Monday, September 14, 2009

Joanna, Countess of Hereford: short genealogy, no descendants

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. [1326]
"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 [1337]. 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.

·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)


  1. Very interesting! I don't know anything at all about Joanna, except the name. I think you may be right about her husband being the Humphrey who was born in 1309 and died in 1361, though. He certainly died childless as his heir was his nephew, but it would be very odd if he'd never married. On the other hand, if her father died in 1299, Joanna was a lot older than him, which is also a bit odd.

    By the way, it was Eleanor de Clare, not Eleanor de Bohun, who was rumoured to have had an affair with their uncle Edward II (and judging by the amount of time the two spent together in the last year of Ed's reign, I can understand why there were rumours!)

  2. Maybe joanna was a posthumous child. She can't have been very old at the time of her death, seeing as her hair was still well-coloured. I have a few cases in my tree of wives being 10 yrs older than their husbands - it seems that if you were an heiress it was not hard to find a husband!

  3. Hello, Christy

    Your site is beautiful and you seem to be a rare type of person who can concentrate on details. If you read this, please contact me because I am a researcher also and I would love to correspond with you. I have been researching the de Ferrers family for several years now. You may find me on Facebook as Ricki Warwick. (Be sure to get that exact spelling!)

    Thank you!

  4. Thank you, Ricki, for your comments. We share the de Ferrers family. I've been to Tutbury, Chartley, and the gatehouse chapel where there are Ferrers effigies. So by all means, let's get together! I requested you on Facebook.

  5. I came across your very nice site while trying to find the link between Alan de Plugenet and the Plunket(t) family from Bewley (or Beaulieu) Co. Louth, Ireland. I think that I may have found the answer to your dilemma concerning the husband of Joan(na) de Plugenet. Of the 6 references that I found 3 had her husband as Henry de Bohun, 2 Edward and 1 William. The most authorative of these, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, had Henry. It stated that he was a son of John de Bohun of Haresfield, Gloucestershire, who in turn was a son of Humphrey de Bohun, 3rd Earl of Hereford, and Maud de Fiennes. It also reports that Henry died in 1314 at Bannockburn. [Incidentally, on your site you have child x. Humphrey de Bohun as the IX Earl of Hereford - it should be 6th].
    Joan(na) de Plugenet/Plonkonet was earlier married to a Thomas Corbet who died c1295. She inherited her fortune from her brother Alan who also died childless with wife Sybil (possibly de Bohun). Alan's father, also Alan, inherited from his (uncle) Robert Walerand/Walerond/Walrond. The 2 of them served Henry III and Edward I.
    The link that I am looking for is with Sir John Plunket [1270-1352, wife Alicia] of Bewley (or Beaulieu), Drogheda, Co. Louth. According to my cousin Charles Plunket Debrett's Peerage shows that this John inherited Bewley from his uncle Alan de Plugenet,i.e. possibly a brother of Joan(na) de Plugenet's father.
    The coats of arms for the de Plugenet's and Plunket(t)s are very similar, both having a bend, but the colours are different, the former being Arg, a bend engr. gules, and the latter Sa, a bend, arg. [the tower in the chief of the latter was added later, unofficially]. [The bend in the latter may have ealier been engrailed (reported as being lozenges)- change was due to discovery of a worn stone containing the arms].

  6. Terry: Thank you so much! I'll insert a note into the text of the blog article above to instruct readers to not miss your comment here below. Good luck with your family research.

    I'm now researching and beginning the writing on a historical novel about different ancestors, set in the 17th century, so that's where my attentions lie!

  7. Fascinating stuff. Attempting some research on possible pre Norman barons of Kilpeck whose arms may have been a very simple 'argent, a fesse gules' as recorded in 1603 by Gerard. Interested in the apparent similarity with the de Plugenet coat of arms identified by Terry. Any thoughts on possible links ?

  8. Miles: Thank you for your comment. Sorry, but I have no more information on the Plugenet/Plunkett family. Were your pre-Normans Welsh or English, I wonder, eventually taking their surname from the place? Perhaps you can discover a way to communicate with Terry, the commentator. Good luck with your research.

  9. I was doing some follow up research for Matilda Pye dau of Thomas (ap Hugh)of Sadlebow I, son of Hugh fitz William de Kilpec.
    I have come across visitations that show that Matilda marrying Stephen Delabere had a dau. named Joan Delabere who married Sir Humphrey Bohun (1342 - 1373), 2nd Earl of Northampton and this marriage produced Eleanor and Lady Mary de Bohun, who married King Henry IV.

    1. Is this correct that my ancestors were descended from royalty? I am a descendant from the Pye family of Herefordshire.

    2. Another question, sorry, reading this info are the original lords of kilpeck ancestors of the Pye's? I thought they were seperate families.

    3. I can't answer that, Anonymous. Joanna, Countess of Hereford, died childless, and I only mentioned the Pye name because it's part of a quote. I haven't studied the Pye family because they're not in my lines.

      You probably are descended from royalty, but I have no idea how. Almost EVERYONE is descended from royalty of one European country or another--you just need to find the ancestors between you and verify that your research is correct. Please don't assume connections, and post it on the internet, because the next person to come along will think it's truth, and that's how rumors and myths start. Good luck on your search!

    4. So much information here!! I am a Pye and have been researching the name since I was a teenager (at least 100 years ago!!) To give Anonymous an answer - yes and no. William FitzNorman originally received the lands from William the Conqueror. Kilpeck had been there but used the named Chipetee. Eventually FitzNorman was dropped and de Kilpeck was used as a surname. Also ap Hugh was used, the Welsh way of saying son of Hugh. This eventually became Apee, Apay, Apie, Opie and several other spellings. The Lords of Kilpeck daughtered out to de Plugenet, de Walerand and de Bohun. The direct line to the Pyes was no longer there, but the Pyes were still in the area. They evenutally regained ownership of Kilpeck in the 1400-1500's, but were known as Pye O' the Mynde in Much Dewchurch. Over the years they had branched out to many areas in England, Cornwall and Dorset, to name a couple. They also went to Newfoundland, Maryland and Barbados. The Maryland Pyes were connected to the Calverts. My family came from Newfoundland. I believe there are ties to Royalty within the family. The hard part is proving it.

  10. Just a brief reply but can reply in more depth at a later date. Joanne de kilpeck who is buried in hereford cathedral was married to sir henry de bohun of bannockburn "fame". the Llanthony prima and Llanthony secunda priories are the main burial places for the de Bohun family with later burails at walden abbey and stafford priory.


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