Joan of England, was born on July 22, 1210, the oldest daughter of King John (John Lackland) and Queen Isabella of Angoulême, and she died at the tender age of seventeen on March 4, 1238. We don’t know that much about her, historically, because she was a mere female and a well-behaved one at that, but the devotion she inspired in her brother, Henry III, hints at her having been a wonderful person.
As an toddler, Joan was sent to live with the family of the French nobleman Hugh IX , the Seigneur de Lusignan and Count of La Marche, and was betrothed to his son, the future Hugh X of Lusignan. The reason for this marriage arrangement is odd. Joan’s mother had been precontracted to marry Hugh IX. Inasmuch as Isabella “was the only daughter and heir of Aymer Taillefer, Count of Angoulême, by Alice of Courtenay, who was sister of Peter II of Courtenay, Latin Emperor of Constantinople and granddaughter of King Louis VI of France”, she was a major prize as a bride. Moreover, she was already incredibly beautiful at the age of twelve. To spite his French enemies and to secure a beautiful heiress, King John swooped in and married the girl in spite of her engagement to another noble. It is said that her husband John consummated the marriage soon after, in spite of the bride’s youth, but their first child wasn’t born until seven years later, so I am willing to give John the benefit of the doubt and assume he waited to bed her.
John’s marriage to Isabella enraged Hugh IX and torqued King Phillip II of France so much the French launched an attack on English lands on the European continent. Rather than gaining strength, John lost Normandy to Phillip and was forced to make nice in subsequent peace treaties. As restitution to Hugh IX, the infant Princess Joan was sent to Lusignan to be Hugh X’s future wife. However, after John died in 1216 Joan’s widowed mother came to see her, and Hugh X fell in love with Isabella and married her instead of her ten year old daughter.
Back on the marriage mart, Joan’s brother Henry III sent her to Scotland to wed King Alexander II. Henry did not forget his little sister after he married her off, and seems to have both gone to see her and maintained correspondence with her. She was visiting him in 1238 when she fell ill just north of London. Henry rushed to her side and she is supposed to have actually died in the arms of her loving brother. The teenage queen was buried at Tarrant Crawford Abbey and:
Henry III continued to honour Joan’s memory for the rest of his life. Most dramatically, in late 1252, almost fourteen years after her death, Henry ordered the production of the image of a queen in marble for Joan’s tomb, at the cost of 100s. This was one of the first funerary effigies of a queen in England; the tradition developed in the early thirteenth century, but the tombs of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Berengaria of Navarre were in France. Nothing now remains of this church; the last mention of it is before the Reformation. It is said that she is now buried in a golden coffin in the graveyard.
Inasmuch as Joan died childless and without having caused anyone any trouble, the poor girl remains a footnote in history, mentioned only in the biographies of the men who commanded her.