The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna l, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily

Written by Nancy Goldstone
Review by Sue Asher


During the 14th century, Italy consisted of a collection of independent cities, the papal states, and the kingdom of Naples. Due to a family history so complicated it ensured many disgruntled claimants to the crown, the designated heir to Naples was a woman. When Joanna I ascended the throne, her wisest option for pacifying rivals was to marry Andrew of Hungary, brother of the Hungarian king. After a short, contentious marriage, Andrew was brutally murdered. Joanna stood accused of orchestrating the crime. As the vengeful, ambitious king of Hungary bore down on Naples with an army, Joanna went to Avignon to plead her innocence before the pope.

The Lady Queen is a fascinating account of the life of Joanna I. It provides a sympathetic appraisal of the notorious queen, placing her rule within the broader historical context. This includes her navigation of the political realities of the Black Death, the Hundred Years War, economic downturns, and the papal court’s movement between Avignon and Rome. In an age dominated by men, this previously obscure historical figure fought scandal, betrayal, and personal tragedy to rule in her own name for over a quarter century.