Princess Joan of Kent

Joan of Kent was the daughter of Prince Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent and his wife Margaret Wake; wife of the Black Prince and mother to King Richard II.  She is unusual in that on the death of her brother, the 3rd Earl of Kent and 4th Baron Wake, Joan inherited the titles in her own right.

She may well be named after her maternal grandmother who was Princess Joan, King John’s illegitimate daughter who married Llewelyn the Great of Gwynedd.  Just to add to the family tangle, Princess Joan was also cousin to Roger Mortimer, Earl of March.  And Roger Mortimer was the man who was Queen Isabella’s lover and the man responsible for the judicial execution of Joan of Kent’s father who had continued to be loyal to the deposed Edward II (Kent’s half brother).  Once the usurping Earl of March had been done away with and Edward III assumed control of the throne he arranged for Joan and her sister to come to court.  The two girls were raised alongside his own children.  So Joan grew up with the Black Prince.  Eventually Joan became Edward III’s ward.

Clearly Joan was an important member of the royal family.  Whoever won her hand in marriage would gain many points in the medieval power game.  Joan had other ideas.  She fell in love with Sir Thomas Holland.  She was twelve.  He was twenty-six. His grandmother was Ela Longespee whose grandfather was the Fist Earl of Salisbury and the illegitimate son of Henry II which puts a whole new meaning on the saying ‘keep it in the family.’  Suffice it to say Thomas Holland wasn’t someone of the make.  His ancestry was as illustrious as that of Joan.

The problem was that because the pair had run away to get married it wasn’t strictly legal though very romantic.  Joan, and indeed Thomas, required the king’s consent to get married.  Her guardians at the time wanted Joan to marry their son, Sir William Montague, who was the second Earl of Salisbury.  They didn’t see Joan’s marriage to Thomas as a problem.  They simply waited for him to leave the country to go on crusade and then forced Joan to marry their son. In 1341 Holland returned home and wasn’t terribly pleased to discover that his wife was married to another man.  Undeterred he set about winning fame in France in what was to become the Hundred Years War as a military commander and then set about regaining Joan.  Salisbury put up a fight but in the end Pope Clement VI annulled Joan’s marriage to Salisbury.

Joan’s firstborn son Thomas Holland who became the Earl of Kent was an ancestor of Katherine Parr which is definitely an unexpected connection – though given the medieval penchant for familial marriages it probably shouldn’t be quite such a surprise. Another son married one of John of Gaunt’s daughters. And yet another child was an ancestor of Lady Jane Grey.  Sir Thomas died in 1360 leaving Joan a rich widow.  She was eventually buried beside her first husband.

As well as being wealthy and well-connected with the royal family Joan was also one of the beauties of her age.  She was known as ‘the fair maid of Kent’. Many offers of marriage were made.  Joan turned them all down.  According to one version of events, one of the Black Prince’s men asked  Edward to intercede with Joan on his behalf.  Edward found himself falling in love with his childhood companion.  They were cousins within the degree prohibited by the church so before they could marry a papal dispensation was required.  On her marriage she became the first Princess of Wales.

When she became the Queen Mother her life continued to be the stuff of historical novels and mini-series.  She was so loved by the people of England that when she encountered Wat Tyler and his men at Blackheath they let her pass unharmed with an escort (you can’t help wondering who let such an important personage as the king’s mother meander into the path of revolting peasants?).  In any event the tale demonstrates that as well as being regarded in the light of national treasure she was also conventionally religious.  She was returning from pilgrimage to Canterbury when her path crossed with that of Wat Tyler.

8 thoughts on “Princess Joan of Kent

  1. As my family and the Nevils go back in time with two marriages between us I may conclude that my veins contains Plantagenet blood. So the Beaufort Bastard failed in his attempt to kill us all off. That most singular fact enthrals me. As far as Cecily Nevil is concerned she was power mad and had been made very venerable by war.Maybe she saw Blaybourne and wanted security and that led to sex. Because Richard the son of the Duke accused her to her face that Edward was not his fathers issue.Cecily ,The Rose of Raby Castle did not say a word.Was she so shocked by her sons attack on her loyalty, her modesty and her guilt. Or was it she knew so well that he was right and could not find a single word in her own defense?

    • It’s a fascinating thought – especially as in your case these are distant relations you’re discussing. It’s also very frustrating. There are so many missing jigsaw pieces in the puzzle of history and that’s without taking into account the emotions and behaviour of individuals. It must have been tempting for women who were reasonably confident of their position to enjoy a little something on the side once they’d produced an heir and a spare given the fact that marriage had nothing to do with the way people felt about one another it was more of a business contract. Having said that for Cecily to play the field before the heir and a spare had been produced would have been foolhardy in the extreme. No doubt a historical novelist is putting glen to paper even as I type.

      • A most valid point as the big picture is not ours to own. As far as children are concerned even now only the mother ever knows for sure who fathered the child. I think it could be Proud Cecily favoured a bit on the side as she did not answer to it when accused by both George and later Richard.It made George the true King if that is the case. Then only six families ever fought each other for the top job and mine came up trumps so often. It was like winning the lottery I suppose.

  2. I thank you for your contact and have now today signed to join your blog.One therefore trust that all is in order and duly await ones next report with eager anticipation. My own degree covered the English Civil wars but in general my interest is everywhere in historical research. My last book is called the Time Detective and can be found now on Amazon Kindle E books. In its pages can be found recorded cases of injustice and legend.

      • I have now three books on web with Kindle just to test the water as publishers are no place to be found even though Westmorland Gazette newspaper published Window on Westmorland for me as I stll have a house there.Now gone I use Kindle. Interesting you wrote on Carlisle the old Roman town.I remember the old rail engine sheds built by taking down most of the old Roman wall and then being demolished when I was around six years of age. Bits of Roman tiles and the six crystal water fountains that still ran when Defoe wrote of the loveliness of that far distant city. The rim of one such fountain was taken by a relative for his garden at Sizergh. The rest ended up carted away as ballast by the Council before anyone with education could be contacted. A crying shame in my eyes and it is going on all over Britain as greedy Councils now want housing and land deals clear off anything worth while before history buffs can find out.

      • I’m absolutely fascinated. My book High Road to Harraby Hill was published by Bookcase in Carlisle. I loved doing the research and talking with my mother-in-law who has lived her whole life in Carlisle as did her mother before her. In fact my husband’s great grandfather helped to build the covered market and to errect the statue of Queen Victoria that stands in the park. Being fairly rootless myself I find it odd that the rest of my family can stand in front of solid ‘things’ related to their family history.
        You are, of course, quite right about buildings and artefacts of historical interest being demolished without a thought – which is odd given how much many of our towns and cities now rely on income from the tourist industry. I suppose it all depends on viewpoint and there are plenty of people out there who aren’t remotely interested in anything historical – shame that most of them seem to be in charge.

      • Many thanks Julia for your interesting reply. Seems that only the pigs can read and change the written rules as they go. I moved out of leadership because of broken Manifesto and rules of the party.I am retired in Europe and am renovating an old Villa as exercise, England is my home but things changed when Teflon Tony sold off the family silver as a job lot. My money goes so much futher out here. A real injustice being the very strange and violent death of Doctor Kelly. I am researching it all and the evidence is startling. One day all will come out in the open. Even though we Brits wait for all to be dead before daring to write. I was surprised that Winston Churchill came into the spotlight of the a writer who now blames him for killing his own mother? Could not have said that before the death of Mary.
        I have no worries and die like a man. Tony is alive and guilty.

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