The tabloids would have had a field day in 1361 when Edward, Prince of Wales – better known as the Black Prince married the love of his life. The people’s princess in this instance was his cousin, Joan of Kent.
Whilst she was the daughter of Edward I’s youngest son, Edmund Earl of Kent, by his second wife Margaret of France. There were a couple of skeletons rattling around the closet. For a start Edmund had been executed for treason in March 1330 – his crime? The attempted rescue of his half-brother King Edward II, a mere two years and six months after Edward II was supposed to have died in Berkeley Castle. Despite this small anomaly Joan had been raised in the household of Edward III’s queen, Philippa of Hainault. Perhaps this was where the Black Prince learned to call his future bride Jeanette.
The second scandal was harder to find a way round. Joan, aged twelve, had secretly married a household knight called Thomas Holland. Unfortunately Thomas was then required to go and do knightly things abroad. The marriage being a secret, Joan’s family arranged an appropriate match to the heir of the Earl of Salisbury. It was an unfortunate turn of events because it was inevitable that Holland would return to clim his bride. The Pope finally declared Joan to be married to Thomas in 1349.
After Thomas’s detain Normandy, fighting in one of the interminable campaigns of the Hundred Year’s War in 1360 Joan went on to marry her cousin the Black Prince – which can’t have gone down well as it would have been more politically savvy for the prince to have married a foreign princess for land, dowry and political allegiance.
Adam of Use writing some fourteen years after Joan’s death in 1399 described her as given to “slippery ways.” Even Froissart who was fond of pretty ladies described her as the most “amorous.” I find it interesting to think that chroniclers, particularly Adam of Usk, dared to be so free with their opinions. Adam suggested that Joan feared that her son might be toppled as king because of the number of flatterers that surrounded him – indicating that for all her amorous ways that Joan was politically astute – or was having words put into her mouth at a time when Richard II was on the verge of being toppled from his throne. It should be noted that Joan of Gaunt once fled from London to one of her residences for protection so my money is on politically astute.
There will be more on Joan as I am teaching a day school in Halifax on this rather colourful lady on Thursday 25th April. There are still spaces available if you would like to book. There will also be many references!