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Oh, Joan of Kent, the Fair Maid of Kent, such a romantic story!
A celebrated beauty, cousin to the King of England, she married the love of her life, Edward, the Black Prince, hero of Crécy and Poitiers, future King of England.
Not only did this dashing hero and future king delay his duty to wed and produce an heir far longer than a prince should—because he was waiting until his beloved cousin Joan was free to wed him—but he married her against the wishes of his father the king who expected him to make a political marriage.
That’s the accepted version of her story. Love conquers all!
Here’s the question that nagged and nagged until I just had to take it on: If her marriage to Prince Edward was so happy, why did Joan choose to be buried with her first husband, Thomas Holland, a mere knight for most of his life, Duke of Kent only at the end (for just a matter of months)? Why would she give up being buried beside her beloved Edward? A royal burial?
Questions. . . .
Joan was several years older than her cousin the prince, and a widow with four children when she wed him. She was in her early 30s, and in the 14th century that was considered rather mature for a woman. Could she bear more children?
She also had a scandalous past—even today she would be considered a risky choice for a future head of state. You see, at the age of twelve (or thereabout) she secretly married Sir Thomas Holland, a man twice her age, and they consummated the union to ensure that no one would question the validity of the marriage.
But it was questioned, and—well, I don’t want spoil the story for you. And then there is the small matter of her father, albeit of royal blood, the youngest son of King Edward I, having been executed as a traitor to the realm.
There is clearly far more to this story than a sweet happily ever after.
I searched the records for a clue as to what might have motivated this young woman of royal blood to take such a bold step at such an age.
I discovered a proposed marriage between Joan and the son of a powerful Gascon lord whose support the king needed for his campaign to claim the throne of France. A marriage that never took place.
What if young Joan took a dislike to the proposal? What if she had found someone to hand, someone she already liked very much, and convinced him to rescue her, too naïve to realize that her cousin the king did not necessarily play by the rules?
And so the tale took shape . . . and became my novel A Triple Knot!
Congrats to Jane G., Jean S., Heather O., Lori P., Prisca A., and 195 other members of the Read It Forward community! Their entries were selected at random to win an Advance Reader’s Copy of A Triple Knot by Emma Campion.
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About the Author
EMMA CAMPION is the author of The King’s Mistress and did her graduate work in medieval and Anglo-Saxon literature. She lives in Seattle.