Who is Noble?

In 1350, the whole of Europe was ruled by an interconnecting aristocracy of Dukes, Comtes and Viscomtes. They assumed themselves to be “Noble”. They believed that they all belonged to a special group which gave them authority over other lesser mortals. Ximene was educated to believe that this tradition was an absolute fact.

They promoted this belief so successfully that those who owed allegiance to them, rarely questioned its validity.

alexander_4 The title (French and Occitan Comte, Spanish Conde, Italian Conte, Earls in England) originates in the term “companion” used to distinguish the personal guard of Alexander the Great. The leaders of Alexander’s army were also his personal bodyguard.

In the Roman Empire it originally had a similar meaning, “Companion of The Emperor”, but increasingly it came to mean “Appointee of the Emperor, acting on the Emporer’s behalf”. Those appointed to this role became known as “Nobilis Comites” which literally translates as the “well known”, or perhaps “famous” Counts.

Under the contol of the Comes The strategy being used depended totally on local quick decision making. The Comitas were detached from the Dux and given the authority to command not only their troops but civil and other military personnel. Whole districts were put under their command. The organisation created occasional conflict Comitas and Magister Milatorum. For all this to work the district civil administration had to understand the role of the Comitas and the role the civil population must play. The Comitas became increasingly independent and self reliant in the area they controlled.the claim to be “Noble”was often backed up by geneologies which showed that individual counts were descended from Julius Caesar, Cleopatra or even Jesus himself. Many Counts did have genealogical roots in the upper levels of the Roman Empire. There was a very good reason for this as the origin of the Counts lay in the management structure of the Roman empire and specifically in the appointments made by the later emperors.The Nobiles Comites had their origins in the structure of the Empire of that time. They were middle level administators and commanders of legions but with the unique status of representing the emperors interests. As the threat of invasion increased The management structure and even the roles themselves were refined, but the net result was that the roles of the Comites were continually strengthened.

Roman administration The Roman system of government was complex. In the Roman Empire, the whole objective was to provide wealth for Roman Citizens. Wealth was not generated by the ownership of land, and although the rich could have great landownings. Most senior officials were forbidden to take part in farming, trade or industry, hence the use of Comes. The way the wealth, generated by the Empire, was distributed to Roman Citizens was by payment for performing public office. Along with payment, all public offices offered the opportunity to take a commission on transactions under the incumbent’s control or even from a specific sphere of influence. As the empire grew a “Governor” dealing with civil issues and a “Dux” dealing with military issues was appointed in every province. Also in every Province their was a “Comes”, in charge of a legion. The Comes responded to the Dux. There were hundreds of thousands of Roman Officials. It was not so much an administration as a means of wealth distribution. This did not mean that the officials behaved without self interest. There was a great rebellion in Pannonia and Illyrica in AD 6-9. The leader of the rebellion Bato when questioned about the motivation for the rebellion replied “ You send as guardians of your flocks not Shepherds but Wolves”. In times of difficulty such as this, the Senate could appoint a “Legatus” who could carry out investigations in any province and most importantly take command of one or more legions. In emergencies the Senate could appoint, for a limited time a “Dictator” who could make decisions and take action without any reference to the senate. Initially the Augustus was simply a dictator appointed for life.The Roman Empire had it’s shortcomings and injustices  but for  most of the people in her Empire, Rome provided two hundred years of relative peace.

There was a good reason for the creation of the role of the Comites.

One of the weaknesses of the Roman Empire was that it had neither a written constitution or statutory laws. Administrators felt free to invent procedures and implement legal decisions to suit themselves. Many of the changes in administration were attempts by the various emperors to improve control. An earlier attempt, when the senate had greater power than it did in the later period, was the use of legates who could go to any part of the empire to enforce the senate’s will on any particular issue.

the-migrations For three generations the peace of the western empire  had been disrupted by the “migrations” of the Germanic peoples; Allamanii, Sueves,Vandals, Alans and Visigoths, all trying to escape from the ever increasing threat of the Huns. Then in 461 the Huns themselves had invaded, reaching the gates of Orleans.

The Reconfiguration The Huns were defeated, but by that point the populace had become obsessed with defence.  Local communities organised accordingly. Those who had led the army which had defeated the Huns had become much in demand initially as consultants to advise on defensive issues but increasingly to recruit skilled mencenaries, take up residence locally and to take command of the local militias.

These commanders were almost all drawn from the ranks of the Nobilis Comitas. By that stage the Comptes (Counts) were the guardians of warfare technology, specifically the use of cavalry, archery and the skills of fortification and siege. Initially in the service of communities they rapidly moved to impose taxes on those they protected. They used their new wealth to purchase land, and their new power to appropriate land.  They became rulers of the districts they had originally been hired to assist. The word “noble” took on a totally different meaning.

Church and State When in AD 476 news filtered through that Romulus Augustus had been deposed and that the senate in Rome had declared that they would be content to be ruled by a single common Emporer from the East, in the towns and on the great estates in Gaul it would not have felt like the end of the Roman Empire.   Some would have been in favour of the unification, some against. The majority would had no real interest, wanting only peace and quiet, with hopefully a reduction in the crippling tax burden. By this stage the western roman empire resembled a confederacy. Power had been decentralised into the hands of the Counts, initially as an integral part of the apparatus of the Empire but becoming increasingly independent from central authority.

Within 20 years an alliance between the Church of Rome and the Franks created a new structure but one which borrowed heavily from the old. Wealthy landowners  now became subservient to the Comtes and the feudal system was brought into being. The Counts began to jostle each other as they sought to increase local security by gaining control of important geographical features and they sought support from a higher authority, but which higher authority?  The Church of Rome played an important part in stabilising the situation by claiming that they and only they had the right to appoint kings.

Church and State Some counts or more often members of the new “royal” family were appointed as Dukes responsible for co-ordinating the activities of counts in specific geographical area and ensuring that in these areas the Kings wishes were met, thereby imposing on the counts, controls which a generation earlier the counts had imposed themselves on behalf of the Emperor.

In the Roman Empire, particularly in the east,  there were a large number of client Kings, who ranked below the Comes in the structure of the late empire, which goes a long way to explain the ambivalent attitude of the Comtes to a King, any King’s authority. It also explains Ximene’s unshakable belief that her royal suitors must ultimately bend to her will. In frankia the continual subdivision and redefinition of kingdoms resulted in the Comtes having a high degree of independence.

slide07 Nevertheless the Counts chose to give allegiance to kings because kings were chosen by the Pope to be God’s representative on Earth. A codicil to this acceptance was that Counts regarded Kings as no more than guardians of the Roman faith. The counts were often wealthier and more powerful than the Kings and regarded themselves to be the equal of, or superior to the King.

slide08 From the beginning of the 12th century the Counts began to appreciate their power . A king could be disenfranchised or a king’s territory diminished by group of counts changing their allegiance and swearing fealty to a different King.

slide10 In turn Kings scrambled to prove that they shared the “noble blood’ of an even had a purer strain, hence a growing preoccupation with dynastic marriages to improve their blood lines. Mistresses were taken by Kings for dynastic, not amorous reasons, to prevent prestigious blood lines being available to their competitors.

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.