The AssassinationOn 18th September Andrew was murdered at Aversa, possibly on Catherine’s order. He was preparing for bed[i] when he was informed that a courier had arrived with important paperwork for him. The report sent to Avignon was quite clear;
‘He went into the gallery…..Certain ones placed their hands over his mouth, so that he could not cry out, and in this act they so pressed the iron gauntlets that their print and character were manifest after death. , others placed a rope around his neck, in order to strangle him, and this likewise left its mark.’[ii]Andrew was suspended over the balcony of his room and the rope holding him was cut. The sound of Andrew’s body hitting the ground woke his nurse Isabelle. She rushed in to discover the assailants who hurriedly dispersed at the sound of her screams. There is a possibility that Joanna was complicit in his death. King Louis was incandescent with rage at his brother’s murder.
Isabelle sent her son Nicholas to report to Louis and Elizabeth on Andrew’s death. the newsmongers of the day now had a story they could sensationalise and Giovanni Villani had a cracker given to him direct by Nicholas;
‘When morning came, the entire population of Aversa went to the Queen’s residence to find out who had perpetrated such a crime, and to exact retribution. The queen suddenly blushed, and, as if transfixed, kept her head down and her tearless eyes averted.’[iii]
Villani’s report had Joanna fleeing Aversa leaving Andrew’s body to the elements; the truth of course is very different; Andrew was buried on the 20th in the cathedral at Naples.
The same day one of the assailants was apprehended; Tomaso Mambriccio, one of Andrew’s personal servants, who had been paid for his involvement in the crime. Andrew had threatened to execute Tomaso once Andrew had been crowned. Although Tomaso had been tortured before his death, his torturers had carefully removed his tongue to ensure that he could not implicate his fellow conspirators, including the person who had paid Tomaso, who was executed.
Both Joanna and Charles of Durazzo contacted the Hungarian court, seeking their support. Charles hoped to turn the death of Louis’ brother to his advantage, whilst Joanna was desperately hoping to placate the Hungarians. She also sent despatches far and wide attempting to spin the news of Andrew’s murder, informing the city of Florence[iv] that the principal assassin had been put to death.
Clement’s letter in reply warned Joanna;
‘Be sedulously on your guard as to whom you trust, and whom you ought to avoid.’[v]
One of the people Joanna needed to guard against was Clement himself who hurriedly wrote to Louis, failing to mention his ambivalence towards Andrew and his many changes of policy and the vexed question of Andrew as ruler of Naples. Clement did not want further strife in Europe; he was already concerned about Edward III’s posturing in the west. To forestall Louis’ complaints, Clement decided to send two cardinals to investigate Andrew’s death.
War Comes To Naples
On 25th December 1345 Joanna gave birth to her son Charles Martel. She placed Charles Martel in the hands of Andrew’s nurse Isabelle, possibly as a sop to Andrew’s relatives, and convinced Clement to stand as his godfather. Joanna’s emissary to Hungary was charged with negotiating Joanna’s release from the nuptial treaty of 1333 to leave her free to remarry.
Louis was furious and wrote to Clement alleging that Joanna was his brother’s murderer. Clement’s emissaries had been dilatory and had not yet arrived in Naples to even begin their investigations. His mother Elizabeth demanded that Clement remove Joanna as queen of Naples and crown her third son Stephen king in Joanna’s place. Charles Martel was to be sent to his grandmother in Hungary.
Joanna determined to marry her cousin Louis of Taranto. She was in need of a husband who understood the political undercurrents in her kingdom. As well as being family Louis was tall, blond and handsome and a tested warrior. Louis’ brother had already forced Joanna to agree to wed him and now Naples was rent by a war between the two brothers.
Robert of Taranto allied with Charles of Durazzo and the two men used their own retainers to form the nucleus of an army; whilst Louis was forced to recruit a mercenary army from outside the kingdom, with the assistance of his mother’s lover Niccolo Acciaiuoili. Robert and Charles, along with the rest of the Durazzo brothers, claimed they were fighting to bring Andrew’s murderers, who were allegedly being harboured by Joanna and Louis, to justice. Clement wrote of Louis;
‘If his marriage is accomplished, those who are vulnerable for being suspected of participating in the criminally infamous death of the king are guaranteed by Louis to be declared safe from punishment.’[vi]
Hugo del Balzo switched sides and became a secret emissary of the pope’s. The dilatory behaviour of Clement’s cardinals rebounded, unfairly, on Joanna. The citizens of Naples objected to the foreign army and protested against Joanna’s protection of Andrew’s murderers. Philippa’s son Raymond, as seneschal of the court, ordered that arms were not to be carried in public and he and his men attempted to enforce his order.
Unfortunately Raymond was captured and was tortured in front of a mob. His tongue was cut out; even so Charles and Robert managed to extract a long list of Raymond’s associates despite this obvious drawback. Raymond implicated himself as well as his mother and many more of Joanna’s associates.
Charles and Robert urged the mob to attack Castel Nuovo. Joanna had moved to Castel dell’Ovo, the most secure fortress in Naples. It was decided to besiege the Caste Nuovo and wait for their supplies to run out, which took three days. Huge del Balzo helped broker the negotiations between the terrified courtiers and the avenging duo.
The prisoners were to be transferred to the Castel dell’Ovo for safekeeping until the Neapolitan chief justice could investigate the claims against them. Hugo del Balzo offered to transfer the captives by sea, an offer which was accepted. Instead, once the accused were on board Hugo had his ship moored in the middle of the bay where he set to with a vengeance;
‘In front of the whole city and upon the open sea – he naturally tortured poor Philippa, Sancia [her daughter][vii] and Robert[viii] upon a monstrous rack.’[ix]
Having broken the agreement with a vengeance, Hugo then turned over his captives to Charles of Durazzo who further tortured the prisoners. The prisoners were finally moved to Castel Capuano. Louis was forced to retreat to Capua while his brother took control of Naples. Louis’ army was ordered to leave the kingdom and citizens were forbidden to aid him.
A war of moves and countermoves now commenced. Robert of Taranto urged Clement to issue the dispensation necessary to allow him to wed Joanna, while Joanna wrote to Clement informing him of her determination never to wed Robert. On 24th April Robert named himself Captain General of the kingdom; in a counter move on 30th April Joanna assigned control of a large battalion of troops to Louis. On May 6th Robert took control of all public finances; on 30th Joanna assigned Louis six thousand ounces of gold.
Despite the maleficent attentions of his brother, Louis was able to put together an army and upon reaching Benevento the city surrendered to him. By June his forces were sited on a hill overlooking Naples. There he waited and marshalled his forces. But in the north King Louis was preparing to make his move.
Following an impassioned letter to Clement from the dowager queen of Hungary demanding that Maria be divorced from Charles of Durazzo and that Joanna never be allowed to marry again, Clement informed Elizabeth that her son’s murderers would be brought to justice, but that if Hungary invaded Naples it would be regarded as an enemy of the church.
|Castel Dell'Ovo from the sea|
Clement authorised Bertrand del Balzo, the Neapolitan Chief Justice[x], to investigate Andrews murder. At the same time he informed Bertrand that any member of the royal family implicated in the assassination was to be referred to the jurisdiction of the pope.
Bertrand had several of the prisoners, who had been tricked into his cousin’s tender care, tortured and when they confessed had them executed, after stripping them of their titles and lands.
‘The prisoners were…..paraded through every street in Naples, flagellated repeatedly, their flesh mercilessly seared by the torturer’s hot irons….they were spat upon and stoned. When at length they arrived [at the bonfire]……Master Robert had already just passed away.’[xi]
Bertrand took one of Sancia’s Provencal estates for himself[xii].
The Holy Roman Empire – Friedrich Heer, Phoenix 1995
Joanna – Nancy Goldstone, Phoenix 2010
Absolute Monarchs – John Julius Norwich, Random House 2011
A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, MacMillan London Ltd 1989
[i] He and Joanna had separate bedrooms
[ii] Joanna - Goldstone
[iii] Joanna - Goldstone
[iv] The kingdom’s principal trading partner
[v] Joanna - Goldstone
[vii] Sancia was pregnant and her mother was in her sixties
[viii] Robert of Cabannis, another of Sancia’s sons
[ix] Joanna – Goldstone
[x] And cousin of Hugo del Balzo
[xi] Joanna - Goldstone
[xii] Sancia and Philippa were not executed until later, but their estates were confiscated too