|Countess of Westmorland|
|Died||13 November 1440 (aged 60–61)|
|Buried||Lincoln Cathedral, Lincolnshire|
|Spouse(s)||Robert Ferrers, 5th Baron Boteler of Wem (m. 1391, d. 1396)|
Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland (m. 1396, d. 1425)
|Father||John of Gaunt|
Joan Beaufort (c. 1379 – 13 November 1440), was the youngest of the four legitimised children and only daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (third surviving son of King Edward III), by his mistress, later wife, Katherine Swynford. She married Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland and in her widowhood became a powerful landowner in the North of England.
The year and place of Joan's birth is unknown. She may have been born at Kettlethorpe in Lincolnshire, the seat of the Swynford family, or at Pleshey in Essex, the home of Joan FitzAlan. The usual date given for Joan's birth is 1379, but Alison Weir believes 1377 may be more accurate. Joan may have been named after Joan of Kent. at the time of her birth Dowager Princess of Wales. In September 1396 she, together with her siblings, the children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, were legitimized by papal bull.
In 1386 her father arranged for her to be betrothed to Robert Ferrers, 5th Baron Boteler of Wem (d. circa 1395). The marriage took place in 1391/2 at Beaufort-en-Vallée, Anjou and the couple remained in the household of her father. Ferrers died only three years after the marriage, having had two daughters by Joan:
In November 1396 Joan married secondly to the recently widowed Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland (d.1425), who had twelve children by his first wife and fathered a further fourteen by Joan. On the marriage her father settled on the couple for life an annuity of £206 13s 4d. The couple's primary residence was the ancient Neville seat of Raby Castle in County Durham. Joan Beaufort and Ralph Neville had the following 14 children:
In 1399 Joan was made a Lady of the Order of the Garter by King Richard II. Although that king had created Ralph as the first Earl of Westmorland, Ralph sided with Joan's half-brother Henry Bolingbroke who deposed Richard in 1399 and assumed the throne as King Henry IV. Joan and Ralph were granted numerous offices, lands, wardships and pensions under Henry IV. Joan was named in royal grants as "the King's sister."
Ralph and Joan used their relationship with Henry IV to seek out the best marriages for their children, often purchasing the wardships and marriages of children orphaned by aristocratic rebellions. For example, in 1423, Ralph purchased the wardship of Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York who lived with the family at Raby Castle and was accordingly later married to Cecily Neville, one of the daughters of Richard and Joan. J. R. Lander called these machinations "the most amazing series of child marriages in English history." By the time of her death, Joan was the mother of an earl, three barons, a countess, three duchesses and a bishop.
In about 1413 Joan invited the mystic Margery Kempe to the family home and it is likely that she helped to fund Margery's pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In 1422 Joan acquired an indult permitting her to stay with any order of nuns attended by "eight honest women."
After Ralph's death in 1425, the title Earl of Westmorland passed to Ralph's eldest grandson from his first marriage but many of the Neville lands were transferred to Joan's eldest son Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury. This sparked the Neville-Neville Feud between the two lines descended from Ralph, which continued into the Wars of the Roses.
During her widowhood Joan became a patron of literature. In about 1430 Joan and her family were depicted by Pol de Limbourg in the Neville Book of Hours. In 1428 Joan undertook a religious pilgrimage and joined the Sisterhood of the Abbey of St. Alban's. At some point during her widowhood Joan swore a vow of chastity.
Joan Beaufort was the mother of Cecily, Duchess of York, and thus was a grandmother of King Edward IV and of King Richard III. The latter was defeated in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth by Henry VII who replaced him as king. Henry then married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, and their son became King Henry VIII. Henry VIII's sixth wife, Catherine Parr, was also a descendant of Joan through her eldest son Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, thus Henry's third cousin. The 5th Earl of Salisbury was father to Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, "the Kingmaker" (father of Queen consort Anne Neville and Isabel Neville, Duchess of Clarence).