Portrait of Margaret of York. The lady with the hennin.

Margaret of York, Burgundy,  Middle ages, portrait, hennin, Fashion
Portrait of Margaret of York (1446 – 1503). The lady with the hennin.

Portrait of Margaret of York (1446 – 1503), wife of Charles the Bold.

The lady with the hennin. French school, second half of the 15th century.


Portrait de Marguerite d’York, femme de Charles le Téméraire,
la dame au hennin. Bois 20 X 12. Don Walter Gay.
Réplique d’un original disparu, comme le dit justement M. Edouard Michel, œuvre d’un peintre de la cour de Bourgogne. Exécuté vers 1468, date du mariage de la Princesse qui porte au cou un collier orné des roses d’York et de la lettre C, initiale de son mari.

Replica of a lost original, the work of a painter at the Burgundian court. Executed around 1468, the date of the princess’ marriage, she is wearing a necklace decorated with York roses and the letter C, her husband’s initial.

Margaret of York (3 May 1446 in Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, England; † 23 November 1503 in Mechelen, Burgundy Netherlands) was the third wife of Charles the Bold, Duchess of Burgundy. Margareta of York was the third daughter (reaching adulthood) of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and his wife Cecily Neville. She had twelve siblings, including the later English kings Edward IV and Richard III.

Little is known about Margaretas childhood. She received a good education and was religiously influenced by her very pious mother.

In September 1465 Isabelle de Bourbon died, and soon afterwards her widower, Charles the Bold, began negotiations for his marriage to the now 19-year-old Margareta, who, as the unmarried sister of the English king, was a much sought-after bride. For this purpose he sent his confidant Guillaume de Clugny to London. Edward IV showed interest in the marriage project, but it was delayed by various obstacles.

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After the death of the Burgundian Duke Philip the Good, father of Charles the Bold, on 15 June 1467, the Burgundian-English marriage negotiations were resumed, which the French king torpedoed to the best of his ability in the following months. In the end, however, Louis XI’s attempts at disruption were not crowned with success. On 1st October 1467 Margareta gave her formal consent to the planned marriage before a meeting in Kingston-upon-Thames and serious negotiations began.

Margareta is described as attractive, had a pale complexion, grey eyes and blonde hair. Because of her tall stature, she outdid her husband.

The wedding of Charles the Bold and Margaret took place on 3 July 1468 at five in the morning in Damme. After that, the groom first travelled to Bruges, about 6 km away. A little later, at about ten o’clock, Margareta, wrapped in a silver, gem-studded dress and also wearing a pearl-studded crown, made her own grand entrance into the same city in a palanquin drawn by white horses, with an entourage of some 60 highly noble Burgundian and English ladies. The subsequent festivities, banquets, theatre performances and tournaments lasted ten days and were magnificent even by Burgundian standards. They were described in detail by their organiser, the court official and historian Olivier de la Marche, in his memoirs.

The richly decorated crown, made around 1461, which Margareta wore at her wedding celebration, she gave as a gift in 1474 during a visit to Aachen Cathedral, in whose treasure chamber it can still be viewed. It is the only English royal crown from the Middle Ages that has been preserved.

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At the beginning, the duke and queen spent quite a lot of time together, but after two years of marriage Margareta saw her husband only very rarely, mainly because of his warlike activities, for example in 1473 and 1474 for two weeks a year at most. Their relationship remained childless. Margareta cared especially lovingly for her stepdaughter Mary of Burgundy, who was only eleven years younger. The two women soon became close friends and they both enjoyed hunting and horseback riding.

After Margareta had seen her husband for the last time in July 1475, he lost two battles against the Swiss the following year. After the death of Charles the Bold, his widow Margareta stayed mainly in her palace in Mechelen, which belonged to her extensive wittum. Mary of Burgundy became the new duchess. The only daughter of Charles the Bold, who was only 20 years old, had a difficult inheritance to take up. She received eager support in the great problems she had to overcome, above all from her stepmother Margareta, who was considered a capable and intelligent politician. Also the chancellor Hugonet and the count d’Humbercourt stood by the young duchess.

Immediately after the death of the Burgundian duke, Louis XI had the southern part of his empire occupied, especially Burgundy, Picardy and a large part of Artois. Thus Mary of Burgundy was essentially limited to the Netherlands.

After the death of the 25-year-old Duchess Mary of Burgundy in 1482 (who died as a result of an accidental fall from her horse during a hunting trip), Margaret of York took personal care of her two children, Philip I of Castile and Margaret of Austria. She also tried to influence the end of the War of the Two Roses by assisting (in vain) her nephew John of the Pole against Henry VII of England in 1487, and then Perkin Warbeck in 1492.

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Still as Duchess of Burgundy, Margareta supported William Caxton, who entered her service around 1470 and was the first Englishman to learn the art of printing. Particularly during her widowhood, she was a prominent collector and patron of illuminated manuscripts, mainly of religious content. In her residence in Mechelen she also supported a monastery reform at that time, which was based on strict observance.

When Philip the Fair and his wife were expecting a son (the later Emperor Charles V) in 1500, Margareta of York and her step-granddaughter Margareta of Austria were appointed godmothers even before he was born. The two women took part in the baptismal ceremony of the infant on 7 March 1500 in the church of St Jean in Ghent. The duchess widow assisted in the early education of Charles and his brothers and sisters.

Deeply mourned, Margareta died in Mechelen in 1503 at the age of 57 and was buried there in the Cordeliers Church. Her grave was destroyed at the end of the 16th century.


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