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Portrait of Joan, the 'Fair Maid of Kent' from Cotton MS Nero D. VII

Joan Plantagenet (1328-1385)

JOAN (1328-1385), the 'Fair Maid of Kent,' wife of Edward, prince of Wales, 'the Black Prince', and mother of Richard II, born in 1328, was probably the younger daughter and third child of Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, sixth son of Edward I, who was beheaded 19 March 1330, and Margaret Wake [daughter of Lord Thomas Wake of Liddell].

When hardly two years old she, and not her elder sister Margaret, is said to have acted as godmother to a brother John, a posthumous child, b. 7 April 1330.1 In October 1330 the young Queen Philippa, according to Froissart,2 took charge of her. She grew up to be 'en son temps la plus belle de tout la roiaulme d'Engleterre et la plus amoureuse.'3 Froissart calls her 'cette jeune damoiselle de Kent,'4 but she does not seem to be called the 'Fair Maid of Kent' in any contemporary authority.

Her beauty and fascinating manner early took captive both the youthful William de Montacute, second earl of Salisbury, and his steward of the household, Sir Thomas Holland. Holland forestalled his rival by a contract and cohabitation. But he was called away to the wars in France before a marriage had been solemnised. Salisbury took advantage of his absence to enter into a contract of marriage with Joan. Holland on returning to England petitioned Pope Clement VI to restore his rights over her. The case was referred by the holy see to the investigation of Cardinal Adhemar, and after both sides had been heard, Clement, on 13 Nov. 1349, gave judgment for Holland.5

Joan's elder brother, Edmund, earl of Kent, had died in 1333, and on the death of her other brother, John, in 1352, she became Countess of Kent and Lady Wake of Liddell in her own right.6 Margaret, her elder sister, must therefore have died without issue before 1352. The king [Edward III] granted to his kinswoman an annual sum of a hundred marks during her life.7 In 1358 she accompanied her husband to Normandy, where he was governor of the fort of Creyk.8 Holland in 1360 assumed the style of Earl of Kent in right of his wife,9 and on 28 Dec. of that year he died [for Joan's family by him see Holland, Sir Thomas].

A few months later Joan contracted a marriage with Edward, prince of Wales. According to Froissart,10 the marriage was a love match and concluded without the knowledge of the king. A silver 'biker' to 'his cousin Jeannette' is entered upon the prince's accounts for 1348.11 Hardyng in his fifteenth-century 'Chronicle'12 tells a story that

The prince her vowid unto a knight of his
She said she would none but hymself I wis.
She is described by the prince's panegyrist as

Une dame de grant pris
Qe belle fuist, plesante et sage.13

After a papal dispensation had been obtained [see under Edward, Prince of Wales, 1330-1376] their espousals were celebrated by Simon Islip, archbishop of Canterbury, at Lambeth on 6 Oct. 1361, and the marriage followed on 10 Oct. in presence of the whole royal family.14 They stayed over Christmas at Berkhampstead in Hertfordshire, and entertained the royal family there for five days.15

From the spring of 1362 till January 1371 Joan was with her husband in Aquitaine.16 While in Aquitaine Joan bore the prince two sons, Edward (1365-1370) and Richard, afterwards Richard II. The Black Prince died on 8 June 1376, and on 20 Nov. Richard was created prince of Wales, one third of the revenues being reserved to Joan as dower. Until his grandfather's death he seems to have been under the immediate charge of his mother, to whom his allowance of a thousand marks per annum was paid.17

While they were staving at the royal manor of Kennington on 20 Feb. 1377, John of Gaunt and Henry Percy, who were flying from the infuriated London populace, sought their protection.18 The princess sent three of her knights, Sir Aubrey de Vere, Sir Simon Burley, and Sir Lewis Clifford, to entreat the citizens by their love for her to make peace with the duke. They answered respectfully that for her honour they would do what she required, but exacted conditions.19 On the accession of Richard in June he passed from her control.20

In 1378 interposition made on her behalf by Sir Lewis Clifford arrested the proceedings against Wycliffe in the synod at Lambeth.21 According to Bishop Stubbs,22 she acted at the instigation of Wycliffe's patron, John of Gaunt. Whether the princess really leaned to Wycliffite opinions there is hardly sufficient evidence to determine. In [Gregory] XI's bull of 22 May 1377, instructing the Archbishop of Canterbury to warn the king and nobles against Wycliffe's heresies, she seems to be mentioned with peculiar emphasis,23 and several of her knights, William Neville, Lewis Clifford, and Richard Stury, are included in a list of the chief lollards.24 In her will, among the executors of which these knights were included with Bishops Wykeham and Braybroke (a relative of Joan), she expressly affirms her adherence to the catholic faith.25 In 1378 Joan received a robe of the Garter.26

At the outbreak of the peasants' revolt in June 1381, she fell in, according to Froissart,27 with the Kentish rebels as she was returning from Canterbury to London, but escaped with a few kisses. The English authorities only mention the scene in the Tower on the morning of Friday, 14 June, when the rebels ran riot in the royal chambers, and 'matrem regis ad oscula invitabant.' The decline of John of Gaunt's influence after the rebellion gave new occasion for the princess's mediation. In the early part of 1385, though she was oppressed by illness and her growing corpulence made travel difficult, she journeyed backwards and forwards between Wallingford, where she now lived, and Pontefract, to heal the breach between Richard and John of Gaunt, which threatened the realm with civil strife.28

Her efforts were rewarded with success. Just before starting on his Scottish expedition, Richard, on 12 June, ordered Lewis Clifford, Richard Stury, and three other knights to remain with his mother wherever she might choose to reside, for her protection.29 When news reached her of Richard's resolve to punish John, her son by her first marriage, for the murder of Ralph Stafford [see under Holland, John, 1352?-1400], she sent messengers to implore the king to have mercy on his half-brother. Grief at Richard's refusal of her request proved fatal.30

She made her will on 7 Aug., and according to Beltz31 died at Wallingford Castle the same day, being the Thursday before the feast of St. Lawrence; but Chauncy,32 referring to the same entry on the Escheat Rolls (9 Rich. II, No. 54), gives the Thursday after that feast (i.e. 14 Aug.) She left manors in twenty-six counties, mainly in Lincolnshire.33 In her will, which was proved 9 Dec. 1385,34 she ordered that she should be buried in her chapel in the church of the Friars Minor at Stamford, near the monument of her first husband. Her body, wrapped in waxed swathings, was kept in a lead coffin until the king's return from Scotland. The date of interment seems fixed by the adjournment of the judges in the Scrope-Grosvenor case on 27 Jan. 1386, 'on account of the interment of my lady mother.'35. The king kept the chapel in repair.36 The death of the princess was followed by a fresh outbreak of those political quarrels which she had striven to heal.

1. Notes and Queries, 7th ser. v. 149, 238.
2. Froissart, ii. 243.
3. ib. [AJ transl.: "In her day, the most beautiful in all the kingdom of England, and the most amorous."]
4. [AJ transl: "this young maiden of Kent."]
5. Islip Register, in Lambeth Library, f. 180; cf. Dugdale, Baronage, i. 648; and Fœdera, iii. 626, Record ed.
6. Doyle, Official Baronage.
7. Dugdale, Baronage, ii. 74.
8. ib.; cf. Beltz, Memorials of the Order of the Garter, p. 57.
9. ib.
10. Froissart, vi. 366.
11. Beltz, p. 385.
12. Hardyng, Chronicle, p. 332, ed. Ellis.
13. Chandos, Le Prince Noir, p. 124. [AJ transl: [A lady of great worth, who was beautiful, pleasant, and wise.]
14. ib.
15. Froissart, vi. 367.
16. ib. xi. 16-19.
17. Beltz, p. 233; cf. also Fœdera, iii. 1067, Record ed.
18. Chronicon Angliæ p. 124.
19. ib. p. 126.
20. ib. p. 147.
21. ib. p. 183.
22. Stubbs, Constitutional History, ii. 484.
23. Chron. Angl. p. 176.
24. ib. p. 377.
25. Nichols, Royal Wills, pp. 78-81, ed. 1780.
26. Beltz, pp. ccxxi, 246.
27. Froissart, ix. 391.
28. Walsingham, Historia Anglicana, ii. 126.
29. Fœdera, vii. 474, orig. ed.
30. Walsingham, ii. 130; Knighton, Decem Scriptores col. 2675-6; Chron. Angl. p. 365.
31. Beltz, p. 219.
32. Chauncy, History of Hertfordshire, p. 204.
33. ib.
34. Nichols, The Herald and Genealogist, i. 388.
35. Scrope-Grosvenor Roll, p. 38, ed. Nicolas.
36. Fœdera, vii. 527, orig. ed.


      Tait, James. "Joan, the 'Fair Maid of Kent'."
      Dictionary of National Biography. Vol XXIX. Sidney Lee, Ed.
      London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1892. 392-3.

Other Local Resources:

Books for further study:

Barber, Richard. Edward, Prince of Wales and Aquitaine:
            A Biography of the Black Prince.
            Boydell Press, 2007.

Goodman, Anthony. Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent:.
            A Fourteenth-century Princess and Her World.
            Boydell Press, 2017.

Lawne, Penny. Joan of Kent: The First Princess of Wales.
            Amberley Publishing, 2015.

Joan of Kent on the Web:

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This page was created on October 8, 2017. Last updated March 29, 2023.

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Edward II
Isabella of France, Queen of England
Piers Gaveston
Thomas of Brotherton, E. of Norfolk
Edmund of Woodstock, E. of Kent
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Lords Appellant, 1388
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John Holland, Duke of Exeter
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Henry VI
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Pico della Mirandola
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Robert Aske
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Articles Touching Preachers, 1583

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Sir Henry Sidney
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Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich
Sir Christopher Hatton
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Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Thomas Radcliffe, 3. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 4. Earl of Sussex
Robert Radcliffe, 5. Earl of Sussex
William Parr, Marquis of Northampton
Henry Wriothesley, 2. Southampton
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Charles Neville, 6. E. Westmorland
Thomas Percy, 7. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 8. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 9. E. Nothumberland
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham
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Henry Howard, 1. Earl of Northampton
Thomas Howard, 1. Earl of Suffolk
Henry Hastings, 3. E. of Huntingdon
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
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Henry FitzAlan, 12. Earl of Arundel
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Great Fire of London, 1666
Merchant Taylors' School
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Chart of the English Succession from William I through Henry VII

Medieval English Drama

London c1480, MS Royal 16
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Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
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