Aleid van Poelgeest was born circa 1370 as the daughter of Jan van Poelgeest and Aleid van Beest Gerbrandsdr. Her life isn’t easy to piece together. She was presumably born in Koudekerk, and her father was an important man at the court of John II, Count of Blois, who later also claimed the Duchy of Guelders. John was the godfather of one of Jan’s daughters – presumably Aleid.
Aleid was presumed to have been a lady-in-waiting to Margaret of Brieg, the first wife of Albert I, Duke of Bavaria. She probably caught Albert’s eye in 1386 when her father went into Albert’s service. The following year, Albert twice visited Koudekerk after having paid off his previous mistress with 150 guilders. As the visits to Aleid’s family became more frequent, Albert seemed to be paving the way for Aleid to become his next mistress.
In 1388, Aleid appeared in the records in The Hague, and it is presumed that she was living there at the time. On 12 June 1388, Aleid was given her own ladies-in-waiting, and on 24 June, Albert purchased a house for her in the city. She was also given an allowance and received her own rooms at court. Albert was known to visit Aleid in her home often, sometimes in the company of her son. Aleid was reportedly on good terms with his son.
Aleid accompanied Albert on his travels – such as his grand entries into Holland, Zeeland and Hainaut and was showered with gifts – such as a horse, rabbits and fur. However, she reportedly had to share the furs with another of Albert’s mistresses, who was pregnant at the time.
Aleid’s political influence over Albert is difficult to determine, though it was rumoured to have been great. Supposedly, he left the rule of the land to her. There were troubles between two political parties, the Hoeks (“Hooks”) and Kabeljauws (“Cods”), and Aleid was from a family that traditionally supported the Hoeks. They were in favour of maintaining the power of the nobility, while the Kabeljauws favoured greater powers for the cities and the local lords. There is no evidence that Aleid influenced matters either way, and power changes happened frequently while Aleid was at court. By 1391, Aleid began to lose Albert’s favour as her allowance was cut, and other mistresses were beginning to receive money again.
On 22 September 1392, Aleid was stabbed to death alongside a court dignitary called Willem Cuser. There are several theories for why she had been murdered. Was she simply at the wrong place at the wrong time? Was she murdered by a mob of angry Hoeks? Was Willem Cuser, who had been targeted before, the main target? Were they perhaps having an affair, and were they murdered in revenge? Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know.1 Albert made good use of the murder by settling several political scores.
The city of The Hague placed this memorial marker for Aleid near the former residence of the Counts of Holland, now known as the Binnenhof, which now houses both houses of the States General of the Netherlands. The exact location of the murder has not been determined. Albert’s final resting place is in the court chapel of the Binnenhof, but Aleid’s final resting place is not known.
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