Friday 10 November 2017

"Heroines of the Medieval World" Book Extract: Joan of Kent.

Today, I'm delighted to be part of a blog tour for an exciting new book, Heroines of the Medieval World, by Sharon Bennett Connolly. After making her blog, "History, The Interesting Bits",  a resounding success, Sharon has used her first book to explore the lives of many long-overlooked women who lived remarkable lives. Today's extract is about Joan of Kent, wife of Edward, the Black Prince:

The leading beauty of her day, Joan had little to offer a potential suitor beyond her looks and keen intelligence; Froissart called her ‘the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England and the most loving’. She had grown up in the same household as Edward III’s eldest children – his son and heir Edward and his daughters Isabella and Joan. Around the age of eleven or twelve, it seems Joan of Kent secretly married, or promised to marry, Thomas Holland. Holland was a knight of the royal household, a soldier of some renown and, at twenty-four, twice Joan’s age. Modern sensibilities make us cringe at Joan’s tender age but, although it was young even for the period, an eleven-year-old bride was not unheard of. Their relationship remained a secret, however, and the couple had never obtained the king’s consent.
Just a few short months later, Holland left to go on Crusade. In 1341, while Holland was away crusading in Prussia, Joan’s mother, Margaret Wake, arranged an advantageous marriage for her daughter to William Montagu, 2nd Earl of Salisbury. Whether Margaret knew about the extent of Joan’s relationship with Holland is uncertain – it may be that she believed Joan was infatuated with the landless knight and hoped that marrying her to Montagu would cure the pre-teen of puppy love.
By 1341 Joan and Montagu were married. Thomas Holland, however, didn’t appear to be in a rush to return to claim his wife; once his crusading duties were done, he spent the next few years campaigning in Europe. In 1342–3 he fought in Brittany with the king, and was probably in Granada with the Earl of Derby by 1343. In 1345 he was back in Brittany, and was at the Siege of Caen in 1346; a battle in which Joan’s other ‘husband’, Montagu, may also have taken part. Holland not only gained a reputation as a soldier but also made his fortune when he sold his prisoner, the Count of Eu, Constable of France, to Edward III for 80,000 florins.
When he returned to England, Thomas Holland joined the Earl of Salisbury’s household as his steward, and found himself in the strange position of working for the man who was married to his wife. In May 1348, Holland petitioned the pope, stating that Joan had been forced into her marriage with Salisbury. He went on to say that Joan had previously agreed to marry him and their relationship had been consummated. William contested the annulment; however, when it came time for Joan to testify, she supported Holland’s claims.
It took eighteen months for Joan’s marital status to be resolved. In the meantime, England was in the grip of the Black Death, the bubonic plague. To lift the country’s spirits, Edward III arranged a grand tournament to be held at Windsor, on St George’s Day, 23 April 1349. The knights in contention were the founder members of the Order of the Garter; England’s greatest chivalric order, consisting of the king and twenty-five founder knights. The order was probably founded in 1348, though the date is uncertain. This tournament included William Montagu and Thomas Holland, both Joan’s husbands. Joan herself is a part of the legend of the foundation of the Order of the Garter. She is said to be the lady who lost her garter during a ball celebrating the fall of Calais. Edward III is said to have returned the item to the twenty-year-old damsel with the words ‘honi soit qui mal y pense’ (‘evil to him who evil thinks’). Although the story is probably apocryphal, Joan’s connection with the inaugural tournament is all too true; she brought an added spice to the St George’s Day tournament of 1349. Her current husband, the Earl of Salisbury, fought on the king’s team, while Sir Thomas Holland was on the side of Prince Edward. Joan’s two husbands faced each other across the tournament field, with the object of their affection watching from the stands. Although the results of the tournament are obscure, Joan’s marital status was decided by Papal Bull, on 13 November 1349, when the pope ordered her to divorce Salisbury and return to Holland, a ruling she seems to have been happy to comply with.
Montagu wasted little time in finding himself another wife and married Elizabeth de Mohun shortly after the annulment had been granted. Elizabeth was the daughter of John, Lord Mohun of Dunster, and, given that she was born around 1343, was only six or seven at the time of the marriage. Several years later, they would have one child, a son, William, born in 1361. William was married in 1378, to Elizabeth FitzAlan, daughter of his father’s companionin-arms Richard, Earl of Arundel. Their happiness was short-lived, however, when William died after only four years of marriage, in a tragedy that must have rocked Montagu to the core – on 6 August 1382, young William was killed by his own father, the earl, in a tilting match at Windsor.

Sharon Bennett Connolly, has been fascinated by history for over 30 years now and even worked as a tour guide at historical sites, including Conisbrough Castle. Born in Yorkshire, she studied at University in Northampton before working in Customer Service roles at Disneyland in Paris and Eurostar in London.
She is now having great fun, passing on her love of the past to her son, hunting dragons through Medieval castles or exploring the hidden alcoves of Tudor Manor Houses.

Having received a blog as a gift, History…the Interesting Bits, Sharon started researching and writing about the lesser-known stories and people from European history, the stories that have always fascinated. Quite by accident, she started focusing on medieval women. And in 2016 she was given the opportunity to write her first non-fiction book, Heroines of the Medieval World, which was published by Amberley in September 2017. She is currently working on her second non-fiction book, Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest, which will be published by Amberley in late 2018.

Links: Blog;

Twitter: @Thehistorybits

Book: Amazon UK


Amazon US

You can find the other blogs that have taken part in the tour so far, with their extracts, here:

·        Day 8:  (Stephanie Churchill)
·         Day 9:  (Lil’s Vintage World)
·        Day 1:        
·        Extra link a book review posted before the blog tour by Tony


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