Joanna II of Naples

Joanna II of Naples
c. 1371 – February 2, 1435

Joanna II of Naples was born around 1371 to King Charles III of Naples and Margaret of Durazzo. In 1381, Charles usurped Naples’ throne from his cousin, Queen Joanna I, after she refused to acknowledge Urban VI as pope. Angered at her defiance, Urban gave Charles his blessing to overthrow Joanna. Less than a year later, the former queen would be strangled in her jail cell, securing Charles’ kingship. Five years later, Joanna lost her father after an assassination attempt in February 1386. Her younger brother, Ladislaus, succeeded Charles as king.

During Ladislaus’ reign, Joanna married her first husband, William of Austria, in 1401. The union produced no children, and William died in 1406. After his death, Joanna allegedly led a promiscuous lifestyle. In 1414, Ladislaus became ill and eventually passed away on August 6. Although having married multiple times, the king left behind no legitimate children. As a result, Joanna inherited the throne.

Queen of Naples

Upon her accession as Joanna II of Naples, the queen appointed her lover, Pandolfello Alopo, as grand chamberlain. Exercising his newfound influence, Alopo stripped the prominent Muzio Sforza of his power. Sforza, a former high-ranking member of Ladislaus’ government, did not take his demotion well. On July 14, 1415, Joan married her second husband, James II de Bourbon, Count of Marche. Disliking Alopo’s influence, the count had the grand chamberlain executed the same year.

Overestimating his power, James II de Bourbon usurped Joanna II and turned against the Neapolitan barons that had initially supported him. After demanding one of the barons execution, the nobles rebelled. Their combined might proved too much for de Bourbon, forcing him to flee from Naples. With her husband gone, Joanna was released from her imprisonment. Now the sole ruler of Naples, the queen was officially crowned on October 28, 1419.

Bad Relations

After being restored to the throne, Joanna II appointed her new lover, Giovanni Caracciolo, as grand seneschal. One of his first acts was to make peace with Muzio Sforza and restore him to power. Although initially maintaining peace with the papacy, Caracciolo convinced Joanna to discontinue sending economic aid to Martin V. In response, the pope called upon Louis III of Anjou’s support, who strongly desired Naples’ throne. Anjou’s claim gained further support from a vengeful Muzio Sforza, who hadn’t forgiven Joanna for her betrayal.

Alfonso V of Aragon
Alfonso V of Aragon

To counteract Louis III’s aggression, Joanna II of Naples allied herself with King Alfonso V of Aragon. After promising to make Alfonso her heir in exchange for military aid, the Aragonese king arrived in Naples in July 1421. Believing Louis III’s cause to be lost, Muzio Sforza switched his allegiance back to Joanna. Although the queen’s situation seemed to improve, it would not last long.

Over the next two years, the relationship between Joanna II and Alfonso soured. At his breaking point, Alfonso captured Giovanni Caracciolo and ordered the queen’s arrest. Besieged at Castle Capuano by Aragonese soldiers, Joanna sought Muzio Sforza’s support to free her. Fortunately for the queen, Sforza’s soldiers successfully overcame Alfonso’s men, and Joanna fled. Despite this setback, Alfonso continued trying to gain Naples’ throne for the next decade. In response to the king’s betrayal, the bitter queen disinherited him and made Louis her new heir.

Heir to the Throne

As the years passed, Caracciolo gained more political power and attempted to isolate the queen. For his own reasons, the grand seneschal began supporting Alfonso over Joanna II. However, his ambitions would be cut short in August 1432 after nobles assassinated him. The queen re-adopted Louis III in April 1433, although Alfonso attempted to regain her favor. Upon Louis’ death in November 1434, Joanna snubbed Aragon’s king by naming Anjou’s younger brother, Rene, as her new heir. On February 2, 1435, the queen died, setting up a conflict between Rene and Alfonso for control of Naples.

Conclusion

Joanna II of Naples experienced a turbulent reign marked by her affairs and a power struggle for her throne. Influenced by her lovers, the queen made enemies of the papacy, Louis III, and her former ally, Alfonso V. Although multiple attempts were made to usurp her throne, Joanna managed to maintain control of Naples. The queen’s unwise decision to switch heirs ensured that her kingdom wouldn’t experience peace after her death.

Sources

Dougherty, M. J. (2018). Kings & Queens of the Medieval World: From Conquerors and Exiles to Madmen and Saints (pp. 76-78). London: Amber Books.

Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Joan II. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joan-II

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Andy Tree

I'm a European history enthusiast who seeks to share his passion with others. I hope to inform and inspire readers with my posts!

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