… and the importance of a good bed.

In the year of our Lord 1385, and of the reign of my dear son Richard, King of England and France; at my Castle of Walyngford, in the Diocese of Salisbury, the 7th of August, I Joan Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Countess of Chester, and Lady Wake.


This is Joan looking down from a ceiling boss in the Black Prince’s Chantry in Canterbury Cathedral, showing her hair encased in a marvelous net.

How valuable a will can be in giving insight into the life of the will-maker and the customs of the society in which they lived.  Thus the importance of this will, made by one of the most important women at the Plantagenet court of King Edward III and King Richard II. 

Joan’s will begins by giving us an intriguing insight into her relationship with two ‘legal’ husbands, Sir Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent, and Edward, Prince of Wales, who had both predeceased her.

My body to be buried in my chapel at Stanford, near the monument of our late lord and husband, the Earl of Kent.

Food for thought here, that she should choose to be buried in the relatively unglamorous surroundings at Stamford in Lincolnshire, rather than in the majesty of Canterbury Cathedral.  Was it that she wished to be buried next to Thomas Holland her first husband rather than the Prince of Wales?  Perhaps there was more scope for the impressive chapel she planned to have built for her tomb at Stamford.  Sadly there are no remains for us to see, since all but the gateway to the Church of the Greyfriars in Stamford has been demolished in the years since the Reformation.  All the tombs have vanished also.


There is no evidence as to why Joan chose to be buried in Stamford, but those with a romantic turn of mind might like to think that her youthful heart still remained with Thomas whom she had married, through her own choice, when she was twelve years old.  Here is the gatehouse, imposing enough but the only remnant.

And then there is the importance of a bed. Wealthy families owned a number of travelling beds – portable beds with hangings – called trussing beds, as well as those that remained in their main residences.  Such a bed was a valuable commodity and its gift in a will was a symbol of affection and recognition of importance towards the one who received it.

To my dear son the King, my new bed of red velvet, embroidered with ostrich feathers of silver, and heads of leopards of gold with boughs and leaves issuing out of their mouths. To my dear son Thomas Earl of Kent, my bed of red camak [sic.] paled with red and rays of gold. To my dear son John Holland, a bed of red camak.

Of all her possessions, it was her beds that Joan needed to will to her three sons, King Richard and her two Holland sons.  And how impressive they must have been.   Richard of course was to inherit the bed embroidered with his father’s heraldic ostrich feathers, adopted as the Prince’s heraldic device after the battle of Crecy.

canopy bed

And how important that the will should be efficiently and legally implemented.  Joan ensured that it would be done to her desires by appointing an array of clerics, friends and servants.  As it was duly witnessed.

And I appoint the Venerable Father in Christ, my dear friend and cousin, Robert Bishop of London; William Bishop of Winchester; John Lord Cobham; William de Beauchamp, William de Nevill, Simon de Burlee, Lewis Clifford, Richard Atterbury, John Clanvow, Richard Stury, John Worthe, steward of my lands, and John le Vache, Knights; together with my dear chaplains, William de Fulburn and John de Yernemouth; and my loving esquires, William de Harpele, and William Norton, my executors. Witnessed by the Prior of Walyngforde and John James.

Quite an array of important clerics and laity to ensure that Joan’s wishes were carried out to the letter.  This in itself is an interesting comment on what we know about Joan in life where her legal insecurity was strongly evident.  Fearful of the effect on Richard’s legitimacy, Joan kept all the legal documents surrounding her marriages in a coffer made for that purpose, passing the whole to Richard on her death.  Legal security meant everything to her.

Possibly Joan in north nave aisle in Canterbury

This is another, more flattering roof boss in the north aisle of Canterbury Cathedral, thought to be of Joan,

Joan must have anticipated her death, whatever its cause.  She died on either the 8th or 14th August 1385, very shortly after her will was made, probably at Wallingford Castle.


We are fortunate to have her will as a final comment on a most dramatic and intriguing life.



The Shadow Queen is on sale in Waterstones, WHS and all good book shops, as well as on Amazon.  It is also available on Kindle.












110 responses to “The Last Will and Testament of Joan of Kent, Princess of Wales, King’s Mother.

  1. I have wanted a signed copy of any of your books but I will happily take this one as she is one of my faves!!! I already have it on pre-order but if I win, will just share the extra copy with a friend.

  2. Everything you write is wonderful to read,the stain glass window of Joan is so beautiful , I would love to win your book and to have a signed copy perfect !!

  3. What a lovely giveaway. It would make a lovely addition to my collection of your books … if I were to be picked! Thankyou for the chance, good luck to all who enter!

  4. This sample has almost made me drool. I can’t wait to partake in the full meal. Another Anne O’Brien special on the way!

  5. Can’t await your new novel about Joan of Kent. She’s mentioned in other historical novels as a strong-willed woman and lived an extraordinary life.

  6. I would love a signed copy of this book, because during the years i have read many books of the Kings and other strong men. However, books telling stories of the strong women behind those men are not easy to find here in Norway but it has become better by the last years.

  7. Fascinating! You are so generous with your materials. I love the way you weave together the real voices and the imagined. Can’t wait to hear what Joan sounds like.

  8. I have been bursting to learn more about Joan of Kent, and through Anne’s book, because of her historical accuracy, and her wonderful writing from her persective, I will know even more! Thank you, Anne, for your wonderful novels, and your attention to historical detail!

  9. It is very intriguing to learn what material possessions were important to our ancestors. Many wills even discussed which gloves and dresses went to whom. Today we bequeath more of jewelry property and cars. It is so very sad we can no longer see these tombs. I can just imagine how magnificent they would have been in their original paint colours. Thank you Anne for all of your research and telling us the stories of so many long forgotten

  10. Very interesting reading and I agree that she chose her first love. So pleased to read about this period on time as it doesn’t seem to have been covered as much as the later periods. I love to visit our English villages and churches with their fascinating memorials and graves to our ancestors. Your books have opened up a wonderful and I insightful world to me and many others…thank you.

  11. Looking forward very much to finding out more about The Fair Maid of Kent, my favourite historical period! Love Anne’s books, I can never put them down once I start reading!

  12. I’m intrigued that she married at 12 to a man of her own choosing. Very rare in those times! Looking forward to reading this one!

  13. It sounds like Joan had a very interesting life which I am eager to read. Because you are the author I know it will be well researched and written.

  14. Started sneaking into the adult book section at my local library as a young girl to read books about this time period in history. Continue to be fascinated.
    Thanks for great information.

  15. I would love a signed copy of this book. I can’t wait to read more about Joan as we have already met her in your other novels. I’m very intrigued to learn more about this very strong willed woman.

  16. How interesting to be able to read the Queens Last Will. I love reading about that time in history. Look forward to reading your book.

  17. I am pre-ordering your book, as Joan of Kent is not only one of the most intriguing figures in medieval royal history, she is my many times over great grandmother through the Hollands. Congratulations, Anne! I have several of your delightful and memorable books and I look forward to adding this one to my bookcases!

  18. I will read this book regardless of whether I get a free copy or not, lol! I do look forward to enjoying your posts everyday, so beautiful, sometimes sad, but always well researched and information is spot on! Lovely!

  19. I am so happy for the chance I am a fan from the US and don’t really have a big chance of coming for signing. Thanks so much for the chance I can’t wait to read your new book.

  20. Such an interesting person, and what a life! Thank you for writing about her – I look forward to reading your new book.

  21. Over 600 hundred years since the passing of Joan of Kent and her will has given us an amazing insight into her life and and loves! I’m sure this novel will be thrilling and gripping in equal measure. Can’t wait to get a copy! Best Wishes!!

  22. After reading the excerpts you posted, I’m looking forward to reading your book “The Shadow Queen” when it is released here in the States.

  23. Sounds from your excerpts that this is a book not to be missed.Sounds intriguing and for us to make our minds up to why.

  24. So excited about your new book! I have loved all the excerpts you have teased us with over the months and can’t wait to read it. Hope it won’ be long before it is available in Canada!

  25. Having read & enjoyed every other book of your books, I am so looking forward to reading this! My only problem arises with getting up for work the next day – I can never put them down once I’ve started.

  26. All of your books are fascinating and enthralling, and your ability to draw back the curtains of time and let us share the lives of historical characters is incredible. Joan sounds like a fascinating woman, and I can’t wait to read about her, as regrettably I don’t yet know much about her. Thank you. Xx

  27. Today is Mothering Sunday & it is Joan’s maternal concern for her sons, & especially Richard, which speaks to me. As a mother, I identify with Joan’s love for her children & her desire to protect them, long after her eyes have closed. It is a need which transcends time and social status and connects her to so many of us in 21st century who will, through your book, achieve a deeper understanding of her. Thank you for your wonderful work.

  28. Avidly awaiting your new book to add to the crammed shelves of my bookcase. Love your books, they bring history to life. Have been nuts about medieval history since I was 14 (many years ago!). Would love a signed copy to add to my Anne O’Brien collection. Fingers crossed x

  29. Thank you Anne, for your insight into a fascinating history with your novels, I am always waiting in line for your next one. Keep writing please ?

  30. Can’t wait for another of your books! Have a gap in my book case next to all your other books just waiting for it.

  31. Joan obviously attached great importance to all her beds, a woman who appreciated the importance of a good nights rest it seems and wished for her family to enjoy the same!

  32. Can’t wait to read this one. I’m just close to finishing ‘The King’s Concubine’ and your new release will tie in very nicely. You always manage to bring these fascinating historic characters alive – it’s as though the reader steps back into time and joins them in their life story. Thank you and keep writing !!

  33. This wonderful book will be put straight to the top of my to read pile…and I have a big pile waiting lol. Can’t wait 😀

  34. This looks like a very good read. My major is Medieval History and this looks like a great work. Hope to be able to get this when it’s released. Thank you for a piece on such an influential woman.

  35. Congratulations Anne. The completion and publication of another book, how wonderful for you. I can only begin to imagine how much time, effort and passion this project demanded from you. Those of us who will read your book will keep that in mind! Again, congratulations. Are you already busy with your next book?

  36. What a fascinating woman and much underrated in history. I look forward to this new book to learn more about Joan of Kent!

  37. How I love how Anne brings these characters and places to life. Women weren’t given equal space in any sort of history books so it’s fascinating to see all that the author has uncovered/been able to connect in her research. I can’t wait to read this latest novel. Best of luck to all the entrants.

  38. Anne,
    Outstanding article, very insightful. It would be wonderful to know why she chose to be buried with her first husband rather than Edward, Prince of Wales. It seems that is another one of those questions we will never have the answer to.

  39. Wills leave such an intriguing insite to what was important at the time, family dynamics , what we place value on etc. Can’t wait to read your latest !

  40. I can’t wait to read this book. My own English/Welsh heritage runs deep, coming from numerous family lines. I feel a kinship with Princess Joan, as Joan is my middle name.

  41. Thank you for this post on Joan of Kent which gives fascinating insights. It will be lovely to read about her life story. Best wishes from Sandra

  42. Such a Fantastic woman, very little written history is available on women in this particular time era apart from what can be glimpsed in historical sources. Really looking forward to reading your next book!

  43. Joan is one of the most interesting women of medieval times In my opinion . Am looking forward to reading your novel about her

  44. I love reading about English royalty history! I can’t seem to get enough of it. It seems there are new discoveries for me everyday and that’s so exciting! I will have to add this book to my collection!

  45. I honestly, do not know much information about Joan. Majority of my interests has been the Tudor period. Until recently that is. I’ve been going further and further into the past. History is a passion of mine. To be able to understand that 1 all this actually happened. These people really lived. And then. 2 coinciding different historical figures along History’s time line. Comparing events taking place in England vs the rest of the world at the time. I look forward to learning more about Joan and her influence in History.

  46. I don’t know much about this time period. Joan sounds like an interesting person I’d love to learn more about.

  47. There are 85 comments prior to mine, so I may not have a shot at winning. My Dad worked for many years on our family tree, and one branch that was the easiest to follow, due to being well-documented was my paternal great-grandmother’s family. He traced her lineage back to the Plantagenets and beyond. It was a marriage between our relative and one of the Plantagenet princesses-Joan of Acre-who married Gilbert de Clare, my relative, and her first husband. She was the 7th child of Edward I & Eleanor of Castile. It is through this one marriage, that my great grandmother’s family reaches all the royal families of Europe, and my fascination with them, especially the Plantagenets.

  48. She is one of the most pivotal but overlooked women in history. I am thrilled to bits to have this tale of her life to add to my library of strong women who shaped our history.

  49. What a great blog and an interesting Will, Joan was a fascinating woman. It makes our wills these days look very boring. Another one of your books to add to my wish list.

  50. I’ve enjoyed the Fair Maid of Kent’s appearances in some of your previous novels, and can’t wait to read about her as the central figure. I love the way you give voice to the personal histories of women who have played such important yet overlooked roles in British history.

  51. What a beautiful woman and strong minded will..if she did know she was dying, she faced it with courage and fortitude. Would really love to read more about her…I know so little..

  52. I am very much looking forward to reading this . I absolutely love your books. Thanks for your hard work in bringing history alive to us all.

  53. Have always had a great love of History and even now at 71yrs old I seek out all about the history of past kings and queens and the stories involved with their family and the consequences. Wouls so love to have a copy of your book please. thank you. Best wishes for your future bboks.

  54. Being a Maid of Kent myself, I can’t wait to read your new book. Well done Anne, I’m sure I won’t be disappointed. Thank you. Regards, Lesley Edmeads

  55. A fascinating period in history and a fascinating woman, sadly largely ignored.
    I look forward to reading your book and learning much more about Joan and her times.

  56. Really need to read this. Historical novels are my favourite genre.

    Sadly I have to say I have never, as yet read any if Anne’s works but think I am about to discover abother popular author. What have I been missing out on.

  57. I haven’t read any of your books having just come across them when I spotted post on FB with Joan and Stained Glass window in Ware. Not far from me so will have a visit as I love stained glass. Will look up your books too

  58. It is fascinating to read the wills of influential people in this era. Beds always seem to be high on the agenda. Your book was fascinating and like all your books, I have learned so much about the Plantagenets – one of my favourite eras. I have read this book twice and will read it again and again. What a history teacher you would be!!! You have got me thinking about your new book when you said that Joan was a protagonist of lady in your new book. Oh Anne, I am racking my brain!!! I will wait patiently.

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