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Joan of Navarre, Queen of England

Joan of Navarre, Queen of England

Queen of England
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Queen of England
A.K.A. Joan of Navarre
Gender female
Birth Pamplona
Death 10 June 1437 (London Borough of Havering)
Mother: Joan of ValoisQueen of Navarre
Father: Charles II of Navarre
Spouse: Henry IV of EnglandJohn VDuke of Brittany
Children: John VIDuke of BrittanyArthur IIIDuke of BrittanyRichardCount of ÉtampesMarie of BrittanyMargaret of BritainBlanche of Brittanny
The details

Joan of Navarre, also known as Joanna (c. 1370 – 10 June 1437) was the Duchess consort of Brittany by marriage to John IV, Duke of Brittany, and later the Queen consort of England by marriage to King Henry IV of England. She served as regent of Brittany from 1399 until 1403 during the minority of her son. She also served as regent of England during the absence of her step-son in 1415.


She was a daughter of King Charles II of Navarre and Joan of France.

Duchess consort of Brittany

On 2 October 1386, Joan married her first husband, John IV, Duke of Brittany (known in traditional English sources as John V). She was his third wife and the only one to bear him children. They had nine children:

  • Jeanne of Brittany (Nantes, 12 August 1387 – 7 December 1388).
  • Isabelle of Brittany (October 1388 – December 1388).
  • John V, Duke of Brittany (Château de l'Hermine, near Vannes, Morbihan, 24 December 1389 – manoir de La Touche, near Nantes 29 August 1442).
  • Marie of Brittany (Nantes, 18 February 1391 – 18 December 1446), Lady of La Guerche, married at the Château de l'Hermine (Vannes) on 26 June 1398 John I of Alençon.
  • Marguerite of Brittany (1392 – 13 April 1428), Lady of Guillac, married on 26 June 1407, Alain IX, Viscount of Rohan and Count of Porhoët (d. 1462)
  • Arthur III, Duke of Brittany (Château de Succinio, 24 August 1393 – Nantes, 26 December 1458).
  • Gilles of Brittany (1394 – Cosne-sur-Loire, 19 July 1412), Lord of Chantocé and Ingrande.
  • Richard of Brittany (1395 – Château de Clisson 2 June 1438), Count of Benon, Étampes, and Mantes, married at the Château de Blois, Loir-et-Cher on 29 August 1423 Margaret d'Orléans, Countess of Vertus, daughter of Louis of Valois, Duke of Orléans.
  • Blanche of Brittany (1397 – bef. 1419), married at Nantes on 26 June 1407 John IV, Count of Armagnac.

Upon the death of John IV on 1 November 1399, he was succeeded by their son, John V. Her son being still a minor, she was made his guardian and the regent of Brittany during his minority. Not long after, she was given a proposal by Henry IV. The marriage proposal was given out of mutual personal preference rather than a dynastic marriage. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, affection developed between Joan and Henry Bolingbroke (the future King Henry IV) while he resided at the Breton court during his banishment from England. Joan gave a favorable reply to the proposal, but stated that she could not go through with it until she had set the affairs of Brittany in order and arrange for the security of the duchy and her children. She knew that it would not be possible for her to continue as regent of Brittany after having married the king of England, nor would she be able to take her sons with her to England. A papal dispensation was necessary for the marriage, which was obtained in 1402. Joan negotiated with the Duke of Burgundy to make him guardian of her male children and regent of Brittany. Finally, she surrendered the custody of her sons and her power as regent of Brittany to the duke of Burgundy, who swore to respect the Breton rights and law, and departed for England with her daughters.

Queen consort of England

Joan of Navarre's arms as queen consort

On 7 February 1403, Joan married Henry IV at Winchester Cathedral. The 26th, she held her formal entry to London, where she was crowned queen of England. Queen Joan was described as beautiful, gracious and majestic, but also as greedy and stingy, and was accused of accepting bribes. Reportedly, she did not have a good impression of England, as a Breton ship was attached outside the English coast just after her wedding. She preferred the company of her Breton entourage, which caused offence to such a degree that her Breton courtiers were exiled by order of Parliament, a ban the king did not think he could oppose to given his sensitive relation to the Parliament at the time.

Joan and Henry had no children, but she is recorded as having had a good relationship with Henry's children from his first marriage, often taking the side of the future Henry V, "Prince Hal," in his quarrels with his father. Her daughters returned to France three years after their arrival on the order of their brother, her son.

In 1413, her second spouse died, succeeded by her stepson Henry V. Joan had a very good relationship with Henry, who even entrusted her with the post of regent of England during his absence in France in 1415. Upon his return, however, he brought her son Arthur of Brittany with him as a prisoner. Joan unsuccessfully tried to have him released. This apparently damaged her relationship to Henry. In 1419, she was accused of having hired two magicians to use witchcraft to poison the king. Her large fortune was confiscated, and she was imprisoned in Pevensey Castle in Sussex, England. She was released upon the order of Henry V on his deathbed in 1422.

After her release, her fortune was returned to her, and she lived the rest of her life quietly and comfortably with her own court at Nottingham Castle, through Henry V's reign and into that of his son, Henry VI. She died at Havering-atte-Bower in Essex, and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral next to Henry IV.


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