Tag Archives: European Royalty

Maddest Medieval Monarchs Week!

Many times history is more interesting than fiction if we just look in the right places.  Follow me as I venture into the lives of some of the most scandalous, most murderous, most insane monarchs of the Middle Ages.  Day one of Maddest Medieval Monarchs Week, brings us to a little-known monarch, Queen Joanna I of Naples.
Article Written by Andrea Cefalo

Joanna I of Naples

Queen Joanna I of Naples: Murderess, Madam, Madwoman

Queen Joanna I of Naples: Murderess, Madam, Madwoman

Power-hungry Joanna inherited the throne from her grandfather at an early age. Joanna knew she might have to share power with her cousin, and soon-to-be husband, Andrew of Hungary, who, through his lineage, had a strong claim to the throne, but the thought of sharing power enraged Joanna. She and her allies convinced the Church that she should rule alone and she was crowned on the orders of Pope Clement VI .

Murder of Andrew, Duke of Calabria, painted by Karl Briullov.

Murder of Andrew, Joanna I of Naples first husband, painted by Karl Briullov.

Not surprisingly, Joanna’s marriage to Andrew was not a happy one. Andrew was in constant fear for his safety.  Two attempts were made on his life while in Joanna’s court. The first attempt, a staged hunting accident, was foiled.   Andrew was not so lucky the second time around when a group of assassins strangled Andrew and threw him out of the window. Joanna’s disinterest in catching Andrew’s killer not only made her look guilty, it made her an enemy to the Vatican and the powerful Hungarian empire.  To this day, her guilt has never been proven, but she seems a likely suspect.

Medieval painting of reading nuns

Medieval painting of reading nuns

Joanna had a taste for money, as well as power.  To increase her wealth, she opened a brothel entitled “The Abbey” in 1347.  The brothel looked just like a monastery.  The women attended daily mass, abstained from work on Sundays, and served only the most elite Christians.  While it may seem that this façade was meant to disguise the base entertainments inside, it wasn’t.  The Abbey was widely known as a whorehouse.

King Charles III of Naples

King Charles III of Naples

In the end, Joanna made many enemies.  She landed on the wrong side of a papal dispute in 1380 when she backed the French anti-pope Clement VII against Urban VIPope Urban VI took her crown, imprisoned her, and gave her throne to her niece’s husband, Charles of Durazzo.  Charles had Joan suffocated with pillows to avenge Joanna’s suspected murder of her first husband, Andrew.  Her corpse was put on display in Naples and then dumped in a well.


Mad Kings and Queens:  History’s Most Famous Raving Royals by Alison Rattle and Allison Vale

Wikipedia Article of Joanna I of Naples: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joanna_I_of_Naples

Article Written by Andrea Cefalo, author of The Fairytale Keeper: a novel of corruption, devotion, and the origins of Grimm’s Fairytales

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