The Byzantine life and times of a female monarch during a bloody, perilous era.
Joanna I (1326–82) held her own dominion in southern Italy for more than 30 years despite the machinations of four husbands and jealous in-laws, not to mention the challenges posed by invaders, plague and the deaths of her children. Orphaned at an early age, Joanna was raised in the Kingdom of Naples at the dazzling court of her grandfather, King Robert the Wise. The learned patron of many important early Renaissance figures (most notably Petrarch), Robert presided over a highly cultured court. After he died in 1343, the in-laws jockeyed to empower her cousin (and husband) Andrew as King alongside Joanna as Queen of Naples. He was brutally murdered, and his wife may well have had a hand in it, but she managed to gain exoneration from the pope, withstand invasion by the Hungarians and get herself reinstated as queen. She recaptured Sicily, a long-cherished goal of her ancestors, and consolidated her position by further marriages, as well as those of her nieces and nephews. Maintaining good relations with a succession of popes, Joanna helped preserve the balance of power in Italy until the Great Schism of 1378 divided Neapolitan loyalties and opened her kingdom to another invasion by the usurping Hungarians. In scholarly but accessible prose, popular historian Goldstone (Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe, 2007, etc.) underscores the many significant accomplishments of this exemplary queen.
A thoroughly intriguing portrait of a neglected historical figure.