An Imprisoned Queen

In the fifteenth century Pevensey Castle held a royal prisoner.   Joanna of Navarre had married King Henry 1V in 1403 and  enjoyed a good relationship with the children of the King’s previous marriage. In fact Prince Hal referred to her as “his dearest mother”  before he set off for the battle of Agincourt.  However, after the King’s  death from leprosy in 1413, the tide of feeling turned.  It was a time of portents  and witchcraft and there was suspicion of Joanna’s  French ancestry.

In 1914 she was arrested on the orders of her stepson, now King Henry V,  and accused  of sorcery  and necromancy.  The charges had been laid by John Randolf, a Franciscan friar, and she was accused “of compassing the death and destruction of the King in the most treasonable and horrible manner that could be devised.”

She was stripped of her assets and turned over to the custody of Sir John Pelham the Constable of Pevensey Castle.

By all accounts she was treated quite well at Pevensey.  She was provided with servants and grooms and rode out in the countryside surrounding the Castle.  The Royal Accounts of the Exchequer tell us she drank Gascoine, Rochelle and Rhenish wine.

In 1422, six weeks before he died of dysentery, King Henry  felt remorse for the way he had treated his step mother and ordered that she be released from the Castle and her assets restored to her.

She died in 1437 and is buried with all honour behind the high altar in Canterbury cathedral.

Carolyn Little

Contemporary Chronicle of London

Royal Accounts held at John Ryland Library