Joan of Kent

Last updated

Joan of Kent
4th Countess of Kent
5th Baroness Wake of Liddell
Princess of Wales and of Aquitaine
Joan of Kent.jpg
Born29 September 1326/1327
Woodstock Palace, Oxfordshire, England
Died7 August 1385 (aged 57/58)
Wallingford Castle, Berkshire (present-day Oxfordshire), England
Burial27 January 1386
among others
House Plantagenet
Father Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent
Mother Margaret Wake, 3rd Baroness Wake of Liddell

Joan, Countess of Kent (29 September 1326/1327 [1] – 7 August 1385), known as The Fair Maid of Kent, was the mother of King Richard II of England, her son by her third husband, Edward the Black Prince, son and heir apparent of King Edward III. Although the French chronicler Jean Froissart called her "the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England, and the most loving", the appellation "Fair Maid of Kent" does not appear to be contemporary. [2] Joan inherited the titles 4th Countess of Kent and 5th Baroness Wake of Liddell after the death of her brother John, 3rd Earl of Kent, in 1352. Joan was made a Lady of the Garter in 1378. [3]


Early life

Arundel Castle in Sussex, where Joan, her mother and siblings were placed under house arrest 2083004 cb788d1c.jpg
Arundel Castle in Sussex, where Joan, her mother and siblings were placed under house arrest

Joan was born on 29 September of either 1326 [4] or 1327 [5] and was the daughter of Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent (1301-1330), by his wife, Margaret Wake, 3rd Baroness Wake of Liddell. Edmund was the sixth son of King Edward I of England by his second wife, Margaret of France, daughter of King Philip III of France. Edmund was always a loyal supporter of his eldest half-brother, King Edward II, which placed him in conflict with that monarch's wife, Queen Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. Edmund was executed in 1330 after Edward II was deposed; and Edmund's widow and four children (including Joan, who was only two years old at the time) were placed under house arrest in Arundel Castle in Sussex, which had been granted to Edmund in 1326 by his half-brother the king following the execution of the rebel Edmund FitzAlan, 9th Earl of Arundel. It was a time of great strain for the widowed Countess of Kent and her four children. They received respite after the new king, Edward III (Joan's half-first cousin), reached adulthood and took charge of affairs. He took on the responsibility for the family and looked after them well.

Early marriages

Arms of Holland of Upholland: Azure semee-de-lys argent, a lion rampant of the second. Joan's descendants by her husband Thomas Holland were granted in lieu of their paternal arms the royal arms of her father Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent, a difference of the arms of King Edward I Arms of Holland.svg
Arms of Holland of Upholland: Azure semée-de-lys argent, a lion rampant of the second. Joan's descendants by her husband Thomas Holland were granted in lieu of their paternal arms the royal arms of her father Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent, a difference of the arms of King Edward I

In 1340, at the age of about thirteen, Joan secretly married 26-year-old Thomas Holland of Up Holland, Lancashire, without first gaining the royal consent necessary for couples of their rank. [6] Shortly after the wedding, Holland left for the continent as part of the English expedition into Flanders and France. The following winter (1340 or 1341), while Holland was overseas, Joan's family arranged for her to marry William Montagu, son and heir of William Montagu, 1st Earl of Salisbury. It is not known if Joan confided to anyone about her first marriage before marrying Montagu, who was her own age. Later, Joan indicated that she had not announced her existing marriage with Thomas Holland because she was afraid it would lead to Holland's execution for treason. She may also have been influenced to believe that the earlier marriage was invalid. [7] Montagu's father died in 1344, and he became the 2nd Earl of Salisbury.

When Holland returned from the French campaigns in about 1348, his marriage to Joan was revealed. Holland confessed the secret marriage to the King and appealed to the Pope for the return of his wife. Salisbury held Joan captive so that she could not testify until the Church ordered him to release her. In 1349, the proceedings ruled in Holland's favor. Pope Clement VI annulled Joan's marriage to Salisbury and Joan and Thomas Holland were ordered to be married in the Church. [8]

Over the next eleven years, Thomas Holland and Joan had five children: [9]

Arms of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent: Arms of Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent, being the arms of his maternal grandfather which he was granted in lieu of his paternal arms Arms of Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent.svg
Arms of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent: Arms of Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent , being the arms of his maternal grandfather which he was granted in lieu of his paternal arms
  1. Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent (1350 – 25 April 1397), who married Lady Alice FitzAlan (c. 1350 – 17 March 1416), daughter of Richard FitzAlan, 10th Earl of Arundel and 8th Earl of Surrey, and Lady Eleanor of Lancaster.
  2. John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter and 1st Earl of Huntingdon (c. 1352 – 16 January 1400), who married Lady Elizabeth of Lancaster (c. 1363 – 24 November 1426), daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and Lady Blanche of Lancaster.
  3. Lady Joan Holland (1356 – October 1384), who married John IV, Duke of Brittany (1339 – 1 November 1399).
  4. Lady Maud Holland (1359 – 13 April 1392), who married firstly Hugh Courtenay (c. 1345 – 20 February 1374), heir apparent to the earldom of Devon, and secondly Waleran III of Luxembourg, Count of Ligny and Saint-Pol (1355 – 12 April 1415).
  5. Edmund Holland (c. 1354), who died young. He was buried in the church of Austin Friars, London.

When the last of Joan's siblings died in 1352, the lands and titles of her parents devolved upon her, and she became the 4th Countess of Kent and 5th Baroness Wake of Liddell. Her husband Holland was created Earl of Kent in right of his wife in 1360.

Marriage to the Black Prince

The death of Joan's first husband, Thomas Holland, in 1360 made her an attractive marriage prospect for Edward, the Black Prince, the son of her half-first cousin King Edward III. Some may infer that evidence of a long-held desire by Edward for Joan may be found in the record of his presenting her with a silver cup, part of the booty from one of his early military campaigns. Although one generation removed from her, he was only three or four years younger than she was (depending on whether she was born in 1326 or 1327). It is suggested that Edward's parents did not favour a marriage between their son and their former ward, but this may be contradicted by the fact that King Edward assisted his son in acquiring all four of the needed dispensations for Edward to marry Joan. Among the problems was Edward and Joan's birth placement within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity. Queen Philippa (wife of Edward III) had made a favourite of Joan in her childhood. Both she and the King may have been concerned about the legitimacy of any resulting children, considering Joan's complicated marital record, but such concerns were remedied by a second ruling of Pope Clement's successor Innocent VI that held the initial ruling on Joan's previous marriage attempts.

At the King's request, the Pope granted the four dispensations needed to allow the two to be legally married. Matters moved fast, and Joan was officially married to the Prince barely nine months after Holland's death. The official ceremony took place on 10 October 1361 at Windsor Castle, with the King and Queen in attendance. The Archbishop of Canterbury presided.

In 1362, the Black Prince was invested as Prince of Aquitaine, a region of France that had belonged to the English Crown since the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II of England in 1152. He and Joan moved to Bordeaux, the capital of the principality, where they spent the next nine years. Two sons were born during this period to the royal couple. The elder son, Edward of Angoulême (1365-1370), died at the age of five. At about the time of the birth of their younger son, the future King Richard II, the Black Prince was lured into a battle on behalf of King Peter of Castile and achieved one of his greatest victories. King Peter, however, was later killed, and there was no money to pay the troops. In the meantime, Joan was forced to raise another army as her husband's enemies were threatening Aquitaine in his absence.[ citation needed ]

Transition to Dowager Princess of Wales

By 1371, the Black Prince was no longer able to perform his duties as Prince of Aquitaine due to poor health, thus he and Joan returned to England shortly after burying their elder son. In 1372, the Black Prince forced himself to attempt one final, abortive campaign in the hope of saving his father's French possessions, but the exertion completely shattered his health. He returned to England for the last time on 7 June 1376, a week before his forty-sixth birthday, and died in his bed at the Palace of Westminster the next day.

Joan's son Prince Richard was now next in line to succeed his grandfather Edward III, who died on 21 June 1377. Richard was crowned as Richard II the following month at the age of 10. Early in his reign, the young King faced the challenge of the Peasants' Revolt. The Lollards, religious reformers led by John Wyclif, had enjoyed Joan's support, but the violent climax of the popular movement for reform reduced the feisty Joan to a state of terror, while leaving the King with an improved reputation.[ citation needed ]

As the King's mother, Joan exercised much influence behind the scenes and was recognised for her contributions during the early years of her son's reign. She also enjoyed a certain respect among the people as a venerable royal dowager. For example, on her return to London from a pilgrimage to Thomas Becket's shrine at Canterbury Cathedral in 1381, she found her way barred by Wat Tyler and his mob of rebels on Blackheath. Not only was she let through unharmed, but she was saluted with kisses and provided with an escort for the rest of her journey.

In January 1382, Richard II married Anne of Bohemia, daughter of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia.

Death and burial

Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, intended as Joan's burial place. The monument of the Black Prince is above Canterbury Cathedral Crypt.jpg
Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, intended as Joan's burial place. The monument of the Black Prince is above

John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter, was Joan's son by her first marriage; his wife Elizabeth of Lancaster was a daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, brother of the Black Prince. In 1385, while campaigning with his half-brother King Richard II in the Kingdom of Scotland, John Holland became involved in a quarrel with Sir Ralph Stafford, son of the 2nd Earl of Stafford, a favourite of Queen Anne of Bohemia. 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 royal son for four days to spare his half-brother, and on the fifth day (the exact date in August is not known), she died at Wallingford Castle. King Richard then relented and pardoned Holland, who was sent on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.[ citation needed ]

Joan was buried beside her first husband, as requested in her will, at the Greyfriars [lower-alpha 1] in Stamford, Lincolnshire. The Black Prince had built a chantry chapel for her in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral in Kent (where he himself was buried), with ceiling bosses sculpted with likenesses of her face. Another boss in the north nave aisle is also said to show her face. [10]

Family tree

Edward I of England
Edward II of England
Margaret Wake, 3rd Baroness Wake Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent
of the fifth creation
Edward III of England
Thomas Holland, 1st Earl of Kent
of the sixth creation
Joan, 4th Countess of Kent
of the fifth creation
Edward the Black Prince
John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent Richard II of England


  1. The site of the present hospital[ citation needed ]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland</span> 14th/15th-century English noble

Joan Beaufort was the youngest of the four legitimised children and only daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, by his mistress, later wife, Katherine Swynford. She married Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland and in her widowhood became a powerful landowner in the north of England.

John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter, 1st Earl of Huntingdon, KG, of Dartington Hall in Devon, was a half-brother of King Richard II (1377–1399), to whom he remained strongly loyal. He is primarily remembered for being suspected of assisting in the downfall of King Richard's uncle Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester (1355–1397) and then for conspiring against King Richard's first cousin and eventual deposer, Henry Bolingbroke, later King Henry IV (1399–1413).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter</span>

John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon, was an English nobleman and military commander during the Hundred Years' War. His father, the 1st Duke of Exeter, was a maternal half-brother to Richard II of England, and was executed after King Richard's deposition. The Holland family estates and titles were forfeited, but John was able to recover them by dedicating his career to royal service. Holland rendered great assistance to his cousin Henry V in his conquest of France, fighting both on land and on the sea. He was marshal and admiral of England and governor of Aquitaine under Henry VI.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent</span>

Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent was an English nobleman and a councillor of his half-brother, King Richard II of England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Fitzalan, 3rd Earl of Arundel</span> Earl of Arundel

Richard Fitzalan, 3rd Earl of Arundel, 8th Earl of Surrey was an English nobleman and medieval military leader and distinguished admiral. Arundel was one of the wealthiest nobles, and most loyal noble retainer of the chivalric code that governed the reign of Edward III of England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March</span>

Edmund de Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March and jure uxoris Earl of Ulster was the son of Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March, by his wife Philippa, daughter of William Montagu, 1st Earl of Salisbury and Catherine Grandison.

Margaret Wake, suo jure3rd Baroness Wake of Liddell and Countess of Kent, was the wife of Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent, the youngest surviving son of Edward I of England and Margaret of France.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House of Plantagenet</span> Angevin royal dynasty that ruled England in the middle ages

The House of Plantagenet was a royal house which originated from the lands of Anjou in France. The family held the English throne from 1154 to 1485, when Richard III died in battle.

Thomas Wake, 2nd Baron Wake of Liddell, English baron, belonged to a Lincolnshire family which had lands also in Cumberland, being the son of John Wake, 1st Baron Wake of Liddell, who was summoned to parliament as a baron in 1295, and the grandson of Baldwin Wake, both warriors of repute.

Alice Montacute was an English noblewoman and the suo jure 5th Countess of Salisbury, 6th Baroness Monthermer, and 7th and 4th Baroness Montagu, having succeeded to the titles in 1428.

Lady Joan Holland was the third daughter of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent, and Lady Alice FitzAlan. She married four times. Her first husband was a duke, and the following three were barons. All of her marriages were most likely childless.

Joan FitzAlan, Countess of Hereford, Countess of Essex and Countess of Northampton was the wife of the 7th Earl of Hereford, 6th Earl of Essex and 2nd Earl of Northampton. She was the mother of Mary de Bohun, the first wife of Henry of Bolingbroke who later reigned as King Henry IV, and Eleanor de Bohun, Duchess of Gloucester. She was the maternal grandmother of King Henry V.

Isabel le Despenser was an English noblewoman. She was the eldest daughter of Hugh le Despenser, 2nd Baron le Despenser and Eleanor de Clare, suo jure 6th Lady of Glamorgan. Her mother was the eldest daughter of Joan of Acre, Princess of England; thus making Isabel a great-granddaughter of King Edward I by his first consort, Eleanor of Castile, while her father is famous for being the favourite of Edward II of England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alice Holland, Countess of Kent</span>

Alice Holland, Countess of Kent, LG, formerly Lady Alice FitzAlan, was an English noblewoman, a daughter of the 10th Earl of Arundel, and the wife of the 2nd Earl of Kent, the half-brother of King Richard II. As the maternal grandmother of Anne de Mortimer, she was an ancestor of King Edward IV and King Richard III, as well as King Henry VII and the Tudor dynasty through her daughter Margaret Holland. She was also the maternal grandmother of Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scots.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alianore Holland, Countess of March</span>

Alianore Holland, Countess of March was the eldest daughter of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent, and the wife of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, heir presumptive to her uncle, King Richard II. Through her daughter, Anne Mortimer, she was the great-grandmother of the Yorkist kings Edward IV and Richard III. She was governess to Richard II's wife, Isabella of Valois.

John, an English nobleman, was the Earl of Kent (1331–52) and 4th Baron Wake of Liddell (1349–52). His promising career was cut short by an untimely death at the age of twenty-two.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eleanor Holland, Countess of Salisbury</span>

Eleanor Holland, Countess of Salisbury, was an English noblewoman, the daughter of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent, a half-brother of King Richard II of England. She was the first wife of Thomas Montagu, 4th Earl of Salisbury. One of her brothers was Edmund Holland, 4th Earl of Kent, to whom she was co-heiress. She is not to be confused with her eldest sister Alianore Holland, Countess of March who bore the same name.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Montagu, 3rd Earl of Salisbury</span>

John Montagu, 3rd Earl of Salisbury and 5th and 2nd Baron Montagu, KG was an English nobleman, one of the few who remained loyal to Richard II after Henry IV became king.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Montagu, 2nd Earl of Salisbury</span> Earl of Salisbury

William Montagu, 2nd Earl of Salisbury, 4th Baron Montagu, King of Mann, KG was an English nobleman and commander in the English army during King Edward III's French campaigns in the Hundred Years War. He was one of the Founder Knights of the Order of the Garter.

Maud Holland, LG, also known by her titles through marriage as Lady Courtenay and Countess of St Pol, was an English noblewoman. She was a daughter of Thomas Holland, 1st Earl of Kent and Joan of Kent. After Thomas' death Joan married Edward the Black Prince, who was then Prince of Wales. One of Joan and Edward's sons was the future King of England, Richard II. When she was aged around eight Edward arranged a marriage for Maud to Hugh Courtenay, whom she married, with royal and papal approval. Her husband, with whom she had no children, died in 1374. Maud was one of the first women to be invested as ladies of the Order of the Garter, when Richard II appointed many of his relatives to the order in 1378. In 1380 Maud married Waleran III, Count of Ligny, a French nobleman. After her death she was apparently buried in Westminster Abbey but the location of her grave is not known.


  1. Stamp et al. 1921, pp. 42, 45.
  2. Tait
  3. Ladies of the Garter, 1358-1488 - website
  4. Stamp et al. 1921, p. 45.
  5. Stamp et al. 1921, p. 42.
  6. Wentersdorf 1979, p. 205.
  7. Wentersdorf 1979, p. 206.
  8. Wentersdorf 1979, p. 212.
  9. Fryer, Mary Beacock; Bousfield, Arthur; Toffoli, Garry (26 July 1996) [1983]. Lives of the Princesses of Wales. Dundurn Press. p. 11. ISBN   9781459715103. OL   8352112M.
  10. "72: Fair Maid of Kent roof boss, Canterbury Cathedral, north nave aisle". Fine Stone Miniatures. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2014.


Peerage of England
Preceded by Countess of Kent
Succeeded by