Joanna was born on 25 June 1373 as the daughter of Charles III of Naples and Margaret of Durazzo. She was their eldest surviving child, and she also had a younger brother Ladislaus. Her parents became King and Queen of Naples when her father deposed Margaret’s aunt Joanna I of Naples in 1382. He did not enjoy being King for long as he died suddenly in 1384. He was succeeded as King of Naples by his minor son Ladislaus. Ladislaus married three times, but when he died in 1414, he only left illegitimate issue.
Joanna was already quite old (for the time!) when she married for the first time. She married William, Duke of Austria in 1401 when she was 28 years old. He would die just five years later, and the couple had no children. Joanna took a lover after the death of her husband by the name of Pandolfello Alopo, who was also appointed Grand Chamberlain. Joanna succeeded her brother in 1414; she was 41 years old.
By 1415 she was engaged to John of Aragon, a son of Ferdinand I of Aragon who was also 25 years younger. However, the engagement was cancelled not long after. Later that year she married James of Bourbon, Count of La Marche, probably to gain support from the French for her accession to the throne. James had her lover killed when he did not receive the title promised to him, and he later forced her to name him King of Naples. He tried to usurp her position by imprisoning her in her apartments in the royal palace, but she was rescued by several nobles. In 1416 James was forced to renounce his title, and by 1419 he was ejected from the Kingdom. He returned to France and never returned to Naples. Joanna took a new lover by the name of Sergianna Caracciolo.
With James out of the way, Joanna was finally crowned Queen of Sicily and Naples on 28 October 1419. However, she was soon in trouble again. Upon the advice of her lover, she denied Pope Martin V economic aid to rebuilt the papal army. In response, Pope Martin V called in Louis III of Anjou, who was a pretender to the Neapolitan throne and he invaded in 1420. Joanna responded by asking for help from Alfonso V of Aragon, whom she promised to name as her heir. In July 1421 he entered Naples, but the growing relationship between him and Joanna wouldn’t last. He had her lover arrested and he besieged Joanna’s, Castel Capuano. Her lover was eventually freed, and the two fled together to Aversa. In Aversa, she met with her rival Louis III of Anjou, and she declared that her agreement with Alfonso was null and void, while Louis was named as her new heir. She returned to Naples in April 1424 after Alfonso was forced to return to Spain. Her lover’s ambition soon became too much for her, and on 19 August 1432, he was stabbed in his room.
The last years of her reign were quite peaceful. Louis remained her heir until he died in 1434. His brother René was named as her heir, and it was he who succeeded her when she died on 2 February 1435 at the age of 61. She was buried in the Church of Santa Annunziata in Naples.
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