The Perfect Knight

John’s Story

Ximene meets John Stanley, a young soldier in the service of the Black Prince who has vowed allegiance to the code of chivalry.His meeting with Ximene soon challenges every element of the code he lives by. Ximene sees in John the potential to be her champion, a perfect knight. Initially she seduces him with the aim of ensuring his commitment to her cause but soon she finds it difficult to be apart from him for too long an interval.

Their story is the epitome of historical romance as their lives become invisibly and indivisibly entwined.

John Stanley/186/The conventional view//1880 This is the conventional view of the marriage between John Stanley and Isabel LathomMainstream history tells us that John Stanley was born in 1338 as the son of a forester. It tells us that his family was well connected, of Ango-Saxon and Celtic stock who had intermarried with the invading Normans. In little more than sixty years he progressed from minding sheep on the Wirral Peninsula to becoming King of the Isle of Man, at a time when the right to rule could only be granted by the Pope and was very rarely given.

The genealogical records of the Stanley family itself are adamant that John Stanley had one wife;  Isabel de Lathom , who he married in 1385 when he was 47 and she was 21. This was by no means impossible but unusual for the time. It certainly makes Aunty  Gertie’s concept of an earlier marriage not only possible, but probable.

John Stanley/186/god speed/1884 A young girl falls in love with a knightIn any case it is clear that there is something wrong in the timing of John’s Marriage to Isabel.

The main source of information about him is in the archives of the government of the Isle of Man.

It is in the form of a book written by John Seacome in 1737 and it must be remembered that at the time he was working directly or indirectly for the Stanley family.

He tells a story repeated and embellished by later authors which indicates that Isabel fell in love with John when he was tournament champion of Europe and she was a very young girl. The reason for the delay in the marriage was because he father would not give his approval. It is just not possible.  If John Stanley was tournament champion, and this story is not complete family propaganda it would have been in the years approximately 1360 to 1364 and Isabel was only born in 1364.

However one piece of information I picked up from “ The  traditions of Lancashire’ by John Roby published in 1872 was that John had a reputation as an amateur troubadour. An unusual talent, but perhaps not for that age.

 John’s Eldest Son

John Stanley/186/Gertrudes view/1881 This is the implication of Aunty Gertrude's story. John II is not descended from the LathomsThe major issue is the date of John II’s birth.

Coventionally it is  placed at 1386 to coincide with his fathers marriage to Isobel Latham, but this leaves two anomolies, both derived from the parliamentary record.

However we know that John II was acting as a crown commissioner in 1402. If he was born in 1386 then he was acting as a crown commissioner at the age of I6. Secondly we know that he reached his majority in or about 1400. The age at which one attained “majorinity” was the same then as it is now, twenty -one. Both these facts would tend to place John II’s birth at  around 1379 or earlier.  This is clearly a problem. It would place his birth before Isabel married Geoffrey Worsley, could he have been illegitimate, in which case he would have been unable to inherit?

In an attempt to make sense of the following generations, in which there are two John’s fathering children in the same time period, some genealogists have John II, being born in 1368 (not 86) Unfortunately this was when when Isabel was only four and it would mean that Isabel could not be his mother.

Perhaps he was born even earlier to an unknown mother? Aunt Gertudes stories suddenly acquire new meaning. Could Aunt Gertrude be right? If so why would Isabel allow her husband to leave her estates to a son from his first union?

 Isabel De Lathom

John Stanley/186/Geoffrey Worsley1883 Isabel's '" unlawful" marriage to GeoffreyThis leads to the true story of Isabelle de Lathom. It took years of ferreting to try to understand exactly what happened. What I learned is now all available on the web, though so far it has not been picked up by any of the geneologies.

The results were surprising to say the least.

There is no doubt that Isabel became John’s wife. Seacome suggests that her father thought he was an unsuitable match, thus explaining why John married so late in life.   This story is supported by all the available  histories.

However I have taken the trouble to look at the parish records of Lathom which shows that she also had an earlier marriage, to Geoffrey Worsley which was subsequently declared “unlawful”.

Further examination of the Worsley parish records shows and that she had at least one child, Elizabeth, by him. Not only that but the marrige was decidedly unusual. Geoffrey put his first wife, Mary de Fenton, in a nunnery and then married Isabel. After five years, he died. Mary re-emerged from the nunnery claimed her marriage to be valid and succeeded in having Isabel’s children declared illegitimate and therefore destroyed Isabel’s reputation.

However events were moving quickly. Sir Thomas, Isabel’s father had previously left his estates to an “adopted” son known as Sir Oscatel. Now he suddenly declared that that in the event of his sons not having a male heir, the estates should devolve to Isabel. His two sons died soon afterwards. It was at this stage that John Stanley married Isabel. So much for the romantic stories!

 Arthur Worsley

John Stanley/186/arthur worsley/1882 Elizabeth's forced marriage to ArthurThe story progresses further. From the history of the British Parliament (1386-1421) it can be discovered that  Robert Worsley, a member of the junior branch of the Worsley family, somehow obtained Elizabeth’s wardship with the intention of forcing her marriage to his son Arthur and thereby establishing a claim to the Worsley estates (and perhaps with an eye to claiming the Lathom estates).

The marriage was affected in 1400 ( with Elizabeth at 19 years of age), but John Stanley Jr ( at Age 16!?) in 1402 as crown commissioner managed to get Arthur declared insane.

In 1414  after the death of his father John II then obtained the custody of Arthur Worsley who died “in his care” thereby finally ending any threat to the Stanley inheritance.

Suddenly at the very beginning of my research, Aunt Gertude’s story aquires sinister overtones.

There is not a word of all this in Seacome, the Isle of Mann archieves or any other formal history. Seacome was a serious historian who must have known all this. The information was therefore changed to suit the sensitivities of the Stanley Family.

It was about this stage that I developed a healthy scepticism for “approved” histories!

 The Eagle and Child

John Stanley/186/sir oscatel/1887 Was Sir Ocatel a real person? the candidates as indicated in red. Note the name of Ralph's son. Oscatel /Otewell?A secondary story of the foundation of the Stanley Dynasty, which is included in the Seacome history is the backgtound to the adopted son Sir Oscatel. It takes the form of the legend of the Eagle and Child.

The legend says that Isabelle’s father, Sir Thomas, had an affair with a lady called Mary Oscatel who gave birth to a male child. He had no male child by his wife and so pretended that an eagle had deposited the child in his estate, giving him an excuse to bring the child into his house in circumstances which made the child acceptable to his wife.

Wether she believed the story or not, Thomas’ wife apparently approved of this arrangement as it would stabilise the future administration of the estate. She then promptly concieved a male child herself but “Sir Oscatel” apparently grew up with expectations that as the eldest son he would inherit the Lathom estates.

Change of Will

Sir Robert’s will was contested and on his deathbed Isabelle’s father relented and subject to there being no male issue from his second son made Isabelle his heir.

The inheritance of the Lathom estates continues to be contested from the date John Stanley married Isabel in 1385 to around 1409.

I have made “Sir Oscatel” to be John II who was hidden away under a non de plume on the Lathom estates to keep him safe from those who wished to destroy Ximene. Why did the Lathoms accomodate her in this deception and invent the legend?

Because as shown above in the “conventional” geneology John Stanley’s grandmother was a Lathom!

The inheritance of the Lathom estates was not finally settled until John II inherited in 1414. At that time John II was probably the rightful inheritor but through his father not his mother. There was the small problem that he was probably illigimate, but there were events in the highest levels of society which made that less of a problem than it was in any other age. John of Gaunt not only married the illegitimate daughter of Pedro of Castile and through her claimed the throne of Castile but had his illegitimate children by another woman, Catherine de Roet, declared to be legitimate. John II had a strong claim, but so did Henry and Thomas Stanley, Isabel’s sons by John. It would appear that the final judgement was that by virtue of his marriage to Isabel John became heir to the Lathom estates and therefore his eldest son inherited, even though his eldest son was by a different Mother. No wonder the inheritance to a long time to sort out!

John Stanley/186/Protective Eagle/1888 From Knowsley house. The eagle as a benefactor.As all this information was digested, The plot for this stories about Ximene evolved to make Ximene the frenchwoman, who John meets when in Occitan with the Black Prince in 1355 and 1356 and who is the mother of John II. It also casts Ximene as the personification of the Eagle, seen by later generations of Stanley’s as the  facilitator of the founding of their dynasty.

Different Views of the Eagle

A statue from the family home at Knowsley, in Lancashire, clearly depicts the Eagle as a Guardian or Protector.

John Stanley/186/pub eagle and child/1885 The pub signs frequently show the Eagle as a threatThe Eagle was not however seen through the same eyes by the Lytham family into which John eventually married, or the rest disinherited Stanley family.  Neither group ever forgot that the wealth of the later Stanleys was founded on the Lathom estates.

Hundreds of Public houses in the north of England and one famous inn in Oxford are called the Eagle and Child. Many of the pub signs, appear to show the Eagle as a predator, threatening the child.


substitution_cipher_mappings I have now lived with Ximene for so long that it is hard to remember she is a fictional character. An example of this was when I found an oblique reference to the fact that the Stanley family became skilled at the use of cyphers.

The name “Oscatel” had puzzled me for a long time so I mugged up cryptography and in particular the varieties of substitution cyphering. I found that with simple substitutions “Oscatel” can be read as “Trencavel”. I was elated to have made the link and then realised this is nonsense.  Ximene is a fiction character, therefore her family name has no meaning either. Nevertheless I will use it in the book!

 William Shakespeare

John Stanley/186/Shakespeare/1889 The candidates for authorship of shakespeare plays.Clockwise from top left: Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, Francis Bacon, William Stanley, Earl of Derby and Christopher Marlowe.As the research proceeded I became convinced that John’s marriage and the inheritance of the Lathom estates were closely connected with John’s appointment as King of Mann.

It also feels as if they were an inherent part of the Lancastrian revolution in which Richard II was deposed by Henry Bolingbroke who assumes the throne as Henry IV.  I find myself as an apologist for the Stanley family and for the Lancastrians.

There was another author who did precisely that, William Shakespeare, and perhaps  not even that is totally unconnected with our story.

A descendant of John Stanley, William Stanley (1561-1642) is considered by some to be the real author of Shakespeare’s plays. There are of course many other contenders but the Stanley alternative seems to be gathering adherents. A film by Jaime Salon  ‘El Otro William” and two books by Jennifer Lee Carrell “Interred with their bones” and “The Shakespeare Secret” all promote William Stanley as the real author.

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.