Unwanted RelationsCharles of Artois’ direct heir by primogeniture had been Carobert[i], son of Robert’s deceased elder brother Charles Martel. Carobert was seven years old and unable to hold his throne. Instead the throne had been given to Robert, an adult who could more than hold his own. Now Carobert was a grown man and king of Hungary; he was determined to contest what he saw as his birthright.
When the 13 year old Carobert arrived in Hungary in 1301 his coronation by Gregory Bisckei was disputed by local barons who had their own candidate; the 12 year old Wenceslaus, son of Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia. Carobert was assisted by his Hapsburg relatives, Albert, King of Germany and Rudolf, Duke of Austria. The barons and the young Wenceslaus were sent packing.
It was not until Carobert and his men had conquered much of central Hungary that he was crowned with the Holy Crown of Hungary on 27th August 1310. Even so Carobert faced more opposition from the Hungarian nobility and it took a further ten years to consolidate his power.With his marriage to his third wife Elizabeth[ii], a Polish princess in 1320, Carobert now found a ruthless power-hungry spouse, ready to fight for her children’s rights. An alliance with Poland brought powerful benefits for Carobert, who had always protested his loss of Naples.
|Pope John XXII|
Pope John XXII was ready to throw his influence behind Carobert’s claims as a counter to the Holy Roman Emperor, Louis, whose Italian fiasco had not reduced his threat to papal interests. Louis supported a number of outspoken theologians, who held strong views on apostolic poverty in direct opposition to the pope who amassed a great fortune of his own, shocking Petrarch;
‘Here reign the successors of the poor fishermen of Galilee; they have strangely forgotten their origin. I am astounded, as I recall their ancestors, to see these men loaded with gold and clad in purple, boasting of the spoils of prices and nations.’[iii]
John also held unorthodox views on saints[iv]. In January 1329, in Pisa, Louis and his anti-pope, Nicholas V, in the presence of William of Wykeham[v] and Michael of Cesena[vi], formally condemned Pope John on a charge of heresy.
Carobert, who persecuted the Spiritual Franciscans protected at Robert’s court, was seen as a loyal son of the church. Robert was often in arrears with his annual payments to the Papal Treasury, while Carobert had amassed a large fortune; something which the miserly Pope John could not have failed to notice.
An Agreement Between Relations
|Andrew with his mother and brothers|
John wrote to Robert the Wise suggesting that he make amends to Carobert, a request that Robert dismissed. John pressed Robert to marry Joanna to one of Carobert’s sons and let the eldest child of their union inherit the throne of Naples.
Robert’s sister-in-law Catherine tried to inveigle her brother King Philip of France into pressing for marriages between Catherine’s eldest sons and Joanna and Marie. Pope John wrote to her informing her that the two sisters were promised to their Hungarian cousins. He issued a bull to that effect on 30th June 1332. Robert and Sancia capitulated at this point and came to terms with Carobert.
Carobert’s five year old second son Andrew would marry Joanna and become Duke of Calabria immediately the couple were betrothed. He would be crowned King of Naples when he reached his majority. Maria would marry Carobert’s eldest son Crown Prince Louis; if Joanna died Andrew would marry Maria instead. In either event Andrew’s children would rule in Naples after himself.
‘Maria was bound to wed one or the other….in view of mishap to her sister, to whom she was heiress-presumptive, she was….looked upon as a reserve claim for Hungary in rebinding itself to the House of Naples.’[vii]
Robert always intended that Andrew would be crowned as King Consort, not de facto king as the Hungarians wanted. Errors in the communications between the two countries hid this vital flaw in the agreement
A Family Wedding
Carobert and Andrew travelled down from Hungary for the wedding; Queen Elizabeth and Louis stayed at home. The situation in Poland was fluid as Elizabeth’s father had recently died and her brother Casimir was new to his throne. Carobert and Andrew arrived in Naples on 18th September 1333. The wedding took place nine days later; Joanna was now Duchess of Calabria.
The new Duke of Calabria, age 6, was effectively adrift in a foreign country, whose language he did not speak. Occasionally he played with Joanna or her cousins, but much of the time he was on his own. As a result Andrew became surly and rude. The cosmopolitan Neapolitans did not hide their disdain for this young unhappy child or his Hungarian retinue.
A tutor was appointed by Sancia appointed a Spiritual Franciscan to be Andrew’s tutor. Friar Robert, who turned out to be not spiritual at all; soon gained ascendancy over Andrew’s household. Petrarch wrote of him to his friend Cardinal Giovanni Colonna;
‘Alas, what a shame, what a monster! May God remove this kind of plague from Italian skies…..he disdains most haughtily not only your words but also those of the Pope.’[viii]
Joanna learned the art of ruling at her grandfather’s knee, but what she learned did not take account of the changes the years had wrought. Over the years Robert’s authority had waned and by 1335 his influence over much of the provinces surrounding Naples had decreased. Pope John died on 4th December 1334 and his successor was Benedict XII, a pope who preferred to keep the governance of the papal fiefs in his own hands.
|Silver gigliato of Robert's reign|
Crime in the kingdom increased dramatically throughout Joanna’s teenage years. There was a core of very wealthy nobles at court but, along with the peasantry, much of the nobility was impoverished; crop failures brought down many landowners. Nobles were used to responding to any petty argument with violence and as a result bands of armed men roamed the countryside swearing vendetta against perceived enemies. In response Robert issued a decree;
‘That men of the city may not disturb its tranquillity, nor carry prohibited weapons by day or night, nor congregate in crowds……nor commit violence on peers or inferiors, open or stealthily, in public or private places.’[ix]
The decree did not receive military support and by the end of the decade Robert’s administration was being called corrupt.
In despair Robert withdrew to the comfort of his sermonising and his books. In March 1341 after three days of wildly fêted examination Robert approved Petrarch as poet laureate[x] and made him his chaplain as well. Joanna attended the examination. These three glorious days marked the beginning of the end of Robert’s reign.
Further west the Hundred Year’s War was about to erupt, as Edward III cast covetous eyes on the lost Angevin lands in France. Edward had the support of Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor and the Flemings, while Philip relied on the support of the pope, 60% of whose income derived from France, and his sister’s brother-in-law, Robert of Naples.
By the summer of 1342 Joanna’s marriage was still unconsummated; Joanna was now sixteen, well past the age of maturity for women as calculated in the Middle Ages[xi]. Andrew was 15 and apparently a slow developer. Robert declared that Andrew would lead an expedition into Sicily in the early spring of 1342 and after his return he would be knighted and the marriage would be formally consummated.
The expedition was delayed several times; apparently its leader was reluctant to leave Naples. A further delay was caused by the Carobert’s death on 16th July 1342; his widow had her eldest son Louis crowned within the week. Elizabeth had never been keen on marrying Louis to Maria, preferring to strengthen local alliances. To this end she married Louis off to Margaret of Bohemia[xii].Robert reacted angrily to this casting off of Maria and, on 16th January 1643, the now bed-ridden king dictated his last will and testament confirming Joanna as his heir and in the event of Joanna’s dying childless, the crown was to go to Maria. Andrew was cut out of the inheritance. There was no mention of his becoming even King Consort. If Maria failed to marry Louis, she was to marry the heir to the French throne, or one of his brothers. To entice Philip Maria’s portion was increased by a value of 10,000 florins, in addition to a dowry of 30,000 florins[xiii].
A special council was set up, under the leadership of Sancia, to govern until Joanna was 25. The will recognised the pope’s authority and recommended Joanna and Maria for papal protection.
‘The before mentioned duke and duchess and the duchess’ sister Maria, affirming themselves as adult….have promised and sworn by corporeal touch of the Holy Gospel, in the presence of ourself, the ruler and King, and of our judge and notary, and the undersigned witnesses to keep firmly and inviolably [the terms of the will].’[xiv]
Within four days, before he could be persuaded of the wisdom or otherwise of his will, Robert was dead.
Chronicles – Froissart, Penguin Classics 1968
The Holy Roman Empire – Friedrich Heer, Phoenix 1995
Joanna – Nancy Goldstone, Phoenix 2010
Absolute Monarchs – John Julius Norwich, Random House 2011
A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, MacMillan London Ltd 1989
[i] Also known as Charles; Carobert or Caroberto is a shortening of the names Charles Robert
[iii] Absolute Monarchs - Norwich
[vi] General of the Franciscan Order
[vii] Joanna - Goldstone
[x] Petrarch was given his laurels in Rome on 8th April 1341
[xi] Usually assessed at 13
[xii] Second daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor
[xiv] Joanna - Goldstone