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Margaret of York

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Empress Matilda | Eleanor of Aquitaine | Marie de Guise | Marie de Medici | Margaret of York | Elizabeth of York | Queen Anne | Victoria's Children and their Marriages | Mary of Teck | Joanna the Maid of Castille.

Margaret and her niece Elizabeth were two women of the House of York who had great influence on the course of English history. Margaret married one of the most influential and high-flying nobles in Europe, and Elizabeth married in a Union that would end the in-fighting between the house of York and Lancaster and see the start of the Tudor Age.


Margaret was born on 3 May 1446 the daughter of Richard Plantagenet and her eldest brother would go on to become Edward IV. Charles the Bold Duke of Burgundy, sought and received, her hand in marriage. She became his third wife and the wedding ceremony, conducted by the Bishop of Salisbury, took place at Damme, near Bruges on 3 July 1468. She wore a magnificent marriage crown with enamelled white roses for the house of York and adorned with pearls; this magnificent piece can still be seen at the Cathedral of Aachen. As was befitting for a marriage of such importance and wealth everything about it was on a grand scale.

She bore her husband no children of her own but became a devoted stepmother to his daughter Marie. Charles the Bold was a careerist Duke wishing to see his Dukedom elevated to a Kingdom. He had more wealth and lands than many of the monarchs of his day in Europe and his plan was to have his daughter marry into the Habsburg dynasty, and seek his own advance through allegiance to his new found kinsman the Holy Roman Emperor. His daughter fell in love with Maximilian the son of Frederick III and so that even after Charles' death in 1477, by a Swiss halberd1 and his body was removed from a ditch near Nancy, she still pursued the match which her father had set in motion.

Marie had adopted the Burgandian love for hunting and soon moved her falcons into her marriage bedroom. She bore Maximilian two children, Philip and Margaret, before she died in 1482 from injuries she sustained whilst hunting. Heavily pregnant with her third child, she fell from her horse at speed and hit a tree. She was carried to Bruges where she later died as a result of her internal injuries. Margaret at this point took over the care of the infants who would both marry into the Spanish royal family. Philip would be consort of Juana the Mad, Queen of Castille.

Support for Pretenders

Margaret was to remain true to her Plantagenet ancestry and plotted against the new Tudor dynasty of England. She supported the two pretenders Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck.

Simnel was born in around 1474 and claimed to be Edward, Earl of Warwick (born in February 1475)2, a son and heir of George, Duke of Clarence3. The priest Richard Simon had trained him up to be an impostor from a young age, and took his charge to Ireland in 1486, where the impostor gathered sufficient support to be 'crowned' as Edward VI in Dublin in 1487. His alleged Aunt Margaret then furnished him with troops and he launched an attack on Henry VII. He landed in Lancashire in June 1487 but suffered a heavy defeat only a few days into the campaign at Stoke on Trent. His youthfulness was his advantage as he was eventually pardoned by Henry VII, and indeed held positions as a kitchen scullion and then a falconer in the Royal Household itself.

Not put off by this first attempt to wrest the throne from Henry VII Margaret soon lay her support behind a second pretender Perkin Warbeck. He was of Flemish origin but claimed to be Richard Duke of York, a son of Edward IV4. Like Simnel before him, he was recognised as a nephew by Margaret. James IV of Scotland welcomed him at Stirling in 1495 when he married Lady Catherine Gordon. He proclaimed himself Richard IV and made several encroachments into England, the last of which following a landing in Cornwall advanced to Exeter in September 1497, where he was captured. He confessed at Taunton that he was an impostor, before being conveyed to the Tower of London. Following an attempt to escape he was hung, drawn and quartered in November 1499.

Following this second failed attempt to relieve Henry VII of the throne she felt had been taken by the wrong branch of the family, she bowed to the inevitable. She took an oath to abstain from any further action to help those in rebellion against Henry. However she had one last significant act of her life. She was to be the godmother of her step-great-grandson who was to become Emperor Charles V, who had been named for her late husband. She died in 15035 at Malines.

1An axe-like weapon with a hook or pick at the back and a long shaft.2In reality he was the son of an Oxford baker.3Who was sentenced for High Treason for defending one of his servants who had predicted the death on his brother Edward IV.4Who with his brother Edward V was one of the two Princes murdered in Tower of London at the behest of their uncle Richard III.5Six years before Henry died passing the Tudor line on to his second son Henry VIII.

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