I spotted a picture of this gorgeous crown on Facebook and I found out that this is actually Margaret of York’s crown and it is, as far as we know, the only surviving English medieval crown. Margaret of York was the sister of Edward IV of England. She was married to Charles the Bold of Burgundy in 1468. She was his third wife. His first wife was Catherine of France, who died childless at the age of 18. His second wife was Isabella of Bourbon, who had given birth to Mary of Burgundy, before dying at the age of 29 in 1465. I was surprised to learn that parts of Isabella of Bourbon’s tomb can be found in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. They are 24 statues that represent her ancestors. You can see them here. I must go see them one day!
In the time between Isabella of Bourbon’s death and her eventual marriage to Charles, she was also betrothed to Peter, Constable of Portugal, who was a nephew of Isabella of Bourbon. However, he died in 1466 before a marriage could take place.
Margaret eventually left Margate for the Dutch city of Sluys on 23 June 1468. She arrived two days later and met Charles two days after that. They were married early in the morning on 3 July in Damme. This particular crown was worn by Margaret during the celebrations. It was made in about 1461. It has pearls and the white roses represent the house of York. It survived the English Civil War because it was at Aachen (Germany) at the time. It can still be seen in the treasury of Aachen Cathedral (another thing I must go and see!).
Margaret and Charles had no children, but she was stepmother to Mary of Burgundy. Charles died on 5 January 1477 and he was succeeded by his only child, Mary. Margaret was a source of guidance and help to the new Duchess of Burgundy. Mary even named her daughter after Margaret. Mary died in 1482 after a fall from her horse. The situation in Burgundy became difficult. The Burgundians refused to acknowledge Mary’s husband Maximillian regent for his and Mary’s son, Philip. Louis XI of France was granted the Burgundian Lowlands, Picardy and the county of Boulogne in a treaty. Margaret was not able to help since her brother Edward IV had a truce with France. Mary’s daughter Margaret was subsequently betrothed to the Dauphin of France and she was sent to the French court. During this time, several important events took place in England as well. The Duke of Clarence had been executed for treason in 1478, Edward IV died of an illness in 1483 and her third brother Richard took the throne as Richard II and was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Henry Tudor took the throne as Henry VII and married Edward IV’s daughter Elizabeth of York. Margaret was willing to support anyone who would challenge Henry Tudor and even backed Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck.
Mary’s daughter Margaret eventually returned to Burgundy when Charles VIII of France married Anne of Brittany. It was agreed that Philip would take up personal rule in Burgundy when he turned 16. This happened in 1494 and Burgundy became somewhat stable again.
Margaret died on 23 November 1503 when she 57, shortly after the return of her step-grandson, Philip the Handsome, to Burgundy.