Joan of Navarre, also known as Joanna (c. 1368 – June 10, 1437) was Duchess of Brittany by marriage to Duke Jean IV of Brittany and Count of Montfort from 1345 until his death and 7th Earl of Richmond from 1372 until his death.
Joan of Navarre was later Queen of England by marriage to King Henry IV. 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 stepson, Henry V, in 1415. Four years later her stepson had her imprisoned and confiscated her money and land on the suspicion of being a witch. Joan was released in 1422, shortly before Henry V’s death.
Joan was a daughter of King Charles II of Navarre and Joan of France, the daughter of King Jean II of France (called The Good), and his first wife, Bonne of Luxembourg.
Duchess of Brittany
On October 2, 1386, Joan married her first husband, Duke Jean IV of Brittany. She was his third wife and the only one with whom he had children.
Jean IV died on November 1, 1399 and was succeeded by his and Joan’s son, Jean V. Her son being still a minor, she was made his guardian and the regent of Brittany during his minority. Not long after, King Henry IV of England proposed to marry her. 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 while he resided at the Breton court during his banishment from England.
Joan gave a favourable 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 arranged for the security of the duchy and her children.
Joan 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. She negotiated with the Duke Charles I the Bold of Burgundy to make him guardian of her sons 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 of England
On February 7, 1403, Joan married Henry IV at Winchester Cathedral. On 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 attacked 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 given his sensitive relation to the Parliament at the time.
Joan and Henry IV had no surviving children, but it appears that in 1403 Joan gave birth to stillborn twins. She is recorded as having had a good relationship with Henry’s children from his first marriage, often taking the side of the future King Henry V 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, Henry IV, died, and was succeeded by her stepson Henry V. Joan had a very good relationship with Henry, who allowed her use of his royal castles of Windsor, Wallingford, Berkhamsted and Hertford 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 with Henry.
In August 1419 the goods of her personal confessor, Friar Randolph, were confiscated, although the itemised list shows the objects actually belonged to Joan. The following month, Randolph came before Parliament and claimed that Joan had “plotted and schemed for the death and destruction of our said lord the King in the most evil and terrible manner imaginable”.
On September 27, 1419, (other sorces mention September 30) Joan, was deprived of all her possessions and revenue and four days later, she was arrested on charges of witchcraft. The charges were probably an attempt at claiming her wealth and Joan had no actual dealings with witchcraft.
Her large fortune was confiscated and she was imprisoned at Pevensey Castle in Sussex and later was incarcerated at Leeds Castle in Kent. She was released upon the order of Henry V in 1422, six weeks before he died.
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.