Copyright 2009 by Christy K Robinson
Joanna de Kilpeck de Bohun, Countess of Hereford, was not my ancestor. She’s the ancestor of no one, having died without issue. But she has a beautiful tomb effigy in the Lady Chapel at Hereford Cathedral, so I have decided to resurrect her in 2009. Joanna would have known Hereford Cathedral as the Church of St. Mary the Virgin and St. Ethelbert the King.
Her father, Alan Plukenet, died in 1299 after a career as a knight and baron who fought for King Henry III at Evesham. On his lands at Kilpeck, a village and castle (painting of castle here) with a Romanesque church, Alan drained wetlands and created the parish of Allensmore. Alan was a benefactor of Abbey Dore, and was interred there.
His son and heir, also Alan Plukenet, was summoned to Parliament. Edward I granted the second Alan a charter to hold a market in Kilpeck, about 8 miles from Hereford. When Alan died in about 1315, his heir was his sister Joanna. She did homage to King Edward II and had livery of Kilpeck and the Plukenet/Plunkett holdings in the 19th year of Edward II, or 1326.
Several sources say that Joanna was the wife of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford. Another, www.herefordwebpages.co.uk, says that she was married to William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton. The source of the family list below Wikipedia cites Edward de Bohun marrying “Joan Plokenet,” but he wasn’t the Earl of Hereford.
[BREAKING NEWS--Be sure to read Terry's comments below this article for his research (and corrections) for the Plunkett family.] The purpose of this article is to discuss Joanna's tomb at Hereford Cathedral, not to trace her family genealogy.
There are far too many Humphrey de Bohuns for comfort, so here is a family list with all the Humphreys in bold (with my ancestors Eleanor and Agnes in red). The father, Humphrey VIII (1276-1322), was Earl of Essex and Hereford. Children of Humphrey de Bohun VIII and Elizabeth of Rhuddlan (daughter of Edward I) were as follows:
.....i. Edmund de Bohun.
.....ii. Hugh de Bohun; born circa 1303; died 1305.
.....iii. Humphrey de Bohun; born 1304; died in infancy 10 Sep 1304.
.....iv. Margaret de Bohun; born before 1 Feb 1304 Tynemouth, Northumberland; died 1311.
.....v. Alianore/Eleanor de Bohun; born 17 Oct 1304; married John de Bromwich; married Sir James le Boteler Earl of Ormond, son of Edmund le Boteler Earl of Carrick (styled) and Joan FitzGerald, 1327, Alianore and James were parents of my ancestor James II Earl of Ormond (Ireland); married Thomas de Dagworth, Lord Dagworth, son of John de Dagworth and Alice FitzWarin, before 20 Apr 1344; died 7 Oct 1363 at age 58. (James II, Earl of Ormond, eventually was granted Kilpeck Castle in Herefordshire!)
.....vi. Mary de Bohun, twin of Humphrey; born 1305; died in infancy 1305.
.....vii. Humphrey de Bohun; born 20 Oct 1305 Pleshy Castle, Essex; died 1310. Age 5 at death.
.....viii. John de Bohun Earl of Hereford & Essex; born 23 Nov 1306 St. Clements, Oxfordshire; married Margaret Basset, daughter of Sir Ralph Basset V Lord Basset of Drayton and Hawise (Basset), after 1308; married Alice Fitzalan, daughter of Sir Edmund Fitzalan Earl of Arundel and Alice de Warenne, 8 Mar 1325; died 20 Jan 1335 Kirkby-Thore, Westmorland, at age 28; buried after 20 Jan 1335 Stratford Abbey, London. He was also known as John de Bohun.
.....ix. Edward de Bohun; born 1307 of England.
.....x. Humphrey de Bohun IX Earl of Hereford; born 6 Dec 1309 at Caldecot, Northampton; died 15 Oct 1361 at age 51. He was buried at Walden Abbey in Essex.
.....xi. Margaret de Bohun; born 3 Apr 1311 of Caldecot, Northamptonshire; married Sir Hugh de Courtenay III Earl of Devon, son of Sir Hugh de Courtenay II Earl of Devon and Agnes de St. John, 11 Aug 1325; died 16 Dec 1391 Exeter, Devonshire, England, at age 80. Buried in Exeter Cathedral with lovely effigies—I have a photo.
.....xii. Edward de Bohun; born 1312 of Caldecot, Northampton; married Joan Plokenet??; married Margaret de Ros; died 1334. If Edward married Joanna Plukenet, he’d have died three years before her and could not have married Margaret. Furthermore, he was not the Earl of Hereford, but Joanna was the Countess of Hereford. It can’t be Edward!
.....xiii. Sir William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton.
.....xiv. Aeneas (Agnes) de Bohun; born 1314 of Caldecot, Northampton, England; married (at age 10) as his first wife, Sir Robert de Ferrers 2nd Baron Ferrers of Wemme, son of Sir John de Ferrers Lord Ferrers of Chartley and Hawyse de Muscegros; died 1343 of childbirth. Robert de Ferrers was born on 25 Mar 1309 in Chartley, Staffordshire, England. He died on 28 Aug 1350/1351. He married Aeneas/Agnes de Bohun on 21 Nov 1324 in Caldecot, Northamptonshire, England.
.....xv. Isabel, born 1316, died. Her mother Elizabeth died shortly after childbirth, and they were buried together in Westminster Abbey.
So Humphrey VIII, out of his 15 children, named three of them Humphrey, hoping his heir would carry on the family tradition of Humphrey de Bohun names. The first child died in infancy; the second at age 5, and finally, the Humphrey who stuck around to inherit the titles died at age 51. However, I can find no wife or children for Humphrey IX and I know that Joanna de Kilpeck died without issue, so I will assume that Humphrey IX and Joanna were the pair. When Joanna died in 1337, she was the Countess of Hereford. The references to Joanna in Hereford Cathedral say that she was the wife of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford. So that’s what we’ll go with.
Wikipedia says that
“Humphrey de Bohun, 6th Earl of Hereford, 5th Earl of Essex (6 December 1309 – 15 October 1361) was a Lord High Constable of England. He was born to Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford and Elizabeth Plantagenet and [he was] a younger brother of John de Bohun, 5th Earl of Hereford. He succeeded his elder brother as Earl of Hereford and Essex upon his death on 20 January 1336. He also succeeded John as the Lord High Constable of England, the seventh highest office of the State. [NO MENTION OF HIS WIFE BECAUSE HE HAD NO CHILDREN?] After his death in Pleshey, Essex he was buried in Friars Augustine, London. The Earldoms of Hereford and Essex were passed to his nephew, Humphrey de Bohun, 7th Earl of Hereford, the son of his younger brother William de Bohun, 1st Earl of Northampton, who predeceased him.”
What I can find of Joanna is only about her bequest and her remains—nothing of her life. She must have been born before 1299 when her father died. She made her last charter in October 1337, and died late that year. She may have had cancer or heart disease, because she seemed to know that she was not long for the world. She made gifts shortly before she died.
One reference says:
In the easternmost bay on this side is the tomb of Joanna de Bohun, Countess of Hereford, 1327. To quote from Dean Merewether: " The effigy of the lady, there can be scarcely a doubt, represents ' Johanna de Bohun, Domina de Kilpec.' She was the sister and heiress of Alan Plonknett or Plugenet of Kilpec, in the county of Hereford, a name distinguished in the annals of his times; and of his possessions, his sister doing her homage, had livery 19 Edward II. 
"In 1327 Johanna de Bohun gave to the Dean and Chapter of Hereford, the church of Lugwardyne, with the chapels of Llangarren, St. Waynards and Henthland, with all the small chapels belonging to them, which donation was confirmed by the king by the procurement and diligence of Thomas de Chandos, Archdeacon of Hereford; and the Bishop of Hereford further confirmed it to the Dean and Chapter by deed, dated Lugwas, 22nd July, 1331 (ex Regist. MS. Thomae Chorleton, Epi.): And afterwards the Bishop, Dean and Chapter appropriated the revenues of it to the service peculiar to the Virgin Mary, ' because in other churches in England the Mother of God had better and more serious service, but in the Church of Hereford the Ladye's sustenance for her prieste was so thinne and small, that out of their respect they .add this, by their deeds, dated in the Chapter at Hereford, April toth, 1333.' (Harl. MS. 6726, fol. 109.)
" Johanna de Bohoun died without issue, 1 Edward III., 1337, the donation of Lugwardyne being perhaps her dying bequest. On the 17th of October in that year, she constituted form de Badesshawe, her attorney, to give possession to the Dean and Chapter of an acre of land in Lugwardine, and the advowson of the church with the chapels pertaining to it. This instrument was dated at Bisseleye, and her seal was appended, of which a sketch is preserved by Taylor, in whose possession this document appears to have been in 1655, and a transcript of it will be found Harl. MS. 6868, f. 77 (see also 6726, f. 109, which last has been printed in Shaw's Topographer, 1. 280).
"In the tower is preserved the patent 1 Edward III, pro Ecclesia de Lug-warden cum capellis donandis a Johanna de Bohun ad inveniendum 8 capellanos et 2 diaconos appropri- anda (Tanner's Notitia Monast.').
"The circumstances above mentioned appear sufficiently to explain why the memorial of Johanna de Bohoun is found in the Lady Chapel, to which especially she had been a benefactress. They also explain the original ornaments of this tomb, the painting which was to be seen not many years since under the arch in which the effigy lies, now unfortunately concealed by a coat of plaster, of which sufficient has been removed to prove that Gough's description of the original state of the painting is correct. He says, 'The Virgin is represented sitting, crowned with a nimbus; a lady habited in a mantle and wimple kneeling on an embroidered cushion offers to her a church built in the form of a cross, with a central spire—and behind the lady kneel eleven or twelve religious, chanting a gorge deployee after the foremost, who holds up a book, on which are seen musical notes and "salve sea parens.' Fleur-de-lys are painted about both within and without this arch, and on the spandrils two shields; on the left, a bend cotised between twelve Lioncels (Bohun); and on the right, Ermines, a bend indented, Gules.' This description was published 1786.
"By this painting there can be no doubt that the donation of the church of Lugwardine was represented, the eleven or twelve vociferous choristers were the eight chaplains and two deacons mentioned in the patent, who were set apart for the peculiar service of the Lady Chapel, and provided for from the pious bequest of Johanna de Bohoun. The two shields mentioned by Gough are still discernible, that on the dexter side bearing the arms of Bohun, Azure a bend, Argent between two cotises, and six lions rampant, or. —The other, Ermines, a bend indented, (or fusily) Gules, which were the bearings of Plugenet, derived perhaps originally from the earlier Barons of Kilpec, and still borne by the family of Pye in Herefordshire, whose descent is traced to the same source. In the list of obits observed in Hereford Cathedral, Johanna is called the Lady Kilpeck, and out of Lugwardine was paid yearly for her obit forty pence."
The effigy of Joanna de Bohun is also valuable as a specimen of costume. Its curious decoration of human heads is also noteworthy.
About those “human heads” on the arch. I wonder if, as was sometimes done, one of the heads represented Isabella of France, Queen of England, wife of King Edward II. Edward II was the uncle of Joanna’s husband Humphrey IX, Earl of Hereford.
No proof, just speculating!
Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, June 11, 1846 describes the opened tomb:
The Dean of Hereford, F.S.A., communicated a notice of the burial-place of Joanna de Bohun, on the north side of the Lady Chapel, at Hereford Cathedral, recently disclosed to view during the progress of the restoration of that decayed fabric. In an arched recess in the wall is seen a recumbent effigy, under which a wooden coffin had been deposited in a grave, half the depth of which only was below the level of the chapel. The lid had been covered with linen of fine texture, upon which had been sewn three large crosses pates, and eight smaller ones, formed of white satin: three similar crosses appeared also on each side of the coffin, and four large iron rings at each side and end. The remains had been wrapped in cloth, apparently woollen, fastened with strong packthread: the bones were much decayed, as is usually the case in interments in the Cathedral; but the flowing hair remained perfect, detached from the cranium, like a wig. It was of a yellowish red colour, and so profuse in quantity, that the prevalent notion of the growth of the hair after death, which, as the Dean remarked, had been entertained by him from previous observations, appeared to be confirmed. This lady had been heiress of Kilpec, in Herefordshire, and espoused one of the Bohun family; in the year 1327, she gave the church of Lugwardine, with the chapels of Llan-garrew, St. Waynard's, and Hentland, to the Dean and Chapter of Hereford ; and this donation was subsequently applied to the service of the Blessed Virgin, for which, previously, no sufficient provision had been made in the church of Hereford. It appears by the Obits, that she died in the same year, 1 Edward III . The foundations and circular apse of the original chapel, succeeded by the beautiful specimen of early English architecture, to which her bequest contributed, had recently been brought to light; the Dean remarked that, in the ante-chapel of this portion of the Cathedral, certain details partaking of Norman character appeared, which are not to be traced in the parts more eastward; and these last, as he supposed, had been constructed subsequently to the gift of the lady of Kilpec.
Joanna’s tomb was covered for several hundred years, and the painting of her presenting the Lugwardine church to Our Lady was covered by white plaster. It was only relatively recently that restorers have repainted her effigy and tomb arch in reds, blues, and gold.
All we know of Joanna is that she was the childless Countess of Hereford, a benefactress of the cathedral in the early 14th century, and that she had masses of yellowish-red hair. If she’d had descendants, we’d know much more about her. But her donations to the Church surely had impact in her lifetime, and could be a lesson to us today. Even the poorest of us have possessions to spare. Take them to a charity shop! You never know what your gifts do to help others, but the same God that Joanna served still honors that faith, and will multiply your donations miraculously.
If you enjoy life sketches, anecdotes, and historical details like these, you can find them in the book Effigy Hunter, by Christy K Robinson.
Christy K Robinson is the author of five-star nonfiction and fiction historical books, as well as author of Discovering Love, Rooting for Ancestors and William and Mary Barrett Dyer websites. You will find her books at http://bit.ly/RobinsonAuthor.