Joanna is the illegitimate daughter of John, who became king upon the death of his brother Richard the Lion hearted.
She comes into her father's care upon the tragic death of her mother. While John is ruthless and treacherous in his politics, he is a doting father to Joanna. She is shattered when at the age of fourteen, he arranges a marriage for her with Llewelyn, a Welsch prince. Joanna has been raised to believe that the Welsch are barbarians. She finds that Llewelyn is a caring man with integrity, and their relationship grows to be mutually loving. The problem is that political marriages and oaths of allegiance are far from binding in the middle ages, and Joanna is torn for the rest of her life between her Norman/English father and his heritage, and her Welsch husband and children.
The marriage comes close to the breaking point several times. When John executes 28 hostages after Llewelyn invades English territory, it is weeks before they learn that Gruffyth, Llewelyn's first born son was not among those killed. Joanna is in agony because she can't believe her father would be so cruel. Along with this, the Welsch community is continually angry and suspicious of her. As time goes on, Joanna is forced to accept the truth of her father's cruelty and amoral behavior in his quest for control and power. Gruffyth in his hate and anger of Joanna and all things Norman/English precipitates events that continue to cause a major strain on Joanna's marriage. She is also forced to accept that her husband and father will put their dynasties and political ambitions before the needs of their families.
Llewelyn achieves at least some of his goals by holding all of North Wales in his lifetime, and in fact becomes known as Llewelyn the Great. The story also covers the development of the Magna Carta in response to John's abuses of power. This is important to Joanna and Llewelyn especially because it leads to the release of Gruffyth as a hostage. The author details shifting political alliances and battle descriptions. By the end of her life, Joanna is able to come to some peace with her feelings about her father and in her marriage to Llewelyn.
This report prepared by Susan Coffey