Joan Beaufort

Joan Beaufort was married twice. She was married first to Robert Ferrers, Baron Boteler of Wem. The marriage took place in France circa 1391. Ferrers was part of the Lancaster affinity and a member of Gaunt’s household. He died within three years of the wedding.

This union produced two daughters: Elizabeth and Margaret. Elizabeth married into the Greystoke family. This Cumbrian family were wealthy and by the early fifteenth century had moved their allegiance from the Percy family to the Neville family which perhaps accounts for the marriage. There was only one son from this marriage – he succeeded his father to the barony and continued the family loyalty to the Neville family – meaning that despite the fact that he was from the Lancaster affinity, had been part of the group escorting Margaret of Anjou to England on her marriage that he became a Yorkist when fighting broke out due to his agreement to support the Earl of Warwick – a Neville and member of the extended family. He changed sides back to Lancaster, was absent from Towton and generally managed to survive into the reign of Henry Tudor – dying in 1487.

Margaret Ferrers married her step brother Sir Ralph Neville – the son of Ralph Neville first Earl of Westmorland. This may have caused familial difficulty later on as although the Earl of Westmorland’s eldest son by his first wife gained the title on his death the family by Joan Beaufort, Margaret’s mother, got the money. The family feud resulted in the junior branch of the family being Yorkist (somewhat bizarrely given their descent from Joan Beaufort) and the senior line of the family being Lancastrian and allying themselves with their old enemies the Percy Earls of Northumberland presumably on the premise the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

All of which probably requires a little more explaining. The Earl of Westmorland’s first wife was Margaret Stafford.  Joan Beaufort, Katherine Swynford’s daughter was the second wife.

The title of Earl of Westmorland belonged to Margaret Stafford’s son after the death of his father even though the first earl only got the tile in 1397 after he married Joan who was King Richard II’s cousin. However John Neville  predeceased his father. The title was inherited by John’s son Ralph (and you’ll not be surprised to hear that Ralph’s mother was a Holland!) There was nothing that the First Earl could do about who gained the title as the earldom was inherited by entail to the eldest male.

However in 1436 grandson Ralph, the second Earl of Westmorland was bound over by the law not to attack his father’s half-siblings. The reason for this was that Ralph’s father John – the son of the first Earl of Westmorland who died before he could inherit – had agreed that he would only inherit Raby and Brancepeth – the transfer of land to Joan and her children had been orchestrated by William Gascoigne the Crown lawyer which was why Sheriff Hutton and Penrith, for example, were transferred out of the hands of the Earl of Westmorland and into a junior branch of the Neville family. Come to think of it even Raby ended up in the hands of the junior branch. Much of the land and wealth that the Neville family acquired during this period was because of Joan’s proximity to the royal family – Richard first and then loyalty was rewarded by Joan’s half brother Henry IV. It would make sense that those rewards were safeguarded to the semi-Plantagenet brood of Joan’s rather than the first family – even though they might not have seen it in the same way!

Ralph the 1st Earl of Westmorland produced twelve children via his first wife Margaret Stafford and a further fourteen with Joan. Of the fourteen there were five daughters and nine sons. Thankfully for the ever extending family tree the couple’s eldest daughter named Joan after her mother became a nun. And that is probably more than enough for today.

Wagner, John A. (2001). Encyclopaedia of the Wards of the Roses.  Oxford: ABC Clio

2 thoughts on “Joan Beaufort

    • I find it quite odd that the distaff line is often ignored when so many of the titles that are inherited are through the female line. Its interesting as well that the female line often yields some unexpected extended familial links.

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