Joan of Kent

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Joan, Countess of Kent (29 September 1328 – 7 August 1385), known to history as The Fair Maid of Kent, was the first English Princess of Wales. The French chronicler Froissart called her "the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England, and the most loving". The "fair maid of Kent" appellation does not appear to be contemporary.[1]



Joan was daughter of Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent, and Margaret Wake, 3rd Baroness Wake of Liddell. Her paternal grandparents were Edward I of England and his second queen consort, Margaret of France.[2] Her maternal grandparents were John Wake, 1st Baron Wake of Liddell and Joan de Fiennes.

Her father, Edmund, was a younger half-brother of Edward II of England. Edmund's support of the King placed him in conflict with the Queen, Isabella of France, and her lover Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. Edmund was executed after Edward II's deposition, and Joan, her mother and her siblings were placed under house-arrest in Arundel Castle when Joan was only two years old.

Early life

The Earl’s widow, Margaret Wake, was left with four children. Joan's first cousin, the new King Edward III, took on the responsibility for the family, and looked after them well. His wife, Queen Philippa (who was also Joan's second cousin), was well known for her tender-heartedness,[citation needed] and Joan grew up at court, where she became friendly with her cousins, including Edward, the Black Prince.


At the age of twelve (1340), Joan entered into a clandestine marriage with Thomas Holland of Broughton,[3] without first gaining the royal consent necessary for couples of their rank. The following winter (1340 or 1341), while Holland was overseas, her family forced her into a marriage with William Montacute, son and heir of the 1st Earl of Salisbury. Joan later claimed she was afraid that disclosing her previous marriage would lead to Thomas's execution for treason on his return, and so did not disclose it. She may also have become convinced that the earlier marriage was invalid.[4]

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