Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Joan (1165-1199)
JOAN, JOANNA, JONE, or JANE (1165–1199), queen of Sicily and countess of Toulouse, was third daughter and seventh child of Henry II, king of England, and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine [q. v.] Born at Angers in October 1165, she was brought up in the abbey of Fontevraud. In 1168 Henry offered her hand, without result, to the king of Aragon or the king of Navarre. Next year he betrothed her to William II, or the Good, king of Sicily (Robertson, Materials for Hist. of Becket, vi. 457, vii. 26). The betrothal seems to have been broken off, for in 1172 William, who was ten years older than Joanna, proposed to marry a daughter of the eastern emperor, Manuel Comnenos. This scheme, however, came to nothing, and in May 1176, by the advice of Pope Alexander III, he sent an embassy to England with a formal demand for Joanna's hand. The girl had gone to England with her father in July 1174, and was now at Winchester, whither Henry sent the ambassadors to see her. Her beauty ‘pleased them exceedingly.’ They afterwards urged their suit at a council in London, and it was granted by Henry on 20 May. Two of them stayed in England to share in the duty of escorting the bride home. The party sailed from Southampton in seven ships (Green, Princesses, i. 316) at the end of August (Eyton, Itin. Hen. II, p. 206). The younger King Henry saw them safely through Normandy and Anjou to the frontier of Aquitaine; thence Joanna's brother Richard insured them a safe passage to St. Gilles (9 Nov.), where they joined a Sicilian fleet of twenty-five ships. Joanna was so ill on the sea that she was put ashore at Naples, spent Christmas there, and proceeding thence through Calabria and across the Strait of Messina, reached Palermo at the end of January 1177. The Sicilian king and people gave a magnificent reception to their queen. On Sunday, 13 Feb., she was married and crowned in the royal chapel by the Archbishop of Palermo, and on the same day a liberal provision in landed property was settled upon her by her husband. In 1181 a report reached Normandy that Joanna had a son, who was christened Bohemond, and invested, by a touch of his father's sceptre, with the dukedom of Apulia. The boy, if he lived at all, died in infancy; and William's death, in November 1189, left Joanna a childless widow, at the mercy of a new king, Tancred, who refused her the possession of her dower-lands, and in whose custody she remained helpless till September 1190, when her brother Richard, on arriving at Messina with his crusading fleet, peremptorily demanded her release and the restoration of her dowry. Richard also claimed, in her name and his own, certain articles of value which he and Joanna alleged had been bequeathed to him and to her by her late husband. Tancred at once sent the lady to Messina, but withheld the legacy. At Messina she lodged in the hospital of St. John, where, on 29 Sept., she received a visit from King Philip of France, who appeared so much delighted with the interview that he was popularly suspected of a desire to marry her. On 1 Oct. she crossed the strait and took up her abode at La Bagnara; there she apparently remained while Richard and Tancred continued their wrangle, till, in November, Tancred ended the dispute by offering a money composition for her own and her brother's claims, and also for the purchase of her dower-lands. When the English fleet set sail again, on 10 April 1191, Joanna sailed in it as companion to Richard's affianced wife, whose fortunes she shared through their voyage, their stay in Palestine, and their return [see Berengaria]. One adventure exclusively concerned Joanna. In September 1191 Richard, in order to protract his negotiations with Saladin, proposed to end all rivalries for the possession of the Holy Land by giving his sister in marriage to Saladin's brother, Saphadin (Malek-al-Adel), and setting them up as king and queen of Jerusalem. It is said that Joanna, when her brother laid the matter before her, angrily vowed that no power on earth should ever wed her to a Mussulman, but that Richard pacified her by suggesting a hope of Saphadin's conversion. Saladin, although he was told of Joanna's attitude, pretended to countenance the scheme, and six weeks later formally accepted all Richard's terms of peace, on condition that Saphadin and Joanna should be married at once. To back out of the difficulty, Richard declared that a king's widow could not marry without a papal dispensation, which would take six months to procure, and proposed that Saphadin should take Eleanor of Brittany instead of her aunt, whereupon Saladin put an end to the negotiation. After the two queens returned to Europe, at the close of 1192, they seem to have continued living together till 1196, when Richard arranged for Joanna a marriage with Count Raymond VI of Toulouse. The wedding—it was Raymond's fourth—took place in October at Rouen. Their son, another Raymond, was born at Beaucaire in July 1197. In 1198 Joanna and her husband spent Easter with Richard at Le Mans. Next spring she again set out for her brother's court, apparently to solicit his protection for Raymond, whose Albigensian leanings had brought him into trouble. On her way she was met by tidings of Richard's death. After lingering awhile by his grave at Fontevraud, she made her way to Normandy, and addressed her appeal to his successor, John. John promised her a hundred marks a year to bestow for the good of her soul in any way she chose (Rot. Chart. i. 13); but he seems to have done nothing else for her or her husband, and a few weeks later, September 1199, she died at Rouen, at the birth of a child who only lived just long enough to be baptised. The Winchester annalist calls Joanna ‘a woman whose masculine spirit overcame the weakness of her sex.’ She proved it in 1197, when, very shortly after the birth of her son, she headed, in her husband's absence, an attack upon a castle held against him by a rebellious vassal, and only abandoned the siege when her own camp was fired. The story is also told that, to avenge Richard's death, she caused the man who killed him to be blinded and then flayed alive (Ann. Winton. a. 1199). Roger of Howden, however, lays the blame of this deed on Richard's general, Mercadier. Richard seems to have been the object of Joanna's warmest affection. At her last hour she was, by her earnest desire, veiled as a nun of Fontevraud, and at Fontevraud she was buried at her father's feet and by the side of her favourite brother.