1st Earl of Kent, Earl of Kent, Edmund of Woodstock, Edward III of England, Edward the Black Prince, Isbella of France, Joan of Kent, King Edward II of England, Kings and Queens of England, Philip III of France, Princess of Wales, Richard II of England, The Fair Maid of Kent, Thomas Holland
Joan of Kent (September 29, 1328 – August 7, 1385), known to history as The Fair Maid of Kent*, and the mother of King Richard II of England, whom she bore to her third husband Edward the Black Prince, son and heir of King Edward III. Joan was the daughter of Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent, and Margaret Wake, 3rd Baroness Wake of Liddell. Her father Edmund was the son of King Edward I by his second wife, Margaret of France, daughter of Philippe III of France.
Royal Standard of England
Edmund was always a loyal supporter of his elder half-brother, King Edward II of England, which placed him in conflict with the queen, Isabella of France (who was also Edmund’s cousin), and her lover Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. Edmund was executed after Edward II was deposed, and his wife and four children (including Joan, who was only two years old) placed under house arrest in Arundel Castle. It was a time of great strain for the widowed countess of Kent and her four children. They received respite after the new King, Edward III (Joan’s first cousin), attained adulthood and took charge of affairs. He took on the responsibility for the family and looked after them well. Incidentally, his wife, Queen Philippa, was Joan’s second cousin; both were descended from Philippe III of France. In 1352 Joan assumed the title of fourth Countess of Kent and fifth Baroness Wake of Liddell after the death of her brother John.
Joan of Kent
In 1340, at the age of twelve, Joan secretly married 26-year-old Thomas Holland of Upholland, Lancashire, without first gaining the royal consent necessary for couples of their rank. Shortly after the wedding, Holland left for the continent as part of the English expedition into Flanders and France. The following winter (1340 or 1341), while Holland was overseas, Joan’s family arranged for her to marry William Montacute, son and heir of the first Earl of Salisbury. The 13-year-old Joan said nothing and married Montacute, who was her own age. Later, Joan said that she did not reveal her existing marriage with Thomas Holland because she was afraid it would lead to Holland’s execution for treason. She may also have become convinced that the earlier marriage was invalid. Montacute’s father died in 1344 and he became the 2nd Earl of Salisbury.
When Holland returned from the French campaigns around 1348, his marriage to Joan was revealed. Holland confessed the secret marriage to the King, and appealed to the Pope for the return of his wife. Salisbury kept Joan confined to his home until, in 1349, Pope Clement VI annulled Joan’s marriage to the Earl and sent her back to Thomas Holland. Holland was created Earl of Kent in right of his wife.
Over the next eleven years, Thomas Holland and Joan had five children:
1. Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent
2. John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter
3. Lady Joan Holland (1356–1384), who married John IV, Duke of Brittany (1339–1399).
4. Lady Maud Holland (1359–1391), who married firstly Hugh Courtenay and secondly Waleran III of Luxembourg, Count of Ligny (1355–1415).
5. Edmund Holland (c. 1354), who died young. He was buried in the church of Austin Friars, London.
* Although the French chronicler Jean Froissart called her “the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England, and the most loving”, the appellation “Fair Maid of Kent” does not appear to be a contemporary description of Joan.