Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Archduchess Margaret of Austria (German: Margaretha; 10 January 1480 – 1 December 1530) was the daughter of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Mary, Duchess of Burgundy.

Contents

Early life

In 1483, she was betrothed to the Dauphin of France, later King Charles VIII of France, bringing with her a dowry of Franche-Comté and Artois, and was transferred to the guardianship of King Louis XI of France (see Treaty of Arras (1482)). After Charles renounced the treaty and married Anne, Duchess of Brittany, Margaret was returned to her father in 1493.

First Marriage

In 1497, she was married to John, Prince of Asturias (1478–1497), the son and heir of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. The marriage was part of a double alliance, also including her brother Philip the Handsome marrying John's sister Joanna. John died after only six months. She was left pregnant, but gave birth to a stillborn child. The Dowager Princess of Asturias returned to the Netherlands early in 1500.

Second Marriage

In 1501, she married Philibert II, Duke of Savoy (1480–1504), who died three years later. This marriage had been childless as well. After his death, she vowed never to marry again. Her court historian and poet Jean Lemaire de Belges gave her the title "Dame de deuil" (Lady of Mourning).

Political Role

She was appointed for the first time as governor of the Habsburg Netherlands (1507–1515) and guardian of her young nephew Charles (the future Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor). Margaret acted as intermediary between her father and his subjects in the Netherlands, negotiated a treaty of commerce with England favorable to the Flemish cloth interests, and played a role in the formation of the League of Cambrai (1508). After his majority in 1515, Charles rebelled against her influence, but he soon recognized her as one of his wisest advisers, and she was again governor of the Netherlands (1519–30) intermittently until her death. In 1529, together with Louise of Savoy, she negotiated the Treaty of Cambrai, the so-called Ladies' Peace.

Her reign was a period of relative peace and prosperity for the Netherlands, although the Protestant Reformation started to take root, especially in the northern Netherlands. The first Protestant martyrs were burnt at the stake in 1524 and 1525. She had some difficulty in keeping Duke Charles of Guelders under control. She could make him sign the Treaty of Gorinchem in 1528, but the problem was not finally dealt with during her reign.

Patroness of the Arts

Margaret had received a fine education. She played several instruments, was well read and wrote poetry. Her court at Mechelen was visited by the great humanists of her time, including Erasmus. She possessed a rich library, consisting mostly of missals, historical and ethical treatises (which the works of Christine de Pizan) and poetry. It included the famous illuminated Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry. She ordered several splendid music manuscripts from Pierre Alamire to send them as gifts to members and her family and to her political relations, and possessed several Chansonniers herself. They contained works by Josquin Desprez, Johannes Ockeghem, Jacob Obrecht and Pierre de la Rue, who was her favourite composer.

Death

She died at Mechelen, between Antwerp and Brussels, her main place of residence in the Netherlands, after appointing her nephew, Charles V, as her universal and sole heir. She is buried at Bourg-en-Bresse, [department of l'Ain, Rhone-Alpes] in the magnificent mausoleum that she ordered for her second husband (Philibert) and her. There is a statue of her next to the cathedral of Mechelen.




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