Joan of Acre was one of Edward I’s daughters. Joan was born in Acre in 1272 whilst her father, Edward, was participating in the 9th crusade. Edward narrowly escaped assassination during the unsuccessful conflict but by September the family was on its way home. Edward and his wife paused in Sicily and it was whilst there were there than news arrived that Henry III was dead. Edward was now the king. Joan’s mother, Eleanor of Castile, left the baby with her mother Joan, Countess of Ponthieu and continued back to England arriving in 1274.
King Edward I used all of his children as diplomatic pawns to further his foreign policy. Edward of Carnarvon was betrothed four times in his childhood. Meanwhile Joan did not arrive in England until 1278 by which time her father was negotiating a match for her. Joan was betrothed to Hartmann von Hapsburg, son of King Rudolf I of Germany but he drowned in 1281. Her father took the opportunity to marry her off to Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester who was already married to someone else when Edward suggested the match. The wedding took place in Westminster Abbey on 30 April 1290.
Gilbert was a half-uncle by marriage to Edward I – bear with me. Henry III’s mother, Isabella of Angouleme, married Hugh de Lusignan after the death of King John. Isabella of Angouleme’s daughter Alice de Lusignan was married to Gilbert in 1253. Gilbert was ten at the time and the marriage was annulled in 1285 after King Edward approached the papacy. This had the effect of illegitimising Gilbert’s children with Alice but Gilbert, the 9th Earl of Clare, 7th Earl of Hertford and 8th Earl of Gloucester was a very powerful baron who supported Simon de Montfort against Henry III. He only returned to the Crown faction when de Montfort formed an alliance with the Welsh prince Llewellyn ap Gruffudd. Edward wanted to bind the baron to the Crown through a marriage.
Joan was a princess with attitude – which was probably just as well given that her step-children were older than she was. Soon after her own wedding she was supposed to attend the wedding of her sister Margaret but she left court without her father’s permission. Edward expressed his wrath by giving seven dresses that had been destined for Joan to her sister instead.
Joan had four children before Gilbert died in 1295. Joan’s son Gilbert was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 whilst her daughters all ended up married to various of Edward II’s favourites.
Joan chose her own future after the death of her husband. Edward I was arranging for her to marry the count of Savoy but she had other ideas. She had fallen in love with her husband’s squire Ralph de Monthermer. She sent Ralph to see her father with the request that he be knighted and when he returned she quietly got married. Unfortunately she didn’t tell her father what she had done so he continued with his plans and formally announced the betrothal of Joan to the Count of Savoy. Edward was said to be so angry when he found out that he threw his crown into the fire.
More practically he had Ralph locked up in Bristol Castle, refused to see Joan and confiscated all the estates she inherited from her husband. Joan sent her daughters to see their grandfather and the Bishop of Durham. Edward seems to have calmed down when he realised that Joan was pregnant – in August 1297 Ralph was created earl of Gloucester and Hertford by right of his wife. After ten years of happy marriage Joan died at Clare in Suffolk on 23 April 1307. Her titles passed to her son and Ralph became 1st Baron Monthermer.