Joan of England

Female 1333 - 1348  (15 years)

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  • Name Joan of England 
    Born 1333  Tower of London London, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Female 
    Died 02 Sep 1348  Loremo, France Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Bayonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I700  King of Scots
    Last Modified 15 Feb 2009 

    Father Edward III King of England,   b. 13 Nov 1312, Windsor Castle Windsor, Berkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 21 Jun 1377, Richmond Palace Richmond, Surrey, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 64 years) 
    Mother Philippa of Hainault (Queen of England),   b. 24 Jun 1311, Valenciennes, Nord, France Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 15 Aug 1369, Windsor Castle Windsor, Berkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 58 years) 
    Married 24 Jan 1328  York Minster, York, Yorkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F287  Group Sheet

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 1333 - Tower of London London, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 02 Sep 1348 - Loremo, France Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Bayonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Maps 
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Notes 
    • Joan of England (1333 or 1335- 2 September 1348) was the daughter of King Edward III of England and his Queen, Philippa of Hainault. Joan, also known as Joanna, was born perhaps in February of 1333 in the Tower of London. As a child she was put in the care of Marie de St Pol, wife of Aymer de Valence, who was the foundress of Pembroke College, Cambridge. She grew up together with her sister Isabella, her brother Edward and their cousin Joan of Kent.

      In 1338 Joan was taken on her father's travel to Coblence, where they met Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor, and were his special guests at the Imperial Diet in the church of Saint Castor. Edward III had formed an alliance with him against Philip VI of France, but in 1341 the emperor deserted him.

      It is possible that Joan had been betrothed to one of the sons Louis had with his wife Margaret of Holland, Philippa's older sister, and actually stayed in their court to be educated there. However, Edward III withdrew her in 1340.

      In 1345 she was betrothed to Pedro of Castile, son of Alphonso XI of Castile and Maria of Portugal.

      In early August of 1348 Joan left England with the blessing of her parents, and thanks to a heavily armed retinue she was, perhaps, the most protected woman of Europe in those days. It is said that her trousseau alone required an entire ship, and the travel schedule included a visit to a castle of her family in Bordeaux.

      Travel to Castile
      Edward III spared no expense in the preparation of Joan's journey, equipping her in the most impressive and wonderful way he could. The King loved his daughter, but it's very likely that he also wanted to make a display of power and wealth toward his allies in Castile.

      The fleet that carried the Princess and her retinue consisted of four English ships, which departed from Portsmouth and were received in Bordeaux by the awestruck mayor Raymond de Bisquale. Some say that he immediately warned Joan and her companions about the danger of the Plague, but they didn't listen and proceeded to settle in the royal castle overlooking the estuary of the Gironde.

      Joan's entourage included three leading officials: Robert Bouchier, the former royal chancellor; Andrew Ullford, a diplomatic lawyer; and the cathedral priest of Bordeaux, Gerald de Podio, who was to take care of the Princess's spiritual needs. Joan also had a remarkable Castilian minstrel, Gracias de Gyvill, who had been dispatched to England by Prince Pedro in order to entertain her with music and songs of the land of which she was to be Queen.

      The Princess was protected by over a hundred formidable English bowmen, some of them veterans of the Battle of Crecy, and she even traveled with a luxurious portable chapel so she could enjoy Catholic services without having to use the local churches all along the way to Castile.

      Joan's wedding dress was made with more than 150 meters of rakematiz, a thick imported silk, but she also had a suit of red velvet, two sets of twenty four buttons made of silver gilt and enamel, five corsets woven with gold patterns of stars, crescents and diamonds and at least two elaborate dresses with an inbuilt corset.

      These dresses were also made of rakematiz, one in green and the other in dark brown. The green was embroidered all over with images of rose arbors, wild animals and wild men, while the brown had a base of powdered gold and displayed a pattern of circles, each enclosing a lion as a symbol of monarchy.

      Joan's private chapel featured a couch decorated with fighting dragons and a border of vines, powdered with gold Byzantine coins, while the vestment cloth meant to cover the altar was decorated with serpents and dragons.

      When Joan set out for Castile she took not only all of these, but also beds and even bed curtains as well as vestments and hangings to be used inside her private chapel. And everything, together with most of her suits, ceremonial garments, clothes for general wear and special garments for riding, appears in her wardrobe account of 1347.

      As Princess Joan embarked on her journey to Castile, the Black Death had not taken hold of England yet and it is unlikely that they were aware of the dangers that lay ahead. Joan and her retinue were travelling into the center of a tragedy the likes of which Europe had never seen, and arrows and walls would not be enough to save her.

      Despite the severe outbreak that was taking place in Bordeaux, at first it did not occur to Joan and her advisors to get out of town. Very soon she watched in horror as the members of her entourage began falling sick and dying, and Robert Bouchier, the main leader of the retinue, died on August 20th of the Plague.

      Joan feared for her life, and was moved probably to a small village called Loremo where she remained for some time. However, they could not escape the disease and Joan was its first victim in the camp, suffering a violent and quick attack of the Black Death and dying on September 2nd, 1348, never reaching Castile and leaving her family in sorrow and fear.

      Some accounts document that Joan was buried in Bayonne Cathedral, and her statue, in Westminster Abbey, is on the South Side of her father's tomb.

      Joan's death sent shockwaves back home. Not only was she one of the earliest English victims of the Plague, but her death seemed to prove that even royalty was not going to be spared this deadly affliction.

      Andrew Ullford, the diplomatic lawyer, was not affected by the Plague and very soon he took off for England, in order to inform the King what had occurred. He did so in October, and the royal family, horrified, realized the true danger of the disease that had already started to attack their kingdom.

      On October 15, 1348, Edward III sent a letter to King Alfonso of Castile terminating the marriage arrangements and describing the sorrow that he and his family were suffering after the sudden and tragic death of the Princess. He described Joan as a martyred angel looking down from Heaven to protect the royal family, and concluded with traditional and formal piety:

      "We have placed our trust in God and our life between his hands, where he held it closely through many dangers"

      On October 25, Edward III sent an expedition to Bordeaux that was supposed to find the body of Joan and bring it back for burial in London. The leader was a northern ecclesiastical lord, the bishop of Carlisle, who was overpaid by the King because of the terrible risk involved.

      It is unknown what happened next. There is no record of Joan's remains being returned to England, nor any account of a funeral of any kind. Joan was taken away by the Plague and turned into a legend, and it has been suggested that her death, which prevented the dynastic union between England and Castile, altered the course of the Hundred Years' War and changed European history for centuries to come[citation needed].

      [edit] The Letter
      Here is part of the letter that King Edward III sent to King Alfonso of Castile, as translated by Rosemary Horrox in her book The Black Death:

      "We are sure that your Magnificence knows how, after much complicated negotiation about the intended marriage of the renowned Prince Pedro, your eldest son, and our most beloved daughter Joan, which was designed to nurture perpetual peace and create an indissoluble union between our Royal Houses, we sent our said daughter to Bordeaux, en route for your territories in Spain. But see, with what intense bitterness of heart we have to tell you this, destructive Death (who seizes young and old alike, sparing no one and reducing rich and poor to the same level) has lamentably snatched from both of us our dearest daughter, whom we loved best of all, as her virtues demanded"

      "No fellow human being could be surprised if we were inwardly desolated by the sting of this bitter grief, for we are humans too. But we, who have placed our trust in God and our Life between his hands, where he has held it closely through many great dangers, we give thanks to him that one of our own family, free of all stain, whom we have loved with our life, has been sent ahead to Heaven to reign among the choirs of virgins, where she can gladly intercede for our offenses before God Himself"

      [edit] In later Culture
      Joan appeared in The History Channel's two-hour Special The Plague[1]. In the microsite's gallery, picture #8 represents her.
      Her story was part of a book by medievalist Norman Cantor: In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death & the World it Made, in which the author wonders what would have happened if Joan had survived her journey and married her Prince.
      Joan's life in the weeks leading up to her death are key to the fictional plot of the graphic novel, Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold. However, Joan's story is told in a rather distorted way and the author presents few historical facts. Joan wasn't going to marry a man but a boy of her own age, and Peter still had a long way to go to attain his reputation of cruelty and sadism. Also, Joan spent nearly a month at Bordeaux before she died.
      Joan is a key character in the early chapters of The Lady Royal by Molly Costain Haycraft, a fictionalized biography of her older sister Isabella. The novel depicts the sisters as close friends and confidantes, and alleges that Isabella was visiting with Joan and her retinue at the time of the younger princess's death.

      [edit] Veil of Mystery
      Today, very little is known about Joan's life and death, which is rather strange given how important and significant her family was. Many pieces of information about this 14th century Princess are lost, including:

      Year of Birth: Most likely it was 1333, but could be 1334 or 1335.
      Day of Birth: February something- Unknown.
      Personality: Unknown.
      Place of Birth: Tower of London, but others say Woodstock Palace.
      Place of Death: Loremo, Bordeaux, or maybe Bayonne.
      Grave: Cathedral of Bayonne, but it is unclear whether she was really buried there or not.
      Possible loss of her remains: According to noted medievalist Norman Cantor, Joan died in Bordeaux and her body was lost in a rampaging fire that destroyed the royal castle.
      We have no portrait of her of any kind. But considering Isabella of France (paternal grandmother) and Philippa of Hainault (mother), Joan is likely to have had a similar appearance.

      External links
      [2] Princess Joan's online memorial, with virtual flowers and comments.

      Due to the mysterious circumstances surrounding Joan's story, it's rather difficult to find reliable sources of information about her. The Loremo and Bayonne theories mentioned above are disputed, but most of what is presented here comes from four respectable sources:

      The History Channel [3]
      In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death & the World it Made. By Norman Cantor.
      The Black Death. By Rosemary Horrox.
      Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince. By Stella Mary Newton.

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