Joanna of Anjou, the daughter of Charles, Duke of Calabria and Joan, Duchess of Calabria, was married in 1334 at the tender age of seven to 6-year old Prince Andre (a.k.a. Andrew) of the Hungarian branch of the House of Anjou, younger brother to Louis I (also from the House of Anjou) King of Hungary (but named King Lajos I) from 1342 to 1382 and the King of Poland (called King Ludvik I) from 1370 to 1382. Prince Andre, Duke of Calabria, was the son to Princess Elizabeth of Poland.
In 1343 Pope Clement VI sent his Cardinal to take temporary control of the Kingdom of Naples and then, in a very unpopular move, he crowned Joanna, Queen of Naples at a pompous ceremony at Santa Chiara in Rome in August 1344. Following her arranged marriage to Andre, Queen Joan I (who was actually in love with Charles, Duke of Durazzo) is recorded to have exclaimed, "When one is fifteen, a crown is heavy to wear, and I was sacrificed to a man whom I can never love". Speaking more about her new husband in confidence to her chamberwoman Dona Cancha (who had been a companion since infancy to Joanna), "I am troubled by his look, his voice makes me tremble: I fear him". Dona Cancha was assigned to be governess and tutor of Joan and her sister Maria.
A plot soon after erupted to kill her husband by means of a hunting accident but her cousin Charles, Duke of Durazzo (Albania) forewarned Queen Joanna and consequently, Prince Andrew managed to escape. Shortly after however, Prince Andrew was subdued in his chambers in an assassination plot, was assaulted and subdued and hung from the castle window by a silk cord, eventually dropping lifeless in the Castle gardens where he remained for two days before he was found by Royal Guards.
Prince Andre's murder (designed of course by his spiteful wife Joan I) outraged the members of the family as well as Pope Clement VI and the Governors of Naples who did not believe the testimony of Queen Joan I, who had vowed that she had slept through the entire incident. Accordingly, His Holiness organized an official inquiry into the Prince's death and, fearing that King Lajos I of Hungary (also known as "Louis the Great") might seek vengeance for his brother, set forth a decree that every member of the plot to kill the Prince—including Queen Joanna (if the investigation found her guilty) was to be severely punished by death.
Queen Joan I soon after remarried Louis, Duke of Taranto (an ancient city in southern Italy) and agitated citizens became alarmed at her lack of grieving over her first husband. The peasants formed a mob that stormed the Castle (Castel Nuovo) demanding the names of those involved in the murder of their Prince.
A force of men under instructions from Pope Clement VI seized the guards that were on duty on the night of Prince Andre's murder, bound them, took them to a ship so there screams could not be heard, and tortured them all until two of them finally confessed who some of the conspirators were. The guilty two were then returned to the castle where they were tied to the tails of a triple row of horses , dragged through the streets of the town and hung in a public square until dead.
The first persons found guilty of Prince Andre's death included the Counts and Countesses of Terlizzi and Morcone—but there were many others and the search for them pursued under the direction of the King Lajos I of Hungary. The Counts were scourged with ropes until the skin on their bodies hung in shreds and then were slashed with knives -- their flesh torn out with red-hot pincers.
The next day the Countesses (the youngest being only 18 years of age) were raped and stripped naked and were then taken by carts slowly through the town where their executors, armed with sharp knives, cut off pieces of their flesh and threw them out to the awaiting crowds of peasants as souvenirs. In the center of town was a huge fire where what was left of the semi-conscious Countesses was thrown into its flames to perish. The townspeople, by now an angry mob armed with axes, knives and sabres, rushed the fire pulling out the victims and tearing them apart, and carried away bones of the Countesses to make whistles and handles for their daggers.
A few days later Conrad (Count-like) of Catanzaro, Italy was also captured and suffered a slow death of torture by a wheel made of sharp knives. Joan I, now 20 years of age (1347), fled to Nice in an attempt to escape prosecution, taking refuge with the local clergy who in turn accepted her unenthusiastically and kept her prisoner, not allowing her to leave until his Holiness Pope Clement VI was contacted for advice. The Pope ordered that a trial under his direction (he being considered the "Supreme Judge with God as his Witness") should take place for the plight of Queen Joan I. In attendance were the entire immense hierarchy of the Holy Empire Church: Cardinals in their red robes, Bishops, Vicars, Canons, Deacons, and Archdeacons. Also in attendance were the Ambassadors of King Lajos I Hungary as well as Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Arab, Bohemian and Jewish merchants and adventurers of every nation, and, of course, court soldiers, jesters, poets, monks, and even courtesans.
During the pursuing trial, Queen Joan lied about the guilt of her involvement in the death of her first husband and the court of His Holiness (taken in by her apparent grief) acquitted her of all charges, blessing at the same time her previous marriage to Count Louis of Tarentum and announcing him as the King of Naples and Jerusalem. This time in history of Queen Joan's trial for her life was also the time of the dreaded "Black Plague" that was sweeping all of Europe, diminishing populations in many parts by as much as three-fifths.
A conspiracy in 1357 involving bloody riots throughout Italy began at the University of Naples where scholars incited the citizens and provoked them to riot against Hungary (who they them inaccurately blamed for the plague) and masses of citizens in turn marched the streets yelling, "Long live Joan and death to the Hungarians". In 1360, Pope Innocent VI (born Etienne Aubert in the Diocese of Limoges, France) provoked King Lajos I of Hungary to send an army of 7,000 infantry and another 10,000 horsemen to attack Naples to conquer and control southern Italy. Learning beforehand of the attempted siege of the city, Joan I and her husband Prince Louis (not to be confused with King Louis of Hungary) fled Naples to the safety to Gaeta, a prestigious, ancient site situated on the slopes of the Torre di Orlando in southern Italy, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Her cousin Charles, Duke of Durazzo, remained behind thinking that he had nothing to fear for his life.
He was wrong and was soon after arrested and condemned to death, along with several of his Princes that were also suspected as co-conspirators. In the Battle of Napoli that followed, the Hungarian army had overpowered Naples and proceeded to pillage the city. By the time the Hungarian army had retreated to their Hungarian Kingdom, they had taken the majority of the city's wealth with them but had spared the life of Charles, Duke of Durazzo. Following the battle that saw the Hungarians take control of Naples, Pope Clement VI negotiated a truce. Peace was established and Queen Joan paid the King Hungary 300,000 florinss for the cost of the battle. Joan's husband (Prince Louis) shortly after fell sick with fever and died on June 5th 1362.
Queen Joan I soon after became remarried to James, Duke of Aragon, and son of the King of Majorca of the imperial family of Saxony. Prince James fell sick and died in 1374. Once again widowed in 1375, her fourth and final husband, a German groom named Otto, Duke of Brunswick, angered one of her imminent subjects, Bartolommeo Prigiani, who in 1378 became Rome's 203rd Pope Urban VI (the first Roman Pope born in Naples). Once elected Pope, Urban VI declared Queen Joan I excommunicated and declared her rule as Queen void, offered the crown to King Lajos I of Hungary who declined, but passed it to his nephew, Charles, Duke of Durazzo, Queen Joan's long time admirer. In the meantime, the Black Plaque continued to waste thousands of citizens as they perished by both hunger and sickness. Encouraged by local Catholic Bishops and Priests, citizens that were physically able, rose in protest against their Queen and as food supplies became exhausted, the dead and decomposed bodies were thrown into the castle yard so that they might pollute the air that Queen Joan I had to breathe.
Under the pleadings of Pope Urban VI to King Lajos I, an army made up of 8,000 Hungarians left to attack Naples, arriving on January 5th, 1380. Queen Joan's new husband (Prince James) courageously led his army to defend the castle in a bloody hand to hand combat; however he was greatly outnumbered and, covered with blood and sweat, with his sword broken in half in his hands, he surrendered, ending the battle. The Hungarians seized the Castle, and while Queen Joan I and the wounded Prince James were arrested and imprisoned in Castel dell' Ovo, the King of Hungary—still King Lajos I (Louis I)—decided the fate of them both.
Queen Joan I was later separated from her husband and transferred to Castle Muro in Lucania, southern Italy. On the May 5, 1381, the door of Joan's chambers was forced opened by two Hungarian Barons dressed in armor and some minutes later she fell silent, beheaded by sword, her corpse flung over her chambers balcony—Queen Joan I was dead. According to the wishes of His Holiness of Rome (Pope Urban VI) Charles, Duke of Durazzo, was crowned the King of Sicily (even though Sicily was officially in the hands of the Spanish House of Aragon) as well as King of Jerusalem. One month later King Charles marched on Naples to claim the throne there.
Robert the Wise
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