Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut

Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut

Jacqueline of Wittelsbach (16 August 1401 – 8 October 1436, Dutch: "Jacoba van Beieren", French: "Jacqueline de Bavière") was Duchess of Bavaria-Straubing, Countess of Hainaut and Holland from 1417 to 1432.

She was the only daughter of William VI, Count of Hainaut and Holland from his marriage (born after 16 years of otherwise childless marriage) with Margaret of Burgundy, daughter of Margaret III of Flanders and Philip the Bold.

Jacqueline was the last Wittelsbach ruler of Hainaut and Holland. Following her death, the estates passed into the inheritance of Philip the Good.


Early life

Born in the Castle of Le Quesnoy in Hainaut, Jacqueline, from the her birth, was referred to as "of Holland", indicating that she was heiress of her father's estates. With only twenty-two months (Paris, 5 May 1403) and again with four years (Compiègne, 29 June 1406) Jacqueline was betrothed to John of Valois, Duke of Touraine, fourth son of Charles VI of France and his Queen consort Isabeau of Bavaria. Both children were brought up in the Castle of Le Quesnoy -Jacqueline's birth place-, the boy having been given into tutelage of his father-in-law, as he was expected to succeed as ruler there and not in any way in France itself. It was a happy youth with both given a very good education. On 22 April 1411 the Pope give her dispensation for the union and on 6 August 1415, when Jacqueline was just fourteen, she and John married in 's-Gravenhage.

On December 15, 1415 John's elder brother Louis, the Dauphin of France, died, and John became Dauphin and heir to the throne. John died on April 4, 1417 (in Compiègne, of an abscess in his neck, though rumored to have been poisoned), and two months later, on 31 May 1417, Jacqueline lost her father.

Marriage to the Duke of Brabant

Acknowledged as sovereign in Holland and Hainaut, Jacqueline was opposed by her uncle John III, duke of Bavaria-Straubing and bishop of Liège but she had the support of the Hoek faction in Holland (the faction of the small cities and petty nobility in the County). In 1418, her uncle and guardian John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy, organized her marriage to her cousin John IV, Duke of Brabant and Limbourg. The ceremony took place in the city of The Hague, on 18 April of that year.

The marriage brought no happiness to her. He was two years younger, spoilt and weak. It was at this time that Jacqueline's troubles with her uncle John of Bavaria began when he claimed her counties and fuelled the civil war between the political factions.

By the mediation of John the Fearless, a treaty of partition was concluded in 1419 between Jacqueline and John III of Bavaria; but it was merely a truce, and the contest between uncle and niece soon began again and continued with varying success until the death of John III in 1425.

When she realised she was without the support of both her husband and her mother while still confronted by the continuous opposition of her uncle, she fled to England. On arrival it was Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the younger brother of King Henry V, who welcomed her. He was thirty, unmarried and, according to an English chronicle, 'exceeded any monarch in knowledge'.

Having finally left her husband - due to personal and political disagreements between the two - and fled to the Kingdom of England by the invitation of Henry V, Jacqueline's marriage with John of Brabant was declared illegal and she obtained a divorce from Avignon Pope Benedict XIII (7 March 1422).

It was the English king Henry V who prevented her from marrying the Duke of Gloucester. Nevertheless, she was an honoured guest and, when the future Henry VI was born, Jacqueline was one of the godparents.

Marriage to the Duke of Gloucester and its aftermath

It was only after the unexpected death of Henry V in 1422 that Jacqueline and Humphrey married. However, as not all rules were observed, this was in haste so that the marriage was secret, in the town of Hadleigh, Essex before 7 March 1423. On 1424, Jacqueline gave birth a stillborn child. This was her only offspring from all her marriages.

She had hoped that Humphrey would restore her to her counties but, being regent in England, he was occupied with affairs of state. Then her situation changed as, on 6 January 1425, her uncle John of Bavaria died, the victim of poisoning.

At the end of that year Humphrey, with an army, moved to The Netherlands but was soon embroiled in politics between England and France as well as between the opposing Burgundians and Armagnacs. Soon Humphrey began to distance himself from her cause. The army in order to press their claim to Jacqueline's lands, where she was now opposed by her former husband, John of Brabant. On 13 February 1425 Humphrey deserted his wife, who found herself obliged to submit to her cousin, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, after being besieged in the city of Mons in Hainault. Jacqueline was placed under house arrest in the chateau of Ghent.

In the continual factional fighting, Gerard van Poelgeest, a follower of Jacqueline, besieged the city and castle of Schoonhoven. Once the city was taken, it took another six weeks before the castle was forced to surrender. He allowed all occupants, except Allairt Beylinc, to go free. Having a personal grudge against Allart Beylinc, he dictated that Beylinc could ransom himself for 1000 schilden and was given seven months to bring the amount together. However, once the seven months had passed, Allairt Beylinc, having failed, returned expecting to be imprisoned; but that night Poelgeest had him buried alive.

Humphrey, having lost interest in Jacqueline and her counties, then returned to England and consoled himself with Eleanor Cobham, Jacqueline's lady-in-waiting, while Jacqueline was imprisoned by Philip the Good. However, when it was rumoured that she was to be taken to Lille or even as far as Savoy, two knights came to her rescue. Visiting her, they brought her men's clothing and, thus disguised, she was able to pass unnoticed by the guards.

At the end of 1425 Humphrey sent a fleet of twenty-four ships containing an army of 2,000 men under command of Lord FitzWalter. However, the cities in Zeeland were not prepared to assist and Jacqueline had no army to come to their assistance. In the meantime, Philip the Good had been prepared and, on 13 January 1426, started his attack on the main force. The English forces were annihilated and only the knights were not killed as they would secure a ransom. This victory placed Zeeland securely into Philippe's hands. On 27 February 1426 Pope Martin V decreed that Jacqueline was still the wife of John IV, Duke of Brabant, and this released Humphrey from his obligations to come to her aid.

John of Brabant now mortgaged the two counties of Holland and Zeeland to Philip, who assumed their protectorate. Jacqueline, however, escaped from the chateau, disguised as a soldier, and for three years struggled gallantly to maintain herself in Holland against the united efforts of Philip the Good, John of Brabant, and the cities of the Hook faction.

From then onwards Jacqueline was involved with skirmishes with the Burgundian forces. Although she might win, her victories were never decisive. On 17 April 1427, John IV, Duke of Brabant, died, which did not reduce her marital problems. Pope Martin V decreed that her marriage to John IV had been valid, thus confirming that her marriage to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, was in fact null and void (9 July 1428). Within months Humphrey married with his mistress, Eleanor Cobham.

Without allies, and with Philip the Good applying further pressure to her, Jacqueline realised she had no chance of regaining her counties and, on 3 July 1428, "The Reconciliation of Delft" ("de Zoen van Delft") was signed between Jacqueline and Philip. By this treaty, Jacqueline kept her titles of Countess of Holland, Zeeland and Hainault, but the administration was placed in the hands of Philip, who was also appointed as her heir in case she died without children. Also she was not allowed to marry without the permission of her mother, Philip and the three counties.

With this treaty, Jacqueline gained more than what she could have expected. Although was sovereign in name early, her image appeared with Philip's on the coins of her territory while some of her followers were given prominent positions. There was to be a council of nine which ruled her counties, of which she was to be allowed to appoint three. From now as her life was empty she merely travelled through her counties.

Final Days

In 1430 Philip the Good mortgaged Holland and Zeeland to the Borselen family, who placed the head of the family, Francis, Lord of Borselen ("Frank van Borselen"), in charge of her finances. Francis had been one of her opponents in the past; nonetheless, in 1432, they secretly married, and attempted to foment a rebellion in Holland against Burgundian rule. In response to this, however, Philip invaded Holland and threw Borselen into prison. Only on the condition that Jacqueline abdicated her estates in his favour would Philip allow Jacqueline her liberty and recognize her marriage with Borselen. She submitted in April 1432, retaining her title of duchess in Bavaria, and lived on her husband's estates in retirement. Jacqueline thus renounced her titles and became known as Duchess in Bavaria, of Holland, Countess of Oostervant. On 1 March 1434 Jacqueline and Frank van Borselen were married in the church of St. Maartensdijk and Philip gave Frank the title of Count of Oostervant also.

Her marriage with Frank van Borselen was happy but, in the summer of 1436, it became obvious that she was gravely ill. Jacqueline died of "consumption" (presumably tuberculosis) [Some sources cited she was murdered, possibly by orders of her cousin Philip the Good.] in Teilingen Castle on 8 October 1436, and since she had no children, Philip of Burgundy inherited Hainaut and Holland. Her husband Frank survived her thirty-four years.




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