William Montagu (Montacute or Montague or Monteacuto) was the second husband of Joan of Kent. The pair were married around January 1341. He was thirteen, probably a year younger than Joan. William was the son and heir of William Montagu, Earl of Salisbury who was one of the king’s closest friends. Young William’s mother was Catherine Grandisson, sister of the Bishop of Exeter, John Grandisson. It would have been a grand wedding and it is possible that the king and queen honoured the young couple by attending, particularly as Joan was the king’s cousin and she had been brought up in the royal nursery.
It is unlikely that William or any of his family knew, when he married Joan, that she had already married another man, someone who was still alive. Joan appears to have married William after a degree of “coercion” from her family (probably her mother) who may well have told her that her first marriage was illicit or that her first husband was dead. However, William and Joan were recognised as a married couple by the king and were given properties by William’s father to provide support for themselves.
We don’t know if or for how long they lived together as man and wife (opinions differ) but their “marriage” finally unravelled in 1347-9 when Joan’s first husband, Thomas Holand, petitioned the Pope for the restoration of his wife. Thomas had been William’s steward for the past few years which must have been interesting/awkward for the three of them whichever way you choose to look at it. However, at this point William, if he was still in ignorance about his wife’s previous nuptials, would have been informed of her peculiar marital status. There followed two years of difficult wrangling in the papal tribunal set up by the Pope to hear the case concerning the Joan’s marriages. William, it appeared, was determined to go to any lengths to keep his wife and this involved underhand means, threats or bribery.
First William’s mother (or possibly his grandmother though this is unlikely as she was an elderly woman) went overseas to the papal court at Avignon, almost certainly with a heavy purse of gold to be used as persuasion in the right quarters to try and avert the problem. Then Joan’s attorney was refused access to Joan and subsequently imprisoned in the Tower by the king. Joan herself was incarcerated in one of the Montagu houses by William and not allowed to see anyone. To make matters more difficult the whole of Europe was being ravaged by an unknown sickness (the Black Death) which would have made travel both slow and hazardous.
In November 1349 Pope Clement finally issued his decision. Joan’s first marriage was found to be valid therefore her marriage to William Montagu was invalid. The bishops of London and Norwich were instructed to see that Joan was returned to her first husband and that the original clandestine contract between them was solemnized properly (ie in public with a Church blessing).
William Montagu later remarried.
I was asked the other day about William’s birthplace which is given as Donyatt in Somerset, a small village on the River Isle about 4 miles north of Chard. The church with its reputedly 13th century font is still in existence but sadly nothing remains of the Montagu manor house. However the Gatehouse Record below is a report of the remains found there in the 19th century
DONYATT PARK FARM MOAT
Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as; Doneyate
In the civil parish of Donyatt. In the historic county of Somerset. Modern Authority of Somerset. 1974 county of Somerset. Medieval County of Somerset.
OS Map Grid Reference: ST34301447 Latitude 50.92593° Longitude -2.93615°
Donyatt Park Farm Moat has been described as a probable Fortified Manor House.
There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.
Description Donyatt Manor House a building now used as a barn, which is in a very good state of preservation, Mr. Parker said that it was a building of two stories in height, and portions of the fine old place still remained. It appeared to him to be one side of the quadrangle, and not a part of the regular establishment of the house, but chambers attached to the house. The date of it was 1345. The second Earl of Salisbury built the house without a license from the King, and he had to apologise and pay a certain amount to the crown. There was, therefore, no doubt as to the date. The windows looked real, and were, no doubt, fourteen-century work. Mr. Parker said that a pointed arch was only one sign of gothic architecture, and a great deal too much importance was given to that particular sign. One of the windows in the barn was of the decorated style. Mr. Munckton explained that in the 18th year of the reign of Edward III. the manor of Donyatt belonged to William de Montacute. He had a capital seat and manor at Donyatt. In the 22nd year of Edward III. he caused the house to be forfeited. Having, done so he was obliged to sue the King’s pardon. He was created Earl of Salisbury on the 13th of March, 1337. Through the courtesy of the occupier the Members went through the manor house, which contains a very fine old kitchen with magnificent windows. Mr. Parker said that the house was built in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It was a fine Elizabethan house of the period, not possessing any particular interest. Mr. Munckton said that in 1552 Edward VI. gave the manor of Donyatt, in Somerset, to William Herbert, the first Earl of Pembroke. In 1625 the manor belonged to Sir Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice of England, by whom several alterations were made in the premises. (PSAHNS 1867) The society visited the manor house in 1866, and a building dated 1345, described as having been a chamber attached to the manor house on one side of a quadrangle, was then in use as a barn. It had windows which appeared to be of 14th Cent. date, probably part of the original building. One window was of the Decorated Style. The main house was then Elizabethan (PSANHS 1867). The last remaining part of the manor house built in 1345, was recently pulled down (c.1900) and the material used in adjacent farm buildings (OS Object Name Book 1902-28 7 A W Hellian Agent).
There are now no remains of either building described by PSAHNS. Bothare illustrated in Braikenridge (Mss. Braikenridge’s illustrated Collinson (Somer A & NHS Library)) and a comparison of these drawings with the Tithe Map suggests that the earlier building was at ST 34301447 and the Elizabethan house at ST34321445. The remains of a dry moat can be traced on three sides of this site and it is said that the moat could be seen on the fourth side until the present farm buildings were erected c.1900. A large pond within the moated area may be a fishpond. (PastScape)