Joan’s voice was different from her normal voice it sounded strained if not hoarse. ‘I think you know that I have been very close to both the Earl and the Prince. I need to tell you how close.’
Ximene nodded. John wasn’t sure of the correct reaction. He nodded
She closed her eyes and hesitated. ‘ There is no other way to tell it…My son Thomas is not the child of the husband imposed on me.’ She shrugged her shoulders. ‘My legal husband Thomas Holland… It is just not possible. He may be the son of the Earl or he may be the son of the Prince. We have agreed, the three of us have agreed, that we do not care who is the father. However to ensure he succeeds to my title we have decided he will be acknowledged as the son of Thomas Holland; hence the choice of his name. Because of the uncertainty of his parentage, the Prince has agreed he will also be treated as if he was a Prince of the realm.
Ximene gulped. ‘Oh, how many people know about this?’
Until a minute ago only three people; the Prince, the Earl and myself.
John narrowed his eyes. ‘So why have you told us, why is it something we need to know?’
Joan rolled her eyes and gazed towards the ceiling. ‘You have obviously spent a lot of time with the Earl. And you are right, he would not approve.’
John leaned forward reached out and touched her hand. ‘So why?’
‘I wanted you to know how important the Earl has been to me and now because of my determination to marry the Prince I have promised Queen Phillipa I will never see the Earl in private again. that is to make sure that any children born to me after our marriage will be the Prince’s children not anyone else’s. They could be the future rulers of England.
In almost a whisper Ximene offered her condolences. ‘Obviously that has been a great sacrifice.’
Yes but it gets worse. King Edward thinks the Prince is going to marry Ximene Trencavel… you Selene and has told him that he must break of his relationship with me. since all this happened I have Joked about my born again Virginity but it really is a problem. I am virtually isolated. I do see the prince secretly but we must be ever watchful. One of the reasons the Prince gave you the Chateau Lavison was because, now it is in your name, that if the staff were changed it would be possible for us to go there without anyone knowing.’
‘And now another piece of information.’Joan sighed.
‘I would never do anything against the best interests of the Prince, I genuinely love him, but he is not the most dependable of people. Hypnotically attractive but not dependable. He often must be protected against himself.
The Prince is chivalrous towards people he perceives to be chivalrous… John, he did not just agree to your shift of alliance to Occitan, to Ximene, he gloried in it. To him, you had become the embodiment of chivalry.
However, he can be ruthless in his pursuit of those he perceives to have no regard for the principles of chivalry.
He abhors politics, he does what he thinks is right and he tells others what to do. It never occurs to him to shape opinions, in advance of the need to issue an instruction, or to search for ways to make that instruction more acceptable. He is particularly resistant to anyone who tries to shape his own opinions and usually rejects any advice.
The Earl did all the politics for the Prince. ‘Additionally’ She lifted her head slightly and lowered her eyelashes feigning shyness. ‘ As must be obvious from what I have just told you, I saw the Earl relatively frequently which allowed for completely independent communications… as well as other activities ‘ She shook her head. ‘Anyway…the Earl shared his thinking with me and allowed me to influence the strategies he developed. He identified opponents and one way or another persuaded them to comply. I was the one who persuaded the Prince to comply with the strategies he…we devised. He was so important to me and to the Prince,
What the Queen intended to do intended was to stop my… romantic assignments with the Earl but it is impossible to distinguish between romantic assignments and one on one political discussions, often late at night.
Ximene rubbed her hands over her eyes. ‘Was? you are speaking in the past tense?’
Yes, of course, without realising it the King and Queen have closed off the most effective communication between the Prince and the Earl, his closest advisor; his most effective strategist. The Earl will inevitably become just another advisor the Prince does not want to listen to. I now intend to put that link back in place but without running the risk of being accused of breaking my word. I am determined to marry the Prince but if I don’t get this right my marriage could become irrelevant as we lurch from one crisis to another.
As a result of this dislocation I now need some help in gathering information. First and foremost in England itself.’
John could not contain himself. ‘In England ? But Why. We are serving E ngland, we obey the kings… he halted and then hurrily added, ‘and the Prince’s commands. Another pause ‘Isn’t that all we have to do?’
Hmm, are we absolutely sure that the Kings instructions are not being filtered by the King’s council, advisors, clerks?
I will come back to all that later but we don’t only want better information from England first of all we must understand what is happening in the Frankish court. I believe that there is competition between King Jean and his son Charles, the Dauphin. I hear that only a couple of weeks ago there was a plot to replace King Jean with the Dauphin. we must keep ourselves up to date with all that.
Then we come to the activities of Agnes’ brother another Charles. King Of Navarre. the more we know about his activities the better.
He vacilates between declaring his support for King Edward and declaring his support for King Jean. over the last couple of years he has change sides at least three times. Make no mistake he is a threat.
Finally as we prepare to capture Paris and Rouen I need to know exactly what is happening.’
Yes someone is advising the King to subdivide his kingdom. I do not know who it might be and as the prince is heir to the throne he is not involved in such discussions. It seems the idea is to make Prince Lionel King of Scotland, good luck with that; Prince Edmund, King of ireland, good luck with that, John of Gaunt king of England, Marry the King’s daughter to the Duke of Brittany and make Brittany independent and leave the Prince with Aquitaine and Guyenne. I suspect that the other Princes would be supportive of such a subdivision but the Prince certainly wouldn’t.
so who would be pusing for this? seems obvious to me. the only one who wins. Prince John or quite possibly his father in law the richest man in Enland, Henry duke of Lancaster
John sat bolt upright in his chair. This was all news to him