Joan of Acre

Joan of Acre

Joan of Acre (April 1272 – April 7, 1307) was a daughter of King Edward I of England and his first wife, Eleanor of Castile (1241-1290).

Born on the Ninth Crusade

Joan got her name from her birthplace, Acre, in Kingdom of Acre. It differentiates her from an earlier Joan born to the couple, who died in infancy. Joan of Acre was born while her Royal parents were traveling to the Middle East on the Ninth Crusade.

French Childhood

At least part of her childhood she spent in France with her maternal grandmother, Jeanne de Dammartin, Countess of Ponthieu. She was betrothed as a child to Hartman, son of King Rudolph I of Germany, but he died in 1281 after drowning in the Rhine.

Marriage & Issue

On 30 April 1290, at Westminster Abbey, Joan married Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Hertford. He was nearly thirty years her senior. Their four children were:

#Gilbert de Clare, 8th Earl of Hertford
#Eleanor de Clare
#Margaret de Clare
#Elizabeth de Clare

Secret 2nd Marriage

Following her husband's death in 1295, Joan clandestinely married Ralph de Monthermer, 1st Baron Monthermer, a knight in her household, in January 1297. Her father, King Edward I, was enraged by this lowly second marriage, especially since he was arranging a marriage for her to Amadeus V, Count of Savoy.

He had Monthermer thrown in prison, and Joan had to plead for the release of her husband. According to the St. Albans chronicler, she told her father, "No one sees anything wrong if a great Earl marries a poor and lowly woman. Why should there be anything wrong if a countess marries a young and promising man?" At last her father relented, released Monthermer from prison in August 1297, and allowed him to hold the title of Earl of Gloucester and Earl of Hereford during Joan's lifetime.


Monthermer and Joan had four children:
# Mary de Monthermer, born October 1297. In 1306 her grandfather King Edward I arranged for her to wed Duncan Macduff, 8th Earl of Fife.
# Joan de Monthermer, born 1299, became a nun at Amesbury.
# Thomas de Monthermer, 2nd Baron Monthermer, born 1301.
# Edward de Monthermer, born 1304 and died 1339. He fought in the Scottish campaign in 1335 and spent much of his life in service to his half-sister Elizabeth, who provided for him during his last illness and buried him next to their mother.

Death in Childbirth

Joan died in childbirth on 7 April 1307 at the manor of Clare in Suffolk, England, a Clare family possession, and was buried with her stillborn child, 23 April 1307, at the Augustinian priory there. Miracles were said to occur at her grave, especially the healing of toothache, back pain, and fever. A fifteenth-century English chronicle reports that when her tomb was opened a century and more after her death, her body was found incorrupt, which was seen in the medieval period as a strong indication of sanctity. So far as is known, however, no process for her sanctification was ever undertaken.


Joan of Acre makes an appearance in Virginia Henley's latest historical romance, entitled "Infamous." In the book, Joan, known as Joanna, is described as a promiscuous young princess, vain, shallow and spoiled to the core. Her one constant friend and loyal servant is Marjorie de Warrenne. Princess Joanna is then contracted to marry the Earl of Gloucester, who is 30 plus years her senior. There are rumours that her first child with the Earl was fathered by Henry de Bohun.


*Costain, Thomas. A History of the Plantagenets, Vol III.
*Underhill, Frances A. "For Her Good Estate", 1999.

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