Andrew Danbury 25 February 1371
The wind howled, windows rattled and smoke blew back from the fireplace.
Andrew Danbury thumped the table with his wooden spoon. ‘Quiet! Quiet’.
There was another howl, this time overhead. He grimaced and pointed to the window. ‘I can’t do much about that but I will continue anyway. It has been a foul winter. Once again thank you for coming’
Thomas Granton chuckled. ‘Andrew you are too modest. You tell a good tale and the food has been wonderful. However I do have a question. It is a relatively complex tale. Do you refresh your memory between sessions by talking to Geoffrey Chaucer or even his wife?
Andrew raised his eyebrows and then smiled. ‘Well I did see them a couple of times over Christmas. I too have questions about some of the details’.
He frowned. ‘Geoffrey is more than a little concerned that we have disussed Ximene’s adherence to the Cathar religion. He does not want our Winter’s Tale to result in he and his wife being condemmed as heretics.’
William de Willoughby , looked around the room. ‘I suppose I am speaking for myself but I can assure you, nothing we learn in this room will ever be repeated outside these four walls.’
There was a murmour of assent.
The wind howled with renewed vigor. Andrew made a tour of the curtains grumbling gently that he would have to get some work done, as there were too many draughts.
Finally still grumbling to himself he sat down.
‘So at our last session we finally learned that Diana, the Countess of Shaftesbury is in fact Ximene Trencavel, who was originally intended to marry the Prince, but by mutual consent the marriage never took place.
We learned that Bertrand du Guesclin attempted to murder Ximene on many occasions. He is still a threat to her now, so that is another reason that we must not carry information outside this room.’
Henry d’Arcy interrupted Andrew. ‘You started of these sessions, grumbling about the countess’s power, and now you are protecting her?’
Andrew thought for a moment. ‘Hmm , I suppose I am, but I now know more than I did when we started. I think we should continue with the story.
We learned that Ximene’s wealth originated from her family treasure. She had short idyllic period in Bordeaux with John Stanley before starting her new life. In 1356, Ximene was an eighteen year about to visit a foreign country. She had no experience of the etiquette of the English court or of the process of negotiation. Wealth does not necessarily equate to power or even influence.’
There was a bust of conversation all round the table.
‘So how did she aquire that power?’
‘What is she trying to achieve?’
‘What happened to John Stanly?’
Andrew again thumped the table and then waited as the conversation subsided. ‘ I will make a start. The difficulties Ximene faced made her determined to succeed and her greatest advantage was her developing friendship with Joan of Kent. John Stanley was an important part of it. John had become a favourite of both Joan of Kent and the Prince. That in itself provided many connections.’
‘So she was very well connected?’
‘Yes, very well connected. Phillipa de Roet was also important. Pipa is Ximene’s best friend, cousin to the Prince, companion to royalty both in France and England. And of course we must never forget the Ximene’s close relationship to Alyse Perez, the King’s mistress
Henry d’Acre interrupted ‘Isn’t that enough? Connections like those, in themselves, explain how she has such power and influence.’
‘No quite. One of the things which concerns us…’ Andrew glanced around the room, is that she is independant. If anything she is able to exert her influence on the royal family, the royal council and Parliament, not the other way round. Don’t you want to know how she has achieved this, what her objectives are. Exactly how she exerts her power and inflence?’
Edward le Dispenser waved his hand in the air. ‘Yes, yes, I do, I think we all do. So where do we start tonight?’
‘In Bordeaux, December 1355.’