Joan of England, Queen of Sicily

1165 - 1199

Richard I and Saladin in combat
Richard I and Saladin in combat. Richard tried to marry his sister Joan to Saladin's brother. Richard I and Saladin in combat

About Joan of England

Known for: daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England, Joan of England lived through kidnapping and shipwreck

Occupation: English princess, Sicilian queen

Dates: October 1165 - September 4, 1199

Also known as: Joanna of Sicily

More About Joan of England:

Born in Anjou, Joan of England was the second youngest of the children of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England.

Joan was born in Angers, grew up mainly in Poitiers, at the Fontevrault Abbey, and at Winchester.

In 1176, Joan's father agreed to her marriage to William II of Sicily. As was typical for royal daughters, the marriage served political purposes, as Sicily was looking for a closer alliance with England.  Her beauty impressed the ambassadors, and she traveled to Sicily, with a stop in Naples when Joan became ill. They arrived in January, and William and Joan were married in Sicily in February of 1177. Their only son, Bohemond, did not survive infancy; the existence of this son is not accepted by some historians.

When William died in 1189 without an heir to succeed him, the new king of Sicily, Tancred, denied Joan her lands, and then imprisoned Joan. Joan's brother, Richard I, on his way to the Holy Land for a crusade, stopped in Italy to demand Joan's release and the full repayment of her dowry.

When Tancred resisted, Richard took a monastery, by force, and then took the city of Messina. It was there that Eleanor of Aquitaine landed with Richard's chosen bride, Berengaria of Navarre. There were rumors that Philip II of France wanted to marry Joan; he visited her in the convent in which she was staying.

 Philip was the son of her mother's first husband. This would likely have raised objections from the church because of that relationship. 

Tancred returned Joan's dowry in money rather than giving her control of her lands and property. Joan took charge of Berengaria while her mother returned to England.  Richard set sail for the Holy Land, with Joan and Berengaria on a second ship. The ship with the two women was stranded in Cyprus after a storm. Richard narrowly rescued his bride and sister from Isaac Comnenus. Richard imprisoned Isaac and sent his sister and his bride to Acre, following shortly.

In the Holy Land, Richard proposed that Joan marry Saphadin, also known as Malik al-Adil, the brother of the Muslim leader, Saladin. Joan and the proposed groom both objected on the basis of their religious differences.

Returning to Europe, Joan married Raymond VI of Toulouse. This, too, was a political alliance, as Joan's brother Richard was concerned that Raymond had an interest in Aquitaine. Joan gave birth to a son, Raymond VII, who later succeeded his father. A daughter was born and died in 1198.

Pregnant for another time and with her husband away, Joan barely escaped a rebellion on the part of the nobility.

Because her brother Richard had just died, she could not seek his protection. Instead, she made her way to Rouen where she found support from her mother.

Joan entered Fontevrault Abbey, where she died giving birth. She took the veil just before she died. The newborn son died a few days later. Joan was buried at Fontevrault Abbey.

Background, Family:

Marriage, Children:

  1. husband: William II of Sicily (married February 13, 1177)
    • child: Bohemond, Duke of Apulia: died in infancy
  2. husband: Raymond VI of Toulouse (married October 1196)
    • children: Raymond VII of Toulouse; Mary of Toulouse; Richard of Toulouse