On this day, 7 August 1385 Joan of Kent died. Joan of Kent was born on 29 September 1328 in Woodstock palace, Oxfordshire, England. She was daughter to Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent and Margaret Wake, 3rd Baroness Wake of Liddell.
She was known to history as the fair maid of Kent. She had five titles namely: Princess of Wales, Princess of Aquitaine, Countess of Salisbury, 4th Countess of Kent and 5th Baroness wake of Liddell.
French Chronicler, Jean Froissart referred to her as “The most beautiful woman in all the realm of England and most loving.”
Joan of Kent got two titles after the death of her brother John in 1352. The two titles she acquired were the 5th Baroness wake of Liddell and the 4th Countess of Kent.
Her father Edmund was the son of King Edward I and his second wife Margret of France daughter of Philip III of France. Edmund was executed after Edward II’s deposition and her mother along with her children were placed under house arrest in Arundel Castle when Joan was only two years old.
First cousin of Joan of Kent, the new King Edward III took on the responsibility to look after her family. The wife of King Edward III, Queen Philippa was Joan’s second cousin.
Years on, Joan of Kent secretly got married to her first husband Thomas Holland without gaining consent required for couples of their rank when she was only twelve years old. While still secretly married to Thomas Holland, Joan of Kent was forced to get married to William Montacute who became her second husband without disclosing her marriage to Thomas. She was afraid to disclose her marriage to Thomas Holland because her disclosure would lead to the execution for treason upon his return from the crusades. Once Thomas returned from the crusades, Joan of Kent came out and Thomas appealed to the pope for the return of his wife and confessed the secret marriage to the King.
Once the Earl of Salisbury discovered Thomas Holland’s case was supported by his wife Joan, the Earl of Salisbury kept her a prisoner in her own home. In 1349, Pope Clement VI annulled Joan’s marriage to the Earl and was sent her back to Thomas Holland with whom she lived for eleven years. They had five children before Holland died in 1360. The five children were: Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent, John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter, Lady Joan Holland (1356-1384), Lady Maud Holland (1359-1391) and Edmund Holland, who died young. He was buried in the church of Austin Friars, London.
Joan of Kent later married her third husband, Edward the Black Prince. The prince was invested as Prince of Aquitaine, a region in France. That is how she got the title Princess of Aquitaine. The royal couple moved to Bordeaux, the capital of the principality where they spent the next nine years. She was the first post-conquest Princess of Wales as wife to Edward, the Black Prince. Edward, the Black Prince and Joan of Kent had two sons in France. The elder named Edward was born on 27 January 1365, but he died in 1370 at the age of five. He was named after his father and grandfather. Their younger son, Richard was lured into a war on behalf of King Peter of Castile.
In 1371 Edward was no longer able to perform his duties as Prince of Aquitaine so he returned to England where plague was wreaking havoc. In 1372, he forced himself to attempt one final campaign in the hope of saving his father’s French possession. His health was now completely shattered and he died at the age of 45 in the year 1377. His second son Richard would succeed as King Richard II at the age of 10.
The young King faced the challenge of peasant’s 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, while living the King with an improved reputation.
Joan of Kent, as the power behind the throne was loved for her influence over the young King herson Richard II who was only ten years old when he succeeded to the throne.
In 1385, Sir John Holland, an adult son of her first marriage was campaigning with the King in the Kingdom of Scotland when a quarrel broke out between him and Ralph Stafford, son of the 2nd Earl of Stafford a favourite of the new Queen Anne of Bohemia. Stafford was killed and John Holland sought sanctuary at the Shrine of St John of Beverly.
On the King’s return, John Holland was condemned to death. Joan of Kent pleaded with her son for four days but she died on the fifth day on 7 August 1385 at Wallingford Castle.
Richard II pardoned his half brother John Holland.
HRH Joan of Kent was buried according to her request in her will at the Greyfriars beside her first husband Thomas Holland.