Genesis — copy

Great Aunt Gertrude

In writing about Ximene, Brian drew inspiration from the fascinating stories told by his great aunt Gertrude whilst he helped her tidy up after her monthly “Soirees”. She and her husband ran a successful repertory company and the guests were her theatrical peers. She called Brian “daaarling” and encouraged him to smoke Gauloises because she liked the smell.

Great Aunt Gertrude claimed John Stanley, founder of the Stanley Dynasty as an ancestor and recent research has found nothing to nullify that claim.

The Coach Road

The identification of the Stanleys as ancestors had real meaning for Brian as he had grown up in the industrial town of St Helens, which adjoins the extensive Stanley estates of Knowsley and Lathom, much of which still exist to the present day.


As a child, Brian had played on the “coach road” between Knowsley and Lathom; a private road providing express contact between the two estates. By the time of Brian’s childhood, it was a place of mystery and excitement; a well paved secret highway, mostly overgrown, running through farmers fields.

King of Mann

Aunt Gertrude told Brian that John Stanley started life as a foresters son and within his lifetime became King of the Isle of Mann.



Again for Brian, this had an instant impact. As a child one of the greatest delights was for him to visit the Isle of Mann, travelling on one of the old steamers out of Liverpool.


The Frenchwoman

lasting-image-small Aunt Gertrude talked about an unnamed “French Woman” who was John Stanley’s first wife, the mother of John Stanley’s eldest son and who facilitated John’s rise to prominence.  At first glance, this was not supported by any genealogical records. I found no specific record of “the Frenchwoman” and have no idea where Auntie Gertie got her information from. However she told her story with conviction, she implanted images in my mind which I have never forgotten.

The Chevauchee

the-chevauchee-small When I started my own investigations I discovered that John was in what is now Southern France with the Black Prince’s army in 1355 -1356 and was present at the battle of Poitiers when English forces captured the French King John. I became particularly interested in the year before Poitiers when the Black Prince carried out a cavalry raid (chevauchee) starting at Bordeaux in the west and penetrating as far as Beziers in the east. This whole campaign is shrouded in mystery and the chroniclers disagree about timing, duration and places visited.

ethnicity-of-occitan-small If there was a Frenchwoman, here was the mechanism by which John might have met her. Almost immediately Brian was formulating which were to form the basis of a story, but which story? Who would be the main protagonist?

It was a cyclical process; visits to libraries, nearly four months in total in the south of France. It became increasingly obvious that this was a story about John meeting Ximene and that the meeting led to a life-changing experience for both of them.


Whilst in the south of France and specifically in a ski resort in the Pyrenees, Brian became aware that many of the local people speak their own language, Occitan. There is an Occitan independence movement with a healthy membership.

This was completely new to Brian and so an understanding of a history of the relationship and differences between the French and the peoples of Occitan became essential.


From time to time he returned to Occitan and came to fall in love with its rugged beauty.

The Cathars

cathar-intro-small It did not take long for another item to be added to Brian’s list of research topics. It was virtually impossible to discuss the history and culture of Occitan without discussing the Cathar religion and the genocidal Albigensian crusade.

Concepts of people being thrown out of their homes and being burned to death in their hundreds seemed beyond belief. Brian learned that the true story of the Albigensian crusade was, if anything, worse than described in these first discussions.

First Steps

pays-cathares_0 Brian began to make notes about the stories Auntie Gertie told but for long period he was so busy earning a living that he put the notes to one side except for occasion visitations in holiday periods.

Then an opportunity presented itself. For over twenty years Brian worked throughout Australasia and S E Asia as a trainer, lecturer and consultant in Engineering Management.

As there was a dearth of published material dealing with the subjects covered, Longmans published a whole series of books to support his lecture tours. This made writing a central part of his life.

Slowly he made time to revisit the notes he had made. In trying to match Great Aunt Gertrudes stories with recorded history, he found himself reviewing the political and social forces which lead to the Wars of the Roses. This became yet another research topic.

Six powerful women

He identified sixth powerful women who shaped events and concluded that their actions were in some way co-ordinated. He discovered that in one way or another they all had contact with John Stanley. He speculated on the presence of a seventh person, probably a woman, who facilitated the introduction of the others to their positions of influence.

Circumstantial evidence indicated this could be “The French Woman”. She, not John Stanley became the protagonist in the books. Brian has given this shadowy woman a name; Ximene. he has told her story.


Ximene’s adventures were first documented in hotel rooms and alongside hotel swimming pools during Brian’s years touring the southern continents on various lecture tours. In those early years, almost everything he wrote caused a need for additional research.

The progression of revisiting notes he had made of conversations with Aunt Gertrude was relatively slow, there was so much to learn.

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents



List of Places

Table of Contents

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.