|Coat of Arms of Cardinal Talleyrand|
Joanna responded with two letters; one to Clement protesting his abrogation of her powers and the second to Cardinal Talleyrand, imploring his help in reversing Clement’s decision. To improve her chances of attracting Talleyrand’s patronage in Avignon Joanna sent him the currency he craved under separate cover.
The death of Maria’s baby in January brought the two sisters closer again and Charles’ brother Louis of Durazzo was despatched to Avignon to help quash the Hungarian campaign. On 21st January Sancia retired to the Clarissan convent of Santa Croce. Three days after this blow, Joanna wrote again to Clement emphasising that she was the best person to rule both her kingdom and her husband.
‘Your Holiness will deign to call to mind kindly my steadfast and immutable purpose not to make over the administration to my revered lord and husband for…..there is none living who shall strive after his advantage and honor as I shall.’[i]
In reply Clement compromised; Andrew and Joanna would both be crowned but only Joanna’s coronation would be considered blessed by God. Clement’s letters to husband and wife arrived at the same time that Elizabeth returned to Naples, following a sojourn in Rome. The resentment showed her by the Neapolitan courtiers led her to complain to Clement who had had enough of her interference. He ignored the evidence that plots against Andrew’s life were becoming a regular occurrence.
In response Elizabeth decided to take the 16 year old Andrew back to Hungary with her; she was dissuaded from this course of action by a united appeal from Joanna, Catherine and Agnes. To speed her mother-in-law on her way, Joanna lent Elizabeth three galleys to take her and her entourage across the Adriatic. Elizabeth’s departure on 25th February must have been greeted with relief by most of the court.
The Papal Legate
|Joanna of Naples|
Cardinal Aimeric de Châtelus arrived in the kingdom in early May; on 20th May Joanna accompanied Aimeric to the monastery of San Antonio where he was to lodge. A bureaucrat with a horror of making mistakes, the cardinal had none of the qualities necessary to deal with the complex issues awaiting him.
Relations became very strained between the legate and a very hostile court and it was not long before Aimeric wrote to Clement begging to be transferred. Clement refused but offered the sop of 40 florins a day[ii] plus the authority to draw on the Neapolitan treasury for whatever monies he needed to maintain an opulent lifestyle.
The oath could not be taken until August as Joanna fell ill in the summer and Aimeric refused to take responsibility for the kingdom until she did so. Naples was effectively without a government. The various parties within the court jockeyed for position;
On 24th June 1344 it was Andrew who landed a telling blow; he ordered the release of the Pipini brothers. And on the afternoon of their release knighted them; a telling indication of his unsuitability to rule.
‘Being puffed up with triumph, they [the Pipini brothers] began to live luxuriously, riding in royal state, holding jousts and appearing in the presence of the Queen and Andrew with loftier banners than their own.’[iii]
Buoyed up by this success Andrew made it clear that those who opposed his coronation would suffer. Aimeric insisted that Joanna and Andrew make public declarations of obedience to him, contrary to Joanna’s desire to make her oath privately. The ceremony took place on 28th August at Santa Chiara[iv].
Aimeric’s rule was a disaster; his orders were unfulfilled, the crime rate rose dramatically, bureaucrats’ salaries went unpaid. And to top it all Joanna refused to pay to the papal treasury the kingdom’s annual tribute, on the grounds that the kingdom was no longer her responsibility. This acted as a powerful stimulant to Clement’s grasping hands.
Complaints about the fiasco of Aimeric’s rule arrived regularly in Avignon; when Philip of France raised his voice Clement finally broke. On 19th November Clement wrote to Joanna to say that he was recalling Aimeric who was needed elsewhere as Joanna had matured greatly under Aimeric’s tutelage. However Aimeric did not leave Naples until early summer of 1345 interfering in matters as it suited him.
Andrew’s alliance with the Pipini brothers made him a force to be reckoned with; Joanna realised that he was escaping her control. She decided that the best way of stopping the rot would be to ensure that Andrew was not crowned and had Talleyrand and Louis of Durazzo working to that end in Avignon.
The chroniclers of the time started claiming that Joanna was being free with her favours; Domenico da Gravina claimed that Joanna slept with Louis of Taranto, Giovanni Villani[v] claimed that Joanna was the mistress of Bertrand, son of Charles of Artois, along with others including Robert of Taranto. While Boccaccio posited that the recently promoted Robert de Cabanis may have been her lover.
‘It was said that the pandering of Philippa was responsible for putting Joanna into Robert’s embraces. This crime requires a lot of faith for….no others except these must have known Joanna’s secret.’[vi]
Aimeric made sure that Joanna’s behaviour was reported to the pope; he informed Clement that Joanna was giving away property and income to her favourite, imperilling the church’s interests and income. Aimeric’s expenses, paid by the Neapolitan government amounted to 19,000 gold florins[vii].
Clement was so overcome by Joanna’s extravagance he wrote a bull on 30th January 1345 revoking all grants of monies and property made by Joanna or Sancia since Robert’s death. This bull was not made public until Aimeric left the kingdom of Naples in May.
A second bull forbidding Joanna from consorting with Philippa and her family was made public in February. Aware that Aimeric was spying on her, Joanna resumed marital relations with Andrew and in April the news that she was pregnant was bruited abroad.
The expectation of an heir only served to exacerbate Elizabeth’s desire to see her son on the throne of Naples and the pressure on Clement began anew. On June 14, 1345 Clement, after receipt of a bribe of 44,000 marks[viii], agreed to allow Andrew the title of king of Naples, but he was only to be heir in the event of Joanna's death. He wrote to Joanna ordering her to crown Andrew.
Joanna objected to this latest attempt at interference by the pope; she had only recently learned of the bull revoking all her gifts since Robert’s death. She ignored Clement’s instructions. But Charles of Durazzo, whose standing as husband of the heir was in peril with the possibilities inherent in Joanna’s pregnancy, now took Andrew’s side in the quarrel.
In the midst of the quarrel Sancia died on 28th July and was buried at Santa Croce. Her property[ix] was shared between Charles of Durazzo and Robert of Taranto[x]. This infuriated the pope who wrote on 21st August demanding that Andrew be crowned forthwith. He also sent a bishop nuncio to replace Aimeric.
Another death further complicated matters; Agnes of Périgord died in the midst of trying to marry her son Louis to Catherine’s daughter Marguerite[xi]. Catherine bitterly opposed the match. Agnes had been ill since May and was now bedridden. Domenic da Gravina assures us that;
‘The doctor required that the sick woman’s urine be collected…so he could draw his diagnosis. Exhorted by the Empress [Catherine] and the Queen, malevolent women arranged to have madame Sancia[xii] [who was pregnant] sleep near the patient….They collected the duchesses’ early morning urine….replaced it with Sancia’s and showed that to the doctor.’[xiii]
The doctor diagnosed pregnancy and had the unenviable task of informing Agnes’ son that she was pregnant. The story continued that, to save the family honour, Agnes was poisoned. The chronicler was not a member of the court and was most likely embroidering an already fraught family quarrel. But it does highlight the coalition between the Joanna, Catherine and Philippa, forged to fight the encroachments of the alliance between Andrew and Charles of Durazzo.
The Papal Legate
|Porta San Giovanni, Aversa|
The papal nuncio chose this moment of bitterness and division to announce Andrew’s coronation, which was to take place on 20th September 1345. After Agnes’ death the court moved to Aversa; Joanna and Andrew rode there, arriving together on 7th September. They intended to return to Naples on 19th.
Aimeric arrived in Avignon in early September and debriefed the pope on the shortcomings of the Neapolitan ruling families. Whilst Aimeric was incompetent, he was not stupid and he made it quite clear to Clement that Andrew was a feckless youth who could not be trusted to rule.
Clement reversed his earlier decision and in two letters, written to Joanna and Andrew on 20th and 21st September, recognised Joanna as sole heir to the throne and chastised Andrew for his immaturity. He was expressly forbidden, upon pain of excommunication, from interfering with Joanna’s rule once he was crowned.
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
[iii] Joanna - Goldstone
[iv] A monastery complex set up by Sancia and Robert
[vi] Joanna - Goldstone
[viii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £37,290,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £1,455,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £9,560,000,000.00 www.measuringworth.com Some records state that Clement was given as much as 100,000 gold florins
[ix] Sancia had left it to a number of monasteries
[x] Philippa’s son and thus a double counterblast to the pope’s bulls and exhortations
[xii] A friend of Joanna’s
[xiii] Joanna - Goldstone