Joan of Anjou, the bloody queen of Naples and Sorrento

We have already discussed in previous articles of the Plaza Magazine about the legends surrounding the Queen Joan II of Anjou, one of the most disturbing personalities in the history of Naples and beyond.

Born in Zadar, Croatia, Joan came to the throne of Naples through a complicated series of dynastic marriages, but today her reputation as a cruel seductress helped her to become a legend, with nicknames such as Joan the dissolute, the bloody, the insatiable.
Giovanna was already 41 when she became queen, following the death of her brother Ladislaus, and from the beginning she surrounded herself with favorites and courtiers who had much influence in the affairs of the court. Joan, however, was forced into marriage with Prince James of Bourbon, who killed the favorite his wife, Pandolfello Piscopo. Giovanna however made a counterattack and found a new favorite, Sergianni Caracciolo, who finally kicked out Giacomo from the court. James left Naples and his wife and retired to a convent.

Joan was so crowned queen but soon became estranged from Pope Martin V. It was the beginning of the end. Martin allied with the worst enemy of Joan, Louis of Anjou, while Giovanna sought the support of Alfonso of Aragon, but it was clear his intention was to dethronize her. After Alfonso had arrested Sergianni Caracciolo, Joan radically changed strategy and allied herself with her former enemy, Louis of Anjou. But it was not the end, because Giovanna suddenly lost interest in her lover Sergianni and had him murdered. To make things worse Louis died before Joan, forcing her to appoint as new heir his brother Renato. After the death of Joan, which occurred at the age of 62, Renato was forced to abdicate to Alfonso of Aragon, who started the Aragonese dynasty in Naples.
Giovanna is now mostly remembered for the many black legends who insist above all on his sexual behavior. Joan did not hesitate to take lovers, often even commoners and slaves. Rumor has it for example that she did not hesitate to destroy the entire village of Satriano, in Puglia, because a baronet of the town had rejected her advances.

Her headquarters was Castel Nuovo, in Naples, where according to legend Joan flung her lovers to the dungeons, where they were then eaten by a bloody crocodile that Joan had brought with her from Africa.
Even Sorrento was the destination of the queen’s pilgrimages, which ended just as tragically. To avoid possible blackmail Joan also got rid of her young lovers in Sorrento, throwing them to the beach where there are now the "Regina Giovanna" beach, a short distance from the Roman Villa of Pollio Felice. Some even say that Giovanna went regularly swimming at Capo Fortunata, where she was undressed and seduced by boaters and fishermen.
Historiography often confused Joan II with Joan I, which also left a black fame behind her and was murdered. Two queens who were symbol of a time when women in positions of power were treated with contempt and often unfairly maligned.


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