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Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland (c. 1379 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 13 November 1440), was the fourth child (and only daughter) of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and his mistress Katherine Swynford. She was born at the ChÃƒÂ¢teau de Beaufort in Champagne, France (from where the Beaufort children derive their surname). In 1391, at the age of twelve, Joan married Robert Ferrers, 3rd Baron Ferrers of Wemme, and they had two daughters before he died about 1395. Along with her three brothers, Joan had been privately declared legitimate by their cousin Richard II of England in 1390, but for various reasons their father secured another such declaration from Parliament in January 1397. Joan was already an adult when she was legitimized by the marriage of her mother and father with papal approval. The Beauforts were later barred from inheriting the throne by a clause inserted into the legitimation act by their half-brother, Henry IV of England. Soon after this declaration, on 3 February 1397, when she was eighteen, Joan married Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, who had also been married once before.
When Ralph de Neville died in 1425, his lands and titles should, by law of rights, have passed on to his eldest surviving son from his first marriage, another Ralph de Neville. Instead, while the title of Earl of Westmorland and several manors were passed to Ralph, the bulk of his rich estate went to his wife, Joan Beaufort. Although this may have been done to ensure that his widow was well provided for; by doing this, Ralph essentially split his family into two, and the result was years of bitter conflict between Joan and her stepchildren, who fiercely contested her acquisition of their father's lands. Joan however, with her royal blood and connections, was far too powerful to be called to account, and the senior branch of the Nevilles received little redress for their grievances. Inevitably, when Joan died, the lands would be inherited by her own children.
Joan died on 13 November 1440 at Howden in Yorkshire. Rather than be buried with her husband Ralph (who was buried with his first wife) she was entombed next to her mother in the magnificent sanctuary of Lincoln Cathedral. Joan's is the smaller of the two tombs; both were decorated with brass plates Ã¢â‚¬â€ full-length representations of them on the tops, and small shields bearing coats of arms around the sides Ã¢â‚¬â€ but those were damaged or destroyed in 1644 during the English Civil War. A 1640 drawing of them survives, showing what the tombs looked like when they were intact, and side-by-side instead of end-to-end, as they are now.
Joan Beaufort was the grandmother of Edward IV of England and Richard III of England, whom Henry VII defeated to take the throne. (Henry then married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, and their son became Henry VIII of England). She was also the grandmother of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick 'the Kingmaker'.