|Angelo Acciaiouli (kneeling)|
A Faithless SpouseThese victories were overshadowed by a defeat for the loyalists at Foggia, when the Hungarians were buoyed with hope by the return of King Louis. Sometime in February Catherine died and within a very short time Joanna was embroiled in a power struggle with Louis of Taranto, their marriage in ruins. He had Joanna’s chamberlain Enrico Carraciolo arrested on the grounds of adultery with Joanna.
Louis was assisted by Niccolo Acciaiouli and his cousin Angelo, the Bishop of Florence, keeper of the royal seal. Clement was not impressed by Louis of Taranto’s bid for power, writing to him;
‘Although of royal birth, you were by inheritance poorly off. By the union with the Queen, who openly honoured you….you have become possessed of abundance and an exalted position. You….do not treat her as behooves a wife and Queen….you have caused her to be reckoned rather a slave than spouse.’[i]
Joanna, who was pregnant again, defended herself. Under virtual house arrest she gave birth in March to a girl named Françoise. Louis of Taranto meanwhile reigned in her place, allied with a vengeful and penniless Maria who demanded payment of her dowry. Joanna, with an empty treasury and an army to raise to fend off the armies of Louis of Hungary.
Clement wrote to all parties in Naples instructing all parties to work towards a reconciliation between husband and wife. He had received a letter from Joanna, detailing the humiliations to which Louis of Taranto subjected her.
Louis’ armies were besieging Aversa; he offered to marry Maria, his young wife Margaret of Bohemia had recently died. Maria welcomed the idea of marrying the man who had executed her husband.
‘After deliberation with the royal family who remained prisoner in Hungary, the king of Hungary made a secret accord with Madam Maria to make a marriage with her which dictated that the king would receive the dominion of Sicily [Naples] while Queen Joanna would remain countess of Provence.’[ii]
Clement sent Hugo del Balzo[iii], the bishop of Thérouanne and a squadron of loyalists to Naples and was allowed to speak to Joanna. The bishop then left for Aversa to speak to King Louis, leaving Hugo to spread rumours around Naples that Louis of Taranto was attempting to poison his wife. Hugo ensured that the Neapolitans were aware that the pope sided with Joanna in this war between husband and spouse.
Louis of Taranto folded; the increasingly resistant population, in accord with the wishes of the pope, persuaded him to hand back power to Joanna. On 17th August Joanna named a new seneschal, replacing her husband.
The Bishop of Thérouanne had in the interim negotiated a truce with Louis of Hungary who had suffered a leg wound during the siege and he was finding the citizens of Aversa averse to his rule. His barons had finished their military service;
‘To keep them to help him conquer the kingdom, meant to pay them, and he had little money and could not get more from a country that had been ravaged by war….Thus he changed his mind easily, ready to agree to a compromise that would allow him to leave the kingdom without losing face.’[iv]
Hostilities were suspended for a six month period, each side holding onto its gains. The papacy for its part agreed to try Joanna again for her part in Andrew’s murder and Joanna was required to pay Louis 300,000 florins[v] for the return of her family. Clement agreed to loan Joanna the monies and she and Louis of Taranto left for Rome on September 17th, the same day that Louis departed Rome. Hugo del Balzo remained in Naples.
Balzo’s intent in remaining in Naples, while the former adversaries travelled
to Rome, soon became startling clear. Presumably with the pope’s blessing, his
son Robert raped Maria in the presence of his father; the unlucky Maria was
then wed to Robert with Hugo in attendance.
‘When he [Hugo] arrived in the presence of the duchess, he said he wanted her to marry his son Robert, and had the marriage consummated by force.’[vi]
Clement was no doubt determined to stop the marriage Maria was trying to arrange with Louis of Hungary.
Joanna was furious at Hugo’s presumption. Louis of Taranto murdered Hugo on his galley, resting off Gaeta and Robert del Balzo and his new wife were brought ashore to meet Joanna. Robert was kept prisoner until the following spring when he was executed, despite a plea from the pope for clemency.
King Louis left Rome at the end of October 1450 and did not return. The following February Louis of Taranto and Niccolo Acciaiouli liberated Aversa. In December 1451, as Joanna sent a repayment guarantee for the 300,000 florins payable to Louis, Louis forgave the debt as he;
‘Did not go to war for greed, but to avenge the death of his brother.’[vii]
The following year saw accord grow between Joanna and her husband; he agreed to the limitations on his kingship while Joanna agreed to a joint coronation held on 27th May 1452.
A few days previously on 7th April an amnesty was declared towards those Neapolitans who had cooperated with the Hungarians. Joanna was reduced to borrowing the monies to pay for the coronation celebrations. The joy of the coronation was cancelled out when the couple returned home after the celebratory parade; their two year old daughter Françoise had died.
Finances were a problem in this kingdom so recently harried by war and the plague; nearly 50% of the citizens of Naples died in a three months period[viii]. The Hungarian army had deliberately destroyed homes and fields and outlaws roamed at will. Joanna named a new chief justice and gave him the powers to deal with the lawlessness in the countryside. With 400 horsemen the new judge;
‘Pursued criminals, brought barons and townships to compliance, insisted on collecting taxes and ensured that feudal services were carried out. Thanks to him, roads became free and safe.’[ix]
Within two years the kingdom was once again able to provide sufficient food to feed its population.
With the death of Clement in December 1352 Joanna lost a protector she knew well. The election of the new pope Innocent VI had been orchestrated by Cardinal Talleyrand. Talleyrand no longer supported Joanna; his main interest was in his Durazzo nephews[x]. In the spring of 1353 the hostages returned home to Naples; they were to cause endless problems.
Robert of Taranto was given a part of the family’s confiscated estates and Philip of Taranto received a smaller portion. Louis of Taranto intimated his intention to marry Philip to Maria, once again a widow. Maria’s daughters were now under Joanna’s guardianship and their assets were controlled by Louis of Taranto. The marriage proposal was vigorously opposed by Maria’s Durazzo brother-in-laws.
Robert of Durazzo went direct to Cardinal Talleyrand to plead his case; both brothers had been rebuffed in their attempts to recover their ancestral estates and their nieces’ property. Talleyrand, now Innocent’s chief adviser, suggested to the pope that he block the marriage between Robert of Taranto and Maria and gave control of Maria’s daughters assets to their uncle Louis of Durazzo. Robert meanwhile was affianced to a niece of Cardinal Giovanni Visconti of Milan.
Despite his promise to abide by Joanna’s dictum in state affairs, Louis of Taranto had no compunction in imposing his authority over his wife in family matters. Villani states that;
‘He honoured the Queen little; whether this was his fault (and his responsibility was great) or that of the Queen, he often beat her as one would a lowly woman, to the great shame of the Crown.’[xi]
Joanna complained to Innocent that she was humiliated and anguished in her relations with her husband. He cheated on her, fathering at least three children with other women. Joanna, bereft of children, mothered her nieces.
A Distraction in Sicily
|Straights of Messina|
In Sicily the plague wiped out the Regent ruling for the young King Louis II; one political faction offered the young king as a husband for a Spanish infanta, Constance. The other party turned to Naples and offered to return Sicily to Angevin rule.
The offer was too good to turn down, but the treasury was empty and the only source of capital for the venture was from the Grand Seneschal, Niccolo Acciaiouli who was richer than both the king and queen. Niccolo funded a small fleet led by eight galleys, to ferry 100 knights and 400 foot soldiers across the Straits of Messina.
The port of Palermo, where the little fleet landed, surrendered on 17th June 1354. The rest of the population followed suit when the rumours that three ships of grain accompanied the invaders. Only Messina and Catania, held by the pro-Spanish party, failed to surrender. Niccolo sent to Joanna and Louis asking for more men to subdue the two strongholds. They declined to send further troops and Niccolo and his force returned home.
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
The Flower of Chivalry – Richard Vernier, The Boydell Press 2003
[i] Joanna - Goldstone
[iii] Now supporting Joanna again
[iv] Joanna – Goldstone
[vi] Joanna - Goldstone
[viii] The plague was to return in 1362 and 1373
[ix] Joanna - Goldstone
[x] Talleyrand had opposed the coronation of Louis of Taranto. Concerned that the Durazzo branch of the family were losing access to power to the Taranto branch, Talleyrand wished to reverse the imbalance
[xi] Joanna - Goldstone