Ximene Trencavel is a Virago, a heroic female and the New Universal Hero. In the 14th century she fights for her own freedom and for that of the people of Occitan.
She is central to a chain of events which shape the future of England, France and Occitan.
English DominanceVictory agains the FranksIn Ximene’s youth, the armies Of King Edward III of England battered the Frankish Kings, their implacable enemies, into submission. In 1346, at the battle of Crecy, the flower of the Frankish aristocracy were wiped out by English archers. At Poitiers, a closely co-ordinated use of archers and cavalry resulted in the capture of the Frankish King, John II.
England was dominant. Expansion into the whole of the territory controlled by the Franks seemed inevitable. Further expansion, south of the Pyrenees and the control of Castile as a client state seemed not just possible but probable.
However, in parallel with this success King Edward’s realm was riddled with dissent. Wealthy barons vied with each other for local domination,and avoided payment of the taxes needed to fund the administration of the kingdom and the wars abroad. They used the competitive instincts and jealousies to be found within members of the royal family itself to further their own ends.
DianaA woman's touch in the corridors of power Suddenly, to the barons consternation, the royal family gained a new cohesion. Simultaneously the King acquired new wealth, and with that wealth came confidence and energy. The barons particularly resented that the new stability was nurtured and sustained by a group of women. There were suspicions that womens efforts were directed by Diana, Countess of Shaftesbury.
Diana was believed to be fabulously rich. Her husband was reputed to have died on crusade in Eastern Germany, when the Countess was very young, Supposedly, she inherited his considerable fortune. She had never shown any inclination to marry again, though she was never short of admirers. Inevitably there was speculation that she was fonder of the ladies than she was of the men.
Powerful womenCatherine and LancasterIt was noticeable that although she was wealthy, she did not use her wealth to create power or facilitate influence. It was the network of relationships which give her the power. It was the group of women whom she had introduced to court who have provided the real key to her dominance. She was the link, the inspiration for the activities of the group. In the eyes of the barons and the rest of the court the women were a nest of vixens, and Diana herself was something very much worse.
Pippa de Roet was one of them, supposedly the wife of Geoffrey Chaucer, but as everyone knew, Pippa had been, until recently, the mistress of John Gaunt, Prince of the Realm and Duke of Lancaster. When Lancaster tired of Pippa, or Pippa tired of Lancaster, she was replaced by her younger sister Catherine de Roet. Pippa did not then return to her husband but instead has become part of the Diana’s household. Both Catherine and Lancaster are frequent visitors to that household.
The Perez sistersAlyse Perrers, the lady of the sunAnd then there were the Perez sisters. Alyse was was considered to be particularly close to Diana and to have had an uncanny likeness to her. Some people thought they might be twins. Alyse had been at court no longer than a year when King Edward took her as his mistress. After the death of Queen Phillipa, Alyse became virtually the Queen of England.
She attended public functions dressed head to toe in gold and was heralded with the Kings approval as ” The Lady Of the Sun” . In a time of religious conflict this very title was an affront to the Roman Church It was known that “The Lady of the Sun” was a title originally given to the ancient Egyptian Goddess of Life, “Osiris” or “Amunet”. Alyse uses her power to represent her friends interests by arguing their case before parliament. She is considered to know the intricacies of the law better than any great lord.
Illegitimatehe Baths of Maria de Pedilla at the Alcazar in SevilleThe two younger sisters of Alyse had lived with Diana in their early teens. Constance, had now married Lancaster. The court was mesmerised, jealous and not a little angry. How could the Prince, third in line to the throne, be infatuated by three women, all close friends of Diana? Incredibly the three women are themselves still close friends, huddling together with the rest of Diana’s coven at court functions.
Finally, the third Perez sister, Isabelle, had married Edmund of Langly, another Prince of the Realm, heir to the Dukedom of York and fourth in line to the throne. Everyone has forgotten, or have never known that Alyse, Isabelle and Constance were in fact sisters. That they were illegitimate, Born in the Alcazar, daughters of a lasting union between Pedro Of Castile and his mistress Maria de Pedilla. Any reference to them is carefully couched in terms intended hide the relationship between them; to hide the dominance of this small faction. Alyse was known as Perrers, Constance was known as Pedra and Isabelle was known as “of Castile.’
Richard IIJoan is in the words of Jean Froissart, court chronicler, the most beauteous and amorous lady in Europe–and we all know what that means.Richard, son of the Black Prince, is now heir to the throne. He is being groomed as the next ruler of England, but powerful influences on him are also associated with Diana.
The court is watching carefully as Richard’s mother, Joan of Kent, influences his development. Before her marriage to the Prince, Joan had been described by Jean Froissart, the Court Chronicler as “The most beautiful and most amorous woman in Europe” and there was little doubt what that meant . Now at court functions Joan openly associated with the clique dominated by Diana.
Secret lifeIn 1355 Aquitaine, Augverne, Provence and the Trencavel inheritance were all approximately equal areas.Thus Diana had made herself the most powerful woman in England. Diana however is hardly mentioned in recorded history.
What no-one at court realised realised was that Diana, Countess of Shaftesbury was a figment of the King’s imagination, a device to hide her true identity.
Diana was in fact Ximene Trencavel, heiress to the lands of Occitan, fighting her own secret war with the Frankish kings who a hundred years before had brutally ripped away her family lands . Ximene was accumulating wealth with the intention of creating a haven for those who espouse the Cathar faith and had been ruthlessly persecuted for over one hundred years. She used the income from her considerable estates to fund a trading operation which in turn generated more wealth.Emir Alladin Bey of KaramaranThere was much which Ximene Trencavel kept hidden from the court, the courtiers,and even the King.
They would have all blinked in disbelief if they could have seen Ximene, silhouetted at the bow of a trading vessel ploughing through turbulent seas in the Eastern Mediterranean; or riding at breakneck speed with the army of the Emir of Karamaran, in a desparate attack on Turkic invaders who threatened her trading routes.
The prisoner of FoixThe Chateau de Foix where Ximene's story commencesAnd yet…Twenty years earlier Ximene Trencavel had been a virtual prisoner in a remote Pyrenean fortress. How could she possibly have come so far so fast? Why is King Eward complicit in creating and maintaining her alias, in hiding her identity? Where will her quest lead her? What happened to John Stanley, the only man with whom she had an extended relationship ? In the final assessment, as her power grows, does absolute power corrupt absolutely?
This is Ximene’s story.