Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Medieval Italy - The Queen of Naples X


A Wedding
Along with the shortage of money; the lack of an heir was also affecting the stability of the kingdom. And Louis of Hungary had turned his attention back to the kingdom he coveted. Like Joanna Louis lacked direct heirs[i]; Louis had invited the young Charles of Durazzo to Hungary; at the age of seven Charles was sent to a foreign land where he was fostered by the man who had his father executed.

Louis proposed a marriage between Charles and Margherita; Joanna’s only remaining unmarried niece. Urban favoured the marriage and on 15th June 1369 issued a bull approving the union. With the free companies still menacing the papal states, Urban hoped to persuade Louis to send his soldiers to fight for the good of the church.
Royal palace at Visegrad
Joanna reluctantly agreed to the match and the 13 year old Charles of Durazzo returned to Naples to marry the 22 year old Margherita at Castel Capuano in January 1370. By the time Charles returned to Hungary Margherita was already pregnant. Her little girl, Marie, died not long after birth and Margherita travelled to Visegrád to join her husband.
By mid-summer the Romans had had enough of the papal court; Urban shamelessly preferred Frenchmen to the Sacred College and John Hawkwood was on the attack, targeting papal property for preference. Eventually Urban, by now a very sick man, gave way to the pressure and agreed to return to Avignon. Joanna provided 34 galleys to ferry the pope’s court back to Provence.
‘Sad, suffering and deeply moved’
Urban left Italy; within three months he was dead, to be replaced by Gregory XI[ii].

War in Italy
Catherine Benincasa
On 9th May 1372 the new pope announced to his cardinals that the papal court would return to Rome; his decision reinforced by the support of Catherine Benincasa[iii]. The papal treasury was empty and not only the French cardinals and the king of France, but also the king of England was opposed to the move. Gregory had to borrow 60,000 gold florins[iv] from the Duke of Anjou and another 3,000[v] from the king of Navarre to keep the papacy’s creditors at bay. The return to Rome had to wait another 4½ years.
And money was not the only issue; Bernabo Visconti was on the warpath in the Romagna. Gregory authorised Cardinal Robert of Geneva to raise an army of mercenaries; he contracted with John Hawkwood to swap sides when his contract with Visconti expired.
‘The pope has learned that the said John intends to abandon the service of Barnabas de Vicecomitibus [Visconti], to invade no more the church and its lands, rather to serve the same and the realm of Naples.’[vi]
Robert blockaded Bologna and allowed his mercenaries to commit atrocities while laying the countryside to waste. Robert then sent the troops to raze Cesena; an atrocity that was partly the cause of the War of the Eight Saints pitting the Italian city states against the expanding reach of the papacy.
Marriage Number Four
Joanna was relieved of her third husband James in February 1375, felled by the ill-health that he had long suffered;
‘King James of Majorca fell sick again in the vale of Soria, of the which sickness he died.’[vii]
With no direct heir in sight, Louis of Hungary again raised the issue of Hungarian rights in Naples. As part of his campaign Louis wed his daughter Catherine to one of the king of France’s sons, Louis, Duke of Touraine[viii]. The settlement stated that Catherine was dowered with the domains of Naples, Provence and Piedmont. Gregory refused to accept the document and warned Joanna of Louis’ plans.
On 25th March 1376 Joanna married Otto, Duke of Brunswick, a soldier in the service of his cousin the Marquis of Montferrat[ix]. Spinelli recommended the marriage to Joanna as a way of securing control of Piedmont. Otto, the most reliable and supportive of all her husbands, was rewarded with the title of the Duke of Calabria and the principality of Taranto[x]. In a letter to King Louis, the Florentines claimed that Joanna was;
‘Humiliating Italy by mixing the blood of the glorious Angevin race with the detestable blood of a German prince.’[xi]
In the summer of 1376 Margherita and her four children returned from Hungary to live at Joanna’s court.
The Papacy Divided
Pope Urban VI
Gregory died in March 1378 and the Romans demanded that his replacement be an Italian. Under duress the flawed election saw a Neapolitan crowned Urban VI, while Robert of Geneva was left on the sidelines. The new pope was not a reasonable man, being;
‘One of the most arbitrary, and, indeed, insane of all the popes…..usually described as , capricious, arbitrary, deceitful, distrustful, nepotistic and vengeful, even by his defenders.’[xii]
The French cardinals slipped away and from the safety of Anagni demanded a fresh election, Urban’s election was declared invalid. Moving to Fondi they elected Robert of Geneva as Clement VII, to become known as the Antipope; the Western Schism had begun.

The next step was to get rid of the unwanted Urban, who failed to respond to the offer from Fondi to step down. Clement hired mercenaries to attack Rome and Urban. On 16th July Clement’s troops won a victory over the Romans and Urban, a Neapolitan, begged Joanna for assistance.
Antipope Clement VII
The cardinals at Fondi sent representatives to Joanna and managed to persuade her of the invalidity of Urban’s election. Joanna’s support henceforth was given to Clement, for which she was reproached by Catherine Benincasa, one of Urban’s supporters;
‘You who were a branch of the true vine, have cut yourself off from it with the knife of self-love. You who were a legitimate daughter, tenderly beloved of her father, the Vicar of Christ on earth, Pope Urban VI., who is really the Pope the highest pontiff, have divided yourself from the bosom of your mother, Holy Church, where for so long a time you have been nourished. Oh me! oh me! one can mourn over you as over a dead woman.’ [xiii]
The king of France was particularly delighted over the decision to declare Urban’s election invalid and the re-election of Clement. Against Clement were ranged the Holy Roman Emperor, the king of England and the king of Hungary.
Hungarian Interference
Castello Fondi
On 22nd November 1378 Joanna declared for Clement, sending her annual tribute to him; she was immediately declared an enemy of the church. Joanna’s people saw the matter through different eyes, unable to understand why their sovereign was not supporting the Neapolitan pope. Rioting broke out in the streets and fighting raged through L’Aquila.
In May 1379 Clement and his supporters were forced out of Fondi and fled to Naples. Violence broke out in the city led by Ludovico Buzzoto[xiv]; the rioting persuaded Clement that his best recourse would be to return the papacy to Avignon and on 13th May, Clement and his cardinals left in galleys provided by Joanna.
Despite Clement’s departure, the violence continued; with Otto in Piedmont, on May 18th, in a charade to fool her subjects, Joanna ostensibly reversed her stand and came out in support of Urban. When Otto returned to Naples in July, Joanna made plain her adherence to the man she believed was the true pope, at the expense of losing her subjects’ trust. Urban was livid, calling Joanna;
‘The new Jezebel and the height of impiety.’[xv]
Louis of Hungary saw Joanna’s break with Urban as his chance to intervene once more in the affairs of Naples. Louis agreed to send Charles of Durazzo, a seasoned warrior, to conquer Naples. Clement decided that Joanna needed more than just Otto to safeguard her kingdom against the Hungarians. Louis of Anjou[xvi] agreed to raise an army to come her Joanna’s aid if Joanna adopted him as her legal heir.
In June 1380 Margherita slipped away from Naples with her children. She had been living as part of the court for the past four years, with no evidence of ill feeling between her and her great aunt. Joanna, who had been ambivalent about declaring Louis of Anjou as her heir, now did so on 29th June in a letter to Clement. He issued two bulls on 22nd and 23rd July confirming Joanna’s decision.

A New King
Louis d'Orleans
In July Charles of Durazzo left the Veneto, where the Hungarians had been fighting an alliance of city states, and by November his army of 7,000 was in Rome, to be welcomed by Urban. Naples prepared for war and Joanna called on her heir to come to her rescue. Louis was now Regent of France for his nephew Charles VI and was loath to risk his comfortable position in France to fight the Hungarian army.
Urban invested Charles of Durazzo with the kingdom of Naples on condition that he hand over the towns of Capua, Caserta, Avera, Nocera and Amalfi to Urban’s nephew. Charles agreed and on 2nd June 1381 Charles was crowned Charles III of Naples. Six days later he rode out of Rome at the head of an army of Hungarians and Italian mercenaries.
On 24th June Charles’ troops defeated the Neapolitan army under the leadership of Otto of Brunswick at Palestrina. Otto and his men fell back on the Porta Capuana[xvii] but were betrayed by adherents of Urban; Naples was opened to the invaders.
Porta Capuana
‘’Huzza’ they shouted ‘God save King Charles and pope Urban!’…..They easily beat off those of the Queen’s party, and forced them to retire to the castle, while they opened the Porto del Mercato, at which Charles with his army entered.’[xviii]
Joanna was besieged in Castel Nuovo. Besides her court, Joanna had opened the doors of the castle to 500 citizens afraid of retribution from the Hungarians. In August Otto made an attempt to free his wife and was captured. In the absence of any sign of help from Louis of Anjou on 26th August 1381 Joanna surrendered. She was originally held at the Castel dell’Oro and was moved to the fortress of San Fele in March 1382.
In June 1382 Louis of Anjou felt secure enough to come to the rescue; he left Carpentras with an army of 60,000 to march down through Italy. Aware that the French were marching to the rescue and feeling that he would be unable to overcome such numbers, Andrew had Joanna killed. The accounts vary; Joanna was either strangled, poisoned or suffocated with a feather mattress; but all accounts agree that the deed was done by four Hungarians.
The Letters of Catherine Beneseca – Catherine Beneseca, Project Gutenberg 2003
Chronicles – Froissart, Penguin Classics 1968
Joanna – Nancy Goldstone, Phoenix 2010
Absolute Monarchs – John Julius Norwich, Random House 2011
Hawkwood – Frances Stonor Saunders, Faber & Faber 2004
A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, MacMillan London Ltd 1989

[i] His niece Elizabeth was next in line to the throne of Hungary; she married Philip II of Taranto in 1370
[ii] A nephew of Clement VI
[iii] Now known as St Catherine of Siena
[iv] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £36,280,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £1,326,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £16,300,000,000.00
[v] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £1,814,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £66,290,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £815,000,000.00
[vi] Hawkwood – Stonor Saunders
[vii] Joanna - Goldstone
[ix] Married to James of Majorca’s sister Isabella; after James’ death Isabella took up the claim to Majorca 
[x] Robert, the last of the three brothers, died in 1373
[xi] Joanna - Goldstone
[xii] Ibid
[xiii] Letters – Catherine Benincasa
[xiv] A militant cleric, named as bishop by Urban and deprived of his archbishopric by Joanna
[xv] Joanna - Goldstone
[xvi] His Hungarian fiancée Catherine had died a couple of years earlier
[xvii] One of the gates into Naples
[xviii] Joanna - Goldstone

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Medieval Italy - The Queen of Naples IX

Peter IV of Aragon
Problems Arise
James was damaged physically by his 14 years as a prisoner of Peter IV of Aragon. James had been kept in an iron cage in Barcelona. Knowing of James’ ill-health, Robert of Taranto made a power play, seizing a castle in lieu of a claim for part of Maria’s unpaid dowry. James was too ill to fight as his wife’s champion;

‘The king suffers from Tertian fever. The doctors increased the prescriptions in view of the malicious nature of the times and the epidemic which has already caused the death of many people.’[i]

Robert also fell ill and Joanna was able to settle the crisis by giving Maria three cities and a castle.

It did not take long for Joanna to discover that James was mentally damaged by his prolonged incarceration in a dark cramped cell. He was prone to violent episodes; although he had signed an agreement that he would be excluded from the governance of Joanna’s kingdom, James demanded that he be ceded control of Naples. The resultant furore left Joanna horrified as Bertrando de Meyshones, the Archbishop of Naples informed the pope;

‘She fears the king as her husband and dreads him as the devil…..he is eccentric by nature and like mad, as his words and deeds show, alas! only too much, and it would be much worse if he came to drink any wine.’[ii]

Il Vespri Siciliani

James IV of Majorca
Despite his illness James refused to sleep in any bed bar Joanna’s. James conspired with his brother-in-law John II the Margrave of Montferrat, to bring the White Company to Naples to support a revolt against Joanna. By December the mercenaries had infiltrated the northern edges of the kingdom.

Joanna hid James’ insanity for over six months but a very public display of domestic violence on 4th January 1364 caused a scandal throughout Naples. In this disastrous situation Joanna was given both public and private support by her sister Maria and Robert of Taranto.

It was while these aggravations at home were accruing, the situation in Sicily became grave. The Catalan party had been gaining in strength since Joanna’s coronation. The offer of Margherita as Frederick’s wife had been ignored and the young claimant was married to Constanza, daughter of Peter IV of Aragon.

Constanza died in the summer of 1363 when the plague erupted again in Sicily and Frederick was once again offered Margherita as a wife. Frederick preferred marriage with Jeanne, Duchess of Durazzo, her older sister, second in line to the Neapolitan throne and the wealthiest woman in the kingdom; a match approved of by Urban.

Suitors Galore

Louis II of Bourbon
The proposed match did not suit Cardinal Guy who believed that Jeanne should marry one of his nephews as promised by Louis of Taranto. Jeanne had plenty of other suitors; Count Louis of Navarre and Louis II[iii], Duke of Bourbon. To see off these more exalted suitors Cardinal Guy sent his nephew Aimon III de Geneve to Naples to woo Jeanne. Joanna indicated that if the more illustrious suitors didn’t come up to scratch;

‘And if our lord the pope should approve of the lord Aimon, she would for her part be content.’[iv]

Cardinal Talleyrand was not prepared to see his niece married off to the impoverished nephew of a rival and hastily took measures to ensure that such a marriage did not take place.

When Jeanne sent messages to Frederick warning him about the peace negotiations conducted by Niccolo Acciaiuoli, she and the senior members of her household were arrested. One of Jeanne’s conduits of information was the Archbishop of Naples who Joanna could not act against; he wrote to Cardinal Guy begging him to have Urban assign a legate to run the kingdom.

On 16th January 1364 Jeanne, in an audience before her aunt, her uncle, her mother, consented to marry Frederick. The following day Cardinal Talleyrand died and Urban immediately reversed his previous decision and ordered that Jeanne was to marry Aimon. At the end of April Urban excommunicated Joanna and Maria for failing to allow Jeanne to marry whomsoever she so pleased.

Sicilian Affairs

The peace negotiations between those Sicilians supporting Joanna and those supporting Frederick broke down with the pope’s change of mind about the marriage. On 1st June Frederick’s troops took Messina and the Neapolitan court turned on the Archbishop of Naples in fury.

They sent a sharply worded grievance to Urban who responded by sending a legate to Naples and excommunicated Maria and Joanna (again) in the event that they didn’t hand Jeanne over to the legate. The legate fled the kingdom after publishing the excommunication bulls. Despite the bulls of excommunication Jeanne was betrothed to Louis of Navarre on 23rd November 1365[v] and the couple were married on 19th June 1366.

‘The Lord Louis of Navarre entered Naples with three galleys and the next day married the Lady Jeanne, duchess of Durazzo, and that same night slept with her.’[vi]

The Neapolitan rule of Sicily had been brief and eventually Joanna was forced to agree terms with Frederick and his supporters in 1372.

Changing Times

Certosa of Galluzzo
In January 1365, having resumed sharing a bed with James, the 39 year old Joanna became pregnant again. In February Urban revoked the bull of excommunication, but Joanna miscarried in June. In despair Joanna turned to the church for solace and wrote to Urban suggesting that he move the papal court to Naples[vii]. Urban replied that he planned to return the court to Italy

On 8th November Joanna lost one of her strongest supporters, with the death of Niccolo Acciaiuoli, her Grand Seneschal. His body was transported to Florence where he was buried in the Certosa of Galluzzo[viii] Niccolo was replaced by Niccolo Spinelli, a former ambassador to the papal court.

The beginning of 1366 saw the departure of James, who was unhappy at his exclusion from government. He hoped to find supporters in his quest to regain the kingdom of Majorca. Joanna cannot have been sorry to see him go, but the loss of her sister Maria, on 20th May, must have been a blow.

A new Start

Urban V
On 20th July 1366 Urban announced the return of the papal court to Rome, a momentous announcement. The transfer didn’t begin for another nine months; the papal states were not completely pacified despite Cardinal Albornoz’ efforts[ix] and Rome itself was a shadow of its former glory. The papal palaces were uninhabitable and St Peter’s Basilica was in ruins.

Urban’s decision to return was opposed by the majority French faction in the Sacred College, concerned about leaving the luxury of Avignon for the ruins of Rome they cried;

‘Oh, wicked Pope! Oh, Godless brother? Whither is he dragging his sons?’[x]

and not least by Charles V[xi], king of France. On 18th September Naples, in league with Florence, Pisa and Siena, committed to send 650 horsemen and 650 foot soldiers to fight the marauding free companies in Rome, the chief of which was the perfidious Englishman John Hawkwood.

When, in April 1367, Urban left Avignon he was accompanied by only five members of the College of Cardinals. He arrived in Genoa in May and Hawkwood’s company was lined up on the shoreline in array. Urban was intimidated into sailing off and landing at Corneto[xii] on 4th June, from where he made his way to the eternal city arriving. Architects, masons, stone cutters and carpenters descended on Rome. Urban spent 15,569 florins[xiii] on the papal palace.

James’ Machinations

Joanna paid a state visit to Rome in March 1367 and on 17th was presented with the Golden Rose. While it was a great honour, some protested that it was never meant to be given to a woman.

James taken prisoner
Just before receiving the award Joanna had been informed that her husband had been captured and was being held for ransom. James had got involved in the struggle for the throne of Castile between Pedro the Cruel[xiv] and his half-brother Henry the Bastard.

Influenced by the Black Prince James had joined Pedro’s cause and, too ill to depart, had been captured following the evacuation of Valladolid.

‘King Henry advanced towards him, and said: “King of Majorca, you have been our enemy, and have entered our kingdom of Castille with a large army; for which reasons we lay our hands on you, and make you our prisoner, or you are a dead man.”’[xv]

Aware of Joanna’s ambivalence towards her husband, Urban wrote urging her to ransom him. Joanna’s treasury had not yet recovered from the exigencies of the wars that had ravaged Naples over the past decades. 60,000 golden doubloons[xvi] was the value placed on James’ life who returned to Naples in 1369.


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

Hawkwood – Frances Stonor Saunders, Faber & Faber 2004

A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, MacMillan London Ltd 1989

The Flower of Chivalry – Richard Vernier, The Boydell Press 2003

[i] Joanna - Goldstone
[ii] Ibid
[iii] Who seems to have inherited the madness inherent in the Valois family
[iv] Joanna - Goldstone
[v] Failing to win the heart and hand of the heiress, Aimon departed on a crusade to Constantinople
[vi] Joanna - Goldstone
[vii] The return of the papacy to Rome had long been desired, but the citizens of Rome were notoriously aggressive and had only recently agreed to the pope’s return
[viii] A Carthusian monastery
[ix] Albornoz died on 24th August 1366
[x] Hawkwood – Stonor Saunders
[xi] John II had died in 1364, still a prisoner of the English
[xii] Now Tarquinia, 64 miles north-west of Rome
[xiii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £9,676,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £308,300,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £3,765,000,000.00
[xiv] A cognomen given him after coming to the throne when he had his half-brother’s mother Eleanor de Guzman executed
[xvi] On the assumption that Spanish doubloons, like most other European currencies, were similar in value to pounds; in 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £34,960,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £1,221,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £14,920,000,000.00