In the Show
In the Show
Being the Queen of France, Joan is one of the most important women in Europe – and she can feel the pressure, both politically and personally. As a mother, she feels the burden of expectation for her daughter Isabella, who has recently come of age and is essentially seen as a trophy wife-to-be by various royal suitors in rival countries. Joan knows full well that her daughter’s future may well be decided by diplomacy and regal intrigue rather than love.
But, deep down, Joan badly wants her daughter to marry for passion rather than for politics. That’s because Joan herself was used as a political pawn in her youth, when she was matched with the man who would become King Philip IV of France. Now, she languishes in a loveless marriage with the king, though she does offer him valuable advice on his rule, and he would be lost without her.
The real Joan was born into the royal family of Navarre, a kingdom sandwiched between France and present-day Spain. Her father was rather colourfully dubbed Henry the Fat. He was aptly-named if the legend of his demise is to be believed (the corpulent king is thought to have suffocated to death on his own fat). Joan was an infant at the time of her father’s passing, which meant her mother had to rule as regent on her behalf.
Other rulers on the continent rubbed their hands greedily when considering the new vulnerability of Navarre. The king was dead, and in his place was a toddler queen and her seemingly weak regent, meaning the kingdom was ripe for exploitation. Not only this, but the new reign was vulnerable to cunning power-seekers within Navarre itself.
Morbidly aware of her precarious situation, Joan’s mother decided to seek the advice and protection of the French king, who at that time was Philip III. Joan, who was actually born in France, never actually visited Navarre, her own kingdom in Northern Spain, which would be run by governors in her absence. Joan herself was betrothed to Philip III’s son, who would become Philip IV – an auspicious match for a girl who was in a relatively weak position on the European stage.
Joan wasn’t even a teenager when she tied the knot with the similarly young Philip. While their marriage is depicted as strained and aloof in Knightfall, accounts suggest that there was real affection between the real-life couple, who had known each other since their formative years. As we see in Knightfall, Joan was an intelligent and quick-thinking monarch, who provided valuable emotional support to her husband during his rather dramatic and controversial reign. Indeed, it may well be Philip’s deep-seated dependence on his wife that meant she never made the trip south to her father’s homeland.
Yet Joan was far from a passive companion to Philip, and once raised and orchestrated a military campaign a rebel baron’s uprising in France. She was also a highly influential patron of the arts who personally founded the College of Navarre, a major educational institution in Paris. But perhaps the real historical importance of Joan lies in the fact she gave birth to Isabella, the future “She-Wolf of France” who would change the course of English history in a shockingly bold and violent way.