Once when I was too young to know better, I asked Lady la Mote if the king was my father. ‘Certainly not,’ she said, a flush creeping up from her wrinkly neck to the edges of her soft white veil. ‘He is your royal cousin.’ The flush deepened to cover the whole of her face while her fingers twisted her sewing into a crumpled ball. ‘Has your lady mother not told you about your father?’ I shook my head. My mother never told me anything. She had left me in the royal nursery when I was three years old and hardly ever came to visit. Sometimes she took my little brother away to inspect what she called “his inheritance” but she never took me. Once a year at Christmastide she allowed me to kiss her old woman’s hand and receive her blessing but she didn’t love me, not the way a mother should, not the way my cousin, the king, loved me. Joan of Kent was the daughter of Edmund, Earl of Kent, the king’s half-brother, and Margaret, daughter of John Wake, Baron Wake of Liddell and his wife Joan de Fiennes. On her mother’s side she had no cousins as Margaret’s only surviving sibling, Thomas, Lord Wake, who married Blanche, the daughter of Henry, Earl of Lancaster and Maud Chaworth in 1316, had no children.
On her father’s side she had three first cousins and numerous first half-cousins.
Her first cousins were Margaret, Alice and Edward, the children of Edmund’s elder brother Thomas, Earl of Norfolk and his wife Alice Hailes. Margaret, Alice and Edward were a little older than Joan being born sometime in the early to mid 1320s. Edward who was married to a daughter of Roger Mortimer, died in 1334. Margaret married her father’s ward John Segrave and later Sir Walter Manny and died in 1399 having outlived all her contemporaries. Alice married Sir Edward Montagu, the younger brother of William Montagu, Earl of Salisbury and died in 1352.
Joan’s father had one much older half-brother, Edward of Caernarfon (later Edward II) and five even older half-sisters: Eleanor, Countess of Bar who died in 1298 before either of her half-brothers were born; Joan, Countess of Gloucester, Lady Monthermer who died in 1307; Margaret, Duchess of Brabant who died probably in 1333; Mary of Woodstock who was veiled as a nun, lived at the priory at Amesbury in Wiltshire and died about 1332; and Elizabeth, Countess of Holland and by her second marriage Countess of Hereford who died in 1316. Except for Mary they all had children and these children would have been Joan’s half-cousins.
Edward II married Isabella, daughter of Philip IV, King of France on 25th January 1308 in Boulogne. They had four children: Edward (later Edward III) born at Windsor Castle 13th November 1312; John, born at Eltham Palace 15th August 1316 and died in September 1336; Eleanor, born 18th June 1318 at the royal palace at Woodstock in Oxfordshire, who married Reynald, Duke of Guelders and died in 1355; Joan, born 5th July 1321 at the Tower of London who on 17th July 1328 married David, heir to the Scottish throne – less than a year later Joan became Queen of Scotland. She died in 1362.
Eleanor, Countess of Bar had two children by her husband Henri: Edouard born 1294/5 who succeeded his father as Count of Bar and died in 1336; and Jeanne born c. 1396 who in 1306 married John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey and died in London in 1361 having reputedly spent only one night under her husband’s roof!
Joan, Countess of Gloucester, Lady Monthermer had eight children, four by her first husband, Gilbert “The Red” de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, and four by her second, Ralph de Monthermer. The children were Gilbert de Clare who died at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314; Eleanor de Clare born 1292 who married Hugh Despenser the Younger and William Lord Zouche and died in 1337; Margaret de Clare born 1294 who married Piers Gaveston and Hugh Audley and died in 1342; Elizabeth de Clare born 1295 who married John de Burgh, Theobold de Verdun and Roger Damory and died in 1360; Mary de Monthermer born 1297 who married Duncan MacDuff, Earl of Fife and died after 1371; Joan de Monthermer born 1299 who was veiled as a nun at Amesbury; Thomas de Monthermer born 1301 who married Margaret, widow of Henry Tyes, and died 1340; Edward de Monthermer born 1304 who died in 1340.
Margaret Duchess of Brabant had one child, Jan born 1300 who succeeded his father as Duke of Brabant, married Marie d’Evreux (sister of Charles IV’s queen) and died in 1355.
Elizabeth Countess of Holland and later Countess of Hereford had six surviving children all by her second husband: Eleanor born 1304 who married James Butler, Earl of Ormond, and Thomas Dagworth and died in 1363; Humphrey born 1309 who succeeded his father as Earl of Hereford and died 1361; Margaret born 1311 who married Hugh Courtenay, Earl of Devon and died in 1391; William, later Earl of Northampton born 1312/13 who married Elizabeth Badlesmere and died in 1360; Edward born 1312/13 twin brother of William who married Margaret Ros and died in 1334; Aeneas born 1314/15 and died before 1331.
It is impossible to know how many of these cousins and half-cousins Joan would have known. She certainly knew her royal half-cousin Edward III and most probably her two Norfolk cousins, Margaret and Alice who were close to her in age.
Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen by Kathryn Warner
Joan of Kent: The First Princess of Wales by Penny Lawne
The Fair Maid of Kent by Caroline Newark