Lewis Lapham: Princess Set Sail as Bride, Met Black Death

In great splendor, King Edward sent his 15-year-old daughter, Joan, as bride to the son of King Alfonso XI of Castile. Four armed ships set off from England, carrying attendants, belongings and bodyguards, but the princess never made it.

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Ignoring warnings about the plague gripping Bordeaux, the royal party disembarked. Those who contracted the disease developed blotchy dark buboes on the skin. Soon there was a hacking cough, vomiting and a horrible stench, followed by dementia, screaming and death.

Princess Joan succumbed on Sept. 2, 1348. England, which had remained untouched by the Black Death, was infected by an arriving ship, and by October the disease was spreading around the coast.

Between 1348 and 1351 many English villages lost half of their population and some were wiped out entirely.

I spoke with Dan Jones, author of “The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England” on the following topics:

1. Plantagenet Royals

2. Brutal Profitable Wars

3. Magna Carta

4. Law and Language

5. Shakespeare’s History Plays

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

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