The Year of Isabella I of Castile – Margaret of Austria, The pearl of Burgundy (Part two)




margaret of austria
(public domain)

Read part one here.

Margaret met her future mother-in-law, Queen Isabella I of Castile, in Burgos shortly after her arrival. Margaret tried to kneel and kiss Isabella’s hand, but Isabella raised her up. The Venetian ambassador later wrote, “The Queen’s reception of her was quite a sight. Kissing and hugging many times, she took her with her.”1 Margaret was dressed in a “French-style dress of gold brocade and crimson lined with ermine, topped off by a black felt hat and accompanied by large pearls.”2

Margaret and John as portrayed in Isabel (2012)(Screenshot/Fair Use)

On 19 March 1497, Margaret and John were married, although they had to wait two weeks to consummate the marriage as it was Lent. They took to each other immediately, and physicians began to worry about the time the couple spent in bed together. Margaret wrote home to her father how happy she was and that her tears “were not out of sadness.”3 Prince John was “a prisoner to his love for the lady, our young prince is once more too pale.”4 Physicians advised to separate the two from time to time, but Isabella told them that it was not right for man to separate what God has joined.5 And so, John’s health declined at an alarming rate.

On 29 September, Queen Isabella was informed that her son was dangerously ill, and King Ferdinand arrived just in time to say goodbye to his dying son. On 4 October 1497, John died at the age of 20 at the Bishop’s Palace in Salamanca. They had just learned of Margaret’s pregnancy. Isabella devoted herself to looking after Margaret. She and Ferdinand wrote, “Our devotion to the princess only grows, as she tries hard and so sensibly, just as [the person] she is, and we will work to console her and to make her happy as if she had lost nothing. She is healthy with her pregnancy, thank God, and we that – by his Mercy – the fruit that emerges from her will be consolation and repair for our woes. We care and will care for the princess just as if her husband were still alive, for we hold her in that place and love for ever.”6

After a pregnancy of seven months, Margaret went into premature labour. In April 1498, a stillborn daughter was born. One courtier bluntly wrote, “Instead of bearing the much-desired offspring, she offered us a dead child.”7 The chronicler of the Indies wrote, “The sovereigns showed great patience and, as prudent and spirited princes, consoled all [of Spain’s] peoples in writing.”8 Margaret arranged for a grand tomb for her husband and picked from 20 designs. She paid for it from the widow’s gift she received from Castile. The white marble design was eventually placed in Avila. Even decades later, Margaret still paid to have masses said for her late husband’s soul.

Margaret remained with her in-laws for now and spent much time with Isabella. She even sat in on governmental affairs and learned things that she would benefit from later in life. Isabella even asked her to teach her daughter Catherine French to prepare her for her upcoming marriage to Arthur, Prince of Wales. The financial agreements to allow Margaret to return home would take until the end of 1499 to complete. Margaret arrived in Ghent on 4 March 1500, just in time to act as godmother to her newborn nephew, the future Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Afterwards, her brother Philip prepared the Castle of Le Quesnoy for her so that she could rest.

It turned out to be just what Margaret needed, but she knew that it wouldn’t last long. A third marriage was already being planned for her. A husband was found for her in the form of Philibert II, Duke of Savoy. He had been married to Yolande Louise of Savoy before her death at the age of 12 in 1499. Philibert’s eldest sister Louise had been raised alongside Margaret in France, and Margaret already knew him as well. Although she was reportedly not very enthusiastic about her new match, she abided by the wishes of her father and brother.

On 27 October 1501, Margaret said goodbye to her family once again. After nearly a month of travelling, Margaret arrived in Dole. She then travelled to Salins, where the proxy wedding took place. Philibert’s half-brother René stood in for the groom during the ceremony on 28 November. During the ceremonial consummation, René, dressed in full armour, laid down beside Margaret in a bed and touched a bare leg to hers. At Romainmôtier, Margaret finally met Philibert again. Around midnight, the in-person ceremony took place. Margaret was quite pleased with her new husband, and the newlyweds did not reappear until noon the following day. On 8 December, they made their grand entry into Geneva. They stayed in Geneva until the spring and continued their grand entries well into the year. Philibert enjoyed hunting, but it had never been Margaret’s thing, which wasn’t surprising considering her mother had died after a hunting accident. Margaret preferred to stay home with her pets (a dog, a guinea pig and a parrot).

There was one issue that bothered her. Philibert preferred to leave the government to his illegitimate half-brother René, which didn’t sit right with Margaret. Representatives of the people turned to her to tell her time and time again that they were tired of the mismanagement. If Philibert did not want to do his duty, Margaret felt she would have to be the one to do it, and René would have to go. She would have to be careful, though, as Philibert trusted his half-brother completely.

Read part three here.

  1. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.394
  2. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.395
  3. Margareta van Oostenrijk by Johan de Cock p.30
  4. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.399
  5. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.399
  6. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.403
  7. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s first great queen by Giles Tremlett p.404
  8. Isabella of Castile: Europe’s First Great Queen by Giles Tremlett p.404






About Moniek Bloks 2729 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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