69 — Valuations

John Stanley – 14th October 1355

John and the Earl worked long into the night. John defended himself.
“I agree it did not go well but what else could I do. I believe I represented Ximene’s and the Prince’s requirements accurately. Is it possible to proceed without the Compte?”

The Earl thought for a while and slowly whirled his armagnac around his glass.

‘The devil is in the detail. you heard the Compte saying he was going to visit his brother in law, Charles, the king of Navarre and the Dauphin in Normandy?’

‘Yes I did, but is it significant?’

‘It certainly is. France is in some disarray. It is not widely known but there is a dispute between King Jean and his son. Gaston’s brother in law believes he has a claim to the French throne and is negotiating with the Dauphin to split France between them. I know about this because Charles of Navarre is also seeking the support of King Edward and therefore the Prince. The suggestion is that the whole territory of should be split between Navarre, England and the Franks. It could provide a solution which suits us but the franks territory includes Occitan. Who then would take control of occitan?

It gets worse Charles of Navarre has an unmarried brother Louis. in Charles eyes Louis is a suitable partner for Ximene. What this means is that the compte has a totally different version of the scheme he put to us last evening and it might create a much larger Navarre which in turn is split between Charles, Louis and Gaston.’

‘Oh!, you have never mentioned this before.’

The earl smiled. John before this it was something..

‘…I did not need to know?


Could we go ahead without worrying about all this?

‘Possibly but I think not. The Compte has control of the whole of the northern slopes of the Pyrenees. If we were to find ourselves compressed between a hostile Compte de Foix and the Franks it would be difficult to retain control of the intermediate strip of ground.”
John was also thinking.
“But what about his oath of fealty to the Prince ? Does that not stand for anything” John asked, desperately trying to understand the situation being described.
The Earl frowned
“The Compte is perhaps more than anyone else causing the breakdown of the feudal system. He has sworn fealty to the French king for his lands at Foix and insists that both oaths can run concurrently. Whenever either monarch tries to call in his feudal obligations, however, he runs away to serve the Pope or fight a crusade. He is devious in the extreme.”

This current situation is only an extension of that he is having essentially the same negotiation with two quite different groups of people. he will then play the concusions of each negotiation one against the other in the hope of optimising his own position.

“Could we not force him to comply with his oath of fealty as we are doing currently with the Armagnacs?”

The Earl shook his head.

“Possible but I think not. He has a succession of fortresses, all of which have a reputation for being impregnable. We could not afford the time or the expense to lay siege to them all!’
John became aware he was carrying the look that he had seen several times on Ximene’s face; disappointment to the point of defeat.
‘So without the involvement of the Compte de Foix we cannot proceed! His objection has nothing to do with becoming linked to Aquitaine. His objection is that he does not want any open association between himself and the Cathar religion.
The Earl smiled somewhat sourly.
“I think that is a good summary of the situation”
John groaned
“So after all she has done she is still effectively under the control of the Compte de Foix.”
“Not quite” The Earl replied
‘If she becomes Duchess of both Aquitaine and Occitan she will be in a position of considerable influence. Suppose there is a strong swing towards freedom of worship within the Compte’s territory? Suppose “Les Etoilles” become aggressive and not defensive, infiltrates society and secures for its members every position of power? Who knows what might happen over a five to ten year period.
John thought for a moment
“I thought the Prince and other suitors were keen to marry Ximene? I thought the intention of all of them was to declare an independent Occitan and in this way extend their own territories”
The Earl frowned.
‘Yes but the barrier is your insistance on freedom of religious belief. The Prince is far more likely to fight for an independent Occitan than any of the others. We will soon be at war with the French and we have a good chance of winning that war.
‘And will that involve creating a free Occitan?’
‘Sooner than you think. In two days time we will put our ability to free Occitan from the rule of the Franks to the test. The Prince will allow the Compte d’Armagnac to renew his oath of allegiance. We will then move across the Garonne and sweep eastward as far as Montpellier to test out resistance. In the short term you can ask for no more than that.”
For a while John had been frustrated by this process but suddenly he realised the Earl was paying him a great honour. He was treating him appropriately as the Ambassador for Ximene and Occitan and was carefully pleading the Prince’s case.
John tried once more. ‘But no religeous freedom?’
The Earl continued
“The Prince wants to marry Ximene but Ximene must understand the conditions. She may quite possibly be made Duchess of Occitan in her own right but there will be no immediate freedom of worship. It is unlikely that freedom of worship will occur within her lifetime. That is a fact of life. The Compte was right however, once in this position she could create conditions in which private Cathar sects supported by “ Les etoilles’ or a similar organisation, set up by herself, could thrive. She could therefore still provide a better future for those who were dispossessed by the Albigensian Crusade.”
‘And would the Prince allow the wealth to be used in that way’
‘ I believe so. As long it was in some way at arms length and he could truthfully say he knew nothing about it. He would therefore, not approve but not take any steps to prevent it happening. I need to think about the correct formula which would give you confidence.’
He rose to his feet
“These are things for Ximene to consider. Now, I want to get Joan’s opinion on the samples of the treasure you have given me” I do believe that helping you with the treasure is a separate issue”
John noted the successive use of the word “you”. The Earl clearly had accepted John as Ximene’s Ambassador.

Joan was waiting for them in her own chambers. She greeted them both warmly. They pulled chairs into position so that they sat with their heads together as she took John’s treasures and examined them. John could immediately see a side of Joan he had not anticipated. She was certainly not the empty headed courtesan she often pretended to be.
She carefully looked at the sparkling stone and then the dagger.
She looked up at the two men with astonishment.
“I think they both come from the same place. The stone is called a diamond. It comes originally from India and is extremely rare. In the east they developed a skill at cutting the stone so that it shines like this. It was highly regarded as jewellery and its rarity caused it to be very valuable. There was then a disruption in supply. The stones which did reach the west were uncut and it has been common to crush then to a dust and use them as medicine.”
And where did they come from?
Not directly from India I think. There are now, once again, a small number of larger stones coming onto the European market. They are so valuable that they are regarded as something which should only be worn by kings. This is the biggest diamond I have ever seen and the one which shines the brightest.”
She then turned her attention to the knife
“The writing on the knife is Hebrew. It is a sacrificial knife from the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Sacrifices ceased to be part of the Jewish religion when the Romans destroyed the temple and stole the temple treasure over a thousand years ago.
She could hardly conceal her excitement. Also in the temple was a vast collection of diamonds supposedly donated firstly by the Queen of Sheba and later by Cleopatra. I believe that both the diamond and the knife came from the temple. This diamond was quite possibly owned by one of those famous ladies. Just to add to the story, it is said that the treasure from Jerusalem was transported to Rome and subsequently stolen by the Visigoths. It was last seen in Toulouse , close to here. No one has any idea where it went after that. Both of these items are worth a fortune.”
John smiled. Joan was certainly knowledgeable. Her assessment tied in precisely with the stories he had heard.
She looked at John
“There is more of this?”
“Much, Much more” John replied
Well, well” said the Earl
“This confirms what I said, the Prince will certainly be interested in helping with the treasure regardless of the outcome of the betrothal negotiations.”
He stretched and stifled a yawn.
“We should retire… John I must be away for a couple of days reviewing the situation along the Gers and Garronne rivers. It is routine and will probably prove to be uneventful, perhaps you could stay here and keep Joan company. After that we must allow you to present your credentials to the Prince. It is also necessary to make sure that you are known to all the commanders in the Prince’s army so that you are recognised as a Royal Guard, in fact, the foundation Lion of Aquitaine. It will devise a special ensigna to recognise that fact. It is essential that you should have access to the Lions’ camp and the Prince’s compound. After that you should ride with the army at least as far as Carcassonne from where you can re-establish contact with Ximene and bring her to meet the Prince.
Joan was still looking at the diamond
“John, please can I keep the diamond for tonight?”
John still had little idea of the diamond’s value.
“Of course” he said
“In fact it would probably be sensible to leave it in your safe keeping as, at the bidding of the Earl, I will shortly be going into a combat situation. You may return it to me when I return to Bordeaux. Take the knife as well but remember that really belongs to Ximene.”
Joan looked at him in astonishment.
“You would place such trust in me?”
John smiled
“You are the grand-daughter of a King of England. If I cannot trust you I cannot trust anyone!

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

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Pseudo History


Extract from The Prisoner of Foix--Chapter 43 -The EntranceNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley-26th April 1355


'Looks like we are going to see a bit of excitement, John. The Captain tried to get an agreement from the Prince that if there is surf running across the channel to Arcachon we will turn back to Bordeaux, but the Prince would hear none of it. Instead, he has offered to provide insurance for all three ships. If they are damaged or sunk, the owners will be compensated and every sailor who makes the passage will be given a bounty payment. What none of this seems to take into account is that if we sink in rough, fast-flowing waters we might all drown.'

John raised his eyebrows. 'But that is what we are going to do?'

'Yes, despite the fact that surf running accross the entrance is not uncommon and the deep water channel moves continually. In the end, the Prince attacked their captains on their weakest point, their professional pride! He threw down the gauntlet. He offered to take the Sally first through the channel, and to take control during the passage.' He raised his brow. 'We are going into the Bay of Arcachon, come what may! '

Extract from The Eagle of Carcassone -- Chapter 24-- A Real GoddessNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley - 22 July 1355

An hour later John walked with Ximene close to the river along the valley below St Feriole. It was the very essence of a summer’s day. The sun was fierce but in the shadow of the trees, it was cool and fragrant. The trees and shrubs along the riverbank hid their progress, from the Château, from St Feriole.

Eventually they reached a point where John thought it was safe to emerge from cover. To his satisfaction the stream extended into a pool with a sandy beach, shaded by trees. Where the stream entered the pool there was a flat grassy area, almost circular. Behind this, the bulk of two mountain ridges provided a splendid backdrop. He looked around once more ‘Not just a good training ground but a great training ground. If the Greek heroes knew about this they might be tempted to join me, to train with me’

Ximene laughed out loud. He turned to look at her. She had removed her outer clothes and was wearing a white chemise, cut short so that it barely reached her knees. Around her waist, she wore a plaited leather belt, obviously fashioned from the multitude of leather straps to be found in the tackle room.

She ran her hands down over her breasts. ‘When you were unconscious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so  I have decided that from now on, for you, I will be the goddess.’

The Prisoner of FoixVol 1 of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

Aquitaine, an English possession, is in crisis. It is under threat from neighbouring nations and internal dissension.

The Black Prince, King Edward III’s eldest son has been given the task of taking command in Aquitaine.

Suddenly there is an opportunity. Ximene Trencavel is the heiress to the lands of Occitan, to the east of Aquitaine: lands controlled by the Franks. Ximene wants independence, both for herself and for Occitan.

A union between Aquitaine and Occitan would be mutually beneficial. The Black Prince undertakes a secret journey to meet Ximene to negotiate a marriage contract. It is, however, a marriage neither of them really wants.

Meanwhile, the  Franks plot to murder Ximene to prevent ,not just the marriage, but any kind of union between England and Occitan.

The Eagle Of CarcassonneVol II of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

The loose alliance between Ximene Trencavel and the Black Prince is under threat.

The Prince invades Occitan, to show his support for Ximene but it becomes an invasion which creates more problems than it solves.

The Prince has fallen hopelessly in love with Joan of Kent and Joan is now determined to marry him and become the next Queen of England.

Joan is therefore  determined to convince Ximene that she should not marry the Prince.

Part of her strategy is to encourage Ximene’s relationship with John Stanley—one of the Princes bodyguards—not an easy task as both John and Ximene have doubts about their compatibility.

However, John is grievously injured in a battle and Ximene commits herself to nurse him back to health.