Joanna Plantagenet was Queen of Sicily, and the Countess of Toulouse.
She was the daughter of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, born in October 1165. She died on 4 September 1199.
At age eleven, Joanna (or Joan) wed William II, King of Sicily. Widowed at 24, she was held under house arrest for almost a year by William’s successor, Tancred. Her brother, King Richard I, the Lionheart, secured her freedom after capturing the city of Messina and demanding her release and the return of her dower, which Tancred had confiscated.
Joanna accompanied Richard on the Third Crusade, but they sailed on separate galleys to the Holy Land. A storm broke Richard’s fleet apart. Joanna and Richard’s soon-to-be-wife, Berengaria of Navarre, were nearly captured by the ruler of Cyprus. Chronicler Roger de Hoveden writes that “two busses . . . had gone down, having on board many knights and men-at-arms of the king’s household” but the royal ladies’ boat remained at anchor outside the harbor. The Emperor Isaac Comnenus threw survivors in prison and took their property and money. Richard attacked the emperor’s forces and captured the island in a few short weeks.
Joanna arrived in the Holy Land in June 1191. King Richard supposedly offered her as a bride to Saladin’s brother, but nothing came of that. After Richard negotiated a truce with Saladin, Joanna sailed west with Richard’s queen in September 1192. Richard left in October, was captured in Austria, and spent more than 13 months in captivity. The royal ladies’ journey was slightly less harrowing, but because of Richard’s enemies, Joanna and Berengaria stayed in Rome under the Pope’s protection for more than half a year before finally leaving for Poitou.
Their escort to Poitou was Raymond, the Count of Toulouse. Feuds between Toulouse and the Plantagenets had been ongoing for more than four decades, and Raymond also owed allegiance to King Philip of France. But in 1196, King Richard negotiated a settlement with Toulouse: Joanna’s hand in marriage was part of that settlement. They married in October 1196.
Joanna had three children by Raymond: a son, Raymond, born 1197, who would succeed his father as Count of Toulouse; a daughter, Joan, born in 1198. Joanna died on 4 September, aged 33, after giving birth to Richard, their third child, at Fontevrault Abbey, where she had fled when her husband’s domains were under attack.
Truth. . . definitely stranger than fiction.
De Hoveden, R. (1201?). The annals of Roger de Hoveden, comprising the history of England and of other countries of Europe from A. D. 732 to A. D. 1201. (Henry T. Riley, Trans.). London: H. G. Bohn, 1853.
Image credit: Joan of England, Queen of Sicily, by Anonymous – Royal MS 14 B VI (genealogical roll of the kings of England), page 6., Public Domain