Joan of Kent: the first Princess of Wales – Penny Lawne

I’m back to my “Plantagenet-fest” this week with another book about another interesting and determined woman of the English court.

This one is Joan, also known as the Fair Maid of Kent, who married the Black Prince, eldest son of King Edward III.

The first thing I was surprised to learn about what that her father was half-brother to Edward II and son of Eleanor of Castile’s successor.  Which felt like a nice link back to my previous book.  Somehow, I’d always been lead to believe that Richard II’s mother was a commoner when, in fact, she was of royal decent.  I also didn’t know that as a child she lived a precarious life on the edges of court life after her father was executed for treason.

As with the book about Eleanor of Castile more is inferred about Joan of Kent than is actually recorded although she was clearly a strong-willed and feisty woman.  At the age of 12 she was seduced, possibly, into a clandestine marriage with Thomas Holande.  She stuck by Thomas even though her mother tried to have the marriage annulled and to marry her to William Montagu.  And stuck by the marriage even though it was several years before the Pope confirmed the marriage and she was able to live openly with her husband.

Her second marriage, to Edward the Black Prince, was also a secret one initially and neither the King nor Queen were in favour of it.

I think Joan’s story is one that would lend itself to the type of fictionalisation authors such as Philippa Gregory and Jean Plaidy have given to other women in history.  As a biography this book is more a history of the period than one that brings its central character to life.  As a work of fiction Joan’s startling life story could be vivid and colourful.

The book has added to my knowledge of the late-Plantagenet period but I rather suspect my next book needs something a bit more substantial than conjecture and theory built from shadowy references.

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