I’ve been really lazy about blogging about the biographies I’ve read, but now that I literally have no work to do, I’ll just do little paragraphs summing the women up. I’d give them each their own post, but they honestly weren’t that interesting. I mean, they weren’t boring, but I wasn’t exactly riveted by their tales….
Joanna I of Naples
Joanna was born in 1328 and was Queen of Naples from 1343 until her death in 1382. She was the first woman to rule in her own right, with her husband Andrew only named Royal Consort. Andrew was assassinated in 1345 (under Joanna’s orders, many believe) and she married three more times. Her three children all died young. He reign was marked by political struggles between members of her own family as well as between Naples and Rome (re: the Pope). At one point Joanna had to flee her country because Louis of Hungary had invaded, and she later had to pay the Pope in order to return to Naples, after he acquitted her of participating in Andrew’s murder. During the Papal Schism, Joanna chose the less popular side and was branded a heretic and excommunicated. Her nephew Charles, with Hungarian support, advanced on Naples, cornering Joanna. When her fourth husband was unable to come to her aid, she was forced to surrender. She was murdered in captivity.
Jane Boleyn (nee Parker) married Anne Boleyn’s brother, George. She became Anne’s chief confidante and was very committed to helping the family rise. After all, her fortunes were linked with theirs. But when Henry VIII tired of Anne, Jane was brought in for questioning. The councilors interrogated and threatened her until she “confessed” that Anne had slept with several men, including George. There is no proof that Anne would do something so stupid, but the truth was secondary to the King’s wishes. Jane stayed on Henry’s good side by being cooperative, and after her husband and sister-in-law were executed, she attained a position in Queen Jane’s household. She was also present to greet Queen Anne (the “Flanders mare”), and then was given a prominent role in Queen Katherine’s household. Queen Katherine was a young girl (some sources say as young as 17, but 20 is more probable). Henry VIII, by this time, was a fat, old man, to put it bluntly. Jane helped facilitate a relationship between Katherine and Thomas Culpepper, one of the King’s grooms. Some claim this relationship was purely for pleasure, others say that it was also a desperate attempt to get pregnant. Considering that two previous Queens had been discarded for failing to produce an heir, pregnancy was an important thing, and Henry often couldn’t perform. The deception was discovered and both Jane and Katherine were arrested. Jane went insane in prison and a special bill had to be passed to allow her execution, which took place right after Katherine’s.
Katherine Swynford was born in 1360 to a Flemish herald and his wife. She served in the house of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster from an early age, and married one of his knights, Hugh Swynford, around 1366. Katherine became the governess of John of Gaunt’s two daughters. After John’s wife died, he entered a political marriage with the displaced Queen of Castile. Shortly afterwards, Katherine became his mistress. She had four bastard children by him who were later legitimized. After the Queen of Castile died, John married Katherine, sparking controversy. It was accepted that lords often took mistresses, but to marry one was unheard of, especially since Katherine was a commoner. The descendants of John and Katherine would found the Tudor and Stuart dynasties.