The Balance of PowerThe English invasion of France and the victory at Crécy altered the balance of power in Europe. Centred in Avignon, Clement started funding Philip VI to the tune of 592,000 gold florins [i]in an attempt to stabilise the situation. Edward III in turn was encouraging Louis to invade Naples, a close ally of France.
Clement tried to forestall any such attempt by Louis and started to suggest that Charles Martel should be removed from his mother’s care and brought up in Avignon; he also gave permission for his legate Cardinal Bertrand de Deux to prosecute and execute any member of the Neapolitan royal family including Joanna if found complicit in Andrew’s murder.
On 4th October Joanna’s aunt Catherine died; if not involved in Andrew’s murder, she certainly influenced events after his death. When Robert of Duranto rode out of Castel Nuovo, to attend his mother’s funeral; Joanna had his retainers evicted and shut the doors of the castle, thus eliminating one very unwanted suitor.
In Robert’s place came four Clarissan nuns and Cardinal de Dreux. The cardinal’s arrival meant that Joanna could no longer protect Philippa and Sancia who were executed on 29th December after prolonged torture,
‘After that she [Sancia] was paraded here and there, stretched out on red hot coals and tortured with pliers until her internal organs burned and she breathed her last.’[ii]
But neither woman implicated Joanna in Andrew’s death. But their deaths altered nothing as far as the Hungarians were concerned. Louis sent a formal declaration of war to Avignon on 27th March 1346. His intransigence was not appeased by de Dreux’s finding of not guilty against the Neapolitan royal family and Joanna’s refusal to surrender her son to the tender mercies of the church.
Joanna set about rallying her family; Louis of Taranto was named vicar-general of the kingdom on 20th June, three days later Charles of Durazzo was named captain-general. Louis and Joanna were married on 22nd August 1347 without the necessary dispensation from the church. Robert of Taranto was appeased by a dispensation from Clement to marry Marie of Bourbon, widow of Guy of Lusignan[iii] and a wealthy woman in her own right. From now on Robert focussed his attentions on his wife’s properties in Achaea.
The Magyar Invasion
|South-east Europe circa 1360|
Louis invaded Naples at the end of 1347[iv]; his advance forces reached the northern borders of the kingdom in late June and were welcomed by rebellious barons. Charles of Durazzo made a stand at L’Aquila but was driven out by superior numbers. Charles along with Louis and his brother set about raising an army to defend the kingdom. Joanna was left in Naples, pregnant.
When the moment came Charles and Robert decided that the only way forward was to surrender and rode to Naples to prepare for the coming of the victor, leaving Louis of Taranto to fight alone. On 15th January 1348 the Hungarian troops[v] defeated those of Louis of Taranto at Capua.
When her two cousins rode into Naples Joanna’s thought was to flee; she knew that death awaited her at the hand of Louis of Hungary. She was unable to remove Charles Martel from the care of Andrew’s nurse. Feeling that her only option was to leave her much loved son behind in her beloved Naples, and hoping in return that the victorious Hungarians would look after Charles Martel, Joanna left taking as much cash as she could and set sail for Avignon.
Joanna’s flight became known to her husband who was persuaded to follow his wife into exile. Louis was most likely to execute Louis of Taranto who left Capua under the command of Hugo del Balzo. He took flight in a fishing boat and headed for Florence with Niccolo Acciaioli.
|Fortress at Capua|
Louis marched his army down to Naples, as his troops marched past Capua the German mercenaries, hired to defend the city, deserted and the city was forced to surrender. The following day Louis took Aversa and sent to Naples demanding his nephew Charles Martel be handed over into Hungarian control. This was done immediately;
‘It was Sir Amelio del Balzo who was taking care of Lord Charles Martel – they assigned him to Count Ciccono of Hungary, who received him [Charles Martel] in the name of the King of Hungary, and they even assigned him [Count Ciccono] the Castel dell’Ovo.’[vi]
On the same day as his brother fled the kingdom, Robert of Taranto and his cousin Charles entered Aversa at the head of a procession of Neapolitan nobles to make formal obeisance to their new monarch. Louis chose the site of his brother’s assassination as the meeting place with his cousins. He greeted them in a friendly fashion and promised a great banquet in their honour on 22nd January.
At the promised feast the two men and their brothers were arrested; in the morning of 23rd January 1348 Charles of Durazzo was beheaded on the site of Andrew’s untimely death. Louis then led his army down to despoil the capital city. On the 2nd February Charles Martel was sent, with his four cousins of Taranto and Durazzo, to Hungary. Charles Martel died on 10th May 1348, soon after arriving in Hungary following an arduous journey.
As Countess of Provence Joanna based herself in Aix-en-Provence, the province’s capital while the Black Death was raging through the area[vii]. Joanna wrote to Clement begging him to clear her name of the taint of murdering her husband. She also asked for support in regaining her kingdom. Clement meanwhile was receiving letters from Louis demanding that Joanna be deposed and executed.
Soon afterwards Maria and her children arrived in Avignon too, and took up residence with Cardinal Talleyrand, her dead husband’s uncle. Talleyrand was able to mobilise the French faction of the Sacred College[viii] on Joanna’s behalf and Clement finally agreed to meet with Joanna, who arrived in Avignon on 15th March 1348. Joanna agreed to be tried for her alleged part in Andrew’s murder.
Joanna defended herself in the trial conducted by two of Louis’ ambassadors; Clement, who made no secret of his taste for beautiful women, was more than happy to pronounce her innocent. Honoré Bouche[ix] wrote;
‘She spoke at length with such grace and eloquence, brought forth so many good reasons for her defence, that……His Holiness was impelled to declare her innocent of the crime and of the suspicion of the crime.’[x]
Clement issued a bull legitimising Joanna’s marriage to Louis of Taranto and on May 7th wrote to Cardinal de Deux informing him that he was to deny Louis’ request to be crowned King of Naples. Louis had transgressed by illegally removing Charles Martel from the kingdom and executing the innocent Charles of Durazzo.
In an attempt to uncover the accomplices in his brother’s murder King Louis instigated a reign of terror in Naples. Although supported by the del Balzo family, Louis was woefully short on local intelligence and, among other land grabs, seized the property of the Pipini brothers which resulted them transferring their allegiance to the loyalists.
The plague arrived in Naples in April and on May 24th Louis departed from Naples in stealth, leaving misery and chaos in his wake, as well as an empty treasury. But the war between Hungary and Naples was to continue until 1352.
Now Joanna needed cash to regain her kingdom. Refilling Joanna’s treasury was not something Clement was prepared to do without some return for his money. Joanna had to sell a portion of her birthright to get the money to return home. On 9th June Joanna sold the pope the city and county of Avignon for 80,000 gold florins[xi] and on 23rd Clement issued a bull allowing Joanna one tenth of church income in Provence for her return to Naples.
|Castello di Melfi|
On 18th June the Neapolitan admiral won a battle against the Hungarians and Lorenzo Acciaioli[xii] held the city of Melfi which the Hungarians were besieging. Joanna’s standard was raised in Naples and a delegation was sent urging Joanna’s return. Joanna was in the late stages of pregnancy and could not undergo the lengthy sea voyage. She gave birth to Catherine on 30th June and on 3rd July Joanna and Louis solicited Clement’s protection for Catherine.
Joanna and Louis of Taranto returned to Naples on 17th August;
‘Since the castles of Naples….[and] the harbour and the armory were in the hands of the king of Hungary’s men, they could not land at the harbour or in its vicinity; but rather outside Naples….they came ashore.’[xiii]
The couple were welcomed by the nobility, but Joanna had a fight on her hands; Louis had left most of his army and they held the castles of the kingdom. Capua was recovered within a month and by the beginning of December Louis of Taranto had regained Calabria. Joanna oversaw the surrender of the Castel Nuovo and the Castel Dell’Ovo[xiv].
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
[ii] Joanna - Goldstone
[vi] Joanna - Goldstone
[vii] Between January and September 1348 62,000 people had died in Avignon and the surrounding countryside. The plague did not wane until the following spring when the population of Europe went looking for a scapegoat and found it in the Jews. In 1449 Clement issued two bulls condemning the massacres of the Jews, but over 350 massacres took place and over 200 Jewish communities were annihilated
[viii] The French were the largest faction in the college
[ix] 17th century Provencal historian
[x] Joanna - Goldstone
[xii] Niccolo’s son
[xiii] Joanna - Goldstone
[xiv] The Hungarian defenders were several months in arrears of pay