By Nancy Goldstone
One aspect of the 14th century that I find absolutely irresistible is the aristocracy’s devotion to the ideals of chivalry, so at odds with the blatant opportunism which otherwise characterized the period. Joanna I spent her life besieged by unscrupulous enemies, weathering war, plague, treason and domestic violence. But as queen she also inspired the sort of gallantry ordinarily found in the pages of a story book, as illustrated by the following delightful anecdote.
According to Paris of Puteo, a fifteenth century Neapolitan doctor of law, Joanna once held a particularly magnificent feast in the city of Gaeta to which were invited the highest order of nobility throughout Italy. There was music and dancing as was customary on these occasions, and Joanna chose a distinguished knight, Galeazzo of Mantua, to be her partner for one of the dances. Galeazzo was so thrilled to have been singled out in this way that, as soon as the dance was over, he knelt before her and “thanked her very humbly for the honor she had rendered him with so much courtesy and graciousness; and declaring he knew not how to recompense it by any service worthy of it, made there at her feet a vow to wander through the world in search of deeds of arms at every hazard, risk, and peril, until he should have vanquished and captured two valiant knights to bestow as a gift on her, to dispose of as she thought best.”