Joanna of Flanders

Last updated
Joanna of Flanders
Jan z Montfortu.gif
Duchess consort of Brittany
Tenure30 April 134116 September 1345
Bornc. 1295
DiedSeptember 1374 (aged 78–79)
Spouse John of Montfort
Issue
House Dampierre
Father Louis I, Count of Nevers
Mother Joan, Countess of Rethel
Religion Roman Catholicism

Joanna of Flanders (c. 1295 – September 1374) was Duchess of Brittany by her marriage to John of Montfort. Much of her life was taken up in defence of the rights of her husband and, later, son to the dukedom, which was challenged by the House of Blois during the War of the Breton Succession. Known for her fiery personality, Joanna led the Montfortist cause after her husband had been captured, and began the fight-back, showing considerable skill as a military leader.

Contents

Shortly after taking refuge in England, she was confined to Tickhill Castle by order of King Edward III.

Joanna was highly praised by the chronicler Jean Froissart for her courage and energy. Because of her feats of leadership, David Hume described her as "the most extraordinary woman of the age".

Life

Joanna was the daughter of Louis I, Count of Nevers and Joan, Countess of Rethel, and the sister of Louis I, Count of Flanders. She married John of Monfort in March 1329. John of Monfort claimed the title of Duke of Brittany, although his claim was contested by Joan of Penthièvre and her husband, Charles of Blois. Joanna and John had two children: [1]

War of the Breton Succession

When John III, Duke of Brittany died childless in 1341, he left behind a contentious succession dispute. For many years he tried to find means to ensure that the children of his stepmother, Yolande of Dreux would not inherit the Duchy, including trying to have her marriage to his father annulled. At this time he declared his heir to be his niece Joan of Penthièvre. However he reconciled with his half brother, John of Monfort, shortly before his death, and indicated that he was to be the successor. Thus upon the death of Duke John III, there were two rival claimants for Brittany: the House of Montfort, led by John of Montfort and his wife Joanna, and the House of Blois led by Charles of Blois and his wife Joan of Penthièvre.

John of Montfort went to Paris to be heard by King Philip VI of France. Philip was an uncle of Charles, and he imprisoned John, despite having given him a promise of safe conduct. Philip and the French courts then declared Joan and Charles to be the true heirs to the Duchy.

Joanna then announced her infant son as the leader of the Montfortist faction. She mustered an army and captured Redon. From there she went to Hennebont, to prepare it for a siege. Charles of Blois duly arrived in 1342 and besieged the town. She then sent Amaury de Clisson to ask King Edward III of England for aid. This, Edward was eager to give, since he had been claiming the French crown for himself, and was therefore at odds with Philip. If he could get Brittany as an ally, this would be of great advantage for future campaigns. He prepared ships under the command of Sir Walter Manny to relieve the siege. [2]

Siege of Hennebont

In the siege of Hennebont, she took up arms and, dressed in armour, conducted the defence of the town, encouraging the people to fight, and urging the women to "cut their skirts and take their safety in their own hands". When she looked from a tower and saw that the enemy camp was almost unguarded, she led three hundred men on a charge, burned down Charles' supplies and destroyed his tents. After this she became known as "Jeanne la Flamme". When the Blois faction realised what was happening, they cut off her retreat to the town, but she and her knights rode to Brest, drawing a portion of the Blois force with them. Having secured Brest, she gathered together extra supporters and secretly returned to Hennebont, evading the Blois forces and re-entering the town with her reinforcements. [2]

Charles of Blois tried to starve the people in Hennebont. During a long meeting the bishop of Leon tried to persuade Joanna to surrender, but from the window she saw Walter Manny's fleet from England sailing up. Hennebont was strengthened with the English forces and held out. [3] Charles was forced to retreat, but tried to isolate Joanna by taking other towns in Brittany. On his return he again failed to capture Hennebont. [2]

Fight back

Joanna sailed to England to seek further reinforcements from King Edward, which he provided, but the English fleet was intercepted on its way to Brittany by Charles of Blois' ally, Louis of Spain. In a hard-fought battle, the sailors and knights grappled in hand-to-hand combat as Louis' men attempted to board Joanna's ship. According to Froissart, Joanna fought in person "with the heart of a lion, and in her hand she wielded a sharp glaive, wherewith she fought fiercely". [2] Eventually the English forces beat off Louis's ships and made harbour near Vannes. Her forces then captured Vannes, besieged Rennes and sought to break the siege of Hennebont.

From this point Joanna played little direct part in the fighting, as her faction was now being led by English warlords. With neither side able to achieve a decisive victory, by the truce of Malestroit in 1343, her husband John was released and hostilities ceased for a period. He was later imprisoned once again, but escaped and resumed the conflict. When her husband died in 1345 in the midst of the war, she again became the leader of the Montfort party to protect the rights of her son John V against the House of Blois. In 1347, English forces acting on her behalf captured Charles of Blois in battle.

Confinement

By this time Joanna and her son were living in England. In England, after being initially welcomed with honor, she was later confined by order of King Edward III and spent the rest of her life in confinement at Tickhill Castle and elsewhere. King Edward III entrusted her to the care of Sir William Frank until 1346, Thomas Haukeston (1346–57), John Delves (d. 1370) and finally to his widow Isabella and Godfrei Foljambe. Arthur de la Borderie attributed her confinement to mental illness, but more recent research finds no evidence she was insane. It is unlikely that "Warmer" (Warnier?) de Giston, assisted by his yeoman, would have risked gravely compromising himself by taking her out of the castle in 1347 and attempting to flee with her if she were mentally ill. [4] [5] Edward III probably imprisoned her in order to increase his own power in Brittany.

She lived long enough to see the final victory of her son John IV, Duke of Brittany over the House of Blois in 1364, but she never returned to the duchy. The last mention made of the duchess and her guardian is 14 February 1374. It seems she died that year.

Legacy

Joanna of Flanders spots the English fleet arriving to relieve Hennebont, 1342
Illus. from Francois Guizot's, History of France, 1869 Joanna-of-Flanders-History-of-France-Guizot-1869.jpg
Joanna of Flanders spots the English fleet arriving to relieve Hennebont, 1342
Illus. from François Guizot's, History of France, 1869

Joanna was later known as a prototype of the martial woman in Brittany, and a possible influence on Joan of Arc. [6] Jean Froissart said she "had the courage of a man and the heart of a lion". [2] David Hume described her as "the most extraordinary woman of the age". [2] Victorian feminists also cited her as a role-model. Harriet Taylor Mill mentions her as one of the "heroic chatelaines" of the Middle Ages in her essay "The Enfranchisement of Women". [7] Amelia Bloomer also cites her as one of the "heroic women" of the era. [8] Pierce Butler said that she is "known to us, through the enthusiastic record of Froissart, as an amazon, but hardly known at all as a woman". He concluded,

In those qualities admired by chivalry she was unquestionably an extraordinary woman: courageous and personally valiant, with a head to plan daring exploits and a heart to conduct her through the thick of the danger; impulsive and generous, a free-handed ruler and an admirer of those deeds of chivalrous daring in others which she was so willing to share in herself ... One cannot read her story without enthusiasm, yet one would like to know more of the woman before bestowing unreserved praise on the countess "who was worth a man in a fight" and "who had the heart of a lion". [2]

Joanna was later celebrated for her fiery exploits in Breton folklore, in particular in a ballad collected in Barzaz Breiz, which relates her attack on the camp at Hennebont. In Jeanne Coroller-Danio's Breton nationalist book Histoire de Notre Bretagne (1922), Joanna is depicted as a heroine of Breton resistance to French occupation.

See also

Related Research Articles

Duchy of Brittany Medieval duchy in northwestern France

The Duchy of Brittany was a medieval feudal state that existed between approximately 939 and 1547. Its territory covered the northwestern peninsula of Europe, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the English Channel to the north. It was less definitively bordered by the Loire River to the south, and Normandy and other French provinces to the east. The Duchy was established after the expulsion of Viking armies from the region around 939. The Duchy, in the 10th and 11th centuries, was politically unstable, with the dukes holding only limited power outside their own personal lands. The Duchy had mixed relationships with the neighbouring Duchy of Normandy, sometimes allying itself with Normandy, and at other times, such as the Breton-Norman War, entering into open conflict.

Battle of Auray

The Battle of Auray took place on 29 September 1364 at the French town of Auray. This battle was the decisive confrontation of the Breton War of Succession, a part of the Hundred Years' War.

Joan, Duchess of Brittany Duchess regnant of Brittany during the War of the Breton Succession

Joan of Penthièvre or Joan the Lame reigned as Duchess of Brittany together with her husband, Charles of Blois, between 1341 and 1364. Her ducal claims were contested by the House of Montfort, which prevailed only after an extensive civil war, the War of the Breton Succession. After the war, Joan remained titular Duchess of Brittany to her death. She was Countess of Penthièvre in her own right throughout her life.

War of the Breton Succession Conflict between the Counts of Blois and the Montforts of Brittany

The War of the Breton Succession was a conflict between the Counts of Blois and the Montforts of Brittany for control of the Sovereign Duchy of Brittany, then a fief of the Kingdom of France. It was fought between 1341 and 12 April 1365.

John of Montfort Duke of Brittany

John of Montfort, sometimes known as John IV of Brittany, and 6th Earl of Richmond from 1341 to his death. He was the son of Arthur II, Duke of Brittany and his second wife, Yolande de Dreux. He contested the inheritance of the Duchy of Brittany by his niece, Joan of Penthièvre, which led to the War of the Breton Succession, which in turn evolved into being part of the Hundred Years' War between England and France. John's patron in his quest was King Edward III of England. He died in 1345, 19 years before the end of the war, and the victory of his son John IV over Joan of Penthièvre and her husband, Charles of Blois.

Charles, Duke of Brittany

Charles of Blois-Châtillon "the Saint", was the legalist Duke of Brittany from 1341 to his death via his marriage to Joan of Penthiève, holding the title against the claims of John of Montfort. The cause of his possible canonization was the subject of a good deal political maneuvering on the part of his cousin, Charles V of France who endorsed it, and his rival, Montfort, who opposed it. The cause fell dormant after Pope Gregory XI left Avignon in 1376, but was revived in 1894. Charles of Blois was beatified in 1904.

John IV, Duke of Brittany Duke of Brittany

John IV the Conqueror KG was Duke of Brittany and Count of Montfort from 1345 until his death and 7th Earl of Richmond from 1372 until his death.

John V, Duke of Brittany Duke of Brittany

John V, sometimes numbered as VI, bynamed John the Wise, was Duke of Brittany and Count of Montfort from 1399 to his death. His rule coincided with the height of the Hundred Years' War between England and France. John's reversals in that conflict, as well as in other internal struggles in France, served to strengthen his duchy and to maintain its independence.

Earl of Richmond

The now-extinct title of Earl of Richmond was created many times in the Peerage of England. The earldom of Richmond was initially held by various Breton nobles associated with the Ducal crown of Brittany; sometimes the holder was the Breton Duke himself, including one member of the cadet branch of the French Capetian dynasty. The historical ties between the Ducal crown of Brittany and this English Earldom were maintained ceremonially by the Breton dukes even after England ceased to recognize the Breton Dukes as Earls of England and those dukes rendered homage to the King of France, rather than the English crown. It was then held either by members of the English royal families of Plantagenet and Tudor, or English nobles closely associated with the English crown. It was eventually merged into the English crown during the reign of Henry VII and has been recreated as a Dukedom.

Olivier de Clisson 14th and 15th-century Breton general

Olivier Le Vieux de Clisson, dit Olivier V de Clisson, nicknamed "The Butcher", was a Breton soldier, the son of Olivier IV de Clisson. His father had been put to death by the French in 1343 on the suspicion of having willingly given up the city of Vannes to the English.

Counts and dukes of Penthièvre

In the 11th and 12th centuries the Countship of Penthièvre in Brittany belonged to a branch of the sovereign House of Brittany. It initially belonged to the House of Rennes. Alan III, Duke of Brittany, gave it to his brother Eudes in 1035, and his descendants formed a cadet branch of the ducal house.

Montfort of Brittany

The House of Montfort was a Breton-French noble family, which reigned in the Duchy of Brittany from 1365 to 1514. It was a cadet branch of the House of Dreux; it was thus ultimately part of the Capetian dynasty. It should not be confused with the older House of Montfort which ruled as Counts of Montfort-l'Amaury.

House of Dreux

The House of Dreux was a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty. It was founded by Robert I, Count of Dreux, a son of Louis VI of France, who was given the County of Dreux as his appanage.

The battle of Brest, sometimes called the battle of the River Penfeld, was an action in 1342 between an English squadron of converted merchant ships and that of a mercenary galley force from Genoa fighting for the Franco-Breton faction of Charles of Blois during the Breton War of Succession, a side conflict of the Hundred Years War.

The Battle of Champtoceaux, often called the Battle of l'Humeau, was the opening action of the 23-year-long War of the Breton Succession, a dynastic conflict in Brittany which became inevitably embroiled in the Hundred Years War between England and France. This battle should have decided the war at a stroke, as John of Montfort, the leader of one faction, was made prisoner. However his wife, Joanna of Flanders, and young son John escaped imprisonment. Their escape and continued support from his ally, England, allowed continued resistance to flourish and eventually turn the tide.

The first treaty of Guérande, signed April 12, 1365 ended the Breton War of Succession.

Jeanne de Clisson Breton privateer

Jeanne de Clisson (1300–1359), also known as Jeanne de Belleville and the Lioness of Brittany, was a Breton former noblewoman who became a privateer to avenge her husband after he was executed for treason by the French king. She plied the English Channel and targeted French ships, often slaughtering the crew. It was her practice to leave at least one sailor alive to carry her messages to the King of France.

Sieges of Vannes (1342)

The sieges of Vannes of 1342 were a series of four sieges of the town of Vannes that occurred throughout 1342. Two rival claimants to the Duchy of Brittany, John of Montfort and Charles of Blois, competed for Vannes throughout this civil war from 1341 to 1365. The successive sieges ruined Vannes and its surrounding countryside. Vannes was eventually sold off in a truce between England and France, signed in January 1343 in Malestroit. Saved by an appeal of Pope Clement VI, Vannes remained in the hands of its own rulers, but ultimately resided under English control from September 1343 till the end of the war in 1365.

Harvey VII of Léon was a Breton lord, son of Harvey VI, Lord of Léon and his wife Joanna of Montmorency. He succeeded his father as Lord of Léon in 1337. He was also Lord of Noyon-sur-Andelle. The Lords of Léon were a junior branch of the Viscounts of Léon which was founded by Harvey I, second son of Guihomar IV, Viscount of Léon. Harvey VII won fame during the War of the Breton Succession.

John I, Count of Penthièvre (b. 1345, d. 1404)

John I, was Count of Penthièvre and Viscount of Limoges from 1364 to 1404, and the Penthièvre claimant to the Duchy of Brittany.

References

  1. Jones, Michael, The Creation of Brittany, (The Hambledon Press, 1988), 210.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Butler, Pierce, Women of Medieval France, Chapter IX, Barrie, London 1907.
  3. Mortimer, Ian (2008). The Perfect King The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation. Vintage. pp. 204–205.
  4. Famiglietti, R.C. Audouin Chauveron. 2 (2015), p. 86-87.
  5. Sarpy, Julie (2019). Joanna of Flanders : Heroine and Exile. Stroud: Amberley Books. OCLC   1104594605.
  6. Stephen Wesley Richey, Joan of Arc: The Warrior Saint, Greenwood, 2003, p.116.
  7. John Stuart Mill, Alice S. Rossi, Harriet Taylor Mill, Essays on Sex Equality, University of Chicago Press, 1970, p.102.
  8. Anne C. Coon (ed) Hear Me Patiently:The Reform Speeches of Amelia Jenks Bloomer, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1994, p.158/
Preceded by
Joan of Savoy
Duchess consort of Brittany
1341–1345
Succeeded by
Mary of Waltham