Francesco de Balzo, 1st Duke of Andria (or Baux) (c.1330 – 23 April 1422) Count of Montescaglioso and Squillace, Signore of Berre, Mison, and Tiano.
Balzo was the son of Bertrand III del Balzo, Count of Andria and Montescaglioso and his second wife, Marguerite d’Aulnay. Balzo’s father was a Senator of Rome, Captain General of Tuscany, and Justiciar of Naples. The half-royal Balzo (Baux) family was one of the greatest families of Regno after the Duke’s marriage to Marguerite of Taranto in 1348.
In 1349, Balzo was given an extant grant by Louis, Prince of Taranto. Prince Louis had married his cousin Joanna I of Naples in 1346 as her second husband. Louis of Taranto and Queen Joanna’s mothers (Empress Catherine and Marie of Valois) were sisters. Queen Joanna had named Louis, King of Naples; he was crowned in 1352/53. The King was brother to Balzo’s second wife, Marguerite of Taranto, whom he had married in 1348. Balzo was created Duke of Andria and was the first magnate to be raised to ducal dignity in the kingdom. Andria had been a royal fief which the Duke’s father received from Beatrice of Anjou, by virtue of her dower.
On the death of Philip II, Prince of Taranto in 1373, Marguerite and Balzo declared Taranto and Philip’s Greek lands and titles for themselves and their son, James of Baux, as the last male descendant of Philip I, Prince of Taranto. Margaret’s claim was supported by Pope Gregory XI. Queen Joanna, however, decided to exercise direct rule over the Prince of Taranto’s Greek possessions. In April 1374, Queen Joanna decided to suppress the family and stripped Baux of all his lands and titles. This action led to a civil war between the Queen and the del Balzo family. An account is recorded in the Aragonese version of Chronicle of Morea.
Balzo married three times. In 1337, he married firstly to Luisa de San Severino, daughter of Tamasso III de San Severino, Count of Marsico; they had no issue.
In 1348, Balzo married secondly to Marguerite of Taranto, daughter of Philip I, Prince of Taranto by his second wife, Catherine of Valois, titular Empress of Constantinople. She died about September 1380 in imprisonment. They had two children:
- James of Baux, Prince of Achaea and the last titular Latin Emperor of Constantinople.
- Antonia de Balzo, queen consort to Frederick III, King of Sicily.
In 1381, Balzo married thirdly to Sueva Orsini, by whom he had issue including Margherita del Balzo; mother of Jacquetta of Luxembourg. By Margherita, Balzo was a great-grandfather of queen consort Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV of England.
Queen Katherine Parr was related to Marguerite of Taranto through many lines including Parr’s descent from Charles II, King of Sicily, Prince Charles, Count of Valois (son of Philip III of France), etc. Parr was distantly related to Sueva Orsini by her descent from King John; Parr’s ancestors included Simon de Montfort, lord of Montfort l’Amaury and Amicia de Beaumont (grandparents of the Earl of Leicester), several legitimate and illegitimate children of King John, etc.
- Douglas Richardson. Plantagenet Ancestry: Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families, 2nd Edition, 2011. pg 401.
- Kenneth Meyer Setton. A History of the Crusades: Fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, edited by Harry W. Hazard. Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1969. pg 142-46.
- Pietro Giannone. The civil history of the Kingdom of Naples, Volume 2, London, 1723. pg 241.
- Welbore St. Clair Baddeley. Robert the Wise and His Heirs, 1278-1352, W. Heinemann, 1897. pg 463.
Written and Researched by Meg McGath; 5 May 2013.