Joan of Navarre, Queen of England

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Joan of Navarre
Joana Canterbury.jpg
Duchess consort of Brittany
Tenure2 October 1386 – 1 November 1399
Queen consort of England
Tenure7 February 1403 – 20 March 1413
Coronation26 February 1403
Bornc.1368 [1]
Pamplona, Navarre
Died10 June 1437 (aged c. 68–69)
Havering-atte-Bower, London
Burial11 August 1437
among others
House Évreux
Father Charles II, King of Navarre
Mother Joan of Valois

Joan of Navarre, also known as Joanna (c.1368 – 10 June 1437) was Duchess of Brittany by marriage to Duke John IV and later Queen of England by marriage to King Henry IV. She served as regent of Brittany from 1399 until 1403 during the minority of her son. She also served as regent of England during the absence of her stepson, Henry V, in 1415. [2] Four years later he imprisoned her and confiscated her money and land. Joan was released in 1422, shortly before Henry V's death.


Joan was a daughter of King Charles II of Navarre and Joan of France. [3]

Duchess of Brittany

On 2 October 1386, Joan married her first husband, Duke John IV of Brittany (known in traditional English sources as John V). [4] She was his third wife and the only one with whom he had children.

John IV died on 1 November 1399 and was succeeded by his and Joan's son, John V. Her son being still a minor, she was made his guardian and the regent of Brittany during his minority. Not long after, King Henry IV of England proposed to marry her. The marriage proposal was given out of mutual personal preference rather than a dynastic marriage. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, affection developed between Joan and Henry while he resided at the Breton court during his banishment from England. Joan gave a favourable reply to the proposal, but stated that she could not go through with it until she had set the affairs of Brittany in order and arranged for the security of the duchy and her children. [2]

Joan knew that it would not be possible for her to continue as regent of Brittany after having married the king of England, nor would she be able to take her sons with her to England. A papal dispensation was necessary for the marriage, which was obtained in 1402. [2] She negotiated with the duke of Burgundy to make him guardian of her sons and regent of Brittany. Finally, she surrendered the custody of her sons and her power as regent of Brittany to the duke of Burgundy, who swore to respect the Breton rights and law, and departed for England with her daughters. [2]

Queen of England

Joan of Navarre's arms as queen consort Arms of Joan of Navarre.svg
Joan of Navarre's arms as queen consort

On 7 February 1403, Joan married Henry IV at Winchester Cathedral. On the 26th, she held her formal entry to London, where she was crowned queen of England. Queen Joan was described as beautiful, gracious and majestic, but also as greedy and stingy, and was accused of accepting bribes. Reportedly, she did not have a good impression of England, as a Breton ship was attacked outside the English coast just after her wedding. She preferred the company of her Breton entourage, which caused offence to such a degree that her Breton courtiers were exiled by order of Parliament, a ban the king did not think he could oppose given his sensitive relation to the Parliament at the time. [2]

Joan and Henry had no surviving children, but it appears that in 1403 Joan gave birth to stillborn twins. [6] She is recorded as having had a good relationship with Henry's children from his first marriage, often taking the side of the future Henry V in his quarrels with his father. Her daughters returned to France three years after their arrival on the order of their brother, her son.

In 1413, her second spouse died, succeeded by her stepson Henry V. Joan had a very good relationship with Henry, who allowed her use of his royal castles of Windsor, Wallingford, Berkhamsted and Hertford during his absence in France in 1415. [6] Upon his return, however, he brought her son Arthur of Brittany with him as a prisoner. Joan unsuccessfully tried to have him released. [2] This apparently damaged her relationship with Henry.

The ruins of Pevensey Castle where Joan was imprisoned in 1419. Pevensey castle-09.jpg
The ruins of Pevensey Castle where Joan was imprisoned in 1419.

In August 1419 the goods of her personal confessor, Friar Randolph, were confiscated, although the itemised list shows the objects actually belonged to Joan. The following month, Randolph came before Parliament and claimed that Joan had "plotted and schemed for the death and destruction of our said lord the King in the most evil and terrible manner imaginable". [6] Her large fortune was confiscated and she was imprisoned at Pevensey Castle in Sussex and later at Leeds Castle in Kent. She was released upon the order of Henry V in 1422, six weeks before he died. [7]

Joan's funeral effigy in Canterbury Cathedral, beside that of her husband. Henry the IV's tomb, Canterbury 08.JPG
Joan's funeral effigy in Canterbury Cathedral, beside that of her husband.

After her release, her fortune was returned to her, and she lived the rest of her life quietly and comfortably with her own court at Nottingham Castle, through Henry V's reign and into that of his son, Henry VI. She died at Havering-atte-Bower in Essex, and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral next to Henry IV.



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  1. Jones, Michael (2004). "Joan [Joan of Navarre] (1368–1437), queen of England, second consort of Henry IV | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/14824.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Strickland, Agnes. Lives of the Queens of England From The Norman Conquest. — L.: Bell and Daldy, 1864. — Т. I (I/VI). — pp. 455–496.
  3. Leese, Thelma Anna (2007). Blood Royal: Issue of the Kings and Queens of Medieval England, 1066–1399. Heritage Books Inc. p. 219.
  4. Jones, Michael (1988). The Creation of Brittany . London: Hambledon Press. p.  123. ISBN   090762880X.
  5. Boutell, Charles (1863). A Manual of Heraldry, Historical and Popular. London: Winsor & Newton. pp.  276.
  6. 1 2 3 Hollman, Gemma. Royal Witches: From Joan of Navarre to Elizabeth Woodville. The History Press, 2019.
  7. Jones, Michael (29 May 2014). "Joan [Joan of Navarre] (1368–1437)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/14824.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. Neil D. Thompson and Charles M. Hansen, The Ancestry of Charles II, King of England (American Society of Genealogists, 2012).
French nobility
Title last held by
Joan Holland
Duchess consort of Brittany
2 October 1386 – 1 November 1399
Succeeded by
Joan of Valois
English royalty
Title last held by
Isabella of Valois
Queen consort of England
Lady of Ireland

7 February 1403 – 20 March 1413
Title next held by
Catherine of Valois