The Black Death was no respecter of age or social position, it killed indiscriminately. It moved across Europe, ripping apart families and loved ones and left the few remaining people reeling for their losses. No amount of prayer seemed to save them from the disease; no amount of hope rescued their loved ones from its clutches. It had many names, such as The Great Mortality, The Death and The Pestilence, and was feared deeply.
A young princess, Joan, would soon discover that even her royal blood was susceptible to the sickness. She was born sometime between December 1333 and January 1334 at The Tower of London. She was the daughter of King Edward III and his wife, Queen Phillipa of Hainault. She lived with her sister, Isabella, her brother, Edward, who would be known to history as The Black Prince, and her cousin, also called Joan, who would go on to be the mother of Richard II and known as The Fair Maid of Kent.
Joan would have had a relatively pleasant childhood, better than most of her contemporaries. She joined her father, the king, on a journey to Koblenz in Germany in 1338 when she was still only a small child. They met with Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor and joined an alliance with him against Philip VI of France. She remained abroad for two years with her mother’s sister, Margaret II of Hainault. Young Joan was betrothed to her cousin at this time, but the engagement was called off.
In 1345 she became betrothed to Peter of Castille, also known to history as ‘Peter the Cruel’, due to his cruelty towards the clergy. He was the son of Alfonso XI of Castille and Maria of Portugal. The betrothal was with her parent’s blessing. Joan’s dowry was a significant one, allegedly, so large, it required a ship alone to carry it. The couple were the same age, they seemed to be suited to each other, and all seemed to be positive in her life. However, this was short lived.