Fact of the day: 4th September

On this day in 1199 Joan of England, Queen of Sicily (b. 1165) died.

Joan was born at Château d’Angers in Anjou, and spent her youth at her mother’s courts at Winchester and Poitiers. In 1176, William II of Sicily sent ambassadors to the English court to ask for Joan’s hand in marriage.

The betrothal was confirmed on 20 May and on 27 August Joan set sail for Sicily, escorted by John of Oxford, the bishop of Norwich and her uncle, Hamelin de Warenne, Earl of Surrey. In Saint Gilles, her entourage was met by representatives of the Kingdom of Sicily: Alfano, Archbishop of Capua, and Richard Palmer, Bishop of Syracuse. download (10)

After a hazardous voyage, Joan arrived safely, and on 13 February 1177, she married William II of Sicily and was crowned Queen of Sicily at Palermo Cathedral. According to Robert of Torigny, they had one son, Bohemond, who was born in 1181 but died in infancy; however, as there is no indication of him ever existing in any other source of the time, Torigny’s words are tainted by invention or misconception.  Following William’s death in 1189, she was kept a prisoner by the new king, Tancred of Sicily.

Joan was Richard I of England’s favourite sister, but he was not above using her as a bargaining chip in his political schemes. He even suggested marrying her to Saladin’s brother, Al-Adil, and making them joint rulers of Jerusalem.

This plan failed when the high ranking priests opposed this wedding and threatened King Richard that he would be excommunicated from the Christian Church. King Philip II of France also expressed some interest in marrying her, but this scheme, too, failed (possibly on grounds of affinity, since Philip’s father Louis VII had formerly been married to her mother).

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