Marie of Brabant – From Empress to Countess

marie brabant
(public domain)

Marie of Brabant was born circa 1190 as the eldest daughter of Henry I, Duke of Brabant and Maud of Boulogne. For a long time, she was the eldest of four daughters, and so it would seem that she might one day succeed her father as Duchess of Brabant, making her quite the catch. A younger brother named Henry was finally born in 1207, followed by Godfrey in 1209.

In 1198, Marie was betrothed to King Otto IV of Germany, later Holy Roman Emperor but when her father changed sides to a rival King, the betrothal fell through. The rival King was assassinated in 1208 and Otto became Holy Roman Emperor the following year, but he was not keen to renew the marriage alliance and instead married Beatrice of Swabia, his late rival’s daughter. Beatrice was only 14 years old and died just weeks after her wedding, leaving Otto free to marry again. He married Marie on 19 May 1214 at Maastricht. However, his reign as Holy Roman Emperor was to be short and he was deposed in 1215. Marie joined her husband in retirement, where he quickly became seriously ill. He died on 19 May 1218 – their fourth wedding anniversary. They had not had any children. Marie returned to the court of Brabant.

She remained a widow for two years and remarried in 1220 to William I, Count of Holland. He too had been widowed in 1218 – his first wife was Adelaide of Guelders. This was considered to be a mismatch by many contemporaries due to Marie’s high rank with one calling it an “unbelievable humiliation.” This marriage would be short as well, and William died just two years later. It appears that they too did not have any children, as all of his children are traditionally attributed to Adelaide. Marie was still only 30 years old but would not remarry. She outlived her second husband by 38 years. In 1224, her younger sister Mathilde married her stepson Floris IV, Count of Holland.

Marie remained active in her widowhood, and her father even sent her to negotiate political differences. When her father died in 1235, Marie was granted the fortress in Helmond, where she settled. During her later year, she found a convent near Helmond. The fortress where she lived burned down in 1250, and she was involved in its rebuilding. Marie died in 1260 between 9 March and 14 June. She was buried in the St. Peter’s Church in Leuven.1


  1. E.H.P. Cordfunke – Gravinnen van Holland

About Moniek Bloks 2664 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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