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Regular version of the site

Article

Johanna Domina Wallie

The article is devoted to Joan, Lady of Wales (also known by her Welsh name as Siwan), English king John Lackland’s illegitimate daughter married prince of Gwynedd Llywelyn ap Iorwerth in 1205. Their dynastic marriage obviously had a great impact on Gwynedd policy and the Anglo-Welsh relationship of 13th century.

The main purpose of the research is to define the role played by Joan in the most significant aspects of Llywelyn the Great’ policy by means of analyzing such historical sources as Welsh and English chronicles, including The Chronicle of the Princes, Roger of Wendover’s Flowers of History, Annales Monastici etc, corpus of Welsh native law texts, known as The Law of Hywel Dda, some legal acts and official correspondence, concerning Wales.

One of the most controversial questions in the current historiography is Joan’s ancestry. The only mention of Joan’s mother can be found in the Tewksbury annals where she is referred to as “regina Clemencia”. However, without any doubt she was not of royal blood and had never been married to John Lackland. Joan was only legitimized by pope Honorius III in 1226 at Llywelyn’s request. The reasons behind John’s and Llywelyn’s agreement to this marriage are open to debate. As a result of his marriage to the English king’s daughter, Llywelyn’s descendants were supposed to acquire blood relationship to the Plantagenets, one of the most powerful dynasties in Europe. King John had political stake in this marriage: he hoped that the reduced Welsh threat on the border would allow him to focus on more important issues of his reign such as continental troubles and concerns with the baronial confrontation.

It is hard to overrate the role Joan played in the Welsh policy. Having married the prince of Gwynedd, Joan became an extremely efficient intermediary between the Welsh and the English crown. She repeatedly acted as an ambassador of the Welsh prince in negotiation with her father king John and her half-brother king Henry III. Even though Llywelyn the Great adopted the title of Prince of Aberffraw and Lord of Snowdon, Joan was never called “Princess” in the documents, as her title, recognized by Henry III, was “Lady of Wales”. Joan’s influence in the matter of some important cultural and legal innovations in Wales looks undeniable, e.g. Llywelyn ap Iorwerth abolished an ancient Welsh legal custom, according to which there was not any difference between legitimate sons and bastards in matters relating to inheritance, in order to make Joan’s son Daffyd, the only heir to the Gwynedd throne. 

Despite not being a native Welsh, Siwan is considered to be one of the most prominent heroic figures of Medieval Wales due to her remarkable life and the significant role she played in the formation of the Principality of Wales.