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Richard II's treasure

the riches of a medieval king

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Joan of Kent

A granddaughter of Edward I

Richard II's mother, Joan of Kent (c. 1328-85), was a granddaughter of Edward I. Her father, Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, was executed for treason in 1330. According to Froissart, Joan spent much of her childhood in the household of Philippa of Hainault. He described Joan as 'the most beautiful lady in England, and by far the most amorous'.

First marriage

She contracted a first marriage in 1340 with Sir Thomas Holland, but when he left on campaign in the same year, William Montagu, earl of Salisbury, married her, almost certainly against her will. By 1349 Holland had successfully petitioned the Pope for Joan's return. Among their five children, one of whom died in infancy, were Richard II's two half brothers, Thomas and John Holland. Joan's brother died in 1352 and she became countess of Kent in her own right. Her husband assumed the courtesy title of earl, but he died in 1360.

Marriage to the Black Prince

In the autumn of 1361, she married Edward, Prince of Wales, the Black Prince. In June 1363 the prince became duke of Aquitaine. Joan set sail with him and her Holland children. This seems to have been a true love match. A touching letter from the prince to Joan, written after the battle of Najera in 1367, addresses Joan as his sweetheart. Their eldest son, Edward of Angoulême, was born in 1365, an event celebrated by the Prince with splendid tournaments. Froissart described their household as especially magnificent. When Edward died aged six, their second son, Richard of Bordeaux, who was born on 6 January 1367, became his father's heir.

In 1371 when the Black Prince fell ill, the prince and princess returned to England. From then on and especially after the prince's death in 1376 Joan seems to have taken an active and beneficial role in politics. She is credited with reconciling John of Gaunt and the Londoners in 1377. While Richard was a minor she was closely involved in the upbringing of her son. Joan died in 1385.


Very little is known of the valuables possessed by Joan. In his will the Black Prince recorded that she had brought silver vessels worth 700 marks to the marriage, but nothing is known of the silver he left her in return. As regards her jewels, it is tempting to speculate whether any of the objects in the treasure roll with 'feathers' or 'ostrich feathers' (adopted by the Black Prince) should be associated with her, rather than Anne of Bohemia, who had an ostrich as a badge. An example is a belt of gold and black silk, probably worn by Isabelle of France since it is listed between entries describing some of Isabelle's other jewels.

R 345 Item, j autre ceinture d'or d'orfevre, de plumes d'ostrich assis sur un tisseu de soye noir, priz par estimacion, xx li.

[Item, another gold belt of goldsmiths' work, of ostrich plumes set on a strap of black silk, estimated value, 20.]

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