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Historical InformationJoan of Kent

Joan Countess of Kent, Princess of Wales, 1328-1385

Also known as The fair maid of Kent

Born: 29 September 1328 Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England

Died: 8 August 1385, Wallingford, Castle, Berkshire, England

Buried: 29 Jan 1386, Friars Minors, Stamford, Lincolnshire, England

Parents: Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent and Baroness Margaret of Liddell Wake

Siblings:

Married 1:

Spouse 1: Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent

Offspring:

Thomas de Holland 2nd Earl of Kent (born: 1350, Upholand, Lancashire, died 25 April 1397, Arundel Castle, Sussex)
Edmund Holland (born 1352)
Joan Holland (born 1356)
John Holland 1st Duke of Exeter (born 1358)
Matilda Holland (born 1359)

Married 2: before 15 October 1348, annulled 1349, Donyatt, Somerset, England

Spouse 2: William Montacute (Marriage Annulled)

Offspring:

Married 3: 10 OCT 1361, Windsor, England

Spouse 3: Edward, Prince of Wales

Offspring:

1). Edward (born 27 January 1365, Angouleme, died 1372, Bordeaux, France)

2). Richard II, King of England (born 6 January 1367, Bordeaux, France, died 6 January 1400, Pontefract, Castle, buried, Westminster, Abbey, London, England)

Heraldic Coat of Arms:

Lady of the Garter

Joan, Princess of Wales, known as "The Fair Maid of Kent" because of her great beauty, was born on September 29, 1328. Her father, Edmund, Earl of Kent, was a son of King Edward I of England, and a half-brother of Edward II. In 1330 Edmund may have been tricked into trying to free his brother, Edward II even though he was probably already dead. But the Earl’s royal blood could not save him from being beheaded by his sister-in-law, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Joan and her mother were imprisoned at Salisbury Castle for nine months. Joan spent her childhood under the care of William Montague (first earl of Salisbury) and Catherine/Katharine Montague, along with two of her three future husbands, William Montague, and Edward, Prince of Wales (the Black Prince) who called her Jeanette. Edward and Jean enjoyed a love of expensive clothes.

The Earl’s widow, Margaret, was left with four children. Her younger daughter, Joan, was only two years old. Her cousin, the new King, Edward III, took on the responsibility for the family, and looked after them well. His wife, Queen Philippa, was well known for her tender-heartedness, and Joan grew up at court, where she became friendly with her cousins, including Edward, the Black Prince.

At the age of twelve, she entered into a clandestine marriage with Thomas Holland of Broughton. The following year, while Holland was overseas, her family forced her into a marriage with William Montacute. She had helped defend her castle of Wark against the indaving Scots while the English and her husband were campaigning in France. As Countess of Salisbury, Joan moved in the highest society. Some historians identify her as the mystery woman who appeared at a banquet in Calais to celebrate its capture in 1347 and attracted the attention of every man present. Allegedly, while dancing with the King, the lady lost her blue velvet garter, and this was the origin of the Order of the Garter. King Edward III (her first cousin, their fathers both being sons of Edward I), stooped to pick up a garter she had dropped on the ballroom floor. To the guffaws of the crowd, he responded in French, "Honi soit qui mal y pense" (Evil to him who evil thinks), and fastened it about his own leg. It is more likely that Joan's mother-in-law was the woman involved.

It was not for several years that Thomas Holland returned from crusade, having made his fortune, and the full story of his earlier relationship with Joan came out. He travelled to Rome and appealed to the Pope for the return of his wife. When the Earl of Salisbury discovered that Joan supported Holland’s case, he kept her a virtual prisoner in her own home. The Pope annulled Joan’s marriage to the Earl and sent her back to Thomas Holland, with whom she lived for the next eleven years. They had five children, before Thomas Holland died.

Joan, widowed at thirty-two, had inherited the earldom of Kent when her brother died in 1353. She was strikingly beautiful, with perfect features, auburn hair that reached to her waist, and dark eyes, and was regarded as one of the most desirable women in the country. The Black Prince had been in love with her for years, but his father and mother disapproved, as he wanted Prince Edward to marry someone from the continent for Political advantage. Queen Philippa might have made a favourite of Joan at first, but as her son grew older, she had become concerned about the budding romance between the two cousins, and set herself against it.

The Archbishop of Canterbury warned the Prince that there could be doubts cast on the legitimacy of any children Joan might bear him, in view of the fact that one of her previous husbands, the Earl of Salisbury, was still alive, but the marriage went ahead with an assurance of absolution from the Pope.The wedding contract was signed at the Archbishop's palace at Lambeth on 6 June 1361. The prince was married to Joan in the Royal Chapel of St. George at Windsor Castle, Berkshire on Sunday 10th October 1361. To celebrate the marriage Jean had made a red velvet bed decorated with silver ostrich feathers and gold leopards heads. They travelled to France and arrived in Gascony in June 1363. They had two sons, Edward, after his grandfather born at Angoulême on 27th January 1365, who died at Bordeaux, age 6; and Richard, later King Richard II.

Around the time of the birth of their younger son, Richard, the prince was lured into a war on behalf of Pedro the Cruel, ruler of Castile. The ensuing battle was one of the Black Prince’s greatest victories, but King Pedro was killed, and there was no money to pay the troops. In the meantime, the Princess was forced to raise another army, because the Prince’s enemies were threatening Aquitaine in his absence.

By 1371, the Black Prince was no longer able to perform his duties as Prince of Aquitaine, and returned to England, where plague was wreaking havoc. It killed Joan’s mother, Margaret, in 1372. Joan inherited her title to add to all the others, Lady Wake of Lidel. In that same year, the Black Prince forced himself to attempt one final, abortive campaign in the hope of saving his father’s French possessions. His health was now completely shattered, later the same year, a week before his forty-sixth birthday, he died in his bed at Westminster.

Joan’s son, Richard, was now the heir to the throne. Early in his reign, the young King faced the challenge of the Peasants' Revolt. The Lollards, religious reformers led by John Wyclif, had enjoyed the protection of Joan of Kent, but the violent climax of the popular movement for reform reduced the feisty Joan to a state of terror, whilst leaving the King with an improved reputation. But for Joan, worse was to come. In 1385, Sir John Holland, a grown-up son of her first marriage, was campaigning with the King in Scotland, when a quarrel broke out between him and Lord Stafford, a favourite of the new Queen. Stafford was killed, and John Holland sought sanctuary at the shrine of St John of Beverley. On the King’s return, Holland was condemned to death. Joan pleaded with her son for four days to spare his half-brother. On the fifth day, (the exact date in August is not known), she died, at Wallingford Castle. Richard, of course, relented, and pardoned Holland, but the damage was done. Joan was buried at Stamford in Lincolnshire. Sir John Holland was sent on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Joan Plantagenet, "The Fair Maid of Kent," so called from her extraordinary beauty. Sir John Chandos's herald said of her 'que bele fu pleasant et sage - lovely, pleasant and wise'. Joan inherited the Earldom of Kent and Earldom of Woodstock, honours of her father, and the Barony of Wake, a dignity of her mother, from which latter peerage she styled herself "Lady of Wake."

Last Will and Testament

In the year of our Lord 1385, and of the reign of my dear son Richard, King of England and France, the 9th; at my Castle of Walyngford, in the Diocese of Salisbury, the 7th of August, I Joan Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Countess of Chester, and Lady Wake. My body to be buried in my chapel at Stanford, near the monument of our late lord and husband, the Earl of Kent. To my dear son the King, my new bed of red velvet, embroidered with ostrich feathers of silver, and heads of leopards of gold with boughs and leaves issuing out of their mouths. To my dear son Thomas Earl of Kent, my bed of red camak [sic.] paled with red and rays of gold. To my dear son John Holland, a bed of red camak. And I appoint the Venerable Father in Christ, my dear friend and cousin, Robert Bishop of London; William Bishop of Winchester; John Lord Cobham; William de Beauchamp, William de Nevill, Simon de Burlee, Lewis Clifford, Richard Atterbury, John Clanvow, Richard Stury, John Worthe, steward of my lands, and John le Vache, Knights; together with my dear chaplains, William de Fulburn and John de Yernemouth; and my loving esquires, William de Harpele, and William Norton, my executors. Witnessed by the Prior of Walyngforde and John James. Proved 9th December 1385.

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