Mary of Burgundy


Mary of Burgundy
Mary
Duchess of Brabant, Limburg, Lothier,
Luxemburg and Guelders; Margravine of Namur; Countess Palatine of Burgundy; Countess of Artois, Flanders, Charolais, Hainaut, Holland, Zeeland and Zutphen
Reign 5 January 1477–27 March 1482
Predecessor Charles the Bold
Successor Philip the Handsome
Spouse Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Issue
Philip I of Castile
Margaret, Duchess of Savoy
House House of Valois-Burgundy
Father Charles the Bold
Mother Isabella of Bourbon
Born 13 February 1457
Brussels, Brabant
Died 27 March 1482(1482-03-27) (aged 25)
Wijnendale Castle, Flanders
Burial Bruges, Flanders
Religion Roman Catholicism

Mary of Burgundy (13 February 1457 – 27 March 1482) ruled the Burgundian territories in Low Countries and was suo jure Duchess of Burgundy from 1477 until her death. As the only child of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and his wife Isabella of Bourbon, she was the heiress to the vast Burgundian domains in France and the Low Countries upon her father's death in the Battle of Nancy on 5 January 1477.[1]

Contents

Early years

Mary of Burgundy was born in Brussels, at the ducal castle of Coudenberg, to Charles the Bold, Count of Charolais, and his wife, Isabella of Bourbon. Her birth, according to the court chronicler, Georges Chastellain, was attended by a clap of thunder ringing from the otherwise clear twilight sky. Her godfather was Louis, Dauphin of France, in exile in Burgundy at that time; he named her for his mother, Marie of Anjou. Reactions to the child were mixed: the baby's grandfather, Duke Philip the Good, was unimpressed, and "chose not to attend the [Baptism] as it was only for a girl"; the grandmother, Isabella of Portugal, was simply delighted at the birth of a granddaughter.[2]

Heiress presumptive

Philip the Good died in 1467, making his son Duke of Burgundy and his 10-year-old granddaughter heiress presumptive. As the only child of Charles the Bold, Mary was heiress presumptive to a vast and wealthy domain, made up of the Duchy of Burgundy, the Free County of Burgundy, and the majority of the Low Countries, and her hand was eagerly sought by a number of princes. The first proposal was received by her father when she was only five years old, to marry the future King Ferdinand II of Aragon. Later the younger brother of Louis XI, Charles, Duke of Berry, made an approach, to the intense annoyance of his brother the King, who attempted to prevent the necessary papal dispensation for consanguinity.

Coat of arms of Mary of Burgundy.

As soon as Louis produced a male heir who survived infancy, the future King Charles VIII of France, Louis wanted his son to be the one to marry Mary, despite his son being thirteen years younger than Mary. Nicholas I, Duke of Lorraine, was a few years older than Mary, and his duchy lay alongside Burgundian territory, but his plan to combine his territory with hers was frustrated by his death in battle in 1473.

Reign

Mary ascended upon her father's death in the Battle of Nancy on 5 January 1477. King Louis XI of France seized the opportunity afforded by his rival's defeat and death to attempt take possession of the Duchy of Burgundy proper, and also of Franche-Comté, Picardy and Artois.

The King was anxious that Mary should marry his son Charles and thus secure the inheritance of the Low Countries for his heirs, by force of arms if necessary. Mary, advised by her stepmother, Margaret of York, distrusted Louis, declined the French alliance, and turned to her Netherland subjects for help. Sensing her weakness, they gave her their help only at the price of great concessions.

The Great Privilege

On 10 February 1477 at Ghent on the occasion of her formal recognition, known as the Joyous Entry, as Charles' heir, she was compelled to sign a charter of rights, called the Great Privilege. Under this agreement, the provinces and towns of Flanders, Brabant, Hainaut, and Holland recovered all the local and communal rights which had been abolished by the decrees of the dukes of Burgundy in their efforts to create a centralized state on the French model out of their separate holdings in the Low Countries. In particular, the Parliament of Mechelen (established formally by Charles the Bold in 1470) was abolished and replaced with the pre-existing authority of the Parliament of Paris, which was considered an amenable counterweight to the encroaching, if informal, centralization undertaken by both Charles the Bold and Philip the Good. The Duchess also had to undertake not to declare war, make peace, or raise taxes without the consent of the States, and to employ only native residents in official posts.

Such was the hatred of the people for the old regime that two of her father's influential councilors, the Chancellor Hugonet and the Sire d'Humbercourt, having been discovered in correspondence with the King of France, were executed at Ghent despite the tears and entreaties of the Duchess.

Marriage

Mary now made her choice among the many suitors for her hand, selecting Archduke Maximilian of Austria, who became her co-ruler. The marriage took place at Ghent on 18 August 1477. The event initiated two centuries of contention between France and the Habsburgs (later of Spain, then of Austria) for their possession, which climaxed in the War of the Spanish Succession, 1701–1714.

In the Netherlands, affairs now went more smoothly, the French aggression was temporarily checked, and internal peace was in large measure restored.

Death and legacy

Five years later, the 25-year-old Duchess died due to a fall from her horse on 27 March 1482 near Wijnendale Castle. She loved riding, and was falconing with Maximilian when her horse tripped, threw her, and then landed on top of her, breaking her back. She died several days later, having made a detailed will. She is buried in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges. 

Louis was swift to re-engage, and forced Maximilian to agree to the Treaty of Arras (1482) by which Franche-Comté and Artois passed for a time to French rule, only to be regained by the Treaty of Senlis (1493), which established peace in the Low Countries.

Family

Mary's tomb effigy in the Church of Our Lady, Bruges.

Three children had been the issue of her marriage, and her eldest son, Philip, succeeded to her dominions under the guardianship of his father.

Her children were:

Ancestry

Titles

Mary and Maximilian

See also

References

  1. ^ Vaughan, Richard, Charles the Bold: the last Valois Duke of Burgundy, (Boydell Press, 2004), 127.
  2. ^ Taylor, Aline, Isabel of Burgundy
Mary of Burgundy
Cadet branch of the House of Valois
Born: 13 February 1457 Died: 27 March 1482
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles the Bold
Duchess of Brabant, Limburg,
Lothier, Luxemburg and Guelders;
Margravine of Namur;
Countess Palatine of Burgundy;
Countess of Artois, Flanders,
Charolais, Hainaut, Holland, Zeeland and Zutphen

5 January 1477 – 27 March 1482
Succeeded by
Philip the Handsome

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