A story of six women who dominate English politics in the latter half of the fourteenth century.
It is also the story of the woman who co-ordinates their activities, but whose major objective is to create an independent nation of Occitan or, at the very least, a safe haven for those who hold the beliefs of the Cathar religion and the sexual freedom inherent in those beliefs. It is this sexual freedom which enables the women to adopt positions as wives or mistresses, They expect their partners to perform well as sexual partners, a challenge which their partners accept. The men crave, not pleasure, but approval of their performance and it is this which ultimately gives the women the power to formulate and execute policy.
The Prisoner of Foix
The dominant thread is the story of Ximene( Sheamaine) Trencavel.
Ximene progresses from a seventeen-year-old heiress trapped in a remote mountain stronghold to become the wealthiest woman in Europe. Eventually, she owns a trading empire which stretches from the Levant to the Atlantic and down to North Africa. She uses her wealth to manipulate the governance of both England and France.
Of equal importance is the story of John Stanley, son of a forester, who catches the eye of the Black Prince, heir to the English throne, during a deer hunt which revealed John’s ingenuity as a hunter. John is recruited into the Princes’ army in Aquitaine. After a series of adventures, he is promoted to be a member of the Princes’ personal bodyguard, The Lions of Aquitaine. This brings him in contact with Ximene.
Ximene’s uncle, Gaston, Compte de Foix, has been attempting to auction her hand in marriage around the royal houses of Europe. One of the contenders is the Black Prince. The attraction is that Ximene is the heiress to vast tracts of land covering much of the area where Occitan is the spoken language.
Ximene is a Cathar, a totally different faith from Christianity. The Cathar religion teaches that the pleasure of sex is not a sin, it is simply a sample of what reunion with the good god would be like. Because of her beliefs, Ximene is considered to be a heretic by the Church of Rome. John, King of the Franks, is determined to stop the marriage of Ximene and the Black Prince and enters into an unholy alliance with the Church to eliminate Ximene. Their chief agent is an evil man called Bertrand du Guesclin
Ximene insists on seeing the Prince personally before agreeing to the marriage, but she then, without any inhibition, seduces John Stanley into helping her escape completely, away from the influence of both the Compte de Foix and the Black Prince. Dissatisfied with John’s performance as a lover, Ximene arranges for him to take part in a Cathar Transition, which gives young people practical experience how to give and receive pleasure during sexual activity.
Du Guesclin makes several attempts to murder Ximene. She is well protected by John Stanley, but at one stage John is declared to be an outlaw by the Black Prince. John is saved from this fate by Joan of Kent, the Black Princes’ longtime lover, who has the ambition to marry the Prince herself and become the next Queen of England. By throwing Ximene and John together Joan hopes to distract Ximene from a marriage to the Prince. Joan persuades the Prince to allow John to move his allegiance to Ximene. To facilitate this the Prince declares Ximene to be the head of the independent state of Occitan.
Du Guesclin makes another attempt on Ximene’s life and in the course of saving her, John is grievously injured. Ximene determines that she must save John and discovers, for the first time in her life, love uncontaminated by passion or desire.
Beyond Elysian Fields
Ximene takes John to a Cathar safe house and nurses him back to health. They are isolated in the safe house for three months and the intimacy created by the nursing process leads, in the best tradition of the Cathar religion, to experimentation in lovemaking techniques. As John slowly recovers his strength he devises a fitness program. Ximene joins in and starts the process of becoming a formidable female warrior. In return she provides John with a basic education in the processes of governance and law, opening his eyes to his true potential.
Their lives are disrupted by their accidental discovery of a series of clues which lead them to discover Ximene’s family treasure. Ximene decides it needs an army to move the treasure safely and the only army available is that controlled by the Black Prince. She sends John to let the Prince know of the find and to ask for his help. She declares that in return for his help she is prepared to marry him. Ximene sees that John finds this decision difficult to accept and asks him to confirm his oath of allegiance to her. She makes a ceremony of his oath renewal, in the course of which she awards him the accolade, First Knight of Occitan.
While searching for the Prince, John contacts Joan of Kent. He discovers Joan is equally horrified by Ximene’s offer to the Prince. Together they plot to prevent the marriage happening. John finds himself negotiating with heads of state, the first evidence of his potential being realised.
Whilst John is away Ximene is finally captured by du Guesclin. She is questioned by the Inquisition and locked away in a prison. Whilst in the cell, one of du Gueslin’s men attempts to rape her. Using the techniques she has learned from John, she kills the man without leaving a mark on his body. She is declared to be a witch and dragged to Carcassone to be burnt at the stake. John, now with the Princes’ army, arrives in time to save Ximene but in the process burns down half of the city of Carcassone.
The treasure is recovered and moved to Bordeaux.
Ximene now arms herself.
Du Guesclin makes yet another attack. Ximene defends herself and kills two of du Guesclin’s men.
It is agreed that the treasure will be transferred to the English crown and in return, Ximene will be given massive land grants in England, Wales and Aquitaine. Ximene and Joan of Kent agree that Joan, not Ximene, will marry the Prince. With Joan of Kent’s encouragement, John and Ximene finally get to consummate their love affair after an elaborate Cathar ceremony. John finds himself as an observer of strategic discussions involving Joan and Ximene in which the future direction of the Plantagenet Empire is decided, without the involvement of the Prince, King Edward or any other court officials.
The rest of the story
Outlines and key segments of text have been written for further books which cover the development of Ximene’s trading empire and the introduction of other women to the English court, by which Ximene’s power and influence is extended.
In the War of Breton Succession, John isolates du Guesclin at the battle of Auray, but du Guesclin breaks his own sword and lance and surrenders. King John’s son, now King Charles of the Franks, finds additional tasks for du Guesclin to perform and ransoms him.
Ximene’s best friend, Pipa de Roet, becomes the mistress of Prince John of Gaunt, who is even richer than Ximene and potentially a threat to her plans.
Ximene’s cousin Alyse Perez (Perrers) becomes the mistress of King Edward III.
Alyse’s father is King Pedro II of Castile, known by his enemies as “the Cruel” and by his allies as “the Just.”
Alyse’s younger sisters are rescued from Castile in the face of a rebellion by Henry de Trastamara, King Pedro’s illegitimate half brother. Trastamara is defeated at the battle of Najera by the Black Prince. John is one of four of the Black Prince’s commanders during this battle. Once again John outmanoeuvres du Guesclin. Once again du Guesclin surrenders and is subsequently ransomed.
Two years later du Guesclin murders Pedro. Ximene and John swear an oath that if ever faced with du Guesclin again they will kill him and give no opportunity for a ransom.
After their rescue, Alyse’s sister Constance marries Prince John of Gaunt and her other sister Isabelle marries Prince Edmund of Langley. When Prince Lionel of Antwerp dies in 1368, Ximene has effective control of the whole of the Plantagenet royal family.
Ximene and John have a son, also named John. Aided by Ximene’s manoeuvring John Snr. ultimately becomes King of the Isle of Man, a title then inherited by Ximene’s son.
Du Guesclin continues his evil ways. When threatened by him once again, Ximene raises a small army and surrounds him. She challenges him to a duel, which he accepts. Ximene deliberately cuts him to pieces, reducing him to grovelling in front of her, begging mercy and forgiveness, before she delivers the coup de grace.
The Cathar religion vanishes from the public record but one hundred and fifty years later every place owned and developed by Ximene and John, becomes a stronghold of the Protestant revolt against the Church of Rome.
On the 24th March 2007 in Toulouse, the establishment of a provisional government for the state of Occitan was announced, at a formal ceremony,
In 2016 the French government held a plebiscite. Their objective was to make savings in administrative costs by reducing the number of regions. They asked the electorate to choose a name for the newly expanded regions. The people’s choice for the area which represented Ximene Trencavel’s inheritance was overwhelmingly for Occitan but to satisfy those who speak the Langue d’Oil it was amended to Occitanie. There is no historical precedent for the name Occitanie. Despite Ximene’s efforts, in history, Occitan is the name of a language, not of a specific geographical area. However, the people living in the area are both proud and vocal in support of their unique identity.
This surge of popular support coincided with the research and preliminary discussions of our story. Ximene could become the legendary hero of Occitaine. She could become a universal hero such as Robin Hood in England and William Tell in Switzerland. Just a legend but a legend who encompasses the hopes and ambitions of entire peoples.
Ximene did not succeed in 1355, or 1380 for that matter, but she had a very good try.
Lausenjar Ximene. Long live Ximene.