John and Ximene.

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The most dangerous woman in the world

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