28 May, 2008

Sisters of Edward II (2): Joan of Acre

Totally off-topic here, but I loved this search string from yesterday: what made edward II a god king. *Giggles*

Anyway, onto the real subject of the day: the second of Edward II's five elder sisters.
Joan of Acre was the seventh or eighth child of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, and the second to survive childhood. She was born in Akko in Syria sometime in the spring of 1272, while her parents were on crusade, and was known as 'Joan of Acre' to distinguish her from another daughter of Edward and Eleanor named Joan, who was born and died in 1265. Another daughter, name unknown, was born about a year before Joan, also in the Holy Land, and died as a baby. A few weeks after Joan's birth, on 17 June 1272, a would-be assassin stabbed her father with a poisoned dagger; the story that Eleanor of Castile sucked the poison out of the wound is, sadly, only a legend.

In September 1272, Edward and Eleanor left the Holy Land, with Joan, and travelled via Sicily and Rome to France and then Gascony; Joan's brother Alfonso was born in Bayonne in November 1273. Her grandfather Henry III had died in November 1272, when she was a few months old, and her father succeeded as king of England. In August 1274, Edward and Eleanor finally returned to England, after an absence of four years, and their coronation took place that month. A few weeks later, Joan's six-year-old brother Henry, whom she never met, died suddenly at Guildford, and Alfonso became heir to the throne.

Joan did not travel to England with her parents, but remained in France with her maternal grandmother, Jeanne de Dammartin, countess of Ponthieu and dowager queen of Castile. After Jeanne's death in 1279, she set foot in England for the first time, at the age of seven. There, she finally met her siblings: Eleanor, ten, Alfonso, five and a half, Margaret, four, and the baby Mary. Two sisters had died the year before: two-year-old Berengaria and a baby girl, name unknown. (Edward I and Eleanor of Castile had a lot of daughters.)

In 1277/78, Edward I arranged his daughter's betrothal to Hartmann von Hapsburg, the seventh child and second son of King Rudolf of Germany and Gertrud von Hohenberg. Hartmann was born in 1263, so was nine years older than Joan, and had previously been betrothed to Kunigunde of Bohemia. According to the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy site, their wedding was to take place on 8 September 1278 at Westminster Abbey, but was postponed - because Joan was still in Ponthieu, or because she was still only six years old! Unfortunately for the plans of King Edward and King Rudolf, Hartmann drowned in the Rhine, after his ship sank, on 21 December 1281, supposedly on his way to England to marry Joan. He was only eighteen.

Little is known about Joan's life in the 1280s. Her youngest (full) siblings Elizabeth and Edward of Caernarfon were born in 1282 and 1284, and Alfonso - the sibling closest to Joan in age - died in August 1284. In May 1286, when she was fourteen, her parents left for Gascony and didn't return for over three years. Joan is known to have quarrelled with a wardrobe clerk during this time, and refused to accept money from him to pay her expenses. On his return from Gascony, Edward set about organising his children's marriages - and paying Joan's debts.

On 30 April 1290, around the time of her eighteenth birthday, Joan married the rich, powerful and turbulent Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, who was nearly three decades older than she was, born in September 1243. Isabel, the elder of his daughters by his first wife Alice de Lusignan, was ten years Joan's senior. For her wedding, Joan wore a girdle and head-dress of gold, decorated with rubies and emeralds, bought for her in Paris at a cost of fifty pounds. She and Gilbert left court soon after the wedding to honeymoon at Tonbridge Castle in Kent, without her father's permission - to the king's great annoyance. Very expensive girdles and head-dresses notwithstanding, the ceremony was a quiet, family affair, unlike the wedding of her younger sister Margaret a few weeks later (see next post).

There's no way of knowing what kind of relationship Joan and Gilbert had, though they produced four children in five and a half years of marriage. Their eldest, Gilbert, was born a little over a year after the wedding, at Winchcombe in Gloucestershire. He was Edward I's eldest grandchild (Edward I was fifty-one at the time). Eleanor of Castile had died a few months previously, so never saw her grandson, though perhaps she knew before she died that Joan was pregnant.

Gilbert de Clare died in December 1295, aged fifty-two, a few weeks after the birth of their youngest child Elizabeth, leaving Joan a widow at the age of twenty-three. Edward I set plans in motion for Joan to marry Count Amadeus V of Savoy, who was also decades her senior, born in about 1249. However, she calmly informed him that she was already married, to Ralph de Monthermer, a squire of her late husband. Edward I was furious, seized Joan's lands, and imprisoned Ralph. However, there was little he could do. He could not unmarry the couple - only the Pope could do that - and released Ralph.

The date of Joan and Ralph's marriage is not known, but probably took place in about January 1297, and their first child, Mary, was born in October that year. Ralph de Monthermer's parentage is obscure, though apparently he was illegitimate - in 1304, the Annals of London called him 'the bastard Ralph de Monthermer'. He was born in about 1262, so was about ten years older than Joan. (His Inquisition Post Mortem of 1325 gives his age as sixty-three, which surprises me - I'd always pictured him as about Joan's age, or a little younger).

It took a very long time for Edward I's anger towards Ralph to cool, and for him to accept the marriage, but by 1304, Ralph had become earl of Gloucester by right of his wife. (He lost the title on her death.) A letter sent by Edward of Caernarfon to Ralph on 30 May 1304 says "it pleases us very much, and gives us great joy, that our dear sister has the consent of our dear lord the king, our father and yours." Finally! After more than seven years and four children! Edward called Ralph, in the eleven letters he sent him in 1304 and 1305, "our very dear brother", and it seems that he considered Ralph to be a member of his inner circle, and a trustworthy and reliable confidant.

Edward was also close to Joan of Acre, twelve years his senior. In 1305, during the period he had quarrelled violently with their father and had his income cut drastically, Joan lent him her seal, so that he could buy goods. As her secret marriage to Ralph amply demonstrates, Joan was not afraid of her harsh father, or the fact that he would likely be furious at her helping Edward (their sister Mary made sure she had the permission of the king before writing to Edward, whereas Joan didn't bother).

Joan bore Ralph four children, two daughters and two sons. All of her children were older than her youngest (half-) sibling Eleanor, born in May 1306, when Joan was thirty-four. Edward I's eldest grandchild was fifteen years older than his youngest child.

Joan of Acre, countess of Gloucester and Hertford, died on 23 April 1307, around the time of her thirty-fifth birthday, and was buried at the Augustinian friary at Clare, in Suffolk. Her death may have been pregnancy or childbirth-related, though it's not certain. A few weeks later, her father died, and her brother succeeded as Edward II.

Ralph de Monthermer remained a widower for eleven years, then married Isabel Hastings, one of the sisters of Hugh Despenser the younger - also without the king's permission. As I've said before, Ralph must really have had something, to persuade two ladies to marry him without royal consent.

Children of Joan of Acre:

Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, 1291-1314, married Maud de Burgh, no surviving children (Gilbert had a son John, born April 1312, who died young).

Eleanor de Clare, 1292-1337, married Hugh Despenser the younger and William la Zouche, about eleven children.

Margaret de Clare, 1294-1342, married Piers Gaveston and Hugh Audley the younger, two daughters.

Elizabeth de Clare, 1295-1360, married John de Burgh, Theobald de Verdon and Roger Damory, a son and two daughters.

Mary de Monthermer, 1297-after 1371, married Duncan MacDuff, earl of Fife, one daughter.

Joan de Monthermer, 1299-?, nun at Amesbury.

Thomas de Monthermer, 1301-1340, married Margaret, widow of Henry Tyes, one daughter. (Thomas's grandson John Montacute, earl of Salisbury, was beheaded in 1400 after taking part in the unsuccessful plot to restore Richard II to the throne.)

Edward de Monthermer, 1304-1340, never married.


Susan Higginbotham said...

Great post! It's a shame Joan didn't live longer--she would have probably have been a great support to Edward.

Jules Frusher said...

My favourite of Edward's sisters! She sure was a feisty female and I love the fact she didn't seem afraid of her father.
Ralph Monthermer too, is an intriguing man. He was a squire when he married Joan. Did he ever get knighted? I'm sure he must have done at some point to become Earl - but I wonder who knighted him?

Susan Higginbotham said...

According to the story, Joan arranged for him to be knighted by her father shortly before she married him.

Anonymous said...

As usual Alianore, a great post. I love the information about the women and Joan of Acre is REALLY fascinating isn't she? Joan sounds like she had a bit of a temper too which is a little like her father (recall hair pulling rage of Ed I) so I am sure they 'sparred' well.

Wish the clerks had recorded the fights...

Carla said...

"no way of knowing what kind of relationship Joan and Gilbert had, though they produced four children in five and a half years of marriage"
.... fairly vigorous, one presumes.

Joan of Acre is a great character. Standing up to Edward I took some doing. She must have been a chip off the old block - which is perhaps why her father let her get away with it, recognising something of himself in her?

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Susan! You're right - I'd never thought of it like that before.

Lady D: that's what I love about her too!

Thanks, Kate! Is Joan one of your ancestors? Through which of her children, if she is?

Carla: yes, probably. I also think Ed I was far more likely to be forgiving of his daughters than his son, because his daughters weren't his heirs.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Hehe, there's a Romance hidden here, and for one it would even be historically correct. :)

Gabriele Campbell said...

According to the story, Joan arranged for him to be knighted by her father shortly before she married him.

That girl had a sneaky streak to her, didn't she? Lol.

Jules Frusher said...

Thanks for the info Susan - Joan was obviously an organised woman!:
(1) Make sure papa knights Ralph next Tuesday.
(2) Wednesday - get married to Ralph!

Anonymous said...

Yes! I descend through her son Thomas Monthermer who married Margaret. Their only child Margaret married John Montacute. But that is not the reason I find Joan fascinating! I am sorry there is not more known about Ralph Monthermer, as you and Susan have said previously...he really must have had something. Someone should write a book ...

Kathryn Warner said...

Gabriele, Kate: there's a novel about Joan and Ralph, The Love Knot by Vanessa Alexander (a pseudonym for Paul Doherty).

Elizabeth said...

Way late in posting this comment, but thanks for this post. I'm about to read 'The Love Knot' and wanted to brush up my knowledge on this great lady and I was wondering to myself "where might I learn some background information on the relationship with her famous brother?" and I KNEW I could find something here.

It is unfortunate to think she died at a young age (relatively), but if she and her younger brother were so found of each other and seemed to share a fiery spirit, maybe it is best she was not there to witness his many struggles. Thanks for your wonderful thoroughness :)

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Elizabeth - really glad you liked the post! I sometimes wish for Edward's sake as well as her own that Joan had lived longer; she was such a great character and I can imagine her being fiercely protective of her kid brother after his accession, though you also make a good point that maybe it was better for her not to have to witness his countless struggles.

Enjoy the novel!

Anonymous said...

Hello all,

I was at a family reunion yesterday 9-4-10 and found out that Joan of Acre would be about a 7-8 generation ago grandmother of mine. Apparently our family came in when she married the commoner. My Aunt from Kansas started looking into the Johnston family geneology and found this information out. Keep me posted if anyone knows anything else.

Anonymous said...

Joan was my 20th great grandmother through her daughter Eleanor de Clare. Thanks for a fabulous website!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks for the kind words!

jody Bowle-Evans said...

Jody Bowle-Evans
Joan de Acre was my 18th great grandmother and herdaughter my 17th great grandmother. what an amazing web site

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you for your kind words about my site, Jody, and hope you enjoyed the info about your ancestor, Joan!

Unknown said...

Such great information on one of my earliest ancestors! I'm descended through her daughter, Margaret de Clare. Is it any wonder I have a temper? And here I thought it was only from my Irish side! What book/source did you get this information from? I'd like to read up on her more.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you, Shauna! Really glad you liked the post, and how great to find out you're descended from Joan! This info came from a variety of primary and secondary sources. As a good start, there's some info about Joan in the biogs of her parents, Edward I by Michael Prestwich and Eleanor of Castile by John Carmi Parsons, and of her brother Edward II by Seymour Phillips. There's also a novel about her relationship with her second husband Ralph Monthermer, The Love Knot by Vanessa Alexander (a pseudonym for Paul Doherty).

I have a post here about Margaret de Clare too, and her second husband Hugh Audley - linked in the sidebar on the right of the blog. :)

Anonymous said...

I am descended through Joan as well and through her daughter Elizabeth De Clare. Thanks for sharing this information. It really brings history to life.

Kathryn Warner said...

You're most welcome, and so glad you enjoyed the post!

Anonymous said...

I appear to be decsended to joan through william felton and isabella of fife.
Im trying to convince myself otherwise coz its so bizarre.

Anna D. said...

Me too! I also find her fascinating even if I don't consider the familial connection.