This 1st July celebrates a whole year of our blogging as The History Girls! For the whole month we will be choosing our favourite characters from history and telling you why we like them. But because mine is a sombre choice and because we have accumulated so many Followers and hits over a single year, I shall follow that by starting off .... BIG Fanfare .. The History Girls’ virtual First Birthday Party!
Everyone is invited to bring their favourite food and drink and we have a special dispensation from all the museums, galleries and archaeological sites in the world to enable you to bring with you your favourite object from history and tell us about it.
Now, to my historical hero. Raimon-Roger Trencavel. I found out about him when I was researching my second historical novel, Troubadour (Bloomsbury 2009). I also went on a private pilgrimage to Béziers and Carcassonne in 2008, two places most associated with Raimon-Roger in the Albigensian Crusade.
He was the young Viscount of both cities as well as Razès and Albi and was a Cathar sympathiser at the very least. He owed allegiance both to his uncle, Raimon, the 6th Count of Toulouse and to King Pedro of Aragon.
Raimon-Roger was a very young man – only 24 at his death – married to Agnes of Montpelier and with a small son. But he had to cope with situations beyond the experience of most nobles or indeed most people.
In the Languedoc of that time (the early 13th century) there were many among the nobles and common people living in fortified hill-towns (later known as “bastides”) who were Cathars, that is, according to the Pope, heretics. Pope Innocent the Third (was ever a Pontiff less well-named?) declared war on them after his Papal Legate was murdered – as he believed on the orders of Count Raimon of Toulouse.
Raimon might well have been a Cathar himself. They were Dualists, believing that the soul was created by a the Divine and the body by a baser entity. Pacifist and often vegetarian, they were sitting ducks for Pope Innocents’ army of French barons, who had only to serve 40 days (the “quarantine”) in order to keep any land, property or chattels they won in battle against them.
Raimon-Roger, as I said, was a Cathar sympathiser, who could believe that the northern army would kill unresisting “heretics.” But he knew that the Jews in his cities were even more at risk. As the huge army approached Béziers, Raimon-Roger rounded up all the Jews and took them to his home city of Carcassonne under his protection, along with his wife and child.
|Carcassonne today - my photo
Imagine what the citizens of Carcassonne only a few miles away must have felt when they heard that 20,000 of their neighbours had been put to the sword or burned in Béziers – heretic and orthodox believers alike! How they must have dreaded the approach of the army to their gates!
After a siege, Raimon-Roger accepted the guarantee of a safe-conduct to have a parley with the army leaders. They captured him and threw him into his own dungeon (pictured) where he mysteriously died “of dysentery” on 10th November of the same year.
I have never been able to find out what happened to the Jews of Béziers/Carcasonne but the inhabitants were unexpectedly spared, allowed to leave the city clad only in their underclothes.
So I salute young Raimon-Roger for his bravery, his attempts to save his vassals instead of his own skin and I despise and loathe the Abbot of Citeaux and Simon de Montfort, to whom the city of Carcossonne and the Viscount’s titles and lands were given as a prize while Raimon-Roger still lived.
God will know His own, indeed. And there are two who certainly aren't even though one had a high position in the Church.
And now – time to party! Everyone is welcome to bring food, drink and their favourite historical object, big or small. There’s room for us all at the HG birthday party.
Although I won't be back in the country till late on Sunday, 1st July, I am kicking us off with a bottle of ice-cold Prosecco and some good olives and some salted almonds.
Salute, History Girls. It’s been a great year.
My chosen object is a sixteenth century pomander. I love the way that it opens into the shape of a flower, while closing into a globe. It epitomises for me the way the world is full of unexpected treasures.
Play nicely! I'll drop in on the party later on.