Joan de Geneville (1285-1356)

Relation to me: 20th Great-Grandmother

Joan de Geneville was the daughter of Sir Piers de Geneville and Joan of Lusignan. She would inherit the estates of her grandparents, Geoffrey de Geneville, the 1st Baron Geneville and Maud de Lacy, the Baroness Geneville. Due to this, she was one of the wealthiest heiresses in the Welsh Marches and the County of Meath in Ireland.

She would become the wife of Roger Mortimer, the 1st Earl of March and de facto ruler of England from 1327 until 1330. She would succeed to suo jure 2nd Baroness Geneville on the 21st of October 1314 after her grandfather, Geoffrey de Geneville had passed away.

As a result of her husband’s insurrection against King Edward II of England, she was imprisoned in Skipton Castle for two years, but after his execution in 1330, Joan was once more taken into custody. In 1336, her lands were restored to her once she had received a full pardon for her late husband’s crimes, from Edward II’s son and successor, Edward III of England.


Joan’s Family and Inheritance

Joan was born on the 2nd of February 1286 at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire, England. She was the eldest child of Sir Piers de Geneville of Trim Castle and Ludlow. His father, Sir Geoffrey de Geneville was 1st Baron Geneville and Justiciar of Ireland. Joan’s mother was Jeanne of Lusignan and was part of one of the most illustrious French families. She was the daughter of Hugh XII of Lusignan, the Count of La Marche and of Angouleme and the sister of Yolanda of Lusignan, suo jure Countess of La Marche. She also had two younger sisters, Matilda and Beatrice. Both of these girls became nuns at Aconbury Priory. Joan had two half-sisters from her mother’s first marriage to Bernard Ezi III, Lord of Albret as well. Mathe was a Dame d’Albret and Isabelle was a Dame d’Albret as well and she would marry Bernard VI, Count of Armagnac.


Ludlow Castle


When Joan’s father had passed away in Ireland not long before June of 1292, Joan became one of the wealthiest and most eligible heiresses in the Welsh Marches. She would have power over estates that included the town and castle of Ludlow, the lordship of Ewyas Lacy, manors of Wolferlow, Stanton Lacy, and Mansell Lacy in Shropshire and Hereforedshire, as well as a sizeable portion of the County of Meath in Ireland. She was due to inherit these places after her grandfather passed away. However, in 1308, Baron Geneville conveyed most of the Irish estates, which had belonged to his late wife Maud de Lacy to Joan and her husband Roger Mortimer. Both would go to Ireland where they took seisin of Meath on the 28th of October that year.

The Baron would die on the 21st of October 1314 at the House of the Friars Preachers at Trim, and a loan was subsequently succeeded him, thus Joan became suo jure 2nd Baroness Geneville.


Joan’s Marriage

Joan had married Roger Mortimer on the 20th of September of 1301 at the manor of Pembridge. The marriage was highly beneficial to Roger. It had brought him a lot of influence and prestige in addition to rich estates.

Three years later, in 1304, Roger succeeded as Baron Mortimer, making Joan the Baroness Mortimer. He was knighted in a ceremony that took place on Whitsunday on the 22nd of May 1306 by King Edward I. The ceremony took place at Westminster Abbey and was known as the Feast of the Swan. Two hundred and fifty-nine other young men had received knighthood along with Roger, including the Prince of Wales, who had shortly after succeeded his father as Edward II. After the ceremony there was a magnificent banquet that was held in the Great Hall of Westminster.


Westminster Palace Great Hall


After taking seizen of her Irish lands in 1308, Joan and Roger had traveled back and forth between their estates in Ireland and those that were in the Welsh Marches. Given that Joan had opted to accompany Roger to Ireland, rather than remain at home, and that she produced twelve surviving children over a period of seventeen years led Roger’s biographer, Ian Mortimer to suggest that they had enjoyed a closer and more affectionate relationship than had been typical of the noble couples in the 14th century. He also described their union as having been “a mutually beneficial secure medieval partnership”.


Roger’s Affair

Roger was appointed to Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on the 23rd of November 1316 and left for Ireland with a large force in February of 1317. While there, he fought against the Scot Army, which was led by Edward Bruce, the younger brother of Robert the Bruce, who had hoped to make Edward the king of Ireland, and Bruce’s Norman-Irish allies, the de Lacys. Joan would accompany him to the country.

They returned to England in 1318 after Roger had driven the Scots to the north to Carrickfergus and dispersed the de Lacys, who were Joan’s relatives. For the next few years, Roger occupied himself with baronial disputes on the Welsh border. Nonetheless, on the account of the increasing influence of Hugh Despenser, the Elder and Hugh Despenser, the Younger over King Edward II. Roger grew strongly disaffected with his monarch, especially after the younger Despenser had been granted lands which had rightfully belonged to Mortimer.

In October of 1321, King Edward and his troops attacked Leeds Castle, after the governor’s wife, Margaret de Clare, the Baroness Badlesmere, had refused Queen Isabella entry to the castle. Elizabeth, the third Badlesmere daughter, would marry to Joan and Roger’s eldest son, Edmund. King Edward would exploit his new popularity in the wake of his military victory at Leeds to recall the Despensers to England, whose Lords Ordainers, led by Thomas, the 2nd Earl of Lancaster, had forced him to banish in August of 1321. The Marcher lords, already in a state of insurrection for some time before the Despensers were banished, immediately rose up against the King in full force, with Roger leading confederation alongside Ordainer Humphrey de Bohun, the 4th Earl of Hereford. The king had quelled the rebellion, which is also known today as the Despenser War. Roger and his uncle Roger Mortimer de Chirk both had surrendered to him at Shrewsbury on the 22nd of January 1322.

Roger and his uncle were dispatched as prisoners to the Tower of London and were kept there in damp and unhealthy quarters. It is likely that these conditions are what led to Roger de Chirk’s death in 1326. Joan’s husband had fared a little better though. By drugging the constable and Tower guards, he was able to escape the Tower and flee to France on the 1st of August 1323. It was here that he later became the lover of Queen Isabella, who was estranged from the king as a result of the Despensers’ absolute control over him. Isabella had been sent to France on a peace mission by Edward, but instead used the occasion to seek the help from her brother, Charles IV, to oust the Despensers. The scandalous love affair had forced Roger and Isabella to leave the French court for Flanders, where they obtained the help for an invasion of England.


Joan is Imprisoned

While Roger was still in France, King Edward had retaliated against him and took Joan and all of their children into custody, and treated them severely. In April of 1324, Joan was removed from Hampshire, where she had been confined in lodging under house arrest and was sent to Skipton Castle in Yorkshire. While there, she was imprisoned in a cell and endured through considerable suffering and hardship. Most of her household had been dismissed and she was only permitted a small number of attendants to serve her.


Skipton Castle


Joan was granted just one mark a day for her necessities, out of this amount she had to feed her servants. She was also allowed ten marks per year at Easter and Michaelmas for new clothes. Her daughters would suffer the worse privations, having been locked up inside various religious houses with even less money at their disposal. Joan was moved from Skipton to Pontefract Castle in July of 1326.


Joan, Countess of March

Two months after Joan was moved to Pontefract Castle, Roger and Isabella landed in England in September, joining forces with Henry the 3rd Earl of Lancaster. On the 16th of November, King Edward was taken as prisoner and would eventually be murdered at Berkeley Castle, presumably by Roger’s hired assassins.

From 1327 until 1330, Roger and Isabella jointly held the office of Regent for her son, King Edward III, who was duly crowned after his father’s death. Roger was made the constable of Wallingford Castle in September of 1328, and was also created as the Earl of March. This had also made Joan the Countess of March. Although it is not known what she thought about her husband’s illegal assumption of power and his flagrant affair with the Queen. What has been established is that Joan was never an active participant in her husband’s insurrection against King Edward.

Roger and Isabella were de facto rulers of England, and hostility against the power he wielded over the kingdom and young Edward III had increased. His former friend, Henry of Lancaster encouraged the King to assert his authority to oust Roger. When he had ordered the execution of Edmund, the Earl of Kent, the half-brother of the late King Edward, anger and outrage engulfed the country. The king deposed his mother and Roger, and he was seized, arrested and on the 29th of November of 1330, Roger was hanged at Tyburn in London.

After her husband’s execution, Joan, as the wife of a traitor, was imprisoned again. This time she was placed in Hampshire where she had been placed under house arrest years before. Her children were also taken into custody. In 1331, Joan was given an allowance for her household expenses. However, her lands were only restored to her in 1336 after King Edward III had granted her a full pardon from her late husband’s crimes. In 1347, Joan was given back the Liberty of Trim.


Joan’s Death

Joan passed away on the 19th of October 1356 at the age of seventy. She was buried in Wigmore Abbey next to her husband, whose body had been returned to her by Edward III as she had requested. Joan’s tomb no longer exists as the abbey was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and only ruins remain to this day.


Ruins of Wigmore Abbey



2 thoughts on “Joan de Geneville (1285-1356)”

  1. How interesting, to be distantly related to the wife of Mortimer. He is a significant figure in British history.
    The Scots presence in Ireland at the time shows how far back the present problems with the six northern counties go. The distinctive accent of people from Northern Ireland is said to originate from the Scottish accent, centuries ago,
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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